ULTIMATE VACATIONS GOES TO IRELAND: OUR REPORT
ULTIMATE VACATIONS owners created their own Ireland itinerary and toured Ireland & Northern Ireland independently. This is our Day by Day Report & Photos. It was an Amazing Adventure!
Three generations of the French family, owners of ULTIMATE VACATIONS, journeyed to Ireland & Northern Ireland to cover the major and many off the beaten path sites - by car and ferry. Here is our day-by-day account of experiencing some of the greatest sites in the world - Rock of Cashel, Ring of Kerry, Cliffs of Moher, Slieve League, castles galore, Giant's Causeway, B&B's, waterfalls, sheep, Dublin, Killarney, Belfast, wonderful villages in between, locals, some pints and lots of Fish & Chips!
As a travel agency owning family you would expect that we have incredible access to travel opportunities and plan our trips meticulously well in advance. The truth is - sometimes we are the worst travel agents when we self plan, always putting clients demands ahead of our own. And in this case we had a trip planned until a supplier threw us a wicked curve at almost the last moment.
So with less than 10 days before our scheduled vacation time we started over with a completely blank planning board. Cruise, Florida, the mountains - or Ireland? Ireland, on a week's notice in the peak of summer (over the 4th of July)? No way.
Well, travel agent extraordinaire Justin French stepped up to the plate and delivered in a big way. In the space of 2-nights of after work hours, Justin created an 8-night self drive itinerary for our family of four adults and a 2-year old. And surprisingly he created an impressive and aggressive itinerary from scratch via research, never once using a brochure or organized itinerary of any kind. There are some overly touristy attractions like kissing the Blarney Stone and Waterford that were omitted, but we covered Ireland and Northern Ireland from top to bottom hitting castles and the major scenic locale's as well as some off-the-beaten-path gems in our precious 8-nights. And we did all the driving (on the left side) so we never had to follow anyone else's schedule or itinerary.
Justin found deals on airfare, and utilized multiple sources to reserve deluxe resorts, moderate hotels and B&B's. This is the report from our experience, booked literally 9-days before departure.
Our flight from O'Hare to Dublin was intended to begin with the typical overnight flight. And it began exactly opposite as we would hope - with a five and a half hour delay - with a 2-year old. Proud to say Cameron was more patient than many of the impatient passengers. So we sat is our seats for a few hours, then off the plane with food vouchers, back on the plane, and finally, our scheduled 6:30 pm takeoff lifted off at 11:59pm. Well at least American Airlines serves complimentary beer and wine on their transatlantic flights to Europe.
DAY 1 - ARRIVE IN DUBLIN; ROCK OF CASHEL & CORK FOR A SURPRISE
Arrival in Dublin. We arrived in the afternoon thanks to the delay as opposed to a morning arrival. Oh well, we are here. After collecting our rental car we had little room for our luggage. Welcome to EuroTrip. Tip: Don't bring clothes - there's no room in the small cars.
We begin our first full day in Ireland still in awe of the impressive Castlemartyr Resort, so we set out to explore the stately grounds and adjoining castle. Meticulous is the best word to describe the impeccably groomed grounds. A massive 2-story fitness and spa complex house the spa, a full 2nd floor Fitness Center, and a ground floor indoor heated full length pool that overlook the grounds through full length floor-to-ceiling glass walls - an amazing sight to behold from the exterior.
We begin our long day of touring at the Muckross House, overlooking photo-worthy Lough Lein in Killarney National Park. From there we captured many family-style photos in front of the lovely Torc Waterfalls within the park.
Next we begin the route of the famed Ring of Kerry. I can assure you that I have no earthly idea of how many stops we made, including those for lunch, photos, shops, exploring towns, forts, coastlines and more photos.
Goodbye Killarney, you've been wonderful. But hello sunshine. What a brilliant sunny day this would prove to be from beginning to end. Soon after departing Killarney we passed a lovely old church with a tall steeple extending high into the sky accentuating today's glorious blue sky. Soon after we stopped in a regional grocery chain for deli items, drinks and snacks.
Next stop was the Shannon Ferry. Actually it wasn't a stop - the ferry was ready to close and we barely made it. So on to the Shannon Breeze Ferry we went from Tarbert to Killimer ...
Today would prove to deliver a heavy dose of Ireland scenery - scenic valleys and passes, breathtaking cliffs, a bit of city shopping, staying at a B & B, and sheep.
Heading north from Galway we arrived at Gleniff Horseshoe Valley, appropriately named, near Sligo. This amounts to a six-mile loop road tucked into fabulous lush greenery and stone walls. Inside this valley you are surrounded by mountain walls, lush grazing land and one crumbling stone structure. The scenery is astounding.
We all slept well and began our day with a hearty full Irish breakfast cooked to order. Thank you Mary and Hugh for your warm hospitality. We recommend the Avalon B&B.
Today we venture to two castles, a national park, a lovely town and another B&B. Just another touristy day in Ireland. And it is only fitting we have alternate Irish rain and sun throughout the day, mostly sunny after a wet beginning.
After another great night of sleep we are not disappointed by our B&B breakfast. Thanks to our hosts advice we take another ferry to save time getting across the water. And today we are off to see another castle and a pair of novel scenic attractions. We are stoked.
First stop - Dunluce Castle sitting on the confluence of Lough Foyle and the North Channel. As we have witnessed with previous castles this one as well is undergoing structural restoration. It is good to know that future generations will be able to look even deeper ...
DAY 8 IN IRELAND, FINAL FULL DAY
Belfast Golfing / Slane Castle, of Concert Fame / Final Dinner & Nightlife in Dublin
This will be our last full day in Ireland. With so many sensational memories already fulfilled the letdown is already being felt. But the journey is not over yet. Justin was up early for a round of golf in the occasional drizzle. We were able to watch him play the 18th hole from our balconies, while Cameron shouted away at Daddy.
After a visit to the 19th hole we are off. Off to Slane Castle, the site of many legendary concerts hosting notables from Queen to Springsteen to U2, who recorded their show ...
IRELAND VACATION FINAL REFLECTIONS
Our final thoughts on spending more than a week touring Ireland.
On a personal level this may prove to be a once in a lifetime trip for the five of us together in this magical country. We spent over a week in a car touring Ireland from top to bottom and hit every major spot we intended to. With the music of Van Morrison, Hozier, Enya and Clannad (among many others) we witnessed and experienced some of the most scenic sights in the world - the Ring of Kerry, Cliffs of Moher, Slieve League and of course, Giant's Causeway. Ireland will forever be a part of us.
On a professional level - this was a fabulous learning experience. As travel agents we are so much better at our job when we speak of, and recommend through our personal experience. In addition to the sites mentioned above, many of our highlights were A: Off the beaten path, and B: The personal enrichment and family bonding only gained through travel. People who don't travel - we don't get it. We would have it no other way. We love to travel and facilitate the travel experience for others!
And now we can share Ireland first hand with others! From Ireland, Cheers
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