This is our second trip to Ireland, our first trip was the same time of year, Easter in March 2016 and it was a very enjoyable trip even with the March Irish weather so we are off again on a similar route to last year. We start our journey taking the ferry from Fishguard to Rosslare, the trip over on the boat always starts off with some excitement for the kids. This is when we feel the holiday is beginning after a 6 hour drive from London. The ferry gives us all time to relax, its three and a half hours across and onboard the kids have free wifi, movies, shop and a play area. If this is your first time on a ferry and you have your mobile phone then you’re advised to switch it to flight mode. We are with Three and they charge for use of your phone call/data when at sea. We got caught out by this when travelling to France a few years ago. Once abroad and off the ferry our mobiles are free again.
When we arrived at Wexford we had a short drive to my wife’s aunt and uncle’s house. I am lucky as my wife has family dotted around Ireland, who are very happy for us to pull up in the camper over night in there drive. So the first night was a stop in Wexford to catch up on all the family gossip and to see how bigger the little ones are getting. The next morning we headed off towards Cork.
We had plans on staying at Cobh Aire near Cork, and then get the train from there to Cork city for the day. We stopped at Cobh last year and the Aire is excellent. As usual plans are there only to be broken, and due to the heavy rain, we went further on past Kinsale to Charles Fort where you can stop over night for free. It took about three hours to get across and it’s a very nice drive, the roads were good compared to some parts of Ireland and the views are great. You will pass Dungarvan which is a very pretty fishing port, about one and a half hours from the port. We stayed the night here last year along the harbour, very quiet with beautiful views to wake up to. Kinsale, like many other Irish towns, now has a Lidl, who kindly allow motorhomes to stay overnight for free for one night, another option to bear in mind.
We arrived at Charles Fort in the afternoon after stopping at a few picturesque places along the route. The Fort is up high looking over the Kinsale bay. If you have your four legged friend with you or just need to stretch your legs, then you will be happy with the variety of walks here. When we arrived the weather was a bit blowy so we set up in a little parking bay to the left of the Fort which is a bit lower and has some protection from the winds. We took a short stroll down to the water’s edge to get some pictures, and then headed up to the Fort entrance. The fort has been taken over by the Irish heritage service and is now a managed heritage site. There is a small fee to pay if you want to enter the fort and have a look around. This all goes towards keeping this historic site in good repair for future generations.
We had plans to stay in the lower parking bay and walk to the Bulman pub for a bite to eat, but as usual, things don’t always work out. It was a Monday night and we found out the Bulman pub did not serve food on a Monday night. So we packed up and headed back into Kinsale town. This is a lovely quaint fishing town and has a good variety of restaurants for a small town, on some days it can be quite busy with the town coming to life for the markets. We parked up in Lidl as we knew this was an easy parking place for the van and if we decide to have a drink with our meal we knew we could sleep here overnight. We ended up having a meal in the Jim Edwards Pub which served some good food and a pint of Smithwicks for me. After our meal we decided not to stay in Lidl and headed back up to the fort as the weather had broken and we had blue skies for the evening. So we pitched up in the main car park overlooking the bay. During the summer months and school holidays this can be a busy place for overnight campers exploring Ireland, but we were lucky to have the place to ourselves. That night did not turn out to be the best sleep for two reasons. Firstly the lovely weather did not last long and a small wind developed. Not enough to cause us to worry and move inland like when we stayed at Slea Head last year, but for a light wind we knew we were very exposed if it turned ugly. The other problem which was to keep us up till the early morning, we found this was a good spot for the local kids to drive to and have a midnight party. They did not cause any problems with the van but we were up listening to their music and singing till midnight. The rest of the night was uneventful and we woke to blue sky again having a breakfast overlooking Kinsale harbour. We then headed off to Killarney following the newly Wild Atlantic Way. This route was always here but in 2014 the National tourism agency created this route with new signage of a blue wave which takes you from Kinsale around the coastal roads to Malin head in the north. We was not travelling this far but we did follow it from Kinsale to the ring of Kerry where we turned off and headed to Killarney. If you like photography and coastal views then you will love this drive. Along the south coast we stopped at a few coastal bays to get some pictures and watch the surfers braving the wild waters. We stopped at Clonakilty town which was a beautiful little seaside town. We found a nice little car park in Clonakilty community college just off College Grove road. This was free parking, big enough for our 4 berth motorhome to park up. From the car park it’s a little walk to the main town centre. We found a lovely little baker here serving homemade bread and cakes. We then continued on our trip and had another lunch stop at Skibbereen. This is a busy sea side town and has a good selection of shops, cafes and restaurants for a bite to eat before heading north
From Skibbereen we followed the coast line north, we were heading to Killarney where we had more family to visit. The route was to take a few hours and we would hopefully arrive by four in the afternoon. But we did not take into account the coastal road conditions. At some points you have to reduce to 20 mph or risk losing your vans suspension. So the trip took a lot longer and was not helped by the N71 being closed due to landslides washing away the road. This just meant we could not stop as much, but the drive and views were still spectacular and well worth it. I believe you can never have enough time exploring Ireland there is so much to see.
We arrived in Killarney in good time for dinner and were to stay here for two nights to explore Torc Mountain. We did Dingle bay last year, which if you have not done is well worth a visit and you can stopover at Slea Head. We have not done the ring of Kerry yet and again did not have time as we wanted to explorer Torc Mountain for the waterfall’s and views.
The first night we did not do much as we arrived late. So we had dinner and just caught up with the family. The next morning we took the drive to the lower car park of Torc Mountain off the N71. From here you can pick up the red route which is shown on the maps in the car park. This route takes you right along the lower foot path until you see a sharp right hand turn which goes straight up hill. This is nicknamed cardiac hill and the climb lives up to name! We climbed up rock steps for a good 40 min to the top. If you don’t know your fitness level this will certainly test it, I found it very hard and I might need to do some more training when I get home. At the top follow the ridge back towards the upper car park. Along the way you get spectacular views of Killarney’s lakes and national park, it’s worth the walk up cardiac hill if you can make it. From the upper car park you can descend a little and on your right is the main waterfall which everyone comes to see. This is very popular during the summer months and is a short walk from both car parks so you can imagine they get pretty busy.
In the evening we went into Killarney town for the night entertainment. We went to The Grand bar which we visited last time we were over. This bar has Irish live music most nights in the main bar, and on the night we attended it was a céilí night in the back. This is Irish set dancing which my wife has been doing for a few years now and I was looking forward to going. We had a great craic and I had my first experience of set dancing which was fun.
If this is your first visit the Killarney then there are a few campsites around the edges of town. Read my Blog on Killarney to see places to stay. Killarney is known across the work for its traditional music and dancing. Most pubs have live music so you will be spoilt for choice and the hotels (lots of them) have evening entertainment and dancing on some nights. Most hotel nights you will have to pay for and it’s worth checking online as I said it’s well known and can be booked up a year in advance.
We love Co. Kerry and Killarney town. We have only visited twice and not had enough time to even touch the things you can do. We are planning to come back for a lot longer visit one year. If you enjoy walking, cycling, canoeing, horse riding, live music and dancing then you will enjoy this area very much.
The next day was another drive back across Ireland to the Wicklow Mountains. We stopped one night again another family’s house to catch up and we were in luck again as the local town of Hollywood was holding a set dancing night. This time it was a set dancing class, so I got to know a lot more moves. The next night was a cheating night and will be frowned upon by the harden motorhomers. We had a night booked at the Glendalough Hotel. For one night we had real beds showers and a lovely meal in the hotel, but we did not relax too much. My boy wanted to do the red route walk around Wicklow national park. Again a 40 min walk up to the top ridge for wonderful views across Wicklow lakes. We did not fully complete this route as time had caught up with us so turned off the blue route back to the hotel.
In the morning after a lovely breakfast we were very lucky to be in the area when the Triathlon run by the Quest adventure was on. athletes were out on the mountain from about eight in the morning competing in three sets, a 19K, 41K and the 57K triathlon. These are amazing athletes in all categories. It’s amazing to see people crossing the finish line after completing the 57K cycling, canoeing and running race. Even the 19K is difficult, from talking to some of them it’s a 6K run, 12K cycle and then 1K canoe race and across gruelling mountain terrains. My kids loved it and it gave them inspiration to want to do the same when they are old enough. I might even train to do the 19K myself next year.
After watching the end results of the Quest adventure triathlon it was time to head off to our next stopover. Johnnie Fox bar known for being the highest pub in Ireland and for its dinner and Hooley show. We were booked into the show for the night and were very much looking forward to it. If you come to this pub it has two car parks and allows you to stay overnight in the over flow one opposite the pub. This is a very popular pub and has had lots of famous people visit including two American presidents, a letter from the Queen and a number of ambassadors. The show we went to included a three course meal. The food was excellent, I had the salmon for main and my boy had the lamb shank, both were well presented and cooked to perfection. The service was also very good, our waitress was quick at delivering our meals and cleaning away. She was on hand all night supplying me with Guinness when my glass was empty during the show. It's great that you don’t have to get up and queue at the bar whilst the show is on.
The next day we was off to Dublin for our final two nights in Ireland, seems to go so quick. We stopped in the Camac campsite just on the outskirts of Dublin. This is a good site if you want to explorer Dublin. From the main entrance you can either get the local bus to town or buy a two day pass on the City sightseeing tour bus which picks up at 9:30 in the morning and the last bus leaves at 16:30 from Dublin back to site. We did both, getting the bus in the morning to town, but staying out late and getting the late local bus back after a evening dinner in town.
When in Dublin we had time to complete two of the bus tours which if you are lucky to get a live commentary one can be very entertaining. We also went around the Guinness store which was interesting and I got to pull myself a pint of Guinness, luckily for me my wife does not drink Guinness so I reluctantly had to drink both the free pints at the end of the tour.
We had dinner at two restaurants and recommend both. The first Norseman bar was a very nice clean and well presented restaurant on the top floor. Live entertainment could be heard from down stairs but no live show upstairs. The food was excellent, I had the Irish meat pie with gravy and the flavour and pastry was so good I wanted to go back again the second night. Luckily the second night we stumbled across the Old Storehouse bar. This was a lovely bar service again great food and live music this time whilst we eat. The staff where very professional, friendly and made you feel at home. I had the Irish stew which was very tasty and my wife had the mussels which was recommended by our waiter and was very good. Our last night in Dublin was spent drinking Guinness and listening to traditional live music till late. We had a great time in Dublin, I normally hate cities, living on the door step of London city, I normally steer well clear of them. Although Dublin surprised me, it was fun, easy to get around and with genuinely friendly pubs.
Well that was it for another road trip around Ireland. Now back home across from Dublin to Wales and 7 hour drive home. Starting to organise our next trip to Ireland already.