For Jacob and I, Ireland was a no-brainer when it came to deciding on our honeymoon destination. With Irish heritage on both sides of our families, we knew visiting the country of our ancestors would not only be memorable but exciting.
To make this trip all we wanted it to be, I began researching the idea of a honeymoon registry. I immediately found Traveler's Joy and loved the look and feel of the website. I had concerns about proper etiquette but a May, 2008 Wall Street Journal article on honeymoon registries helped alleviate my worries.
In that article, Peter Post, president of the Emily Post Institute, a Burlington, Vt., etiquette think tank, said “A honeymoon is a perfectly appropriate gift to request. There's no objection to it from an etiquette point of view." With that in mind, I set up our page on Traveler's Joy. The positive response from our wedding guests was overwhelming. So many of them loved the idea of helping us have the honeymoon of our dreams.
We were married on March 25th but delayed our Honeymoon until June 29th for a couple of reasons; July weather in Ireland is a bit warmer with less chance of rain and the daylight hours are long (allowing more time for sightseeing), not to mention it gave us a chance to take a break from the blistering 100-degree Texas heat.
The Emerald Isle enchanted us the moment we stepped off the plane in Dublin. Even from the airport, the cool air and green hills in the distance were enticing. Me, being the type A personality that I am, contacted an “Ireland Expert” to help us plan an itinerary. I had heard Dingle was one of the most beautiful places on earth, so she helped us plan a road trip along the Southwest coast of Ireland. Our stops included Kilkenny, Kenmare, Dingle, Doolin, and then back to Dublin. We picked up our rental car at the Dublin airport. Somehow I was designated as driver for our trip. Jacob was nervous about driving on the opposite side of the road; I was nervous about the roundabouts. Ultimately, his fear won out over mine.
I opted for extra wheel and tire coverage since I'd heard some of the roads in Ireland could be somewhat difficult to navigate. This came in handy when we stopped in Ennis to eat lunch at a pub called Mac's. As I attempted to negotiate parallel parking with a standard transmission on a narrow street, a terrible scraping sound could be heard. Afterwords, we stood outside the vehicle looking at the deep gashes on the hubcap when my husband decided to pipe up, “Good thing you got that extra coverage.”
I rolled my eyes and made a face. We pulled together a good team effort on the roundabouts. I would shift and steer while he operated the blinker. It sounds simple enough but driving was a big part of our journey and, at times, I feel it was the first test to our marriage.
We drove through the Wicklow mountains on our way to Kilkenny, stopping often to take pictures. Jacob said over and over again he had never seen a place so beautiful. This was his first trip to Europe and he was loving every minute. We stayed at the Rosquil House in Kilkenny, arriving late after our leisurely drive. On the way to dinner, we saw at least 10 different Hen (Bachlorette) Parties. Kilkenny seemed to be the mecca for a lady's last days of freedom. The next morning we got our first taste of a traditional Irish breakfast, made by the owners, which included white and black pudding. We stayed away from the black pudding because we heard it was made with pig's blood (yuck!). Besides that, the food was delicious. Every place we stayed in Ireland, with the exception of our hotel in Dublin, included a 5 star breakfast made with local ingredients.
After breakfast, We took a tour of Kilkenny Castle and made a stop at the Kilkenny Design Center. Back in the car we headed to the Rock of Cashel – the famous fortress turned church built on a hill of limestone. We did experience some cold, rainy weather during our tour but we were determined to make the best of it, rain or shine! We stopped off at Caislean na Cathrach (Cahir Castle) for a quick tour before heading to Kenmare. Cahir Castle has very narrow stairs going up to the castle walls, with no railings. Jacob insistingly said he was NOT scared, while plastering his back to the castle wall and walking up slowly and sideways. The memory of seeing my big, strong husband on those tiny stairs is a fond one.
With two nights in Kenmare, we stayed at the Brook Lane Hotel, per our expert's suggestion. The first day we toured the Beara Peninsula and took a scenic drive on a semi-terrifying one lane road to Gleninchaquin Park to see a giant waterfall. We attempted to hike over the waterfall, which the map said was only two hours. About 40 minutes in, with water pooling around our sneakers, we decided we were not dressed for hiking and headed back to the car. I think a two-hour hike for the Irish is different from what Americans would consider a two-hour hike. It would have taken us at least four hours if we had continued. Moving on, we stopped at O'Sullivans Pub for a bite and a pint before heading to Derreen Garden to check out some exotic foliage.
That night, back in Kenmare, we ate dinner at The Lime Tree. I had a fish called Irish Hake served with risotto. It was delicious! The idea that food in Ireland is bad is a complete misconception. The next day we stopped at the Kenmare Lace and Design Center where I learned that the doilies my great-grandmother and grandmother made are actually referred to as “Lace.” Again, our day was jam packed. Heading out of town towards Dingle, we stopped at Moll's Gap, Ladies View and the Torc Waterfall. We also toured Muckross House – where Queen Victoria once stayed – and had a good laugh at the lady who didn't seem to care or understand that the antiques were not to be touched. When she propped herself on one of the antique tables and it made a cracking sound, I turned to Jacob, pointed at the sign and said loudly “Do Not Touch the Exhibits, Jacob.” I'm not sure but I think she got mad at us.
In Dingle, we stayed at the lovely Emlagh House. Jacob liked that the bathroom floors were heated. I developed a bit of a head cold, so at dinner our server brought me his home remedy – hot whiskey with lemon and cloves. We stopped in a pub to hear some traditional Irish music before turning in. On the agenda for the next day was Ring of Dingle including Slea Head Scenic Drive and Dunbeg Fort. The views of the coast were fantastic but my husband was uneasy as I drove along the narrow roads. He kept his hand on the emergency brake so, in his words, “I can stop you from driving us off a cliff.” Later at the Blasket Island Center, we learned about some O'Cearneys and Jacob was convinced he had found “his people.”
Continuing along the coast we stopped at the stunning Cliffs of Moher. The view was breathtaking and we got as close to the edge as we dared. Cullinan's in Doolin was our resting spot that night and once again we got a taste of Irish music at a local pub before turning in for the evening. It was back to Dublin the next day where we were, sadly, greeted with rain. Needless to say, we were beyond thrilled to turn in the rental car and take a cab into the city. On the way to our hotel, Bushwell's, the cab driver mentioned it was supposed to rain the entire weekend. That evening we opted for the Jameson Distillery tour, dinner and shindig. This is not to be missed if traveling to Ireland. Sure, it was a little touristy but the staff went above and beyond to make it a fun, special evening. They even had the band announce we were honeymooners!
We also stopped by the Brazen Head, Dublin's Oldest Pub. The next morning we were pleasantly surprised to wake up to 68 degree weather and sunshine. We jumped on a hop on/hop off bus tour that took us to the Guinness Storehouse (where I was certified as a Guinness pouring expert), Book of Kells and St. Patrick's Cathedral. At the Cathedral, I wrote my husband's father's name in the prayer book. He passed from pancreatic cancer a little over a month after our wedding and it was special for us to make him part of our trip. We ended the day in the Trinity Hall area eating at Gallagher's Boxty House. We ordered dessert and Irish coffee to say goodbye to our wonderful time.
The total cost of our Honeymoon was approximately $3,500 (excluding airfare). We alternated between moderate and luxury accommodations splurging on food, sightseeing and a pint (or two) at the local pubs. My amazing boss gifted us some of his air miles so we spent only $100 covering the taxes and fees.
After all of our adventuring, how could I not recommend Ireland? The people were friendly and charming. The land, with its natural, lush, beauty, makes you feel rejuvenated. I asked Jacob what he would tell our kids about the trip and he said, “Maybe we can move there so they'll see for themselves?” We love Texas so I can't imagine a higher compliment!