A few weeks before our return to the US, we decided on the spur of the moment to spend our last week in Europe in Ireland (due to a combination of cheap flights and dwindling days in the Schengen zone). We arrived and departed on gorgeous sunny days – and in between met a steady diet of rain and clouds with occasional sunbursts (and regular infusions of blood pudding in our full Irish breakfasts).
Our week was pleasant nonetheless, driving roads that were sometimes a touch too narrow for comfort but enjoying friendly people, bucolic scenery, and tasty food. My favorite part was probably the ruined abbeys we wandered through, set in places ranging from a cow pasture to a golf course to the edge of the suburbs and with enough walls and remnants of windows to be a poignant reminder of their past glories.
On day 2, we hiked for several hours in Glendalough, home to a 7th-century monastery and now to an array of well-marked hiking paths (from which we naturally chose the longest, climbing up out of the valley and to forest roads and the long-distance Wicklow Way before descending back down to the abandoned mine and monastery remains), then spent the night in Kilkenny, a medieval castle town.
Day 3 took us to the west coast, with stops in Cashel (hilltop castle! ruined abbey!) and Cahir (another castle!) en route. Our lodging for the next three nights was a fabulous B&B with soft sheets and gourmet breakfasts.
We spent day 4 driving the Dingle peninsula in intermittent rain, clambering out for hikes on the promontories and enjoying views of fields and dramatic coastline. The bonus of all that rain was a rainbow at the end of the day, though we weren’t able to spot the leprechaun.
We opted for a hike on day 5, walking up the gap of Dunloe for surprisingly alpine scenery and friendly sheep next to Ireland’s highest mountain (just over 3000 feet tall). The walk back down was much wetter than the walk up, and we huddled in our car for a picnic lunch. After a quick stop at Muckross Lake we headed back to our cozy B&B.
Day 6 brought us back toward Dublin, with a day of driving punctuated by stops in Adare for its castle and ruined abbey (in the middle of a golf course!), Roscrea for a (less exciting) castle and a bookstore, and the rock of Dunamase for an amazing hilltop set of castle ruins with panoramic views before a night spent at an 18th century farmhouse converted to – you guessed it – a B&B.
I loved the Rock of Dunamase.
Our last day brought us to Dublin, where Michael met up with former colleagues at LinkedIn, thereby discovering that mutual friends of ours happened to be visiting Dublin at the same time! After a day spent wandering the old streets, visiting some museums, and moving our car between different parking zones, we met up with them for an Escape the Room game. The game itself was unimpressive – we escaped in just over 22 minutes – but it was lovely to meet up with friends for our second-to-last night in Europe.
On our last day before returning to the US, we flew to Copenhagen for an evening spent walking along the canals and eating dinner at a street food market where we chatted with a Danish family about the Danish crime mysteries we’d been listening to on audiobook as we drove!