Our trip to Ireland was beautiful, fun, exciting and exhausting all at the same time! As I mentioned in our New York post, we realized very quickly just how much we rely on our parents, daycare and our babysitter to help with our toddler. He is so much fun at this age but also needs lots of supervision. WARNING: this will be a long post, but I promise to include lots of pretty pictures!
For starters, we spent 3 nights in each: Dublin, Kilkenny and Galway. In Dublin, we mostly walked or used the Hop On Hop Off bus to get around. When leaving Dublin, we rented a car for the remainder of our trip.
We grabbed dinner for Liam at the airport before getting on the plane for our 6:50 PM flight from NYC to Dublin. We did all of his normal bedtime routine (teeth brushing, change into jammies) just before heading to our gate to board. We had gotten to the airport rather early and selected a gate with no flight leaving to let Liam have a little room to run around. He loved looking out the window and seeing all of the trucks.
He slept for almost the entire flight but did wake up fussy and wanting to be held. He mostly sleeps on his belly and he couldn’t do that in the car seat, so he ended up laying across our laps for the last couple hours.
We all rallied once we landed in Ireland, even though it was really 1:30 AM back home. He was a little whiny getting through customs (aren’t we all?) but then promptly fell back asleep in the taxi on the way to our hotel in Dublin. We arrived at the Shelbourne Hotel before we could check in so we decided to leave our bags and explore. We realized as we were rearranging bags that we had left one at the airport! Landon took one for the team and headed back to the airport while Liam and I went next door to KC Peaches to grab a snack and then we walked around until Landon made it back to the hotel.
We walked back to Grafton Street from our hotel to have lunch and selected a traditional Irish pub. Dublin actually has a lot of international food offerings but we stuck to Irish fare for the most part. Liam fell asleep, so we spent some time walking around and taking in the sights. Our hotel was right across from St. Stephen’s Green, so we had a beautiful space to explore just steps away from where we were staying. Liam LOVED walking around St. Stephen’s green, saying “hi” to all the ducks, and pushing his stroller.
We had dinner at another pub just down the street. We enjoyed the pub fare and experience but did regret that we couldn’t stay out late enough to hear live music. We were pretty much locked in our hotel room from 6/6:30 PM each night. Liam had a really hard time getting to sleep, so he didn’t go down until 10 PM the first three nights of our trip. Though, once he went down, he did stay down for the duration of the night so we were thankful for that. It stayed light until 11 pm and got light at 5 am which I’m sure didn’t help with an early bed time.
The next day, we explored via Hop On, Hop Off bus. It is such a fantastic way to get around new cities. We stopped at the Dublin Castle but it was kind of disappointing. We quickly moved on and walked to the Temple Bar area and had a Guiness at the actual Temple Bar before popping next door for lunch while Liam napped. We got back on the bus from there but Liam was unhappy (screaming louder than the audio tour) so our ride was cut short. We got off just before the Brazen Head pub and walked all the way back to our hotel. We ordered in that night to help keep us all sane.
We did the 48 hour Hop On Hop Off ticket, so we had another day to explore. We started at the National Museum of Ireland and were once again blown away by the history. Nothing in America is that old and there’s just so much that is in Europe. Liam is not a huge fan of museums so we kind of breezed through but still felt like we got to see everything, even if it was brief. Next up was Trinity College and the Book of Kells. The line was long and it was a beautiful day, so Liam and I stayed outside while Landon went in. Liam loved pushing his stroller around the campus. We got back on the bus and popped into Nancy Hands for lunch. They didn’t have high chairs which made it more complicated but we ate quickly and then walked up to Phoenix Park (the Pope will be here soon!). We let Liam push his stroller all over the park and run through the grass. He discovered a “tractor” that the landscapers were using. We walked back up Grafton Street and stopped at a Cath Kidston store to buy the cutest jammies with busses on them and then grabbed dinner before walking through St. Stephen’s Green to end the day.
The next morning, I woke up with a sore throat but hoped it was just from the change in weather from NYC to Ireland. It was our last day in Dublin so we had to make the most of it! Landon and Liam went for a walk, while I went for a glorious run around St. Stephen’s Green. Then we packed up and took a taxi to get our rental car. Liam proved once again on the trip that he can sleep anywhere – even with busses pulling up, people walking by and planes flying overhead.
From Dublin, we drove to Kilkenny. We attemped to make a stop along the way to see Killiney beach but quickly got frustrated with the hills, tiny roads and our hanger taking over. So, instead of beach time, we popped into a pub for lunch and then got back on the road to Kilkenny. Once we arrived in Kilkenny, we walked around to get the lay of the land and decided room service would be our best bet for dinner that evening as we were getting into the witching hour(s).
My throat was terribly sore the next morning. Though I’m not known for my high pain tolerance, I’ve never had a worse sore throat. I was actually drooling because I couldn’t swallow and I worried about getting dehydrated since I couldn’t drink a ton of liquids. I spent 10 minutes crying in the bathroom because of the pain and because we were on vacation and because I still had to be a parent to a toddler. After some quick research, we found that Ireland has the equivalent of a minute clinic or urgent care at their pharmacies and I was able to get a strep test. It was negative so they gave me some throat spray and cough drops – along with the number of a 24-hour doctor for me to call. The visit at the pharmacy was only 7.50 euro, so like $10! Can you imagine? Even with great insurance, I pay more than that in the US! The doctor visit would be 50 euro. I decided to try to stick it out for one more day to see if it cleared up on it’s own. Enough with feeling sorry for myself, time to explore!
It was lunch time by the time I caught up with Liam and Landon and also bumping into nap time for the little guy. We found a restaurant but Liam wasn’t having it. I decided to take him for a walk and let Landon have some quiet time. We grabbed a sandwich, banana and yogurt from a little shop and sat down on the stairs in the middle of town. He barely made it through his banana and yogurt before he fell asleep. So then I treated myself to ice cream while we waited on Landon! Once we met back up, we decided to walk along the canal and the medieval walls. It was incredibly peaceful down by the water and felt amazing in the shade since our trip was turning out to be 15-20 degrees warmer than we planned. Afterwards, we went to the castle to let Liam run around and burn off some afternoon energy.
My throat was slightly better the next day so I decided to forego the doctor. We headed straight for the castle in the morning and planned to actually go inside. We went here many times on the trip because it was such a great space for Liam to run around and a gorgeous backdrop for us. It was an impressive castle, but much like the museum in Dublin, Liam was not a fan of being in the Ergo and or learning about medieval times. After lunch, we decided to head back to the hotel for a nap. We ALL napped for two hours and it was wonderful. We discovered another part of the wall that used to go around the city and Talbot Tower. Liam was mesmerized by all the rocks at the tower – but I’m pretty sure they weren’t from medieval times. It was so much fun to watch him discover things during this trip and how excited he was for every.single.one.
The next day I got up and went for a run around the castle (there were AMAZING trails!) and Landon and Liam went to explore down by the water. We met back up at the hotel and finished packing up our stuff before heading out one more time for lunch. This was my favorite moment and meal in Kilkenny. We grabbed sandwiches at The Fig Tree and had a picnic on the castle lawn. Liam loved running around and kept walking up to other kids saying “fend?” (friend) and showing them his tractor (“dragkdur”). The weather was absolutely perfect and this was the best way to end our Kilkenny leg of our trip.
We stumbled upon an old abbey on our way to Galway. Liam was asleep so I hopped out to check it out. There was a funeral happening in the cemetery so I left quickly to be respectful of their time.
The trip from Kilkenny to Galway was the longest part of our trip — close to 3.5 hours. Luckily, Liam slept most of the way. This was the only place where we stayed in a B&B instead of a hotel. We arrived and were greeted by cooler weather which was such a nice surprise! It was getting close to dinner time, so we set out to find a kid-friendly place and hopped to catch a glimpse of my friend’s family’s pub (O’Connor’s in Salthill). We ended up at Galleon and were all pleasantly surprised with our meals. For much of the trip, Liam decided to only eat fruit and yogurt but here, he ate sweet potato fries and fish! We let him try a few bites of our ice cream that came with dessert and as a result, he literally stayed up all night long. It was the worst.
The next day, we set out to find castles, abbeys and Connemara National Park! We first visited Ashford Castle. It has been remodeled into a hotel but the grounds are open for exploring and there’s a falconry school there, too! The gardens were so much fun to walk around and the castle itself is stunning! We had lunch in town at an adorable little restaurant before getting back on the road.
From there, we stopped by Kylemore Abbey. It had started to rain at this point so we got on our rain jackets (the ONE time we used them) and Liam’s rain cover for his stroller and stood outside only for a few moments to take it in and take some pictures. The walk is really long to get over to the actual abbey, and we were keeping a close eye on the time so that we didn’t get stuck with a hungry baby in the car. The whole time we were driving, we were on the Wild Atlantic Way. It’s very different than if you’re driving out to the Cliffs of Moher but still incredibly beautiful. We arrived at the visitors center but realized we would be cutting it close to get back in time so we took a look around and then got back on the road. We encountered lots of sheep in the road, on the side of the road and very close to the road in fields that didn’t have fences! It was basically a full day spent in the car but probably one of my favorites because we saw so many neat things and didn’t have to spend a ton of time in the rain.
The next day was our last FULL day in Ireland. We decided to spend it in Galway and to explore the Latin Quarter where all the shops and restaurants are. On the way, we walked along the Seaside Promenade and the Famine Walk. Liam loved pushing his stroller around both of these and checking out all the big rocks. Once in town, we hunted for souvenirs, had ice cream, watched singers and tap dancers perform and soaked it all in. Liam was fine in his stroller for most of the day. We grabbed lunch at Kings Head Pub before heading back to the hotel. We figured Liam would sleep if we got in the car and we’d seen a cool structure on our drive the day before that we wanted to check out. After a lot of time on Google, we found that it is Ross Errily Friary and it was 45 minutes away. The drive wasn’t bad at all and this was quite possibly our favorite “castle” that we saw on the trip. It was very untouched compared to many others that had been restored on some level; although, people still use this as a burial ground, so there were recent(ish) graves on site. The structure was incredible and it was fun to try to figure out what rooms were and what certain features were used for. Again, Liam was really impressed with all the rocks. We went back to the Latin Quarter for dinner and ended with one of our best meals yet at Gemelles. It seemed a little quieter and more fancy than places we’d normally take Liam but we were all hungry and just ready to sit down so we made it work.
Kilkenny and Galway were much more my speed than Dublin and I was more impressed with the history. We were both sad that we didn’t get to experience live music at the pubs at night, but we did get to hear a little bit during the day. We also didn’t do any distillery or brewery tours, which is likely something we would have done if we didn’t have a kid with us. I don’t think we’ll plan any more 2 week long trips with a toddler but I’m really proud of how we handled the trip and that we still got to see as much as we did. I still highly recommend Ireland as a destination and would love to go back again one day!