Our Ireland Holiday ☘️
Dave and I have always wanted to go to Ireland (both of us have Irish in our DNA, thanks to 23 and Me!) As you'll see below, we tried to visit as much of Ireland as we could!
Here was our itinerary:
-Flight: Boston to Dublin (Nonstop on Aer Lingus-6 hours)
-Train: Dublin to Belfast
-Two nights in Belfast
-Transfer and two nights in Galway
-Transfer and two nights in Killarney
-Transfer and two nights in Kilkenny
-Transfer and two nights in Dublin
-Flight: Dublin to Boston (Nonstop on Aer Lingus- 7 hours)
Belfast, Northern Ireland
The flight from Boston to Dublin was very easy and perhaps too short for a "Red Eye" flight. By the time we fell asleep, it was probably about half way into the flight! Needless to say, we were pretty tired when we arrived! Because it was much cheaper (and easier) to fly into Dublin, and our first two nights were in Belfast, we took a taxi to the train station in Dublin in order to transfer to Belfast. I purchased the train tickets online prior to our departure, and we had no difficulty boarding and riding.
Remember, there are no hard borders, but Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and does not use the Euro. We were able to easily obtain pound sterling at ATMs in Northern Ireland and did so multiple times so that we didn't end up with leftover pounds (that are not accepted in the Republic of Ireland).
When we arrived in Belfast, we cleared the border patrol and actually walked from the train station to our hotel, the Grand Central Belfast. Because our room was not quite ready, we ubered to the Titanic Museum! The Titanic was constructed and launched from Belfast and the museum was phenomenal (they even had a mini ride that "immersed you into launch day"!) We greatly enjoyed it!
After the museum, we were running on fumes and went back to our hotel. The room was ready and we were surprised to see how spectacular it was! We were upgraded to the Amelia suite and it was sweet😂😂. Our room came with drinks on the rooftop lounge, which we happily enjoyed and took in the 360 degree view of Belfast! We ended up walking in town for dinner and the kiddos enjoyed trying new local treats.
On day two, we had a private driver take us to Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge (a famous rope bridge near Ballintoy in County Atrim, Northern Ireland). We arrived early because the area becomes very congested with daily cruise excursions. Following the rope bridge, we visited Giant's Causeway (is a UNESCO World Heritage site with an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic fissure eruption). The hike and visit took a little over an hour. Following the Causeway, we enjoyed a lovely lunch at the Bushmills Inn and made a few stops at various "Game of Thrones" filming locations. We ended the day with a trip to the Old Bushmills Whiskey Distillery. The tour was thoroughly informative and entertaining as well as breathtaking. As the kiddos were exhausted, we let them have room service while the adults went searching for live music!
Overall, we loved everything about our time in Northern Ireland and would highly suggest the trip! Here is a video of our adventures:
Our transfer from Belfast to Galway was almost five hours, but we made a few stops along the way. One of the best things about having a driver is that they know where to eat and shop like locals! After a "wee comfort stop" near Dublin, we arrived at Sean's Bar (a pub on the County Roscommon side of the town of Athlone) that is Ireland's oldest pub, dating back to AD 900. After have a pint, we drove directly to Clonmacnoise (a monastery founded in 544😳). During our brief stop, I swear we experienced all four seasons, lol! We made it to our destination in Galway and were ready to explore our hotel, the Glenlo Abbey).
On our first day in Galway, we had the most fabulous walking food tour as well as a mini tour of the village with our driver (like I said, he knew exactly where to buy claddagh jewelry🥰). After our tour of Galway, we hopped in the van and drove to Kylemore Abbey (a Benedictine monastery founded in 1920 on the grounds of Kylemore Castle, in Connemara, County Galway, Ireland). The entire family thoroughly enjoyed our self guided tour. When we returned to Galway, we stopped for dinner before returning to our beautiful hotel.
Galway was an amazing stop and in the future, I think I would have preferred to stay closer to the actual city. Glenlo Abbey, was a wonderfully unique experience, but the drive to the city was about 10-15 minutes. Here is a video summary of our time in Galway:
On our journey from Galway to Killarney, we stopped to see the breathtaking views from the Cliffs of Moher. Dave is incredibly nervous with those heights, so he took plenty of pictures from the path😊. After leaving the Cliffs, we ended up at a sheepdog demonstration. Let me tell you, the was a HIGHLIGHT for our family! We loved everything about those pups and realized that ours could use some training. To cut off some travel time, we rode the ferry to arrive at our destination a little bit faster. After a full day of driving and touring, we were so excited to arrive at the Aghadoe Heights Hotel. The hotel offers amazing views of the Lakes of Killarney and well as 5 star amenities.
On day four, our driver arranged a Jaunty Carriage ride through Killarney National park the ended with a boat right on the lake. Although the carriage ride was a total hit, the boat ride put us ALL to sleep, LOL! There is no rest for the weary on our vacations😳😂. Following the boat ride, we drove back to our hotel, just in time for afternoon tea ☕️. The tea provided the much needed caffeine to make it through the rest of the day......and speaking of the rest of the day....our next stop was to Muckross working farm. The was another highlight of our trip! The tour was self guided and so much fun. We learned about life on a traditional farm in the 1930s. We ate bread from a skillet off the fire and gaped at the family bed (I reminded my kids how lucky they are that they get their OWN bed, lol!). Arabelle begged the shop owner to adopt the dog "Fluffy" (see the video below), and was told she could, until they found out she lived in Texas🙈.
Following the farm, we returned to the hotel and our driver arranged a trip to the Celtic Steps at a race track just outside of Killarney. The Celtic Steps is a Traditional Irish music, song & dance show featuring a cast of World & All-Ireland Champions. What an amazing show!!! Even though we were exhausted, not a single one of us could take our eyes off the stage!
Killarney is a lovely city and although the Aghadoe Heights hotel boasted impressive views and amenities, we would consider staying closer to the town next time. There is nothing like being able to stroll right out of your hotel for a nice dinner with drinks😊.
Enjoy our video of our time in Killarney ☘️ :
As you can see, the drive to Kilkenny was quite long, even with the stop at Rock of Cashel (also known as Cashel of the Kings and St. Patrick's Rock, is a historic site located in Cashel, County Tipperary, Ireland).
Because the town of Kilkenny was on the way to our hotel, we also stopped there for lunch and a quick tour. We did not actually go inside the beautiful Kilkenny Castle because at this point it was an ABC (another bloody castle, lol!) and the kids were over it😂. After our Kilkenny explorations (the Rothe House and Smithwicks Brewery tour), we arrived at the Mount Juliet estate, our home for the next two nights🥰.
Mount Juliet is a hotel, stud and golf course, situated on over 1500 acres about 20 minutes outside of Kilkenny. Over our two days there, the kids swam (swim cap necessary😳😂), enjoyed tea time, went horseback riding and participated in a private falconry experience (highlight!!!). We loved everything about our visit to Mount Juliet.
Although Kilkenny was an adorable town, we actually didn't mind being a little bit further out of town at Mount Juliet. We had so much fun on the estate (complete with a Michelin starred restaurant) that we didn't feel that we needed to go back into town. I would definitely recommend Mount Juliet for your Ireland itinerary!
Ok, this is where I might ruffle some feathers😅... We actually did not enjoy Dublin as much as we thought we would. Because it is a busy city, you understandably lose some of the charm that we experienced in our other Ireland stops, but we thought it lost too much of that charm. We stayed right in the middle of the action at the Westbury on Grafton Street. The hotel and amenities were amazing, but our specific rooms were quite dated (surprisingly at our most expensive hotel stay!) We still made the best of the end of our trip by shopping, visiting the Leprechaun Museum (meh..), and the Vikings Museum (Dubliana). We did not do the Guinness tour as we had already done a whiskey and beer tour---plus, we could see the tourists arriving by bus load😅. Dave and I were told to avoid Temple Bar (think French Quarter), and should have heeded the advice, lol. Definitely a party place for the young and rowdy....I prefer a nice dinner and wine😊.
I am so glad that we visited Dublin, but would have preferred only one night instead of two!
I asked each family member to give their own advice on traveling to Ireland. Here is what they suggest:
Jack (age 12): Bring rainproof things, find live music and go to the historical places first in order to save the fun stuff.
Mikey (age 10.9): definitely find falconry
Arabelle (age 9): Pack a ton of clothes so that you don't have to rewear any. 😂
Allie (forever 29): I would suggest bringing "smart" clothes. I brought a ton of jeans, activewear and layers, but I always felt underdressed at breakfast🙈. Certainly made it easy to spot "Americans".
Dave (surprisingly 29 as well): Spend less time in Dublin and don't forget about Northern Ireland. Don't need to drive off the highway for every "ABC" (another bloody castle😂😂)
We had the very best time in Ireland and I really hope this post helps you plan your trip! Please reach out with any questions you may have, as I'd love to help!