We returned this week from an amazing eight-night trip to Ireland with my husband and two daughters. This Ireland travel agency was instrumental in helping us plan a fantastic itinerary personalized for our family's tastes and hobbies. Their travel specialists were very responsive to all of my requests, answering my many questions and arranging our reservations. Our personal driver was friendly, knowledgable, a superb tour guide, and an expert at adjusting schedules to accommodate our interests. Our family has had the pleasure of traveling quite a bit, and this was a top-notch, fantastic travel experience.
We flew into Dublin where we were met by our driver Steve. We visited Rock of Cashel and the Blarney Castle as we made our way to Cork where our daughter is studying. We spent a single night at the beautiful River Lee Hotel before heading to Killarney for three nights at the Malton Hotel--a perfect base from which to explore Killarney National Park and the Ring of Kerry.
I can't rave enough about our amazing experiences. We attended Easter mass at the cathedral in Killarney where two of my ancestors were married and drove through the town in West Cork where many lived. It was intriguing to see family surnames on storefronts as we drove through the picturesque areas. We enjoyed a fantastic jaunting car ride from the Malton through Killarney National Park. The "jarvey" was awesome and allowed my horse-obsessed daughter to drive the cart through the stunning Killarney National Park. The jaunting car took us to The Danny Mann pub where we enjoyed some great traditional Irish music. My husband also had the chance to golf at the stunning Tralee Golf Club along the coast while my daughters and I enjoyed horseback riding in the surf and sand along Derry Strand arranged through the Tralee Equestrian Center. We visited the lovely town of Dingle, stopped in Adare with its beautiful thatched roof cottages and the lovely Adare Manor, stopped at the folk park at Bunratty, marveled at the majestic Cliffs of Moher and the surfers hundreds and hundreds of feet below, and took in the strange, otherworldly beauty of the Burren.
A definite highlight of our trip was the two nights we spent at Ashford Castle, a magnificent property formerly owned by the Guiness family. The rooms were extraordinary, the hospitality was unmatched, the food delicious, the grounds spectacular. While staying at Ashford we went on a hawk walk with the Irish School of Falconry which was amazing. We actually got to walk through the woods at Ashford and fly two of their Harris hawks. My daughter went horseback riding twice through the woods and hills around Ashford Castle. While there we also enjoyed a guided boat trip on the Lough Corrib, Ireland's largest lake.
Our final two nights were spent in Galway and in Dublin. We took in the sights and sounds of the lively Spanish Arch area in Galway. In Dublin we enjoyed a stop at Temple Bar for a some music and a pint or two and then headed to Brazen Head, the oldest pub in Ireland, for the entertaining "Evening of Food, Folklore, and Fairies.
The only change I would possibly make to our itinerary would be to eliminate the trip to Galway and spend two days in Dublin, primarily because of the amount of time spent driving on our final two days. Traffic in Galway was horrendous due to road construction which made it extremely difficult to actually get to the Park House hotel. The hotel itself was also disappointing--dated, dark, and dingy with views of a vacant, garbage-strewn lot. I am glad we had just one night there.
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