One Step Closer

Well, actually a couple of steps.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been slowly firming up the itinerary for my 2013 Ireland trip. I’ve got all my accommodation booked, and most of the tours for Belfast, Doolin, and Dublin. I’m waiting on some answers before booking my Kilkenny tours, mainly to do with how one gets to Dunmore Cave from Kilkenny.

Killarney is a bit harder. I’m very torn. I’ve got two full days in Killarney, and three things I’d like to do. Each of the three things I want to do takes a day, so one of them has to fall by the wayside. Yes, I know I can shift things around, even now that I’ve booked my accommodations, but there are reasons for this timing1.

So, the three things are:

  • Tour the Gap of Dunloe. This is an interesting trip, where you take a bus around through the Kerry Mountains, get out and either walk or ride23 – pony or pony cart – up through the gap, and then taking a boat down through the Lakes of Killarney to Ross Castle and then busing back to Killarney.
  • Tour the Dingle Peninsula. This is a day trip, similar to the Ring of Kerry trip I went on last time, but around the Dingle Peninsula. Lots of rugged coastline, interesting archaeology, seeing Dingle Harbour, and cool stuff like that.
  • Boat trip out to Skellig Michael. This is what I had planned to do last time, when I stayed in Portmagee, but weather prevented the trip. Now, Killarney Taxi runs a service down to Portmagee to take people to the boats and bring them back again. It’s a little pricey, but not ridiculous considering the distance and the convenience. But everything is dependent on whether or not the boats are running.

If I decide that I really want to see the Skelligs4, I’ll be leaving things kind of up in the air, as I try and book a place on the first day and leave the second day clear in case the boats aren’t running. That means that I may be scrambling to get a spot on one of the other tours on the day I don’t take the Skellig trip. Possibly both days, if there’s no Skellig trip on either day.

I’m trying to decide if I can live with that and, if so, which of the other tours I’d take on the off day. That means no booking stuff in Killarney just yet.

I talked to some friends of my parents over the Christmas break. They used to live in Ireland, they gave me some good pointers of things to look for. I’ve found that a number of them – including the Avoca Handweavers – are covered in some of my day tours. Others, like the Lisdoonvarna fair, are at the wrong time of year, but I’ll at least be in the nearby area.

Last bit I wanted to mention: I was having some trouble settling on accommodation in Kilkenny. I had planned to stay at Butler House, which is the dower house to Kilkenny Castle, and right next door to it. But the more I looked at it, the more I was put off by the price. Eventually, I decided to check out some other B&Bs in Kilkenny. The first three I tried had no rooms for the days I was going to be in Kilkenny. My friend Chris5 said, essentially, that I’d be a fool not to splurge a little bit on Butler House, considering that it might be a long time before I went back to Ireland. I caved in and booked at Butler House, and am looking forward to staying there.

We’re in the home stretch as far as planning goes. I’m starting to look at my luggage, now, to see if I can reduce what I bring with me and have to lug around. I’ve got some plans.

  1. Mainly, I want to be able to spend my birthday evening in a pub in Doolin listening to music, and don’t want to steal time from Kilkenny and Dublin. []
  2. I’m planning on riding, myself. []
  3. Not, you’ll notice, riding myself. Commas matter. []
  4. And I do want to see them. []
  5. “I’m good at spending Rick’s money.” []

Doolin Details

This past week, I booked my accommodations for the Doolin portion of my trip. I had originally planned to stay at Nellie Dee’s, which looks like an awesome B&B, but then I found out that McGann’s Pub also rents rooms. Given that one of my objectives  on this trip is to spend more time in the pubs1 to hear more of the live traditional music, and that Doolin is famous for its music pubs2, I decided to book there, instead.

I’ve got four nights in Doolin, with three full days to do stuff in the area. And four full evenings to sit in one of the three pubs and listen to whatever music is going on.

Getting from Belfast to Doolin is going to take all day. Train to Dublin, change stations3, train to Galway, then bus to Doolin. Looking at the schedules, that should get me into Doolin in the early evening of May 31.

So, what to do in Doolin during the day4? Well, I want to take the ferry out to the Aran Islands. Doolin Ferries offers a cruise that gives me four hours on Inisheer and then takes me past the Cliffs of Moher. If I take the noon ferry, it looks like I’ll be heading past the Cliffs around sunset, which would be awesome for some pictures.

I’d also like to see the Doolin Caves, which look to be within walking distance of the town5. Ideally, I’d also like to get on one of the Burren walks run by Burren Wild, though I’ll have to see about arranging a taxi drop-off and pick-up. There’s this taxi service run by the man who used to run McGann’s pub, so I should be able to set something up when I get there.

That’s one day for the trip to the Aran Islands, and one day for the Doolin Cave and either a Burren Wild tour or walking some of the trails near the village6. Day three7 I’m leaving open, either for more exploration of the area, or a day-trip out to Inishmore or a bus trip to the Cliffs of Moher. We’ll have to see how I’m feeling that day. The important bit is that I’ll be in a pub each evening, listening to music.

And that’s stage two of my next Ireland trip. Now to start looking at Killarney and Kilkenny.


  1. Well, you know what I mean. []
  2. That is, after all, one of the reasons I’m spending some time there. []
  3. North-south trains seem to run out of Connolly station, while east-west trains run out of Heuston station. []
  4. Besides alliterate, of course. []
  5. Well, I think it is. Of course, the town of Doolin is pretty widely scattered, so it’s hard to be certain. []
  6. To places like Doonagore Castle, Ballinalacken Castle,  and even the Cliffs of Moher, if I’m feeling stroppy. []
  7. Which also happens to be my birthday. []

Belfast is Shaping Up

I spent some time over the past couple of days figuring out how I’m going to be spending my time in Belfast, the first stop on my Ireland trip for next summer. Surprise, surprise: I’m not going to have the time to do all the things I want to do. But I’m going to get to do a lot of them.

The first couple of days, while I’m feeling the crappiest from the flight over, I’m going to spend on the Hop On/Hop Off bus tour, seeing the city as a whole and stopping at all the interesting spots I didn’t make time to see last time. I’m going to take it easy, and keep in mind I have two whole days to do this, though if I find that’s too long, I’ve got the option of taking an afternoon to go see Belfast Castle and climb Cave Hill. But the Cave Hill walk is about three to four hours, so that – plus a lunch or dinner at Belfast Castle – will take the entire afternoon. We’ll see.

But the Hop On/Hop Off tour will take me to the Peace Wall and the murals on Shankhill Road and Falls Road, and to Crumlin Road Jail, and Stormont with the parliament buildings, and Queen’s University1, and probably several other places I don’t yet know that I want to see.

The company also offers a package deal – 48 hours of Hop On/Hop Off bus tour with a bus tour to the Giant’s Causeway (and Carrick a Rede, and the Glens of Antrim, and Dunluce Castle, and Carrickfergus Castle, and… you get the idea) for £30. That’s good for me, because it’ll give me another chance to see the Antrim coast, and maybe it won’t be raining the entire time2.

Aside from that, I want to take a day trip out the Marble Arch Caves, and maybe another one to Downpatrick, to see Down Cathedral and St. Patrick’s grave. I’m thinking I can do that the same day I head out for a nice walk to the Giant’s Circle, just outside of Belfast.

I also want to make sure I get to try The Barking Dog restaurant. It was recommended to me last time, but I couldn’t get a seat, so I’ll give it another try3 this time. And any other restaurants that get recommended.

So, with that stuff in mind, I’ve updated my itinerary. Have a look, if you’re so inclined.

  1. I saw the outside several times last time I was in Belfast. This time, I want to take the tour. []
  2. A man can dream, right? []
  3. Or two, or three, or whatever. []

One (Maybe Two) Steps Closer

Today, I booked my tickets.

Now, I really wanted to have only one stop on this flight1, and I spoke to some other travelers last time who recommended Aer Lingus, so I tried to make that happen. I was successful, but ran into a couple of snags. First, I had to travel through the US. Not a huge deal, but I’ve heard far too many TSA horror stories to be completely comfortable with flying through their jurisdiction2. Still, if it saves me four to six hours sitting in another airport or on another plane, I’ll take it.

The second hitch is that all the Satruday flights, which I had intended to take, were full3. After thinking long and hard4, I decided to fly on Friday, instead. That’ll cost me one more vacation day, but I can live with that. So, I booked the Friday flight, with a return flight on Sunday three weeks later.

That gives me a total of 23 days in Ireland.

Once I had the flights confirmed, I e-mailed The Old Rectory in Belfast to book my stay there. I was very flattered that Mary remembered me (and this blog), and am just waiting for final confirmation of that booking before I check it, too, off my list.

I’ve still got eight and a half months before my trip, but even doing this little bit of planning has got me excited to see Ireland all over again.


  1. Flying non-stop from Winnipeg to Dublin is still just a fool’s dream, but I really didn’t want to go through London or Amsterdam. []
  2. Of course, I happily drive down into the US at least once a year, and never have any problems. It’s really just the TSA I’m scared of. []
  3. According to the Aer Lingus site, anyway. Some reseller sites still listed seats on the Saturday flight, but didn’t offer little things like being able to choose my seat. I wanted to be able to choose my seat. []
  4. Close to two whole minutes. []

Starting Early

I’ve decided to head back to Ireland next summer. Three more weeks of touring that amazing island. I’ve even roughed out an itinerary for this trip you can see here.

I loved my last trip, but I learned a fair bit, and missed some things, and hope to make this trip even better. I’m still planning on relying on public transport – no car rental – so the format for my trip is going to be about the same as last time. But here are some things I’m thinking about, in no particular order:

  • Pack lighter. I wasn’t terribly overburdened, but I was carrying some dead weight that I didn’t really need, which reduced how much I could bring back as souvenirs.
  • Check to see if I can get a reasonable roaming package for my iPhone/iPad to save some hassle getting set up on the Irish network.
  • Start in Belfast. Belfast was my last stop on the previous trip, and I just didn’t have the energy left to focus on it the way it deserved. I feel I missed a lot there, and want to correct that. So, I’ll head there from the plane in Dublin, and see it while I’m fresh.
  • Take better advantage of the hosts and concierges at the guest houses, B&Bs, and hotels. Whenever I had a question, they were ready and happy to answer and advise, but I didn’t ask as much as I should, and I think that meant I missed out on a lot.
  • Spend more time in pubs. I always feel awkward in pubs, not being a drinker, but that’s where the music is, and that’s where the social life is. If I want traditional music and less-touristy interactions with the locals, this is what I need to do.
  • See the south-east. I’ll spend a few days in Kilkenny, and want to take some day trips from there and Dublin to see a little more of that area. I sort of missed it entirely on the last trip.
  • Leave more blank days in the schedule so that I can take advantage of interesting things that come up.
  • Be a little more touristy. Take the tours of places like Christchurch, the GPO, the Guinness Storehouse, etc.
  • Make sure to see the Rock of Cashel – take the bus out from Dublin one day.
  • There are trips running from Killarney out to harbours that have boats going out to Skellig Michael. That’ll give me another chance to see the Skelligs, and won’t “strand” me somewhere without other amusements if the boats don’t run1.
  • Go in a different time of year. Not that going in the fall was bad, but I’d like to see the country in a different season.

The only two cities I’m staying in that I stayed in last time are Dublin and Belfast. Galway and Londonderry are other place I’d like to revisit, but I need to balance my time, and there are lots of new things to see and experience.  I’d like to try and get back to Tara, Newgrange, the Giant’s Causeway, Dunluce Castle, and Carrick-a-Rede if I can do that when it’s not raining.

So, there’s the plan. I’ve got several months before I can start actually booking stuff, but the research has begun.

  1. That’s not really fair. Portmagee was lovely, and the Moorings was a very nice B&B, but being in a larger town means that, in the event of weather that keeps the boats from going out, there’s still stuff I can do without being soaked to the skin. []