#1: We Rented a Car
Despite quite a few narrow (very narrow *ahem*) stretches and "the wrong side" driving, I can't imagine not having the car. It allowed us to adjust our itinerary whenever we felt like it, and that kind of freedom can hardly be underestimated. We looked for cafes and restaurants when we got hungry, and stopped whenever we wanted to stop to take pictures, and left exactly when we wanted to leave.
#2: We Didn't Make Plans for Our First Night Stay, Until We Landed in Ireland
When we arrived in Shannon, bright and early at 6:00am, we had no idea where we would be spending our first night. It was a deliberate choice that added a tiny thrill of adventure. We knew we wanted to see Aran Islands on our first day, and that was that. We ended up making arrangements in Doolin, a colorful beauty of a village. With the docks only minutes away from our chosen B&B, it offered fantastic scenery and made perfect sense from the logistics standpoint. There was something special about finding "our place", and we had absolutely no trouble booking a reasonably priced room at The Lodge. We even managed to get Irish breakfast before we took the 9:00am ferry to Inishmore.
Doolin & Aran Islands, Ireland
#3: We Stayed Put in Killarney for Six Nights
This one was the very best decision we made. Very few people get to travel a lot, and that means we are all too scared to miss out. We overbook our itineraries and go-go-go. But let's admit this - vacationing can be as thrilling as it is draining, if you are always on the move. We justified staying in one place simply by doing a thorough research on activities.
When we made our giant list of things to do in Ireland, we realized that vast majority of our interests lay on the West Coast: Aran Islands, The Ring of Kerry, Dingle Peninsular, Fungie - the friendliest dolphin, Blarney Castle, etc. It seemed like plenty for one week stay, and I promise you, we had no regrets.
We did give up Dublin and some of the cool sights on the south coast, but gained everything else. It seemed there were plenty of things to do and see in the area, so it made no sense "to chase" our vacation all around the country. Killarney didn't disappoint.
When we booked our stay at the carefully chosen Kingfisher Lodge Bed & Breakfast in Killarney, it gave us a home away from home to come back to each night. It spared us checking in, and packing and unpacking every night. We found "our own" favorite restaurant (The Failte Bar & Restaurant - check it out! Loved their live music nights), and found the best ice cream in Ireland (Murphy's). We knew exactly where we would get our souvenirs and gifts for our friends and family, and still had time to take a midday nap before dinner, almost every day of the week. When we misread the time on a boat tour that promised seal sightings, we had the opportunity to come back and correct our mistake with little stress.
By the time we left Kingfisher Lodge, we really felt connected to the wonderful owners and the place. We took his recommendations on the best activities to explore, and he never once let us down with his advice.
#4: We Made a List of Things to Do in Ireland
Without committing to any particular date, we made a list of experiences within driving distance from Killarney and played the rest by ear. The only exception to this were Aran Islands, that we planned for our day one.
So, what did we have on our list? I'm glad you asked!
- Cliffs of Moher: beautiful seacoast. I'm petrified of heights, so it was a bit of a challenge, even with the protective barrier, but so worth it! It's important to note, that even though we went off-season, the attraction was plenty busy. I can hardly imagine it during the summer months.
- Biking at Killarney National Park: the weather spoiled us with sunshine, and we were able to find a local bike shop within a walking distance from our Bed & Breakfast, and rent bikes for the day. We combined our biking adventure with a walking tour of the Muckross House Estate and a short hike through the beautiful grounds to Torc Waterfall. My husband got a sunburn. In April. In Ireland. But that's another story.
- Falconry Walk: not only was it a spectacular experience to have a handsome raptor fly to your hand from the highest tree branches as you stroll through Irish countryside, but we also enjoyed the conversation about local affairs with our guide. Plus, I got to hold an owl name Mr. Daisy. You can't beat that.
- Dingle Peninsular: it happened to be one of the rainy day, but it didn't stop us from catching a glimpse of Fungie, the friendliest dolphin who follows boats in Dingle Bay. Besides, if you can think of anything more romantic than getting caught in the downpour at a spectacular empty beach in Ireland, and then hiding out in a tiny cafe while you sip hot coco with your husband, then I am not sure we can be friends!
- Blarney Castle: I couldn't stomach the climb up the scary stairs, but I did enjoy the grounds. My husband made the trip up, kissed the infamous stone, and is now blessed with "the gift of gab", as promised by the local legend (to be fair, the lack of "gab" was never an issue for this one. Hah.) The whole thing took us less time than we expected, and we were able to visit Ross Castle on the same day.
- Ring of Kerry: We almost skipped this one, but I'm glad our host at Kingfisher scolded us, and insisted we make the trip. The stops we made were too many to count. It was unfortunate that the winds weather prevented us from taking a boat out to Skellig, but even so, the beauty surrounding us was overwhelming. Majority of the watercolors I painted when we returned, came from the photographs we took that day.
- Horseback Riding in Killarney National Park: I'm not a very good rider, but I love all things horses. With local deer herd grazing just feet away from us, it was a very special experience.
#5: We Came to Ireland Off-Season
I know it was a risk coming to Ireland in April, but the truth is, even during the summer months you can catch an exceptionally rainy week. Coming to Ireland off-season meant we avoided crowds and often enjoyed a very intimate experience. In fact, when we took a boat tour to see Fungie in Dingle Bay, and when joined an excursion boat to see the seals, we had almost the entire boat to ourselves both times. Some of the places seemed to gather a little bit more of a crowd, but it was never overwhelming (i.e. Cliffs of Moher or Blarney Castle.) I can't even imagine the influx of tourists in the high season.
Having a solid list of things to do, a car, and a home-base in Killarney helped us maintain flexible schedule and enjoy magical Ireland in a very special way. I hope this article helps you with planning your own trip to the Emerald Isle. Plus, if you honeymoon in Ireland, you will never mind the rain.
© 2017 Lyudmyla Hoffman
Lyudmyla Hoffman (author) from United States on August 12, 2017:
Thank you, Karen. We had a great time. And Ireland is nothing short of magical!
Karen Hellier from Georgia on August 06, 2017:
Great article and sounds like you really enjoyed yourselves. I also went to Ireland on my honeymoon in my first marriage many years ago and the experience changed me. I was homesick for Ireland for months afterward! Thanks for sharing your honeymoon with us.