You guys probably didn’t notice on my social media accounts, but I went to Ireland last week.
Kudos to those of you who followed my pictures just to see if I was telling the truth about what I packed.
There’s so much I want to share, like how my body survived for 7 long days on solely meat and potatoes, and where the best spots are to get as close to the wild sheep as possible. In the spirit of telling you everything, I’ve decided to break things down by location.
We took daily day trips all over Ireland, not to be confused with Northern Ireland. #thanksgreatbritain
FYI, this is the kind of post you should leave up on your computer screen all day, and periodically revisit during procrastination breaks. It’s mostly pictures, but I feel strongly that my descriptions are worth reading.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t start by mentioning that Aaron and I arrived in Ireland 24 hours later than planned due to Newark Airport doing what it does best: Not letting planes fly. That’s a strange talent, given that it’s an AIRPORT.
For somewhere so close to New York City, Newark is an astoundingly depressing place. Luckily, Aaron and I have friends who live in Jersey, and they very graciously picked us up at the airport to host us in their home for the night (not in Newark, before you think I’m offending the very friends who saved us). It wasn’t Ireland, but we had a great time. I even got to try scrapple at brunch, which– for the record– is disgusting.
But onto Ireland! We landed at 5:30 a.m. Irish time, and proceeded to rent the smallest car known to man. It was hilarious and super fun to drive around all week. And by “drive around,” I mean Aaron did all the driving while I freaked out at every curve because the roads in Ireland are barely wide enough for Hot Wheels, plus there is no visibility thanks to the Irish people’s unfortunate obsession with hedges.
We stayed at a castle with 22 other people, all of whom share one mutual friend: Aaron’s old roommate and one of our groomsmen, Steve One. If I’m ever popular enough to have 24 friends willingly accompany me on a trip to Ireland, I’d honestly not know how to handle myself. I’m lucky if I can convince one friend at a time to drive more than 30 minutes to hang out with me.
So, there we all were, the crowd including Popular Steve, Aaron and myself, two of Aaron’s best friends, a close girlfriend of ours from Va Beach, and a bunch of other wonderful people who we [mostly] had met before. (Well, Aaron had.) Here are a few pictures of our humble digs for the week, which we shared with no one else because opulence and exclusivity go hand in hand:
KIDDING, obviously not exactly “humble” digs. Though, at one point Aaron and I walked into a fancy hotel bar in Killarney, and I sighed and said, “Ugh yes, I love this. I needed some bougieness in my life!” Aaron stopped, slowly turned to me, and said, “Shannon. We’re currently living in a castle.” Touché, sir.
Okay, I feel like you have a good general handle on things, so we can now start the location breakdown in chronological order of our visits.
I won’t lie to you guys. Foynes is mainly cool because of only two things: 1) Home of the Irish Coffee, and 2) Home of a pub named “The Shannon House.” There was a museum about flying boats, which I guess is neat, but I have an aversion to museums. Can’t help it.
DURTY NELLY’S & BUNRATTY CASTLE
After Foynes, we drove past a lot of green countryside and baby sheep that I named in my head to visit
Bunratty Castle Durty Nelly’s. Confession: We didn’t even tour Bunratty Castle. We were too interested in drinking eating food inside of the oldest pub in Ireland. Any place that spells “dirty” with a “U” is bound to be a good time. The food wasn’t the best, but the Guinness was GREAT. As was the vibe. Everyone has to go to Durty Nelly’s if you’re in Ireland, otherwise you might as well not even leave America.
Killaloe was right outside of Killaho, which is across the river from Cutabitch. None of that is true, but we had a lot of fun saying it. Sorry for the subtle (?) profanity. Anyway, Killaloe is located on the Shannon River, so obviously I loved it. You try going to a country that names everything after you and not get a big ego.
I also loved it because the bartenders at our first stop, Flanagan’s, let us walk out of the bar with full pints of Guinness in legitimate glassware to take on our river cruise. The bar and the boat were not associated with one another, but bartenders in Ireland are wildly trusting and simply said, “Just return the glasses when you get back!” We did, which was a small miracle and a true display of virtue. You should know that one of the guys on our trip barely remembers the boat ride due to a high percentage of Guinness in his blood by 10 a.m., and the next day said “That booze cruise yesterday was really fun!” Definitely not a booze cruise. But, yeah.
booze river cruise, we walked down the street to our friend Keith’s pub (Steve One has friends in Ireland, because obviously having friends is his jam, and I now unabashedly claim them all as my own), where we devoured even more Guinness because you quickly forget that Guinness≠water when you’re in Ireland. I honestly thought I was hydrating.
We then all wobbled back to Flanagan’s to eat dinner, which was probably a wise choice at that point in the afternoon. For liquid dessert, we went upstairs to a princessy-looking tower in the restaurant to do a whiskey tasting. The wisdom in that choice is up for argument, but NO RAGRETS.
We finished up the night by going back to Keith’s pub (called The Washer Woman) to…you guessed it! Drink more Guinness! And listen to a live trad band, short for “traditional,” which matters because that means there was a harp being played in a bar. A magical time was had by all.
CLIFFS OF MOHER
Finally, something super famous! The Cliffs of Moher are just as majestic as they look on post cards. I spent the majority of the afternoon yelling at everyone to stop dangling their legs over the 700 foot drop like IDIOTS, but do you think anyone listened to this granny? YOUTHS! So irresponsible.
Four French tourists literally blew off the cliffs to their deaths a few years back because of a single gust of wind. But sure, everybody have at it! My palms are sweaty just thinking about it. Guard rails are for squares…I guess..?
If you’re hungry after the cliffs like I was, because anything that requires exercise leaves me famished, then try out Vaughans Anchor Inn, a low key seafood spot 7 minutes from the cliffs. An Irish friend of ours gave us the recommendation, and the fish & chips did not disappoint. It’s a super local spot that’ll make you feel like you know what’s up.
FANCY DINNER NIGHT AT THE CASTLE **This is not a location
I just wanted to share this picture because I think my husband looks really hot in it, even though he’s wearing a calculator watch. I wore this dress for exactly 75 minutes– long enough to take some pictures, eat lamb and cheesy potatoes around the dinner table, drink one Guinness in the living room, then realize that I looked pregnant and changed into leggings and a t-shirt.
If you climb to the top of this castle and kiss a stone wall that thousands of children have peed on at nighttime when they sneak onto the grounds, then you will be given the gift of gab. Or eloquence. Either way, I probably shouldn’t have kissed it– not because of the pee, but because I really don’t need anything to make me talk more than I already do.
The Blarney Stone (wall you’re supposed to kiss) is 4ish stories off the ground, and you have to bend over backwards to reach it. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure why you can’t just do a trust fall forward to kiss it in a standing push up position, but I’m sure there’s some sort of reason, like that would be an easier way for people to fall to their deaths or something.
Oh, yeah! I should mention that a young man lost his life kissing the Blarney Stone in 1932. So many fun and touristy ways to die in Ireland! This may explain why an old man held onto me in a way that I’m not sure my husband felt comfortable watching, but I felt the same way I do about pat-downs at the airport: Do whatever you need to do to keep me safe.
The grounds of the Blarney Castle were magnificent. Saying “the grounds” just made me feel really fancy. I think I was born to be royal, because describing all of this castle stuff feels really natural, like I’m giving you an insider scoop. The Fern Garden was our favorite:
If you don’t like whiskey and gin in my family, you’re basically disowned. This means that many of the Oliver women, excluding my grandmother who can’t live without her nightly bourbon, sit around pretending to enjoy a glass of whiskey or scotch until the men have consumed enough to not notice when we’ve switched to wine. [I just Googled the difference between whiskey, scotch, and bourbon, because in the 5,000 tastings I did in Ireland, I still don’t know the difference. Google did not help. All I know is that scotch is from Scotland.]
The Jameson Distillery is actually the Midleton Distillery, but it’s where all Jameson is currently produced. If you like whiskey or taking pictures that make people think you’re cool and have a refined taste for alcohol, definitely pay it a visit. My only recommendation would be to drink the whiskey before the tour. #rookiemistake
That night, we drove to the city of Kinsale for dinner because it’s gorgeous, and because one of our fellow castle-dweller’s aunt lives there. If you’re lucky enough to get to Kinsale on your future Irish adventure (clearly you won’t be able to stop yourself from a trip to Ireland by the end of this post), you need to eat at The Bulman Bar & Restaurant. The food is so good that the only thing that tops it is the view. I also had a girl crush on our waitress, so that helped.
There are many places I’d happily live in Ireland, and this is one of them:
Killarney ties with Dingle for the cutest name of a town in Ireland. Our first stop was to explore Muckross House, which is a ridiculously lowly name for a place that looks like a palace-castle hybrid. The family who owned it spent two years fixing it up for a visit from Queen Victoria, and spent so much money in the process that they went bankrupt.
Expectations for how you should prepare for my visits to your homes: High.
Here’s the backyard they created to give Queen Victoria a good view by leveling all of the trees. They may have been homeless afterwards, but dang if they didn’t do a spectacular job:
After Muckross, which is the best place to buy a famous Aran Sweater, we popped over to downtown Killarney. If you insist on buying a sweater in town instead of in the Muckross Gift Shop (which, I’m not kidding, has the best selection and prices– at least for women), then buy your sweater from Aran Sweater Market. It’s way better than Quill’s, which is the giant sweater store.
If there’s one thing I take seriously, it’s my oversized sweaters.
If you want to stop for a Guinness (or a dainty cup of tea like I did because I was beginning to develop a beer belly so large that I– no joke– couldn’t hug Aaron as closely as I used to), do yourself a favor and go to Killarney Park Hotel. Remember when I mentioned at the beginning of this post that I walked into a bar and let out a sigh of relief because “I needed some bougieness in my life” amidst a week of living in a castle? This is that bougie place.
For dinner, we ended up in The Porterhouse Gastropub, which we later found out locks everybody inside at 1 a.m. and won’t let you out until 4 a.m. We were out before 1, but that would have been one heck of a good story, especially since we had a five-year-old with us. That dinner was one of the best culinary experiences of my life, because I ordered a big, juicy burger smothered in melted brie cheese, caramelized onions, and mushrooms. I now know what I’ll request for my last meal if I ever get the death sentence for murdering my husband while hangry. …I just realized how ironic that would be.
Oh, and be sure to request Table 6. It’s the booth pushed up right against a floor to ceiling window that spills out onto the streets of Killarney.
I had high expectations for Dingle, because this is the place everyone raved about before I went. The only thing that I’ve ever found to exceed the hype upon first-hand experience is the movie Frozen. Until now. Dingle is every bit as amazing as it’s cracked up to be.
Our first stop was Dick Mack’s, a pub with a bunch of separate eclectic little rooms for gathering, and a bartender with a jawline so strong it could serve as his bottle opener. The bar is lined with more whiskey than you could dream up, and more testosterone than a girl could wish for.
Next, we drove around the Dingle Peninsula, which is– in case you’ve been wondering this entire time– THE best place to get up close and personal with the baby lambs. I would know.
The views are the true definition of breathtaking. I’m not sure if I should admit this, but I didn’t know there was turquoise water outside of tropical destinations and Alaska. News flash: THERE IS.
We pulled over for a quick pitstop during the Dingle Peninsula drive, because the boys made it their mission to eat a slice of pie wherever we went. When we drove past a teeny cottage on the hill with a little sign that said, “Homemade Baked Goods,” we took an obvious detour. This was also the point of the trip that I could no longer deny my body sleep.
Aaron and I spent our final day in Ennis, about 20 minutes from the Shannon airport. Our Irish friend Tanya hooked us up with the MOST gorgeous suite in an absolutely stunning hotel, located in the heart of what I found to be the cutest town we visited in Ireland. We got the happiest tipsy ever in Brogan’s, which turned out to be one of our favorite pubs, as well. A female bartender got giddy and hugged a male bartender who looked at her like she was crazy, and she told him it’s because “these two have love that is infectious,” pointing at Aaron and me. As we all know, I love people who love love!
We ate dinner in the fancy restaurant in our hotel, completely underdressed and overserved. I’m pretty sure we didn’t stop laughing the entire time, which probably annoyed our server, especially when Aaron spilled half of his tomato soup on the white linens. Neither of us cared because we were having too much fun.
Fun fact to know about the Newark airport, where you will be inevitably delayed on your flight home: They have pie and Jameson, so you can pretend you’re back in Ireland.
Well, that’s a wrap folks! I hope you feel fully prepared for your Ireland adventure. Of course, there were many more little stops and explorations along the way, but what fun would it be if I didn’t leave any stones left for you to unturn?
I will part ways for today with this video of us playing “celebrities” in the castle. Jeff, don’t think I didn’t hear you judgmentally mutter “chicks” after I used my fingers to act out “2 Pac.” Also, contrary to the guesses caught on film, I was actually trying to act out Mr. Rogers, not Sponge Bob Square Pants.
P.S.– Aaron, Jon, and Kiet, I will never forgive you for saying “Chichester Skeffington” so many times in one week.