“Ireland is a land of poets and legends, of dreamers and rebels.” — Nora Roberts
My sister-in-law is here in Scotland, visiting us from the States. It is her first time in Europe and no trip to Celtic land (in my opinion) is complete without a stop in Ireland. Being that both she and her brother are Irish by blood, we had to take her back to the ancient land of her ancestors. (And who am I kidding? Any excuse for a trip to the Emerald Isle is one I will take.) For this trip back to Ireland, we wanted to take her to one of our favorite spots in the world: Caherdaniel in Co. Kerry. It was the perfect long weekend road trip and way to spend St Patrick’s Day. To see where and how we adventured, read on.
Friday: Day 1 — The Long Road to Castlecove
We landed in Dublin at 9 a.m. to hoards of people wearing sparkly green hats, balloons covering the airport, and the longest queue through immigration I have experienced in a while.
Before we flew out of Edinburgh, I wondered if St Patrick’s Day would be as hyped-up in Ireland as I remember it being in America. But if Dublin airport would be any indication of how seriously the Irish take St Paddy’s Day, I knew it would certainly be a weekend to remember.
After we finally got out of the airport and collected our rental car, we drove five-hours down to Caherdaniel, Co. Kerry where we would be staying for the remainder of our stay at Westcove. We stayed here on our honeymoon in 2017 and I was so excited to bring my sister-in-law back here to this special corner of the world.
We arrived around 6 p.m. to a storm. We had left good weather in Dublin and had watched the fog roll in through the thick of the trees as we wound around the twisty, turny roads hugging the coastline. Pier Cottage (where we were staying) is right on a harbour filled with grey seals. Normally, one can see the mountains surrounding the bay — but on our arrival, we could only see the seals, who were basking in the mist and pelting rain.
We quickly unpacked, then ran down to the shore with our hoods up. I clambered over the rocks covered in seaweed to watch the seals playing. My sister-in-law and husband cracked open a pint of Irish whiskey and toasted as the sea crashed over the rocks. Some of the seals wriggled their fat bodies into the water and swam to us, watching us curiously from a short distance. The others snorted and barked, clearly annoyed with the humans invading their space.
When we could no longer take the icy kiss of the Irish rain, we ducked back inside to start a fire. After we were warmed, we set out for dinner, as we were all ravishing. O’Carrolls Cove is the closest beach-side restaurant to us, at only a five-minute drive from Pier Cottage. But when we walked in, none of the lights were on. The storm had taken out the power of most of the coast. Yet they assured us we could stay to drink and eat our fill and the power would be back soon enough. My husband picked out his whiskey using a flashlight (or ‘torch’ as they say here) and we sat in the dark watching the last light of day dissipate over the ocean. Like clockwork, the lights came back on just in time for dinner. After, we went home to sit by the fire until sleep took us.
Saturday: Day 2 — Touring Kenmare
In the morning, we woke to howling 30 mph winds. Even the seals were hiding beneath the deep. My husband said he dreamt the roof was torn off. We were having tea at 11 a.m. with the owners of Westcove (an older English couple — The Adlingtons), so we had to trek through the storm, up the hill to the main house. We were greeted by two friendly pups, Ben and Toffee. I had been corresponding with Susannah for years prior and it was nice to finally get a chance to meet in person. Her home is beautiful and well-kept for being so old. It is beautiful and artistic, filled with so many historic artifacts it sort of felt like being in a museum. We had a strong cup of Irish tea and chatted about living in this part of the world while watching the rain settle into a steady drizzle out the windows.
Our ‘neighbours’ — a quirky couple from Australia (two former science teachers staying on the East End of Pier Cottage) were also there, as well as a 95-year-old opera singer who apparently travelled around the world with Pavarotti. Even though we were the youngest in attendance, I enjoyed their company very much.
After tea, the storm had finally settled enough for us to drive in to Kenmare, a sweet little town filled with shops and restaurants, but isn’t overly touristy. We grabbed lunch at Mick & Jimmy’s before wandering around town.
After lunch and a walk around, we hiked into Glenchanquin Park to see the standing stones.
Sunday: Day 3 (St Patrick’s Day)
“St. Patrick’s Day is an enchanted time—a day to begin transforming winter’s dreams into summer’s magic.” — Adrienne Cook
This is the view I awoke to on St Patrick’s Day. I am an early riser, so it was just me and the seals at 7 a.m. as the sun came up over Castlecove. I watched the rain across the bay be moved by the wind, so the sky opened into silver and blue. It was glorious.
When everyone was up, we headed into Sneem for the St Paddy’s Day parade. There were animals in cages for sale (that part made me really sad), pony rides, lots of people wearing Wellies, tents with everything from clothes to farm tools for sale, and of course — the local parade. A few tractors were dressed up — but otherwise, there were no floats. People road over the bridge on their decked-out bikes, some walked, some drove in their cars. It was really cute and much tamer than I imagined it being.
After the parade, we drove an hour along the Ring of Kerry to Portmagee for lunch. The coastal drive along the way made it seem like we were driving through heaven. Being at a bird’s eye view as we wound along the cliffside, staring down into the ocean and scattered islands, was nothing short of breathtaking.
After lunch, we stopped at Derrynane House & Gardens so we could walk the Fairy Path, look at an old ring fort, then spend time at the beach.
We were lucky in that we got to see a spectacular double-rainbow, that was the brightest and biggest I have ever seen in my life. I’ve never seen a rainbow that goes from end-to-end like this one. So much so, it took me two pictures to capture it!
We climbed the dunes and sat together on the rocks just taking in the sunset, before finally heading home to enjoy the rest of our first St Patrick’s Day on Irish soil.
Monday: Day 4 — Killarney
I had a meeting with Jane, the local baker, this morning to chat about possible places to live this coming fall. My husband and I were considering moving on to Ireland before finally making our way back to the U. S., whenever we do. But because this part of Ireland is so remote, you really need to know someone to find a place to rent long-term that isn’t geared for tourists.
We decided to venture into Killarney National Park afterward and stopped for a nice lunch at Avoca, overlooking the mountains after a rather languid hike.
We decided to spend our last night in Caherdaniel, walking Derrynane beach to watch the sunset, followed by a drink at O’Carrolls Cove on the beach and a stop in at The Blind Piper for dinner by the roaring fireplace. It was the perfect way to end such an incredible trip.
Tuesday: Day 5 (Home We Go!)
“May your troubles be less. And your blessings be more. And nothing but happiness come through your door.” — Irish Blessing
On Tuesday, we made the long drive back from Co. Kerry to the Dublin airport. But the weather was beautiful and warm, so we blasted music whilst venturing out the country back into the hustle of city life.
I was sad to leave the Emerald Isle, as I always am, but with so many memories to treasure and lots of adventure ahead, I went home with a full heart and replenished soul.
Have you ever been to Ireland? Let me know in the comments below!
Until next time,