My Travel Guide to Southwest Ireland

Updated: 15 hours ago

What I Learned from an 11 Day Honeymoon in Ireland


If you're planning a trip to Ireland, a country famous for its Guinness beer, kind hearts, and breathtaking landscapes, then you have come to the right place. I took an incredible 11-day honeymoon trip to Ireland, and I’m excited to share it with you. Watch the video below or keep reading.



Before we get into the destination specific tips, I'm going to talk about a few general tips when traveling abroad.


Welcome to Ireland

Endless green pastures, clean food, kind hearts, and rich tradition awaits thee

Play that honeymoon card. If you happen to be going to Ireland on your honeymoon, make sure you tell the hotels something like, "It's for our honeymoon," when you book with them. Many times they will upgrade you or even greet you with wine, champagne, or chocolates. At each of our hotels in Ireland we were constantly upgraded, wined-and-dined, and had spectacular service from sneaking in that little word "honeymoon" when booking.


Pay in local currency. When in Ireland, select "euros" when purchasing something with a credit card. Don’t use USD if you can avoid it. Sometimes at restaurants, they will ask you if you want to make this charge in Euros or American Dollars, and you will typically get a better exchange rate if you pay in Euros. Why they do this or how this works is irrelevant. All you need to know is choose Euros when possible. In addition, make sure you notify your credit card companies of the country and dates of your trip before you go. Most of the time I do this, it is an automated system. You can probably do it on their website as well.


Car Rentals and Driving. Renting a car can be more affordable if you use manual transmission and are comfortable with it, but it’s not necessary. I used Enterprise for my car rental in Ireland. But no matter what company, make sure you read the fine print. Read the insurance policy AND credit card policy. Some companies require you to use the same card you booked with or else you reservation will be CANCELED. So let's say you booked your car rental six months in advance, and in between that time and your trip, you have to replace your credit card with a different number. I have had companies like AVIS make me cancel my reservation entirely. It's a nightmare. However, Enterprise just needed a different card in my name.


It’s important to note that traffic resides on the left side of the road in Ireland. Yes, it's a bit weird for us Americans. What’s even weirder is you cannot turn on red ... ever. Just don’t ever turn on red. Don't turn left or right at a red light. Research how the roundabouts work (which I talk about in my video) and have toll money ready, especially if you’re using the M50 highway. We also let the rental company refuel the car for us when we dropped it off, which was about 70 euros. It was nice not having to find a gas station and deal with that on the way back. It actually doesn't cost a lot of money to have them do it for you. If choosing this option, though, make sure you use up that tank of gas before you return it. You are paying them to refuel the entire tank after all ... so ... the emptier the better when you drop off the car.


Come prepared. It’s essential to have a good raincoat and waterproof boots. That means water-PROOF and not water-RESISTANT lol. They are two different things. I got lucky with the boots I found from North Face because they are so comfortable. I wish I bought three pairs of them because now I can't find them anywhere. Spend a little extra money on your foot ware. In my opinion it's the most important. It's great to walk anywhere you want, including in mud or in puddles, and not have to worry about it.


Amazing food. Curry lovers will love Ireland as it is pretty much a staple in their cuisine. Almost every menu we looked at had some form of curry on it. All the food is great here. Ireland truly has some of the best cuisine in the world. The people are happier and so are the cows. When you eat the ice cream there, you'll taste how happy the cows are. Murphy's Ice Cream was unlike anything else I've ever had. Give it a try in Dublin, Galway, Dingle, or Killarney. After one bite, you'll probably want Murphy's Ice Cream everywhere you go.


Be adventurous. If you want to do something unique, try out a seaweed bath! They're traditional, and relatively easy to find in Galway.


Shannon Airport. For those of you who want to visit the Southwest Coast and not experience the big city of Dublin, I highly recommend flying into Shannon Airport. It's much closer to Dingle and Killarney, and the Iveragh Peninsula.


In this next section, I’m going to be giving you the rundown on each city that my wife and I had the pleasure of staying in while on our honeymoon. I haven't been everywhere in Ireland, so I can only go based on my personal experience exploring some of Dublin, Galway, the Southwest Coast, and the mountains of Killarney.

Dublin

This was our first stop. If you plan on going to Dublin and staying in the center of town, a car is unnecessary. There is so much within walking distance that you can explore. A few of the places you need to explore are:

  • Trinity College. It may be touristy, but it's absolutely amazing. Make sure to purchase a ticket in advance if you want to skip one of the lines outside. This is where you get to Visit the Book of Kells, Ireland's greatest cultural treasure, and marvel at the Long Room, one of the world's most beautiful libraries.

  • The Guinness Storehouse. This spot is only a half-hour walk from the center of the city, but we took a cab to save time. What I wish I knew going there is that the tours are self-guided, which was really nice. Make sure you set aside enough time for this place because you can easily spend a few hours here or more, especially if you love Guinness. Personally, I recommend setting aside half a day here. The afternoon / evening is probably ideal. One of our favorite things we did here was learning how to pour a proper Guinness. You'll learn how everything works in there once you get inside. The building is shaped like a giant pint glass. Also, hold on to your original ticket because it gives you a free pint! I wouldn't use it right away. I would save it and use it at either the Guinness Academy, for those wanting to be a bartender for the day (which is where you learn how to pour a Guinness), or use your free pint at the Gravity Bar, which was the coolest spot of the Storehouse. The Gravity Bar is at the very top of the Storehouse and it overlooks the entire city of Dublin. It's remarkable.

  • The Bank on College Green. If you’re looking for a good place to eat, this place is casual classy and excellent for dinner.

  • The Temple Bar. This is a super touristy spot and the locals will probably tell you not to go here. But I think it's great if you like crowded places, with live music and lots of shenanigans. For the 1 hour we were there, the band was a lot of fun.

  • Vintage Cocktail Club. For those who want to keep things on the down low, this speakeasy is ... less on the down low now ... because I'm telling you about it. Research how to find this place online and make a reservation in advance. You'll see a "VCC" on a door that doesn't look like a vintage cocktail club. That's how you know you're in the right place.

Galway

Galway was our second stop on our trip and I definitely recommend spending at least two nights there because there is quite a bit you can do.

  • Go out and listen to some traditional Irish music at pubs. Steer clear of American pop cover bands. There is plenty of that as well, but you're in Ireland ... so find Irish music.

  • J.T Equestrian (Formerly "Cooper’s Hill Equine"). If you love horseback riding, I’d recommend doing the Burren Trail horse trek with this group, or any trail they recommend. The Burren Trail was absolutely breathtaking. Watch my travel film below for a glimpse.

  • Cliffs of Moher. I could have easily spent half a day or a full day here walking along the cliffs. Whatever you do, don’t be stupid and get too close to the cliffs. You never know how stable they are. People DO fall off – more often than you think. What I wish I knew before going to the Cliffs of Moher, is how far you can hike along the cliffs. It goes for miles.

  • Tip: For those who are interested in longer, full-day hiking adventures, you’ll most likely get tired carrying all your stuff all the time. A #hikehack that I implore is hiding the stuff I don’t want to carry anymore and remembering to pick it up on the way back. I've hid articles of clothing under rocks or in bushes because I didn't feel like carrying them. But make sure you remember them. I'm sure a lot of people would forget.

  • Note: If you wanted to make this portion of your travel easier, I recommend staying in Doolin. It is a super small, charming town, right along the coast, and you can hike up to the top of the cliffs from there. And when I say small, I mean super small. But it's well worth a 1 night stay to be that close to the cliffs, especially if you want sunrise or sunset photos.

Ballyseede Castle

Staying in a castle was one of our dreams while on our honeymoon. A lot of castle research led us to choose this one for the price and the amenities offered. Dinner was great, breakfast was even better, and the scenery was just gorgeous. This is Kerry County's only hotel castle. A lot of the other options were just too expensive for us. We only stayed one night, but that is all we needed to get the castle-life vibe. And because of the honeymoon, we were also upgraded to a really nice suite.

Dingle

This little port town on the Dingle peninsula is known for its rugged scenery, trails, and sandy beaches. We got there through Connor Pass and the scenery was absolutely breathtaking. Before you go, make sure you check your weather conditions. If it’s going to be rainy or stormy, it may not be worth your time to take Connor Pass. There is a safer, main road to get to Dingle when the weather is bad. The advantage of Connor Pass is the gorgeous scenery you will see through there.

  • The Pax House. This is the place where you want to stay. I'm sure there rates have gone up since we went but if you do pay for this place, it will be worth it. The Pax House has one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had in my whole life, amazing views of the bay, and a fairly easy walk into town. You will have to walk a bit uphill on the way back.

  • Murphy’s Ice Cream. I know I mentioned this before. Dingle is where we first tried Murphy's Ice Cream and it is so good it will make you rethink ice cream entirely.

  • Dingle Falconry. For those interested, you can get a lesson in falconry here at 5 p.m. every day.

  • The Fish Box. An amazing choice for lunch or dinner. Fresh, quick and easy seafood with some creative, homemade style sides.

  • Slea Head Drive and the Dingle Peninsula. This is an absolute must. You may be tempted to do the Ring of Kerry to see the Dingle Peninsula, but the locals will tell you the Slea Head Drive is better. It’ll give you the chance to see the Dunquin Pier. Just make sure you drive on the road CLOCKWISE. Some parts of the road are so narrow, that you can’t pass with other traffic. The locals drive it clockwise and everyone else is just doing it wrong. For a place to rest during the drive, I recommend a café called Teac Couminole. If you could dream of a place to put a cafe, this might be it. It's located in a spectacular location with stunning panoramic views of the Irish coastline.


Dunquin Pier

Killarney National Park

If you love the outdoors and hiking, you’ll want to set aside a few days here. I only spent three days here but I could have spent weeks. It’s just that gorgeous and massive.

  • Ross Castle. Great to visit whether you take a tour or not. It's easy to get to. I do recommend the tour because we learned a lot of interesting things on it.

  • Torc Waterfall and Muckross Estate. This was a little day trip for us while we were in Killarney. To be honest, it was a little crowded with tourists but there is plenty of walking areas to get away from people if you want. While here in the area, I do recommend a visit to the Muckross Estate. You can walk around the unique grounds and enjoy some Alice in Wonderland vibes. But if you do want to go inside the actual estate, you’ll need a tour. But if you are into hiking, summit Torc Mountain instead. Although the summit is 535m, Torc Mountain is one the easiest mountains to climb in Kerry.

  • Summiting Mountains. Be sure to do your research before summiting a mountain in Killarney. They are no joke and you will probably get lost. Many people have attempted to summit some of the mountains in Killarney without a guide or the proper experience, and they've been caught in dangerous situations. Even if you have a lot of experience hiking, make sure you know what you're getting yourself into.

  • Gap of Dunloe. We parked at Kate Kearney’s Cottage and walked there easily. Not going to lie, I wish I had gone at sunrise. It would have been beautiful. It still was amazing, but I will definitely go earlier when I am back because it is just so easy and accessible. One of the best things we did while here was venture off the main road and climb a little to get to one of the trails. Look for the sign and trail entrance on your right about 10-15 minutes into your walk.



Kildare

Our final stop was just past Kildare for 1 night. This was only to break up the long drive back to Dublin. Kildare is a great place to stop if you are flying out of Dublin because otherwise the drive from Killarney to Dublin could tire you out.

  • Rock of Cashel. We visited this on the way back to Dublin. While it may not be an actual "castle," it was one of the largest, most intimidating historical structures I’ve ever seen. If you want to go inside, be sure to check the tour times. We showed up a bit too late to get access to a tour, but it was still neat to check out from the outside.

  • Killashee. This was the hotel we stayed at outside Kildare. It was a nice place and although it had a funky layout, the dining area and the bar ended up being really nice to hang around.

Flying back to America. Pay attention to this one. The process in Ireland of going back to the USA is a bit crazy – only because you'll go through customs there instead of the US. So because of that, you’ll need to set aside at least three hours for this, if not four. First, it’s important to know that 1 in 10 people get flagged at random for a counter-required check-in. This can be quite long. My wife was randomly selected, and it almost made us miss our flight. It's quite annoying. After that, you’ll go through the security, and then you'll happily arrive at "pre-customs." At "pre-customs" you may be randomly selected again for further security. Yep. They will go through your entire bag and take out every item and write it down – like .. every item. It’s insane. Then, after that, you have to go through "claiming" and after all of that is finished, you finally get to find your gate. For those of you wanting to purchase something duty-free, take into consideration the time it may take with the line and for the vendors to seal up the product you purchased. If you want to get tax money back on any gifts purchased throughout the trip, make sure you keep your receipts and ask a merchant on how to get the money back on them. This will require even more time at the airport. Plan on taking a lot of time at the airport on your way back. The silver lining will be when you get back to the states and you have already been cleared for customs.


Great news! Now that you have some information about my trip, you can watch all of the highlights right here in my travel film from my first trip to Ireland. Enjoy!



Written by Brady Skye

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Inquiries & Collaborations – theskyelounge@gmail.com


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