Our Top 5 Memorable Stops In Ireland

Ireland has been a country on our list for years and we were thrilled to finally put that pin on our map. When something sits on your list for that long, it becomes inevitable to build expectations. GOAL Travelers #1 is to temper expectations when traveling because you will almost always be disappointed one way or another. But not with Ireland. It was everything we imagined and more. Six days camping around Ireland and these became are our top 5 memories.

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5 days in 5 minutes of Ireland

 

 

Balleycarberry Castle

Of all the amazing castles littered throughout Ireland, we couldn’t have been happier to stumble upon this one. Balleycarberry Castle, covered in ivy and moss, was built in the 15th century and once owned by the McCarthy Clan. We were driving counterclockwise on the Ring of Kerry and decided to take a little detour and just started following random signs. We weren’t too motivated given our over-crowded Blarney Castle experience but decided to go for it anyway. Small, quaint, and almost completely isolated. Oh, did I mention that we had the whole castle to ourselves? That definitely added to the whole experience. Another reason why going off the beaten path has its rewards.

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The Royal Valentia in Knight’s Town

When traveling around Ireland it’s imperative to stop at the tiny towns throughout the coast. We found these to have the most character as well. The only downside is these towns tend to have only one restaurant to choose from. It’s a risky game but every now and then the gamble pays off. “The Royal Valentia,” was this town’s only hotel and restaurant and boy did it blow us away. It’s rare when you hear tourists speak highly of the Irish cuisine, but we beg to differ. Our expectations were low, but when we found ourselves in this sleepy fisherman’s town, we were practically licking our plates clean. The crab’s claws are top notch. A must stop if you find yourselves near this end of the country. We couldn’t help but compare every meal from the rest of the trip to that one.

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Cliffs of Moher

Ok, ok. Not much of a surprise here. The Cliffs of Moher have to be visited if you head to Ireland. It can be crowded but it’s worth it for that view. Like the castle I mentioned earlier, we got extremely lucky to only have a couple other tourists on site. We originally weren’t planning on seeing the Cliffs until the next day but plans never go as originally planned (understatement of the year). We were pretty salty given our boat to Skellig Michael (the island they filmed Star Wars on) was canceled, most likely would have made this list, but it gave us an incredible viewing experience at the Cliffs, which sort of made up for it. The whole day had been foggy and most of the visitor’s head to the Cliffs in the morning or afternoon. It was early evening and decided to take a risk and see them anyways…..at 6:00 pm. While driving south down the coast the sun slowly became visible and we started getting giddy. The cliffs are west-facing so the sun must be shining directly on them? We arrived at the entrance to pay our fee and were told that the tickets would be accepted on the following day, “because it was foggy”, stated the parking attendant. She couldn’t have been more wrong. We were blessed with perfect weather and the lack of crowds made it that much better. Apparently, word spread that the cliffs were covered in a fog all day and that scared everyone away. Score!

 

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Gap of Dunloe

Before we go to a new place we always have an idea of what the country looks like. An archetype of some sort that we expect to see and hope to see. We pictured rolling hills, sheep, lakes, cliffs, and green, green, green. We had a taste of that driving from the airport to Cork. When we decided to follow the first sign we saw after entering the Ring of Kerry we were slapped in the face with Ireland’s real beauty. The Gap of Dunloe is a narrow mountain pass between Mac Gillycuddy Reeks (to the west) and the Purple Mountain (to the east.) En-route you pass five lakes linked together by the river Loe, with spectacular mountains on either side. We hired a horse and buggy to take us all the way to the end of the gap, but this could be hiked. Seeing this beautiful part of the country while riding a horse added to the experience. And our driver shared a lot of inside information since his family resided in the Gap for centuries and owned most of the sheep. Can you imagine being born in this as your back yard?

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The People

Remember people, stereotypes are just that-stereotypes! Unfortunately, we’ve heard the stereotypes of angry-drunken Irishmen for too long. Like most of the places we visit, these stereotypes were proven wrong almost immediately. We never expected such happy and humorous people before we landed. Every town, hotel, and restaurant rewarded us with amazing personalities and jokes throughout our whole adventure. After a couple days, we became eager to try and connect with a local at a pub or restaurant and it was definitely the highlight of our trip. We’ve never laughed so hard or felt more comfortable hanging out in a stranger’s home or sipping Guinness at a pub next to them. It’s inevitable that we compare all the places we’ve travel too and when it comes to the people, Ireland might be in its own category.

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Have we got you convinced yet?