Bushmills to Strandhill to Dingle

For the first time in a long time, I actually finished meal-prepping by noon on a Sunday. It’s a miracle. And for the first time in a long time, I am writing a second blog post with a few weeks of each other? Who am I and what have I done with myself? I wonder if I’m getting sick.

Last time I wrote about our time in Northern Ireland and what it was like being so close to the Causeway. Readers-writing that blog post made me miss Ireland so much. But even with an amazing blog post like that, I still can’t convince my wife to go back for a third visit in a row. Such is life.

After an adventure filled day at the Causeway that involved of a lot of walking (over 17,000 steps according to my Fitbit) we headed back to our hotel room to sleep because we had a long drive ahead of us to Strandhill in County Sligo.  The next morning we packed up the last of our things and spent a little bit more time at the visitors center to buy more tourist things. Then we headed off to Strandhill. I don’t remember a lot about that drive, I just know we were annoyed with the GPS and annoyed by the large car we had to deal with. We went to Strandhill on our first trip to Ireland and we were looking forward to staying at the same hotel again. And my wife was looking forward to trying to surf. We had no idea Strandhill was such a top spot for surfing on our first trip there. We made it to Strandhill with no issues and checked into the hotel. We stayed at Strandhill Lodge and Suites which isn’t far from the beach, has parking, and restaurants and pubs right by it. And…a view of the water.

Our 2nd time in Strandhill was not a disappointment. We were tired after a long drive so we went to the restaurant next to the hotel called The Venue Bar and Restaurant. The back of the restaurant is all windows so you have a view of the water. We enjoyed a nice dinner. I had fish and chips and my wife had a hamburger and we enjoyed relaxing and taking in the pretty view. We turned in early that night because…Angie was going to surf the next morning and I couldn’t wait to be a witness to this!

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The plan in the morning was for Angie to have her surf lesson while I walked around the beach, taking photos, maybe grabbing lunch or a coffee. It is a bit of a walk (uphill) to the hotel from the beach but I figured if I got too bored I would head back up to the room. I went with Angie when she ‘checked in’ for her surf lesson. I felt like a mom, super concerned but also super proud she was doing something so far out of her comfort zone. I figured I would try to get pictures from far away, I didn’t want to be annoying and follow the group around and take pictures like a stage mom. So while she was meeting with the group, changing, and grabbing their boards I took a walk the opposite way to check out the beach and other various surfers in the area. It was busy that day, lots of people out even thought the weather wasn’t that great.

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I walked and I walked and I walked that day. So many surfers and…so many dogs on the beach. I made lots of doggie friends that day which is always a treat for me.

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I finally decided to head back to watch my wife do her surfing and then…we had a downpour. Luckily, I’m in Ireland and I’m not an idiot. I was prepared with a rain jacket with a hood and a cover for my camera. I decided then and there that stopping into a pub for lunch was a great idea. I forget the pub name, it was right by the beach (everything at Strandhill Beach is literally right on the main drag from the beach). I ordered a drink and soup. The soup was awful (I think they dropped an entire jar of cumin in the soup-I asked for vegetable soup but that’s not what I got) but the brown bread was amazing, as usual. And it got me out of the rain. Once it cleared up outside I headed back out. I walked down to see my wife and I was stopped by 2 German college students. They wanted me to take a picture of them. I wish I could remember their names but we stood and talked for about 30 minutes. They came to Ireland for school, would be there a few months, and were taking surf lessons later in the afternoon and were watching the current group and psyching themselves out. I gave them a pep talk and I think they felt better (and I did see them later in the day and they were in their wet suits and had their boards so I think my talk worked).

As for my wife? Well…she enjoyed her time in the water but came out to talk to me and told me a million times that surfing is a lot harder than she realized! She gave up on her lesson a little early but I was proud of her. She tried it and she can now officially say that she ‘surfed’ in Ireland!

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Angie with her yellow surfboard

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After her lesson we went back up to the hotel where she could shower and wash the sea off of her. We headed back down to the beach later for an early dinner. The restaurant isn’t open anymore so no point in giving the name. We enjoyed our dinner, we both had haddock and it was busy and the service was good so I am surprised the restaurant is no more. After dinner we walked on the beach again and checked out the surfers. I took a video of a surfer out there looking amazing and I posted it to social media and said it was Angie surfing and that she was natural. A few people believed me too! I felt bad when I had to own to my lie!

That night we didn’t do much, Angie was tired from her long surf lesson and I was tired from all the walking so we took it easy because we had a very long drive the next morning. Strandhill to Dingle is roughly 5 hours.

And we got lost. A lot.

I’ve already mentioned more than a few times we were unhappy with the car but the GPS may have been worse. It wasn’t updated at all. It was taking us to Dingle on the worst side country roads imaginable. Tiny roads with grass growing in the middle but luckily we only encountered a few other cars. When I finally had service I got my phone out and we used that instead but by that point we were almost in Dingle. As frustrating as that drive was-you can’t deny that the Dingle peninsula is. absolutely. gorgeous. If you go to Ireland-I swear to God, you have to go to the Dingle Peninsula. I’m not a religious person but that area can convince you there is a God. It is stunning.

Our time in Dingle was the best time we had I think the entire trip. I can’t wait to write about our 5 days there. A photo tour of the peninsula, good food, gorgeous pictures, amazing people. A drive to Portmagee to see Skellig. Our next trip to Ireland I just want to spend 2 weeks in Dingle and act like I’m a local.

More to come…

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I’m back, did you miss me?

This entire blog mostly consists of Ireland. So why not come back after an almost 2 year hiatus to talk about Ireland once again? It’s been almost a year since our last trip there and every day that I am away from that beautiful country the more I miss it. Before our first trip there, we were told Ireland would get into our bones. I scoffed and thought “yeah, right”. Now I completely understand what these people meant by that. It’s the best country I’ve ever been to. I’m still trying to convince my wife to go for a 3rd time next year. Maybe this blog post will convince her.

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When we started planning our 2nd trip to the Emerald Isle we agreed right away on one thing-We weren’t going to overdo it. We definitely overdid it our first trip, to the point that by the time we made it to Dublin for our final few days there we were exhausted and didn’t leave our rental for about a day and a half. So that was agreed upon right away. Another idea we agreed on was to spend more time on the Dingle Peninsula and more than a half day in Northern Ireland, near the causeway. So we did just that.

I’ll start with our few days in Northern Ireland. I’m not going to lie-it started out rocky. I’m not going to sugarcoat things on this blog-our first day once we arrive in Dublin was rough. When I booked our car rental (months in advance) I was very clear with Dan Dooley that we wanted a small car. My wife was doing the driving and we knew what to expect with the roads-we needed something tiny. So imagine our surprise the morning we pick up our car and they give us an SUV. Nobody would help us. The man who met us at the door didn’t even do a walk around the car-to point out any existing scratches/dings/bumps/etc. He didn’t even point out the car to us-we had to search for it. When we saw it was an SUV we went back and told him this was a mistake and he did nothing. We were stuck with this monstrosity. Here in the US we drive very small cars. We aren’t used to SUV’s even on roads in the US. So we started out aggravated. The GPS barely worked, it hadn’t been updated in years apparently. So the first drive (from Dublin to the Giant’s Causeway) after a night of flying was an exercise in patience. By the time we made it to the hotel I think I was near tears. I couldn’t wait to get out of the car! We had such a good experience with Dan Dooley our first trip but our next trip there I know that we will go with another company.

We decided to stay at the Causeway Hotel which is literally right at the Giant’s Causeway. It was the best decision we ever made. Staying at the hotel gave us amazing access to the Causeway. We could walk down early or late. We had what the lady at the front desk said was the best room in the house. It was off the end of the hotel, a view of the sea, with a big porch area just for us. The room was huge, a queen sized bed, a twin bed, tables and chairs, and a large bathroom. The hotel is a little outdated and a little rough around the edges but with that location it can’t be beat.

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After eating dinner at the restaurant in the hotel (which was very good) we went for an after dinner walk even though we were exhausted. It is just so gorgeous there I am running out of ways to describe it. It’s just so wild and peaceful and picturesque. I’m so sad just re-living our time there because I miss it so much! We finally went into the room and slept for almost 12 hours. The next morning-our first full day in Northern Ireland-we wanted to go to Kinbane Castle. Never heard of it? Neither had I until a few weeks before our trip there-a woman in a Facebook group mentioned these old castle ruins that nobody really knows about. Of course we had to find it! There is a large parking lot with restrooms and picnic tables and then you have to walk down around 150 steps (and then walk back up those same steps so be prepared) to the castle. We had the place to ourselves. We stuck around for about an hour. The castle is barely a castle, it really is just some steps, and castle ruins and there are some breathtaking views.

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After Kinbane we drove along the Causeway Coastal Route a bit. We wanted to go to Dunluce Castle but because the car was so large we were nervous about trying to get down the road. So we passed it up, kept driving, and then came across a large parking lot with views of the sea. We pulled in and looked to the right-and we had views of Dunluce Castle! That worked out perfectly.

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We took in the views until a large tour bus arrived and and then we decided to leave. We headed into Bushmills to our very favorite restaurant-The Copper Kettle. It’s nothing fancy but it has good, hearty food, a nice staff, and its very clean and not expensive. We had a light lunch of soup and sandwiches and we were happy. We went to The Copper Kettle our first trip (a man working on the road outside of the Causeway gave us the recommendation) and we talked about it so much we knew we had to go back. Now almost a year later-I think we need to go back because I miss their bread!

After lunch and more driving around we decided to go to Whiterocks Beach. I saw a dog that looked like Lassie and he played fetch with me, I’m glad his owner didn’t care. Playing with a dog on a beach in Ireland-this is what dreams are made of.

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Our first day in Northern Ireland was fantastic and again-staying at the Causeway Hotel was the best idea. It really is the perfect base if you want to explore the Causeway and the area.

The next day we decided to spend time at the Causeway and around the Causeway. We walked down, took in the view, went into the visitors center and bought some postcards and some artwork/books/mugs/touristy things. Then we decided to walk the trails. Allow me to brag here-Our first trip to Ireland I was very overweight and out of shape. A few months after that trip I had my gallbladder taken out and numerous issues after which really forced me to watch my diet and even start exercising. I’ve lost 50-60 pounds since then and I feel (and look) like a new person. So this 2nd trip to Ireland-I was fit. I was ready to walk for miles. And I did. We walked and walked. We walked the red trail, the green trail and the blue trail. We were out at the Causeway for hours getting some amazing pictures of the Causeway from above. It rained for a little bit but then the rain cleared up and the sun came out and we had perfect weather the rest of the afternoon.

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My cute wife

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Me-showing off my love of the Causeway AND my weight loss

After a long day of walking and taking pictures we headed to the Causeway after dinner to see the Causeway at sunset. Most of the people there were other hotel guests. It’s nothing like it is during the day-not nearly as busy and it’s pretty quiet. Everyone down there is looking to get that one beautiful shot at sunset. It’s stunning at sunset.

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After a very long activity filled day we decided to head back to our room so we could get some rest. We were driving to Strandhill, in County Sligo, the next day. My wife was going to take a surf lesson-and I couldn’t wait to get photographic evidence of that! As we were talking back up the hill to the hotel we looked up and saw a hiker on the hill–they really wanted a stunning view of the sunset as well and I bet they got it. Whoever that person is-they are brave.

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