So I Took This Trip: Ireland 2022
My husband and I recently returned from a long-awaited and twice postponed trip to Ireland. This was either our 9th or 10th trip there. (Neither of us had the desire to do a deep search to win the battle over the number.) We do agree that we’ve spent time or at least driven through all 26 counties in the Republic of Ireland and the six in Northern Ireland. This trip itinerary was designed to fill in places we hadn’t been (or at least hadn’t spent enough time in) that also lined up with book research I needed to do. We had a lot of fun seeing new sites, meeting new people, and largely unplugging from technology.
You know it’s a small world when at baggage claim you realize you’re standing next to a family who lives within a mile or so of your home back in Wisconsin. We had a good laugh about that and shared itineraries during the long wait for our bags. (The Dublin airport needs more employees—but more on that later.)
We drove straight across the country to Sligo . . . my husband honed his left-side driving skills immediately when our GPS inexplicably avoided the major highway. LOL The highlights of Sligo were the Glencar waterfall, the Carrowmore Megalithic Complex (the largest and oldest collection of neolithic dolmens and stone circles in Ireland.) Book research! We also visited and climbed Knocknarea where you can find the cairn with Queen Maeve’s tomb. (Also book research!) This was a fairly strenuous hike as the summit of this ‘hill’ is 1000+ feet above sea level.
We then crossed into County Mayo on our way to Achill Island. We’d never driven this way before and were so pleased we had decided to take one of the smaller roads. Gorgeous landscape and very little traffic. Achill Island is accessed by a bridge, so it’s easy to get there. It’s home to the tallest sea cliffs in Ireland, beautiful beaches, small fishing villages, and the westernmost pub in Europe. We had a lovely day exploring the coastline before continuing on to Cong.
Cong was more of a stopping off point as we made our way south toward Killarney, but we made the most it, enjoying the ruins of the Cong Abbey and the amazing meal at Pat Cohen’s pub. (Cong was the location of the filming of The Quiet Man movie starring Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne.)
We stayed in Killarney in the past, but we hadn’t fully explored the adjacent Killarney National Park. Now, Killarney is not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s a bit touristy but we appreciate the wonderful hotels, restaurants, and shops. We stayed right in town and the church below was the view from our window. I highly recommend a visit to Muckross House & Farm inside the National Park as well as the Dunloe Gap for gorgeous scenery—which we saw via a jaunting horse cart. There are many hiking, biking, boating, and kayaking options here.
The highlight of our trip was definitely our visit to Skellig Michael. As a UNESCO world heritage site, the quantity of visitors is strictly limited, and only certain boats are licensed to land there weather permitting. And the term ‘land’ is not exactly correct – they sort of pull up as close as possible and as the waves toss the boat about, you make a jump onto wet concrete steps and grab for the chain mounted to the wall to hold yourself steady. This is a monastic settlement first built in the 6th century. (You might remember the scenes from Star Wars with Luke Skywalker/Mark Hammill that were filmed here.) There are 600 stone steps up to the monastic buildings, which were made of dry stacked stone—even without mortar they still stand today. The hike up is crazy hard – so many – many stairs. But the hike down is terrifying because you can’t help but focus on the drop offs so close to where you’re stepping. I stopped a bunch of times just to calm my nerves. This island and Little Skellig are home to large colonies of sea birds, including my favorite—puffins!
We ended the trip in Dublin and were relieved that by the time we flew home, the airport officials had gotten their act together and increased the number of security staff to avoid the previous week’s delays which had more than 1000 people missing their flight in a single day due to how long it took to get through security. Phew!
If you’re headed to Ireland and want help figuring out where to go, I have so much information and can guide you to some neat places based on what you most like to do. I’m so glad we finally got to go back—now I need to take my notes and get moving on the next book in my series.