A Weekend in Western Ireland
I was so excited when our four day weekend turned into a short trip to western Ireland. This past weekend we were lucky enough to catch a quick, inexpensive flight from Germany to Kerry, Ireland for some “vacation after our vacation.” I’m not sure if you’ve run into this, but sometimes you didn’t quite get your “chill-on” during your scheduled vacation. My husband, Jon and I decided we needed yet another get-away before we started back to the grind. Originally, we had planned to just travel the few hours to Bavaria and find a cabin in the snow but being peak ski and snow season the price tags were a little out of reach after Christmas. So I began doing research on airline specials for January.
I am often asked, “How do you get a great flight?” There are secrets for sure, but you have to decide what is most important, time (length of travel time) or price? Most times I am able to find flights that are inexpensive but sometimes have a 10+ hour journey or the other your travel time is short (like 2-hour flying) but the price tag is higher. We lucked out with a short 2-hour flight a cheap ticket at €70 round trip before upgrades.
We flew on RyanAir into Kerry Airport, this western-most airport on the island of Ireland flies from Frankfurt-Hahn airport and we found out most everyone on the island knows exactly where you flew into, one Irishman we met even thanked, “Michael O’Leary” out loud. HA!
RYANAIR FLIES OUT OF FRANKFURT-HAHN NOT FRANKFURT MAIN
It’s important to remember this because the two airports are almost an hour drive away from each other. We made this mistake on our trip to Porto last summer. Also, there are several options for parking, we PARK at P2 (it’s €9.50/day) a little bit of a walk from the terminal but parking closer in can cost you up to €19.50/day!
NEW TO RYAN AIR FLYING PROCEDURES
- Arrive early, about 2 hours before your flight
- 1 hour to check in ~ you MUST go through passport check-in before you board the plane, this was a 30 min wait in LINE
- Then go through security
- Gate closes 30 min. before the flight takes off ~ don’t putz around
We paid the €5/person upgrade for Priority when purchasing on-line for 2 reasons
- Guaranteed bag check (know your sizes) (The first 80 bags are guaranteed- if you have a regular ticket and haven’t paid, I’ve heard they CAN charge you for checking your bag – €45 versus €5 – no brainer)
- First on board
OTHER purchase cautions
- If you book a short minute flight on-line you need to know, ALL THE FREE seats might be taken, this happened to us, so we had to buy the €6 seats. Still not too bad. Our tickets ended up being about €80/person
Our cottage by the sea – ®HomeAway
This was our first time using ®HomeAway (similar to AirBnb) I thought it would be a good research project to try out a competitor and compare services. Our cottage by the sea was incredible, Young’s Cottage on the Wild Atlantic Way on the Dingle Peninsula was exactly the kind of “Irish home-away” we could have asked for on our relaxing weekend. Our rate was phenomenal,it was €74/night for a cottage that sleeps 7 and we had a full kitchen with amazing views everyday. Location wasn’t bad either, our cottage was the closest to the sea in Feohanagh. (pronounced Feona)
My first HomeAway experience was similar to using AirBnb. I was prepared to pay service fees and taxes, which was an additional €100. This always bums me out because they seem to be high but the experience of staying in a 18th century cottage on the Irish coast was unforgettable. Another downside we didn’t like was there was €150 refundable damage deposit. OUCH! We should get that back in about 7-10 business days. Read the fine print though when renting, not all properties charge this, but this place was stunning and impeccably decorated in a vintage cottage style.
Dingle and bar-hopping
The Dingle peninsula is known for it’s volcanic rock formations, being a Celtic playground and their whiskey bars! Yup ~ notably one of the most famed bars “Dick Mack’s” is right in downtown Dingle is known as one of the best bars in Ireland. It’s eccentric crowd and musically-gifted patrons made our visit in this pub a highlight of our trip.
Dick Mack’s probably has the largest selection of Irish whiskey’s in the country. Jon was happy to sample a few. However, I was suffering from a mid-winter cold, so mulled wine with orange and cloves was my medicine for the night. There are rooms all over this place and we found a room where local pickers were playing a mandolin guitar, violins and pan-flutes.
Next pub crawl was based off a suggestion from my friend Julie and some Facebook chatter, we tried out Foxy John’s, this warm and welcoming pub actually has a greeter at the door, who welcomes you in. I was thankful he was there because it was a bit confusing since Foxy John’s is also a bicycle and hardware store. Because in Ireland it makes sense to have a pub attached to those stores, right? A warm fireplace, lots of laughter and rocking chairs makes this place so special.
Out by Ballydavid, where our cottage was ~ we found Tigh T.P.’s a home-town bar where we stopped in from hiking and enjoyed a pint (Jon) and some Irish coffee for me. Here we met a new local friend, Anna. She would prove to be an amazing resource in local knowledge and things to do and see! It was especially funny since we kept bumping into her around town ~ two small town girl’s living world’s away but lots in common.
Dingle also has a new whiskey distillery, this is their first year serving their 8 yr old whiskey. Although we missed the tour, they offer it HERE for free.
Irish food is yummy ~ maybe it’s my mixed American heritage (my mother is part Irish – Fay (Fadye) but meat and potatoes are always just comfort foods to me. These combinations were delectable and we enjoyed many Irish specialties. So much for New Year’s resolutions ~
Try a Bap! (Egg sandwich)
Fish and Chips (You need to visit a “Chipper!”)
Trekking the Peninsula
It wouldn’t be an adventure with Wendy if there wasn’t a hike or walk of some kind. Such is the case when I travel with my family too, they know it’s just a part of who I am. If you like hiking check out my new hiking Ebook about the Stuttgart area ~ out this week! When you visit a “beach” destination in winter time, it’s REALLY important to visit the tourism office because NOT EVERYTHING IS OPEN during the winter months. It was still o.k.! We asked all about the hiking trails and since our weather was great (high 40’s and low 50’s in January) we headed out for a trail hike around the peninsula.
We met Grainne from the Visitor’s Center in Dingle who hooked us up with several trails on the peninsula, a map, where to find the movie site for Rogue One, Star Wars, and Garraun Point, which is the western most part of (inhabited) Europe and has gorgeous views of the Blasket Islands. She was lovely and even shared a story of Chewbacca, who came during filming to visit their local elementary school and her son was unbearably ecstatic.
Hiking hot spots
Blarney, Castle, Gardens and sweaters
On our second day of touring, we decided to head in-land to the town of Blarney and visit its’ famous castle. You might think this is a bit touristy, but there is so much to see ~ totally worth a stop!
This castle is famous for the “kissing” stone, the legend goes, those who kiss the stone will be endowed with the “the gift of gab or eloquence.” Queen Elizabeth I decided the word “Blarney” meant just chatter and blabbing. I did not kiss the stone since I talk more than the average person and at 45+ I doubt I can learn how to be eloquent now. But my daughter, Jessica had fun bending into contortions to get her “kiss” certified.
The walk up to the castle is stunning and the narrow stairways may give some people vertigo, so use the rope to help guide you. Visiting this time of year, there were no crowds, nor in line for “kisses” and open to take lots of “people-free” pictures.
I was stunned by the beauty of the gardens on the Blarney castle grounds. We literally could have hiked all day and then some. However, we just chose the Himalayan garden and castle loop.
Sweaters, who knew?
My friend Diane did a 9 day tour of Ireland and was sweet enough to share parts of her itinerary with me! She gave me the HUGE tip of stopping at the Blarney Sweater outlet opposite of the castle. I was expecting a great selection of warm and cozy sweater but tourist prices. I was pleasantly surprised at how affordable these wool sweaters were. Also, if you spend €200 they will ship to your APO here in Germany! I am eagerly anticipating my Irish sweater package as we are back in frigid winter weather in Stuttgart.
Visiting western Ireland was a dream, I knew after popping into Dublin last year, we would be back. I’m so glad we came and “chilled” by the sea and saw another beautiful, unforgettable part of Ireland. I feel like we’ve just touched the surface, our next visit will be near Galway and the Cliffs of Mohr. But somehow I think our hearts will be on the peninsula…
If you would like to know more about this trip or other blogs, comment below ~ I’m here to help.