Our trip to Ireland came about more by accident — a result of cost optimization — than intent or strategic planning. Our destination was Marrakech Morocco, which I have covered in previous posts, however, we could find no direct flights. We make every effort to avoid flight transfers as these tend to be the cause of much travel anxiety–will I miss my connection–or wasted time. Our dilemma: how do we deal with the problem of no direct flights to Marrakech?
We decided that rather than waiting 2 or 3 hours between flights in some congested airport, we would wait a few days and spend that time exploring and enjoying the transfer point. The question then became which point should that be? Paris; London; Lisbon; Madrid; Manchester; Amsterdam; Ankara …
Our primary criterion was interest in the transfer point; secondarily I looked at optimising the total cost. That is, the end-to-end cost from Toronto to Marrakech and return. In the end we picked Dublin as the transfer point, with 5 days on the out-going leg and 3 days on the return. The itinerary formed fairly logically: with 5 days on the front end we had enough time to tour the West Coast; 3 days on the backend would be time for Dublin.
On the West Coast there were a couple of sites that we wanted to see: The Ring of Kerry; the Cliffs of Moher. Dublin was less specific, although a tour of the Guinness Brewery was identified early on as a priority (at least by me).
On the out-going leg, we arrived in Dublin at about 6AM, picked up our car and drove to Killarney. We chose Killarney for a couple of reasons: first it was close to two sites we wanted to visit: the Ring of Kerry and Killarney National Park. Second it took us across the county in quick order and positioned us on a circular tour covering the West Coast and then back to Dublin.
Much of the way between Dublin and Killarney was highway so that part of the drive went fairly quickly. The remainder was a two-lane route through little villages that took more time. We would not see highway again until we started our return journey to Dublin.
The landscapes of the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula were spectacular. With our GPS we felt very comfortable exploring the laneways leading off the main routes with the understanding that eventually we would find our way back. Exploring with GPS worked out very well. While the Cliffs of Moher were impressive, they didn’t hold my attention for much longer than the couple of hours or so we spent there. Our last stop was Newgrange — a World Heritage Site — which is a 5,000 year old Temple, older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids. I refer to it lovingly as a big pile of dirt. I’ve read about these monuments and to reflect on their age and history leaves one with a sense of awe. So to visit them moved this abstract grounding to a tangible and physical one; it was nice to see the real thing and be in its presence. But for those without this veneration, they may be excused if it seen as a big pile of dirt.
On our return from Morocco we stayed in Dublin. Here we purchased a 3-day pass that provided access to public transit and a hop-on-hop-off city tour. This worked out quite well. Of course we visited the Guinness Brewery. It turns out that it is quite an extensive tour; a lot more than expected. But the serving of a Guinness on the top floor was the pinnacle. The hop-on-off tour enabled us easier access to the many sites in Dublin, without having to work out the logistics of public transit. The public transit let us visit the village of Howth located some 30 km outside of Dublin and in some cases more direct passage to our hotel at the end of a day.