When my husband and I found a 7 day/6 night Castles of Ireland Groupon, we jumped right on it! Though we had never been to Ireland and Ireland probably wouldn’t have been top of mind if asked where we’d like to vacation, we had an absolutely wonderful time! This series will detail our trip in hopes that anyone who might like to visit Ireland in the future will have our experience as a reference. I know when I was planning our trip, I read innumerable blogs about packing, international travel, what to see, what to buy, etc.
I’ll start off by letting you in on a not-so-secret insight into my marriage. We LOVE to travel. In addition to travel, we LOVE to drive, especially my husband. So when we realized this trip came with a car rental, we were over the moon! Our plan was to circle the entire Island and see just about everything we possibly could!
Day 1 Itinerary for Saturday, February 20, 2016:
- 5:00 AM: Arrive in Dublin via Dublin Airport (Aer Lingus)
- 5:30 AM: Pick up rental car from Dan Dooley
- 6:00 AM: Drive into Dublin & Park at Q-Park Four Courts (only €4.00 for the day on Saturdays)
- 6:30 AM: Explore Dublin on foot & via Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus
- Hodges Figgis Bookstore
- Jeanie Johnston Tall Ship
- Merrion Square/St. Stephen’s Green Park
- National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology – Bog Bodies!
- Trinity College/Old Library/Book of Kells
- Kilkenny Shop
- Grafton Street
- St. Patrick’s Park/Cathedral
- Dublin Castle
- George’s Street Arcade
- Guinness Storehouse
- Jameson Distillery
- Dublin Writer’s Museum
- Temple Bar
- Ha’Penny Bridge
- Kilmainham Gaol
- Hotel: Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel
Little did I know when I planned this itinerary that we would be completely exhausted from not sleeping on the airplane and it being midnight our (Iowa) time when we started the day! Oops. Oh well, you live and learn!
So here’s how the day REALLY went:
We started off by landing in the Dublin Airport which is absolutely beautiful. We had no problems retrieving our luggage (hooray for free checked bags on international flights!) and because we were a bit early landing we were even early to pick up our car at Dan Dooley. The first car we picked up wouldn’t go into third gear (my husband, Nolan, is a fabulous driver, even when everything is backwards, so I knew it was the car when he was having troubles and sure enough the rental guy tried it out and realized third gear was busted) so we got another car, a Ford Fiesta, and off we went to chase down the Dublin sunrise.
We parked at the Q Park Four Courts even though everyone told us not to drive into Dublin and park including the rental car people. They suggested we drop our car off with our bags at our hotel and take a shuttle in. I didn’t want to waste the time and I was willing to pay the €4.00 for the day of parking, so we went against their suggestions and I’m glad we did!
When we got to the parking garage it was still dark and it felt like we were the only people in the city! We realized as the sky began to turn colors that the fog was going to obliterate any chance of a sunrise we might be able to have, so instead of walking all the way down to Dublin Bay, we headed to Merrion Square to check out the beautiful Doors of Dublin!
Merrion Square Park was closed for construction purposes but we walked around it and saw the statue of Oscar Wilde through the fence which was great!
At this point, we were already exhausted and ready to pass out so we went to O’Callaghan Mont Clare Hotel and had a delicious breakfast with wonderful coffee! Overall, Ireland has amazing coffee and food! The hotel staff was incredibly helpful and understanding of our exhaustion and kept the coffee coming. They even helped us purchase our tickets for the CityScape Luxury Sightseeing (Yellow) Hop-On Hop-Off bus.
A little bit about the Hop-On Hop-Off busses: I researched and planned on purchasing tickets for the Green bus, however, it was much pricier (almost double) than the Yellow bus was so we went with the Yellow bus and it was SO worth it. Our tour guides were amazing, there were busses all over and didn’t keep us waiting long, and the open air seating on top would have been so much fun had it not been raining.
Once we finished breakfast, we walked to Trinity College and took the Book of Kells tour. It was fabulous. The Old Library is breathtaking, I wish I could bottle the smell of the old books, and the Book of Kells is an amazing sight.
When our tour was finished, we did a bit of shopping on Nassau St. There were so many cool shops but we didn’t actually purchase anything at this point since we still had several hours left in our day and we didn’t want to tote everything around with us. Luckily, we were able to flag down one of our busses on this road (apparently they don’t normally stop where they did) and Nolan was able to get some shut eye while we drove around nearly the entire hour and a half route.
When we got close to the parking garage where we had parked, we decided to go back to the car so I could sleep a bit. We probably slept about 15-20 minutes in the car, took some Tylenol for our feet, and then walked to the Guinness Storehouse in the rain. The weather was definitely getting rainier as the day went on, but we came prepared with proper shoes, jackets, hats, gloves, and an umbrella!
The Guinness Storehouse was absolutely flooded with people and we had to stand outside in a line that wove its way around the building for about 30 minutes. I was actually surprised with how quickly the line moved! The tour was fabulous and well worth the money spent to take it. The only part that was a bit of a letdown was the Gravity Bar at the top of the building that boasts the best views of Dublin. I’m sure that’s true when they don’t have ten thousand people packed into the room and nowhere to take a picture from. We quickly exited back down the many flights of stairs.
My attempt at taking a photo from the Gravity Bar windows.
Outside we waited for a Yellow bus to stop and it took us back close to where our car was parked. From there, we drove to our hotel, the Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel. I have nothing but positive to say about the Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel. We had a slight error in our booking, we had paid for breakfast but it didn’t come across, and the hotel staff took it upon themselves to contact our travel agent to confirm. Not only was the staff excellent, the food was wonderful both in the Dungeon Bar (where Nolan fell asleep sitting up at dinner) and the morning breakfast. Our room was elegantly decorated, had a beautiful bathroom, and a gorgeous view of Dublin Bay/the Irish Sea.
This ends our first day. It was a wonderful way to start our trip. We didn’t get to do everything we planned on doing but we wholeheartedly enjoyed Dublin. The only thing I wish we could have seen was the Archaeology Museum’s bog bodies. Before I travelled to Ireland, I was given the name of an author that writes mysteries that center around these bog bodies. Her name is Erin Hart and I would HIGHLY recommend reading Haunted Ground and Lake of Sorrows before you travel to Ireland. They are fantastic and I can’t wait to read the rest of the books in the series!