Ireland was always the first country on my list of places to visit. My family has a decent amount of history rooted there. Our last name (Neely) is thought to have descended from multiple other surnames (MacNeely, Neeley, Nealy, and O’Neill, the last of which is very interesting due to that specific clan’s history.) Unfortunately, we did not get up to County Tyrone in the former province of Ulster (Ulaidh) which is where clan O’Neill was prominent but when I go back, and I will go back, I definitely plan on seeing that county in depth.
We flew in from Edinburgh with Aer Lingus and landed in Cork. After picking up the rental car our first stop was Blarney Castle. Luckily there wasn’t an insane amount of people there for my visit. I usually like to try to infuse my trips with a good mixture of touristy and non-touristy locations and this was definitely a must-see on the touristy side. I thoroughly enjoyed the time spent at the castle. This is one of the few that I’ve visited that you can actually climb up to the top and walk around the battlements. The ground floor still has a ceiling but the other three floors are open to the sky. Every floor has a few rooms you can stop off and see on your way to the top and there are a ton of signs describing everything you see which I found really helpful. The view from the top of the castle was amazing! The grounds are beautiful and still extremely well maintained including a really neat poison garden. I didn’t really take any pictures here which I definitely regret but I was so enraptured by the history and beauty of the castle I didn’t think about it much.
After visiting Blarney, we drove just outside of town to find a small pub to have lunch. We try to avoid touristy restaurants as much as possible to try to find good authentic local cuisine. There was a great little hotel and pub nearby, the name of which escapes me, but the food was wonderful! I loved the sense of community the people at this specific pub seemed to share. At this point, it was getting later in the evening so we finished our drive up to Killarney to find a hotel.
The fun of an improvised trip such as we were on is that you can make moment to moment decisions about where you want to go. It’s nice to have an idea of the places you want to visit and things you want to see but for the majority of the trip, we took the evenings and mornings at the hotel to plan our next day. Originally, my aunt had told me all about the Ring of Kerry and how beautiful it was. We had planned on leaving Killarney to drive the Ring, albeit in the opposite direction than most tours suggested in order to avoid the majority of traffic. However, that night we did a bit of research and decided to skip the Ring of Kerry to drive the Dingle Peninsula instead. I honestly prefer this method of travel because it leaves every day to a new adventure, especially if you hear of something or see something you would rather do than what you had previously scheduled. Anyway, the Dingle Peninsula is the subject of its own (my next) post!