Roadtrip to Ireland

Image and text by Gabrielle.

The roadtrip destination has been decided — I’m writing this from a Ferry to Ireland!

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but one of the reasons we ended up extending our stay in France from the original plan of one year, to the current plan of 2 1/2 years, is that we wanted to fit in more traveling. We want to A) take advantage of how geographically close everything is here, and B) make the most of the frequent school breaks. (The schedule in French schools is something like 6 weeks on 2 weeks off.)

For this particular school break, we had long daydreamed about going to Egypt. It’s the number one destination on our kids’ travel wishlist — and really, on mine too. The pyramids! A camel ride to the Sphinx! And it’s only a 5.5 hour plane ride away! But we weren’t able to make it work. Yes, there is instability in Egypt right now, but we’ve done our research and sought out trusted advice, and really felt like we could safely and confidently take our family there. So that’s not actually what stopped us. Mostly, it’s a budget thing (we’re putting our savings elsewhere at the moment).

So last week, we started dreaming up alternate plans and Ireland was the winner! Yesterday, we drove 2 hours to Cherbourg, a port city here in Normandy, then boarded a ferry (the boat is called Oscar Wilde!) last night at 8PM. We drove our van right onto the ferry, so we’ll have our car when we arrive. We booked two side-by-side cabins to fit the 8 of us and slept through the night. The ferry is big — not-cruise-ship-with-swimming-pool big — but big enough that there are restaurants and a couple of shops. So we’ve spent the morning exploring the ship.

The ferry lands at 2PM today in the Irish town of Rosslare. From there, we’ll be driving to our hotel in Cork and the first tourist spot on our schedule: The Blarney Stone!

I know very little about Ireland, so I’ve been reading as much as I can over the last few days. If you have recommendations or advice, please let us know! We’re planning to use County Cork as a base and explore from there. Ben Blair wants to see the Cliffs of Moher. And we all want to see Dublin. But we’d love more particular advice.

P.S. — I posted the image of Ben Blair at top about a year ago, but I had to share it here because I think he looks so Irish! I’m not actually sure if Ben has any Irish heritage — I believe his Blair line of relatives are Scottish and English. But my grandmother Lucille was an Evans and apparently, my whole Evans line hails from Ireland. (Genealogy is cool!)

101 thoughts on “Roadtrip to Ireland”

  1. Hi Gabrielle! This is so exciting, I am a long time blog reader and am so excited you’re coming to visit my beautiful motherland. I currently reside in Cork and trust me you must visit the Farm Gate restaurant in the balcony of the historical English Market for a steaming bowl of chowder served with traditional soda bread, then for afters visit O’Conaills on French Church street (the richely historic old Huguenots quaters) for the best hot chocolate you will ever have! Cork is considered an artisan food county and the locals here really know their food. You are in for a treat!
    If you fancy a quick trip then visit my home county of Tipperary to see the Rock of Cashel. This is referenced in many folklore stories here in Ireland and features on many adverts both at home and abroad to promote tourism here (you must pick up a book of Irish fairy tales for your family, they are amazing!) Close to Cashel is my home town of Cahir, here you will find a beautiful castle that has featured in numerous movies, Excalibur to name one. You will feel transported back to the middle ages by just walking around here.It’s about 50 minutes from Cork city so it’s quite close.
    I hope you and your family have an amazing time, I can’t wait to hear about your adventures.
    P.S. I’ve crossed my fingers that the rain will stay away during your visit ;)

  2. We really loved Glendalough in County Wicklow…

    Also enjoyed Sligo, Yeats hung out there with a few society ladies who help foment revolution.

  3. Pingback: EU Products and Product Reviews | Loosening up: Guided Tours of Ireland

  4. Hello,

    I love your blog and read it daily.

    We visit Ireland often from Maine. We have several children and often have visitors from America visit us while we are there. All the suggestions above are wonderful, very traditional. One thing that our family always enjoys is a medieval banquet dinner at one of the castles. If you drive from Cork to the Cliffs you can go through Adare, a LOVELY little town, and continue on to Bunratty Castle for a banquet. It is a lovely show of traditional song and you even get to eat meat with your hands, like they did long ago! A win for all ages. Also, arrive early because outside the castle there is an old fashioned Irish “town” you can explore. Perfect for the kids! Lots of photo opps too!
    Another bit of advice, you can’t drive from Cork to the Cliffs in one day. But, you don’t need to worry about making hotel reservations beforehand. Just look for a B&B sign and knock on the door and ask if they have a room/s available. I usually choose houses that look neat and tidy from the road. They often have a bedroom or two with several beds in one room. You’d probably get a way with two rooms.
    Please email along the way if you have questions, I’d be happy to guide you. We have made many trips ourselves and have relatives that live in different areas around the country.
    Enjoy! Good choice! I’ve heard the weather has been very nice so I hope it continues for your holiday.


  5. If you want to do a little shopping in Dublin…. Avoca, is my favorite store. It has Irish goods for children on up as well as sweet stuff for the home. Bonus! It has a delicious restaurant on the top floor. It is only a few blocks from the tourist center downtown.

  6. Enjoy the trip – Ireland is beautiful!
    If you do the Ring of Kerry (as suggested many times), I recommend stopping in Portmagee to see if there are boats going to the Skellig Islands. I’m not sure they’d be running at this time of the year, but if they are, it’s definitely a place to see.
    Just across the bridge from Portmagee is Valencia Island from where the first transatlantic telegraph cable was sent in the 1850s.

  7. When youre in CORK CITY theres ONE thing to do: walk up to st. Annes church, climb up the belltower and ring the Huge bells yourself!!! You might have to check the opening time though. You can basically play any song you like and youll have the greatest view all over the city and sometimes even the bay.

  8. Gino’s for ice cream in Cork and drive to Kinsale, near Blarney, lovely harbour town and call in to the bookshop – amazing! Aillwee caves and Doolin are both near the cliffs of Moher and O Connor’s pub in Doolin is great for music too! And learn a cúpla focail too :)

  9. Ooh another Aoife from Cork! I’m kind of embarrassed by myself. I’ve lived in Ireland, both Cork and Dublin, my whole life and have barely visited any f the places mentioned here!

    I’m in East Cork which was already mentioned above. Just getting ready to head out to my weekly mum and baby group. This week it’s in Ballycotton which I’m so excited about because i’ts such a beautiful village. Bit out of the way but on the drive down I’ll pass my mothers flower shop in Castlemartyr (which reminds me, I need to change her window display!), Garryvoe hotel and the beach, Stephen Pearce pottery where you’ll find a lovely cafe and iconic pottery, Shanagarry Design Centre, where you’ll find another cafe and lots of lovely things to buy, Ballymaloe Cookery School where world famous chefs have learned their trade, a gorgeous shop and farm shop, walk around the gardens to see the animals (I recently did a one day course there and learned how to make butter, cheese and yogurt, and got to drink raw milk!) And maye if I’m lucky I’ll be able to buy fish from the fishermen on the pier, or at the very least in the shop up the road. Which is infinitely more exciting than buying it in the supermarket!
    Fota Wildlife park is a favourite with my kids, as is the house next to it and the beautiful gardens.
    Now I think I’m going to make a list from all of these recommendations and try to get to see at least some of my country this year!
    Thanks for visiting and reminding me how lucky I am to live here!

  10. Wow! The whole family is just pouring over all these comments and suggestions. We’re so excited to start exploring! And so grateful for your suggestions. We can already see this trip won’t be long enough at all — there’s just so much good stuff to see! Thank you for your help. You guys are the best!

  11. I live in Cork now, past 8 years, from the States originally. Anyway, don’t know how long you are planning on staying but if you’re based in Cork, there are a ton of things to do and so many more you won’t be able to get to. But it’s beautiful and if the kids are ok with driving you’ll be able to see a lot. Based on numerous friends and family coming to visit and several road trips, the Cliffs of Moher are definitely must see (who wouldn’t want to see the cliffs of Insanity!). They are about 2.5 hours drive from Cork. Then Dingle and Slea head drive, it’s less tourist populated than the Ring of Kerry, both have their merits, but I think Dingle and Slea Head Drive beat out the Ring of Kerry. Around Cork itself, Kinsale is great and Charles’ Fort is fun to run around in. There are some great beaches around there with surfing if you fancy that. Surfing is a winter sport in Ireland and you just need some good wetsuits. I’d recommend Garretstown or Inchydoney beaches. Also out in West Cork is Drombeg Stone Circle, dating back to the Bronze age, with the ruins of prehistoric huts next to it.

    Anyway I’m sure you have too much to do and see already. It’s a great area. Now you’ve got me thinking of doing the opposite journey, Rosslare-cherbourgh!

  12. Having recently returned from a monthlong trip to Ireland, I highly recommend your ideas. A word of caution about the driving the ring of Kerry: it is very curvy and extremly narrow in many places. Allow the tour buses and trucks the right of way. Dingle was a favorite as well as ennis. Great deals on wool items in all Aran markets however the larger ones have more variety( 2 for 1, childrens & household items). Make sure your cameras are fully charged. Locals depend on the tourists andare exceptionally helpful Enjoy.

  13. Yes, I second Christchurch in Dublin…the kids will love the mummified cat in the organ. Also, the book of Kells at Trinity college is so very interesting. We also loved the early man site at Newgrange…so cool! The Bunratty castle would be so fun for your kids as well. There is an entire village set up just like medieval times. There were women dressed up, baking fresh apple pie in one of the “houses” and the castle is so fun for children to explore. I loved Ireland and can’t wait to take my kids there this summer after our move to Heidelburg. Speaking of moving…any chance you could do a post on moving across seas. My husband is a BYU professor and we are doing a a sabbatical for 8 months starting in May…I’m kind of panicking about going with 5 kids…and a dog!

  14. I just got back from studying abroad in Cork, Ireland in the fall! I love Cork. If you get a chance to go to Dingle you should definitely do it. It’s a tiny little town with a really beautiful coastline. Also St. Finn Barres cathedral in Cork is really nice and the Cliffs of Moher are a must! Jackie Lennox Chip shop is known for it’s (cheap!) fish and chips and I probably went there once a week. They give you a LOT of chips and you can get them with garlic mayo (which is my favorite) or curry or other kinds of dip!

  15. I’ve no tips on Ireland and it is still on our wish list, but I can totally relate to the kids wanting to go to Egypt. Our boys hoped and hoped we would make it there before we moved back to the states. It didn’t work out, but the Egyptian exhibits at the Louvre, though obviously not the same as being there, were a pretty great substitute.
    Happy Trails!

  16. Ireland is such a beautiful place. I was lucky enough to visit there a few years ago, although mainly did the top half (we literally drove across from Dublin and then over the top and back down).

    If you’re visiting the Cliffs of Moher, there’s a gorgeous tiny town really close to them called Doolin. We ended up staying a night there and had dinner at the tiny pub – it’s full of colourful buildings with thatched roofs and a short walk to the beach. If you like cliffs then further north there’s also some beautiful ones called Slieve League Cliffs. We stayed at a hostel in Donegal and the owners recommended them to us since we liked the Cliffs of Moher.

    If you’re going even further north then the Giants Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge are both musts visits.

    I hope you guys all have a great time! :)

  17. I haven’t been to Ireland but my aunt runs a writer’s and artist’s retreat in West Cork near Beara so if you ever need to do a retreat to work on a project, look up Anam Cara.

    I thought I’d leave you a favorite poem (you can always substitute Cork for Clare) that be fitting. It was read at a friend’s funeral and I love it:

    And some time make the time to drive out west
    Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
    In September or October, when the wind
    And the light are working off each other
    So that the ocean on one side is wild
    With foam and glitter, and inland among stone
    The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
    By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans,
    Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
    Their fully grown headstrong-looking heads
    Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
    Useless to think you’ll park and capture it
    More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
    A hurry through which known and strange things pass
    As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
    And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.
    ~Seamus Heaney

    Hope the trip catches your hearts off guard and blows them open!

  18. I wish you such a good time in Ireland! My favourite little country in Europe. Since you announced the trip, this comment section is overflowing and I am not sure if you can read all that is posted here.
    Just try and take the music in. The people. The landscape. All the irishness.
    It can be like a good therapy session. Life changing and all that.
    Have a wonderful time!

  19. Rock of Cashel is pretty cool! I have some pictures of it on my site ( I also like Killarney.. it’s a very cute town. How fun… I wish I could be there, too. That’s where my husband and I want to take the kids for their first European trip. :D

  20. I’m so sad I’m late in commenting on this but we went there so long ago it’s hard to remember (pre-kids). I remember loving Doolin and Galway. Tops. It’s all gorgeous though and such friendly people. We did a driving tour too and stayed in farmhouse b&bs except in Dublin of course. We visited family in the north and enjoyed that so much. We’ve been thinking of taking the boyz there soon so I will be coming back to these comments and saving where you went with your family.

  21. we are doing this same trip next week! we are driving from paris to cherbourg to hop the oscar wilde with our 4 children! we are staying in cork, dingle and galway. i’m loving all the tips here from your commenters! looking forward to hearing about your trip!

  22. Jump into the sea in Howth followed by calamari with lemon on the pier. Visit Avoca and pick up beautiful wool, and a snack of course! Have the kids do a jig on the Aran Islands… And have a beach picnic in Dingle (it’s chilly so wear your Avoco blankets and scarves)!

    Have so much fun!

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