Four days, 1,400 km (847 miles), and 8 stops. I step off the plane in Dublin, Ireland. I have a very short time frame and a whole adventure ahead of me. The Republic of Ireland and Nothern Ireland are my last stop on a month long trip that has taken me through Egypt and Eastern Europe. I both excited and nervous about this road trip. I have never driven on the right side of the road. This fact has just gotten real as I walk out of customs and head over to baggage claim. I grab my bag and head over to the rental car counters. It doesn’t take but a glance to find my trip sponsor’s counter. There is one other person at the Budget Car Rental Ireland counter. It doesn’t take the attendant but a couple of minutes to check them out and give them directions. Within five mins of getting my bag, I have my car and am off to find my rental car.
Budget has provided me with an automatic full sized car. I walked into the parking garage and hit the lock button on the keys a couple of times. A silver Opel Insignia beeped at me. I loaded my bags into the trunk and walked to the “driver’s door” to get in the car. I opened the door and found I was at the passager’s side. Oops, I am in Ireland, they drive on the right. I walk around the car and get into the car. I hooked my phone up to the car’s Bluetooth and adjusted the comfy seat. It was a short drive on the M1 over to my hotel.
I had never heard of an Opel before picking up this rental car. This full sized 4-door notchback has plenty of room for an Irish road trip. I was traveling solo but I wouldn’t hesitate to get this car again if I was making a road trip with up to 3 other people. The trunk has plenty of space for several suitcases. The seats have enough room that no one feels cramp even when sitting in the back seat. I like that it had Bluetooth connection and two USB ports. One in the front and one in the back. I normally drive a manual transmission, but I like the automatic transmission of this car. It did an excellent job of shifting gears and providing me power when I needed it. I didn’t need to refuel the vehicle until I was headed back to Dublin on Day 3.
Day 1 – Blarney Stone & Half the Ring of Kerry
I was up at 6 am to start the 3-hour drive from Dublin to Blarney Castle. I was about half when a felt a slight bump in the road and the tire pressure monitor light came on. I immediately pulled into the first place I found the Horse & Jockey Hotel. I called the 24-hour service hotline. I got an answer on the first ring. He dispatched the closest tow truck to my location. He said it would take 30 to 45 mins for the tow to arrive. I told him that I was going to start changing the tire and would call back if I finished before the tow arrived. I was just starting to loosen the lug nuts on the car when a group of 5 Irish men pulled up. They took over changing my tire. In less than ten mins, I was back on the road to Blarney. Budget Rental Car Ireland had a replacement car ready and waiting when I arrived at the Cork airport to switch out the car. I was impressed with how easy and quickly Budget got me into a replacement car. I didn’t lose any time to driving over a nail or something.
From the Cork Airport, I drove to the Blarney Castle the home of the Blarney Stone. I joined about ten other tourists in the Blarney Castle. It was early morning, and the tour buses from Dublin hadn’t arrived yet. The Castle is a medieval stronghold and living in the castle doesn’t seem like it would be the most pleasant of things. It was a narrow winding staircase to the top of the castle. I decided that I wanted the gift of gab, so I carefully followed instructions to kiss the Blarney Stone. I am glad I don’t have a fear of heights, but it takes a lot of trust to lean back and kiss the stone.
I took a quick tour of the Poison Garden and learned about all sorts of poisons plants that can kill you. I recognized a few like mandrake and marijuana. These were in special cages to prevent people from touching them.
With the gift of gab, I headed off to try and drive as much of the Ring of Kerry as I had daylight to do. It was a foggy day in Ireland, so I didn’t get a chance to enjoy the countryside but the few glimpses I did have made the drive worth while. I arrived in Killarney and started my tour with a visit to Muckross House. Muckross House was built by famed architect William Burn. Then I took a short walk over to Torc Waterfall. The small waterfall was cute, and I would bet that the waterfall is more impressive during the summer when it has more water. I then drove down to Ladies View and Molls Gap. Alas, the fog was thick and obstructed the view.
I watched the sunset over the ocean and headed up to Limerick for the evening.
Day 2 – Cliffs of Moher & Quiet Man Flim Sites
I had a short morning drive from Limerick over to the Cliffs of Moher. The weather was foggy as I made the drive, but as I approached the coast, the weather cleared. I hopped my good luck would hold, and I had some time to explore the cliffs before the fog rolled in.
My tour of the Cliffs started with a visit to O’Brien’s Tower. I walked along the trail passed the tower. It was a little muddy, but the improved view of the 150 ft plus cliffs was well worth the mud. I was disappointed that I didn’t see any puffins but given I was visiting in February, I can’t say I am surprised.
After that, I walked down from the Tower and along the opposite section of the cliff. I loved the view of O’Brien’s Tower from the other side of the cliffs.
Up next was a couple hour drive through the Irish countryside to the small town of Cong. Cong’s claim to fame is a small 1950′ film name The Quiet Man starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. It is a film about an Irish-American Boxer (John Wayne) whose ghost cause him to run to Ireland. There he meets a sassy spinster (Maureen O’Hara). They fall in love and marry. The pair run into trouble when her brother refuses to pay her dowry. The movie is hilarious and one of my favorite (as well as my mothers). I enjoyed visiting a few famous movie sites and having a beer at Pat Cohan Pub.
Day 3 – Giant’s Causeway & Titanic Belfast
I drove across the border and into Northern Ireland. At the Giant’s Causeway, I realized that I had just changed countries and didn’t have any pounds. Thankfully Northern Ireland is used to this and everywhere accepts Euros, credit cards, and occasionally dollars.
I bought my ticket for Giant’s Causeway and headed into the visitor center. I discovered that I was one of 3 people there and got a private guided tour of the Causeway. I really enjoyed that. It meant that the guide could focus on the geological aspects of the site. She told me about the interlocking basalt columns. This is the fourth place I have seen these columns (Iceland and two places in the USA). I loved hearing the stories of Finn MacCool. I even took a short nap in his shoe.
Near the Causeway is the Bushmills Whiskey. I had a small sample of several of their whiskey’s while I had lunch. I would have loved to sample more, but responsible driving limited me to a sip of three type of whiskey. I found that I enjoyed their black label and reserve. I bought a bottle of the black label for when I got home.
The next stop was the Titanic Belfast. This was a full circle year for me. I saw the graves of Titanic victims in Halifax, Canada and the site of the construction of the Titanic in Belfast. I am not obsessed with the Titanic. It just happened that my travel plans worked out that way. I enjoyed the exhibit. It focused on the side of the Titanic that is rarely seen. It is all about the workers and construction on the ship. It shows it in the light of being a marvel of engineering even if it ended in tragedy.
Day 4 – Guinness Tour and Jameson Tasting
I had a busy half day in Dublin, Ireland. I needed to be at the airport by 2:00 pm and wanted to do a Jameson Tasting as well as a tour of the Guinness facility. I took the first tour of the Guinness factory. I am not a fan of Guinness but I couldn’t leave Dublin without taking the tour.
The tour is my favorite beer tour. It was interactive and a great way to show how more of the world’s most famous beers. I loved the part where I learned how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness and enjoyed the view from Dublin from the top bar.
I ended my trip to Ireland with a tasting Jameson Whisky. Again, I didn’t get to have more than a sip due to being responsible. I didn’t get to take a tour of Jameson due to the Dublin facility being under construction.
Budget Car Rental Ireland is one of the best rental car agencies I have ever used. I use a lot of rental cars due to my job and the efficiency of this place was amazing. I didn’t have to spend more than 10 mins dealing with their staff at any point. The pick-up was super easy and the return was super easy as well. I did have to fill out a form due to the flat tire but that look like 2 mins and Budget provided the upgraded insurance so I wasn’t out any money due to the tire. All the staff was knowledgeable and very helpful.
I loved my Budget Car Rental Ireland road trip. Have you taken an Irish Road Trip? If so, what was your favorite part? If not, what do you most look forward too?
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Disclaimer: I was provided a rental car by Budget Rental Car Ireland for my road trip. All opinions are my own.