Posted by: jeanne | March 21, 2008

Mike and Shan go down the country

First a personal plea – don’t push it. You won’t be able to do all of this. The days will go by much faster than the miles, and there’s so much to see. So take it for granted that you’ll abandon some part of this guide, should you go by it at all.

At some point you’ll need to scramble to get to some youth hostel at a decent hour, and that’s when you should use your trusty B&B guide, because there are millions of B&Bs and they’re worth the money if you need them. Besides, I’m going on faith in the website that the conditions of Irish youth hostels have improved so remarkably since I used them in the mid ’80s .

Familiarize youself with An Oige, the Irish Youth Hostel system. There are also unofficial hostels to check out. You can’t take sleeping bags, but you can bring sheets, some serve meals and some you should have stopped at the market you passed an hour or two ago, oops.

Go over the linked direction maps carefully to figure out howmuch to try to do in one day. The stretch from Killarney to Kinvara is a doozy, for example. You might want to stay somewhere further on from Killarney after doing the Ring, like making it to the hostel in Dingle. And yet, this would be eating into your Ring of Kerry day, and you’ve driven a lot and gotten out a lot on that day. Although I must say I’ve usually seen Minard at dusk, when it’s ever so spectacular.

Anyway, it’s better to wing it on the ground and not try to pre-plan. Just get to the end of your day and stop. Youth hostels often have rooms on demand, and with most B&Bs you can just stop in where you see a sign and ask. So you don’t need to, and probably shouldn’t pay for all these reservations in advance. I’m thinking that after Easter Week, they’ll all be back at work and there’ll be an after-easter lull in most tourism activities. Which is great for you guys.

Links don’t seem to show up very well, so I’ve bolded them. Strange, that bit of formatting.

Print out all the maps. For convenience they’re collected at the bottom of this post. When you print out these maps, the important part is the map, not the directions. The directions are stupid – right at green isle cottages, go 30 m, stop in for a drink – never giving you town names, horrible written directions. But the maps are great, print them in as large a scale as you can get them to print out. In the text below, anything I want you to print out will be offset by a bullet-point.  (btw, I’m finding that the linked words are very hard to see, and I’m having to hover over them with the mouse to see anything there at all, so sorry for the format.)


Objective: Project Jetlag

Stay in Dublin. At this point I have not made any reservations. Sue is thinking about Citywest comfort inn on the Naas Rd, and i’ve found loads of hostels in the center of Dublin. They’re unofficial, I mean not part of An Oige, but so what? We could put everyone up in one of these for the night. I’ll do some more research and get back to you about it, as I know this first night is a pressing unresolved issue.

All I know is that Suzie is meeting everyone at the airport and they’ve got plans for everyone that evening.


Objective: High-tail it to Cork

  • Here’re the directions to Cork – print them out 

It’s a three hour drive, if you don’t stop.  However. There are plenty of places to stop the further south you go.

You’ll go thru the Curragh, where the expensive horses run.

Stop in Abbeyleix, south of Portlaois, and have a cup of coffee at Morrissey’s Pub, which is also a grocery store. It’s great, and you need a stop before the long boring road to Cork.

On which are several sights, like the rock of Cashel and the castle of Caher and places like that. Check your guidebook. Mitchelstown where they make butter. Fermoy.

Then Cork. Great city. Never been there. Some like it better than Dublin.

You should get there early enough to do some exploring. There’s the city itself, and the harbor of Cobh a few miles down the shore, where the boats for America departed from during the Famine.

You may as well pre-book a stay here in the Cork Youth Hostel


Objective: Barrel down the coast and cut up to Killarney

  • Print out these directions, again the map is the important part

When I say barrel, it only looks that way on paper. This particular three hour tour will take you all day, guaranteed. As it should. It’s only the most beautiful spot on earth. Except for what you’ll see the following day.

If you had time, I’d say start with Youghal and make your way down the coast from there. But it would add complications in terms of time, so think carefully. But trust me, it’s well worth seeing.

From Cork you’ll go first to the little fishing village of Kinsale. Kinsale is a good place to hang out for awhile. Its food is world-renowned, at least in Kinsale.

It would be nice if you could see Kinsale Head in good light. It’s on a golf course, but if you can get there, the view from the lighthouse is wonderful. However, you probably can’t get onto the golf course, so never mind. 

Clonakilty is Ireland’s gem (one of many, truth be told).

Skibbereen is another gem.

Baltimore, don’t miss that unless you’re pushed.

Okay you don’t have to go to Ball-TEE-more, but it’s a shame not to. You’ll never see a more picturesque little fishing village in all your life. Even if you’ve seen like five today already.

Then on thru Ballydehob and north to Bantry

After Bantry you can stay on the main road, go around the bay and up into the mountain for a low level pass north, or you can go a little way down the penninsula and then take the breathtaking Healy Pass, and there’s a youth hostel  there, Glanmore Lake, if it’s late in the day. Which it could be, stuff happens and so it’s good to know. Then you could just join the Ring tomorrow in Kenmare.

ruined house, kenmare, watercolor

Several places to stay in Kerry, actually. Click on the map at An Oige’s website. Mind, these are just official hostels. Do some research about hostels in West Cork and Kerry.

Killarney Youth Hostel in Killarney proper. This is where you start the Ring of Kerry. Well, I mean, since it’s a ring, you know, but it’s the traditional diamond in the Ring, so.

There’s the Black Valley Hostel in the very big up Gap of Dunloe looming over Killarney. I kind of can’t see you doing it unless it’s really fine. Sure you brought walking shoes and waterproofs?


Objective: Ring of Kerry

Sneem is cool. And Waterville. If you like, after Waterville you can detour to Bolus Head and see where I’ll be doing a residency soon. You can take it in as a side trip. It’s remote and beautiful, and you’ll kindly notice the Siopa Cill Rialiag in Ballinskelligs, where I hope to be selling paintings from my art residency (halfway up to Bolus Head in what used to be the abandoned village of Kildreelig from after the famine). Just wanted you to know where it is so you can come visit me when I’m on residency. To be announced.

 valencia island, ireland, watercolor

If you then follow the coast around, you’ll come to Valencia Island, which is worth going onto. There’s a bridge. It’s a sloping tilted island that’s the furthest western point in Ireland, so it’s where the first transatlantic cable came aground. It’s also got a really cool slate quarry inside this cavern, and the cavern has a lake in back of it, which I didn’t see, and a rock-fall in the front which I did. It covered a bunch of miners a century ago, and there they rest, and that freaked me out, but it’s a really cool place, and I understand it’s open as a slate mine once again. valencia slate quarry

If you’ve taken this side trip, you’ll come back to the Ring before Caherciveen, which is worth stopping in and wandering around. If you park near the bridge and walk down toward the mouth of the river, you can see how wonderful the bridge is, and the breathtaking reeks behind it. I painted it.

I have you staying in a hostel in Killarney, and maybe you stayed there last night. I’m not sure what’s the better idea, to try to cram in more during your day before, or have more to make up the day following. I’m getting confused.


Objective: Dingle and the Burren 

You may want to skip Dingle. And that’s okay. It’s a real haul thru the Burren from there. 

the beara penninsula, kerry, watercolor

But oh, the Dingle penninsula
click here for details
and here
and here

There are those, I among them, who think that Dingle is the loveliest part of Kerry, which is widely held to be the loveliest part of Ireland. If you’re seriously behind and need to push on, sure you’ve seen the Ring of Kerry and you can go on to the Burren now. But if you have the time, some of my most favorite things are there.
and there
and there

There’s Inch, this 4 mile long spit of sandy beach jutting out into this fiord. And there’s a pub just opposite where you can sit in the window and look at the mountains across.

There’s Minard, this tiny little valley full of ice-age boulders the size of hummers, and this cute little ruin of a tower castle. It’s so worth the little trouble it takes to get there, which really it isn’t out of your way at all. If you miss the turnoff and go into Anascaul, a cute little nothing village perched on the side of the mountain, don’t worry, you can still get to Minard. Just take the next left, up a ways, and the next left, and go on down to the coast. It’s so worth it. More on Minard. Sure I painted it.

Dingle town is way cute, and the area beyond Dingle is just wonderful, as are all the seaward bits on all the fingers of all the penninsulas. But sadly you probably shouldn’t go there because it’ll just add more time to your drive, and you’ve probably been dawdling enough as it is.

So now go up the mountain from Dingle and you’ll reach the Conor Pass, which is as near to heaven as you’re going to get without leaving the island.

Then you’re back to hauling up the road until you get to the Tarbert Ferry, so that you don’t have to go thru Limerick, which is kind of them.

Here’s a link to find out the ferry schedule. Killimer-Tarbert, County Clare every hour

Now you’re in Clare, and as you go north, you enter the Burren, a unique landscape. it’s so cool.

After Ennis (about which I know little) you head for the Cliffs of Moher, something people come to for the very best of reasons. It’s amazing, and worth the whole endless driving thing you’re doing at this point.

dun aengus, inishmor, oil on canvas

Doolin Ferry to Inishmor. It’s right just up from the Cliffs of Moher, and there’s a youth hostel. Doolin and then the Aran Islands looks like a good alternative way to spend the following day. You could think about this.
Here’s information on Doolin.

Lisdoonvarna has lots of Irish music all the time, and a festival now and then. Good place to stop for a pint. It’s got a youth hostel. burren hostel clare

oranmore, galway road, watercolor 

Or closer to Galway, should you have made it that far, there’s Clarinbridge for oysters, and stay a little south of that at doorus house youth hostel in Kinvara.

ruined house, galway, watercolor

Or if you decide to go into Galway, there’s a youth hostel near Eyre Square in the center of town. But you’ve been on the road forever. You should either stay in the Kinvara hostel or the Lisdoonvarna one, and don’t get to Galway yet. You practically have all day tomorrow to get to the hotel, and it’s not that far (as the helicopter flies).


Objective: Getting to the wedding on time

In the morning, if it’s an exceedingly fine day, you should rush out to Rossaveal, west of Galway, and hop a boat for Inishmore, rent bicycles, and go to Dun Aengus, which is just amazing. I painted it. But only go if the weather’s really fine, and go early.

Here is some ferry information from Rossaveal.
And here.
If it’s not fine, go into Galway City, park your car near or in Eyre Square and wander down Quay Street, down the hill toward the Spanish Arch.

There’s Neachtain’s pub, which is very quaint, and Kenny’s bookstore and art shop – a treat not to be missed if you are in Galway. Go upstairs at Kenny’s and take in all the lovely lovely Irish art. And stop at Neachtain’s for a pint. I sat in that very pub and painted it.

Then you’re out of Galway in what must be horrific traffic, but I’ll bet that pint did you some good, and now you’re in Connemara.

Which contains Oughterard and Maam Cross, the Twelve Bens, and of course, Cashel Bay, and Clifden.

And here’s our hotel. The bus from Dublin, if it got off around 9 am, should be pulling into the drive around 3ish or thereabouts. I personally can’t wait. The wedding is the following day at 3. Except Susie knows I wander, so she told me the wedding was at noon.

To recap, here are the very same maps I had you print out above, collected here for your convenience. Print out these maps, making sure to get the most comprehensive map coverage and disregarding the directions unless you like to play rallye car.

map one – dublin to cork directions
map two – cork to killarney directions
map three – ring of kerry directions
map four – killarney to kinvara directions
map five – kinvara to cashel house hotel directions

Don’t forget that there’s always a pub to make phone calls from, get in out of the weather, eat, ask directions, and wet your thirst. Make copious use of pubs, it’s how the Irish world goes around.

next, day trips from Dublin, for after the wedding



  1. I was wondering if you could mention our ferry company that offers trips from Doolin, Co. Clare to the Aran Islands, Cliffs of Moher and Aran Islands Cruises, We have daily ferry trips to the Aran Islands and also sightseeing cruises to view the Cliffs of Moher from sea level. Thank you for reading my comment.


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