Dublin’s Best Coffee Spots: 20 Spots for the City’s Best Brew

Years ago, when I visited Dublin for the first time, I did what I normally do my first time visiting a new city- looked up recommended things to see and do, and set about to explore.

Being such a bona fide cold brew fanatic, and someone who genuinely enjoys good espresso, especially in the form of flat whites or dirty chai lattes, I tried looking up a few cafes to visit.

At the time, I didn’t turn up much- at least not in city centre. From what I could see, most highly rated cafes were outside the historic district, lending more of a residential feel. And, while I love that now as a resident of Ireland, as a visitor, I recall being frustrated with how few good coffee spots there were within proximity of key sights.

To me, it made sense, when you think of Dublin, the first thing that comes to mind likely isn’t ‘great espresso’. In fact, if you’re thinking about Ireland and coffee, you’re more likely envisioning Irish Coffee, the boozy, unofficial national caffeinated drink.

Back on one of my initial visits to Dublin, I visited Hatch & Sons, across from St. Stephen’s Green, which was the best adventuring pick-me-up before I continued exploring the city.

Now, living in Dublin, I’m always on the hunt for the best cafes across the city’s neighbourhoods. Thankfully, more places exist than when I visited Dublin for the first time years ago- third wave brewers are definitely becoming a ‘thing’, and Dublin’s coffee culture is rising to the challenge.

Even in the age of COVID, many cafes are open for takeaway. While I’d love to really get a feel for some of them by posting up in them for a few hours and reading or writing, I’m grateful I’m even able to visit them with Ireland’s strict lockdown restrictions. 

With so many independent coffee shops popping up, Dublin is dotted with plenty of great options. The below picks are my go-to’s, places I oft recommend or return to, but I’ll caveat, I’m always on the lookout for new cafes.

All of the below are great for coffee, but some also have fantastic baked goods or brunch options available, which I’ve denoted with an * next to their name.

You’ll also see single use cups featured in photos throughout this post- that’s because, with COVID, many cafes are not accepting reusable cups for sanitary reasons. To be mindful, despite the circumstances, I try to only get coffee out once per week in a normal week, and usually save my cup to reuse a few times at home.

Final note, because Dublin’s neighbourhoods are identified by their numbers, I’ve included that information as well to help plan stops while you wander the city.

20 of Dublin’s Best Coffee Spots

3FE (locations across the city): My favourite spot for coffee in Dublin, I love 3FE so much, I buy their roasts for cold brew to make at home. Their flat whites are truly ace, and nothing from oatmilk mochas to prepared lattes and nitro cold brew disappoints.

Bread 41 & Cloud Picker Cafe (D2): Adjacent to each other, head to Bread 41 for Dublin’s best pastries (go early!), and then hit up Cloud Picker (Dublin’s first micro-roastery) for fantastic brews- their lavender latte is a must try in summer months.

The Fumbally* (D8): With an ever-evolving selection, no two visits here are the same. The coffees are great, and the salted tomato focaccia is the best I’ve ever had. Bonus: Also a great spot to pick up local Irish produce and goods.

 Meet Me in the Morning (D8): Open every day of the week, this perfectly named cafe does fantastic salted caramel lattes (with homemade syrups). You know it’s good when the line is out the door every time you walk past.

Kaph (D2): Inarguably one of Dublin’s best coffee shops, don’t be surprised to find this one busy if you’re not there first thing in the morning. It’s popular for a reason.

Hatch & Sons* (D2): Cozy breakfast and great coffee.

Beanhive Coffee* (D2): Fantastic wraps and scones, plus equally good coffee drinks.

Vice (D8): Situated in the back of a bar, as you’d assume, Vice doesn’t even open until late morning- ideal for those late risers. Standard coffee drinks are alright, the standouts here are the speciality ones, especially the Fancy Franky (hot Irish coffee toped with orange blossom flavoured cream).

Clement & Pekoe (D2): The queue is constant for a reason- C&P does great coffee in a Victorian atmosphere.

Nick’s Coffee (D6): Small, yet mighty. Their lattes are among the best I’ve had in Dublin.

One Kinda Folk (D6): One of my favourite cafes in Dublin, solely for the aesthetic- located behind an ivy covered wall, OKF is situated within a tiny garden. Their chai is also the best I’ve had in Dublin- brewed fresh each time, and utterly fantastic when ordered as an iced dirty chai with oatmilk.

Project Black (D6): One of the best doorways in Dublin 😉 Beyond its adorable shopfront, I love Project Black for their great flat whites and iced coffees.

Shoe Lane (D2): Love a coffee shop that traces its beans across the world, which is why Shoe Lane is one of my go-to’s in Ireland. Their flat whites are a great accompaniment for a morning stroll along the Liffey.

Two Fifty Square (D6): Another one of the all star coffee spots in Dublin, Two Fifty roasts their own brew and serves it up in a spacious, light, industrial cafe. Their flat white is another one of my favorites in the city, and I love the interior so much, I can’t wait to return when restrictions lift.

Press Cafe* (D4): Tucked away next to the National Print Museum in Beggar’s Bush, Press does great coffee, plus fresh juices and lovely brunch options.

The Orange Goat* (D4): A beloved neighbourhood cafe, their brunch is fantastic, and their coffee drinks hold their weight, too. My fav combo? Popping into Orange Goat for an iced coffee, then hitting up Toons Bridge Dairy next door for one of their legendary grilled cheese toasties.

Strand Fare (D4): A micro-grocery, Strand Fare is perfect for picnic supplies if you’re headed to Sandymount Strand, or just a hot drink to sip while watching the sunset. Oatmilk mochas plus chilly, spring sunsets are my ideal weeknight walk jam.

Two Pups (D8): A short walk from The Fumbally, I usually always hit up Two Pups if I’m in the neighborhood. The cafe is cute, but cozy, and the flat whites sure don’t disappoint.

Marlowe & Co* (D8): One of Dublin’s tiny, local grocers, I love Marlowe for their sea salt caramel iced latte. It’s so good I’ll walk a half hour on a sunny day to get one (and some beautiful flowers from their local suppliers).

Wall & Keogh (D8): Not a coffee drinker? W&K is for you- their teas, scones and muffins are fantastic. They’ve also got great espresso, so a bit of something for everyone, and a quiet back garden to enjoy it in.

Have you ever been to Dublin? Did you visit any cafes you’d recommend? And, if you’ve been drinking more coffee at home these days (see below pics ;)), any favourite drink combinations? 

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One of Dublin’s Best Walks: A Tiny, Red Lighthouse

Faced with a sunny spring weekend over the Easter holiday, with level five lockdown restrictions, I decided to make the most out of the warm (ish) weather by exploring more of Dublin on foot.

On my list of things to see since moving to Dubin a year ago?
One of the city’s most recognizable landmarks, the Poolbeg Lighthouse along the Great South Wall.

If you’ve flown into Dublin from the east, you may have spotted a small, red lighthouse out your plane window. Built in the early 1700s, the Great South Wall, which Poolbeg sits at the end of, was considered a great engineering achievement. At the time of its construction, the Great South Wall was the world’s longest sea wall, clocking in at over three miles long. When the lighthouse was added in 1768, it operated on candlepower.

Today, the wall and lighthouse are part of a gorgeous coastal walk, connecting through Irishtown Nature Park and Sandymount Strand.

Since Ireland re-entered level 5 lockdown with 5 km movement restrictions in January 2021, Gardaí have closed the access road to the south wall to encourage people to stay within their km restriction zone. Because I live in the docklands, it’s feasible to walk- although a long jaunt.

If you’re visiting in non-COVID times, you could either try to park in the lot near the south wall (take note, it’s tiny and likely fills up quickly), or park along the Sandymount Strand, and walk over via the beachside and nature trails.

Whether you’re walking or driving part way, Google maps will give you two options to get to the south wall- either via parking at Sandymount Strand and walking from there, or by driving to the small parking lot near the start of the south wall, which leads through an industrial estate.

Starting in the docklands, we decided to walk one way out and another back to see what both routes were like. Heading to the south wall, from the docklands, we walked through Beggar’s Bush to Sean Moore Park, and followed the main road through the industrial estate. There wasn’t much traffic on the day we visited, which was nice, because the ‘sidewalks’ along the road through the industrial park leave a bit to be desired.

On the way back to the docklands, we routed through the Irishtown Nature Park, including a quick jaunt along Sandymount Strand, which was an especially lovely route at sunset.

If I head back to Poolbeg, and I’m walking, I’d walk both ways via the nature park- it’s a lot more scenic, and a much better vibe than walking along industrial property, although the multicolour shipping containers were a vibrant delight.

Whether you’re walking from Sandymount or starting closer from the parking lot, the walk out to the lighthouse is deceivingly long.

We clocked return to the docklands just shy of 9 miles, with it being approximately 5 km each way out to the lighthouse from Sandymount Strand. On the way out, the wind was behind us, propelling us along. But, on the return, not so much- the wind whipping across Dublin Bay can be intense- I’d estimate it took us nearly 2x the amount of time to walk back to land as it did to walk out to the lighthouse.

The lighthouse itself is lovely, tiny and red with cool street art accompanying it. With benches along the tip of the wall, it’s a lovely place to sit and watch the waves break as you look back on Sandymount and further, to Howth and Dún Laoghaire. You’ll spot seagulls bobbing in the waves, and likely even a few brave sea swimmers.

On your walk back along the wall, if you’re thirsty, there’s usually a coffee cart perched at the beginning of the wall path. From the south wall to either the main road of the industrial park or nature park, you’ll pass the Poolbeg Strand, a large expanse of soft sand, which I’d imagine would be idyllic for lounging in summer months.

Walking back through the Irishtown Nature Park is a beautiful pathway through the bush. The trail is straightforward, and for most of it, you’ll have sea views. There are a couple of trails off path, where you can explore a bit more.

We timed our walk perfectly, so that we hit Sandymount Strand just as the sun was setting. Sandymount beach is one of my favourite places in Dublin for a sunset stroll- the tide is out, and there’s usually dozens of people around, playing, running, walking their dogs, it’s the epitome of joyful relaxation.

Depending on the day of week you visit & time you arrive back in Sandymount, Strand Fare is great for oat milk mochas, and BuJo Burger is perfect for the appetite you’ve likely worked up from your walk. Nearby Bath Pub would be a must stop in non-COVID times for a post-walk pint, if you’re heading back towards the docklands or Dublin centre.

A few parting tips for an optimal walk experience- 

  • Check tide tables before you head out, depending on the time of year and weather, part of the wall can be slightly submerged.
  • The great south wall is cobbled and quite bumpy in parts- not exactly ideal for strollers/buggys, bikes or scooters.
  • Definitely wear trainers, it’ll make the long walk more enjoyable.
  • Timing wise, plan to spend a few hours walking both ways. Best to plan for a half day adventure if you want to take your time as you go.
  • If you’re short on time or only want to walk one way, you can walk out to the main road in the industrial park and call a taxi with the Free Now App.

Would you walk out to Poolbeg lighthouse on a visit to Dublin? 

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A Day Driving Ireland’s Most Visited Destination, Ring of Kerry

No question, Ireland is well known for its soaring cliffs and jaw-dropping seascapes. Coastal sites like Cliffs of Moher, the Causeway Coast (Northern Ireland) and Ring of Kerry attract millions of visitors annually. These sites are popular for good reason- they’re unbelievably beautiful.

Ring of Kerry, in particular, is one of Ireland’s most popular scenic drives. It’s full of quintessential Irish sights- quaint, colorful towns, rolling fields, rocky islands, hundreds of lakes, expansive beaches, ancient ruins, and sweeping cliffs.

On a west coast road trip in summer 2020, I planned on spending two days driving and exploring Ring of Kerry. The first few days of the trip were Irish summer bliss, warm and sunny. But, on the last three, all-day rainstorms were predicted.

It’s no secret the Irish weather can be a bit fickle- normally, if I see rain in the forecast, I pack a raincoat and still set out to do what I’d planned. Most of the time, the rain will be fleeting and easy enough to work around.

Sometimes though, it’s relentless. And, when the storms are non-stop, with gale force winds, low visibility due to fog, showers make leaving home for the simplest of tasks tough.

When we saw severe storms in the forecast, we sped up the first part of our trip in Achill, Kilkee and Dingle. In all those places, we were lucky to experience gorgeous weather. When it was time for Ring of Kerry though, there wasn’t as much luck to be found.

With an hourly forecast predicting 80-100% chance of rain for several days straight, we decided to try driving around Ring of Kerry for a day, and rationalised that if it was truly abysmal, we could rive back to Dublin (only ~3.5 hours). And after a day fighting non-stop downpours, we decided to do just that- grabbing Maccas and hitting the highway.

If we’d been in a non-COVID time, we may have tried to find a cosy hotel to stay in, with a plush lobby and roaring fireplace. But, with restrictions pretty much limiting any stays to in-room only, we decided the last two days of holiday would be better spent relaxing in Dublin, staying in bed and streaming Netflix, without an agenda.

Back to Ring of Kerry.

Whether it looks like you’ll have good weather or not, I’d say plan on giving your visit a go. Irish weather can change so quickly, you could start the day with rain and get lucky with storms clearing.

And, in term of time spent on Ring of Kerry, if you can spare more than a day, there’s certainly enough to do and see. In part because we only saw a small portion of Ring of Kerry, I’m excited to head back and spend more time leisurely exploring.

How to Get There

If you’ve only got a day, that’s just enough time to see the highlights. Most tours to Ring of Kerry are only a day long, which is something you’ll want to consider to ensure you don’t get stuck behind tour buses on narrow, windy roads. With COVID, we didn’t need to worry about tourism traffic, but we’d been advised it’s best to drive the loop counter-clockwise as most tours start the other way, and to start as early as possible.

If you’re self driving, make sure you have GPS- either in-car or via phone hotspot. With so many narrow roads and small towns, you’ll have an easier time if you don’t have to worry about navigating a map.

The outer ring road is called N70, and it’s fairly easy to follow. The route itself is a complete loop, 125 miles in total, starting inland at the town of Killarney and going along the Iveragh Peninsula.

The roads can be a bit tight and windy in a few spots, but generally, the main road is more taken care of (because of tourism volume) than roads in other parts of Ireland. Even if you’re nervous about driving on the left, you’ll likely be fine.

Where to Stay

We’d spent the previous night at a b&b in Dingle, and so, we had about a 45 minute drive to our first stop in Killorglin.

If heading back to the area, I’d try to stay in Killarney or Kenmare, two of the bigger towns along the ring with plenty of amenities. Or, I’d stay at a b&b in the countryside near Killorglin. We quite enjoyed doing the loop counter-clockwise, and I’d definitely do the same again.

If you’re spending more than one night along Ring of Kerry, I’d stay overnight in Portmagee. It’s about mid-way around the ring, and more importantly, the gateway to the Skellig Islands, so you’ll have the chance to venture to the islands if you linger in the area, depending, of course, on the time of year you visit. Best time to visit the Skellig Islands is between mid-May and early October.

What to See

The below itinerary assumes you only have a day to see the best of Ring of Kerry. As I’ve already noted, there are plenty of things to see and do though, so if you’re spending more time on Ring of Kerry, there’s certainly more to explore.

Start the day in Killorglin. It’s a tiny, colorful town that’s nice to stroll, and grab breakfast in before continuing onwards.

Next, drive along to Portmagee. En route, there are loads of places to stop- because of the rain, we drove straight on, but I’m excited to go back and see more. Portmagee is touted as the gateway to the Skellig Islands- Skellig Michael and Little Skellig.

From Wikipedia, the Skellig Islands are two uninhabited, rocky islets off the southwestern coast of Ireland. Skellig Michael is known for its well-preserved early Christian monastery. The site, reached by steep steps, includes stone beehive-shaped huts, oratories and crosses. Thousands of puffins breed on Skellig Michael during the warmer months.

In warmer months (May-October), when the weather is good, you can book a day trip out to Skellig Micheal, which is something I’d love to do one day.

Portmagee is a cute, colorful town, and interestingly, home to one of Ireland’s top toilets. Even though it was nearly raining horizontally when we visited, we still enjoyed walking the main street to check out key bits and bobs. And, in case you were wondering, yes, the toilet was as good as we’d expect- the best public toilet I’ve been to in Ireland.

Stop in Waterville to stroll the seaside. Here, Charlie Chaplin, one of my favorite filmmakers, loved to summer holiday, so you’ll find nods to him throughout town, including an annual festival.

Next up, we stopped in Kenmare. Larger than other towns around the ring, there are dozens of colorful cafes, restaurants and shops to peruse. Here, we stopped to stroll and grabbed a cup of coffee.

If we’d visited in non-COVID times, we may have spent a night here to take proper advantage of the pub scene. Also, in case you need it, there’s a clean public toilet near one of the town’s churches.

Finally, we ended our day with a quick stop in Killarney. We strolled around Killarney National Park for a bit, visiting Ross Castle, before driving through the town and stopping for takeaway before road tripping back to Dublin.

Killarney is, by far, the largest town on Ring of Kerry- if you want to stay somewhere with plenty of options, including large chains, this is it. Although, while being central has its perks, one of the reasons I like traveling around Ireland is to get off the grid, to spend time in a charming b&b in the countryside.

A few other interest points that came recommended, but I’ll need to check out on a return visit:

  • O’Caroll’s Cove Beach: The only beach bar in Ireland
  • Kerry Cliffs
  • Skellig Island day trip
  • Ballinskelligs Castle 
  • Ballycarbery Castle: Nearby two ring forts (Cahergal and Leacanabuaile) and the town of Cahersiveen
  • Derrynane House: More than a beautiful yellow house, also the home of
  • Molls Gap: In the Black Valley, pull off to the side of the road to take in wide, mountainous views
  • Rossbeigh Beach: Relaxed beach with stunning views of the Dingle peninsula
  • Coomakista Pass: A stunning lookout near the tip of the peninsula
  • Killarney National Park: Would love to see more of the park’s trials, as well as Torc waterfall and Muckross Abbey (a traditional mansion)
  • Abbey Island
  • Staigue Stone Fort: One of the largest stone forts in Ireland, Staigue is located on a hill surrounded by green pastures and herds of sheep
  • Reenard Point

Have you ever visited Ring of Kerry in Ireland? Is it on your Irish road trip dream list? 

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The Best Part of Life in Dublin: Sunset Cliff Walks After Work

Back when I lived in New York City, I’d consider any day I was able to go for a run in Central Park before or after work a highlight of my week. While I lived only a few blocks from the park in both my Upper East Side and Harlem apartments, this was also a time in my life where I worked both hours and with an effort that anyone would consider off-kilter.

More often than not, I wouldn’t make it to the park, and instead, find myself running through the streets. Which, was fine but no where near as relaxing as spending time in the company of trees.

In London, it was more of the same. I lived along a canal and enjoyed walking it a few times a week, but rarely made it to London’s lush parks.

Living in Asia, and in particular in Indonesia, changed my perspective on what’s important in life, and what matters the most in my life.

A few of my new non-negotiables?
Proximity to nature.
Ability to set boundaries that’d be respected at work.
Going on hikes with regularity.

Most people think I’m joking when I tell them Dublin is one of my favorite places I’ve ever lived- it’s small city energy with laid back living, friendly locals and an abundance of nature.

From seaside walks to plenty of parks, and mountains less than an hour away, it’s easy to spend time in nature before or after work, plus on the weekends.

Although the amount of exploring I’ve done in Ireland has been a bit limited, in line with COVID lockdown restrictions, my favorite activity are sunset walks after work. Whether it’s Bray to Greystones or heading out to the little red lighthouse (Poolbeg), I’ve found nothing quite restores the soul like time by the sea.

My favorite coastal jaunt? Hands down, the Howth cliff walk. Howth, Ireland is a coastal fishing village under a half hour from city centre- in fact, from where I live, it’s only about 20 minutes.

A trip to Howth means leaving a buzzing city behind for a few hours to explore a quaint village and stroll along Ireland’s spectacular shoreline.

The 6 km cliff walk boasts non-stop views the entire time. Even better, there are a few routes you can take, so visiting multiple time means a different experience. Route length takes anywhere from 1.5 – 3+ hours return, depending on which path you take and how fast you’re walking.

I’ve only been to Howth once, but can’t wait to return this spring once lockdown restrictions lift. On my visit, I chose to take the easiest path, walking out to the lighthouse before turning around just as the sun started to set.

When I visited, I drove from Dublin and parked in one of the upper lots near the cliff walk, but it’d be just as easy to take the DART or a bus to Howth, and hike up to the start of the cliff path from town. I visited on a weeknight, so there weren’t too many cars in the upper lot, but if you’re coming on the weekend, you may want to come early as I’d imagine the lot fills up quickly.

If you decide on the easy path like I did, expect to find it clear for the most part. There are some sections with clusters or rocks, and others that are narrower, so I’d definitely recommend wearing trainers (sneakers).

As you’re walking, stop and take in the view.

Sailboats floating in the distance.
Seagulls squaking, dipping low before soaring high.
Waves crashing into rocks below, foaming in the break.
Rolling hills with a teeny tiny lighthouse in the distance.
Bursts of color from wildflowers lining the path.
The sound of people behind you, laughter and conversation floating in the air.
Rays from the day’s final bit of sun, peeking through trees and tall grass.

Before you leave Howth, take a walk along Harbour Road, the stretch that connects the East and West Piers. Here, you’ll find picturesque shops framed by a rocky shoreline and Balscaddon Bay Beach.

If you’re visiting Howth on a nice day and have the time, pop over to the beach. It’s a rocky one, and you may not see people swimming, but watching the waves slowly break is the epitome of relaxing.

Along the main street, you’ll find more shops, cafes, galleries and pubs. Some say no trip to the sea in Ireland is complete without fish and chips or a 99 (soft serve ice cream). In my case, I was keen to get back to the city for dinner, but if I’m able to visit Howth again this summer, I’ll definitely get myself a cool treat.

I loved visiting Howth’s cliff walk for a sunset walk, the best way to wind down after a day of work. But, Howth would also be a fantastic day trip, which is why I’ve included recommendations for other things to see and do in Howth.

If you’re visiting Dublin and only have a day or two to see the city, I wouldn’t advise on making the trip- there’s plenty to see within city centre. But, if you’re returning to Dublin or have a longer stay and want to connect with nature the way Dubliners do, head out to Howth. On a sunny day, there’s nothing better than a walk along the sea.

If you’ve been to Dublin, have you ever gone for a cliffside walk at Howth?

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Gallivanting Captivating Connemara, Ireland’s Most Beautiful Region

Located on the west coast of County Galway, Connemara is widely known for its exceptional natural beauty. In this craggy region at the edge of Europe, you’ll find soaring mountains, gorgeous coastlines, quaint villages and majestic fjords.

Much of the region’s wild beauty is the result of its remote location, and often harsh weather conditions. Oscar Wilde once wrote of Connemara’s ‘savage beauty’, declaring it a ‘wild, mountainous country’, ‘in every way magnificent’.

Connemara is also one of the only places in Ireland you’ll find locals who still speak the Irish language. Today, Irish is spoken by a small minority of people as a first language.

While many Irish people learn some Irish in school, it’s becoming a dying tradition and getting lost with each generation. For those without Irish roots, you may wonder why the Irish language has faded over the years.

The biggest factor is English colonisation, who discouraged the use of it. Then, the great Famine hit between 1845-1852, tragically wiping out 1 million of the 8 million population. In addition, another 1 million Irish emigrated, starting a trend where more and more people emigrated to English speaking places, like the States.

While the rugged region situated north of Galway city has seemingly always been a popular getaway with locals, its popularity with foreign visitors is rising. Though, most coming to Ireland tend to spend a few days in Dublin, before road tripping parts of the southern and west coast before ending in Galway city.

Stretching just beyond Galway though, lies a world of incredible natural beauty.

My first visit to Ireland, our road trip itinerary took us through Dublin, Kilkenny, Cobh, Kinsale, Limerick, Adare, Doolin and culminated in Galway. While I flew back to London, my friends continued on through Sligo and then to Northern Ireland, but also didn’t spend much time in Connemara.

When I moved to Ireland, I knew it was a region I needed to spend more time in. Planning west coast road trip in summer 2020, we carved out a day to see some of the region’s highlights. And while a day was enough time to get a taste for what Connemara has to offer, I’d love to return for an entire weekend.

How to Get to Connemara

If you’re flying into Glaway, rent a car and head north. If you’re coming from Dublin, in non-COVID times, there are regular bus and train services from Dublin Airport to Galway City.

While it’s possible to get close to Connemara without renting a car, you’ll want to rent a vehicle to see the best of the region on your own time. So many times while driving through the region, we were overcome with the beauty of what we saw before us. Having the freedom to pull over and take in a view, or detour to check something out is seeing Connemara at its best.

Where to Stay in Connemara

On our visit, we spent the night prior in Westport (after having spent a day on Achill Island), and spent the night after exploring Connemara in Doolin, before heading further south to Kilkee and the Ring of Kerry.

There are however, plenty of beautiful places to stay in Connemara. If you want to stay somewhere with easy access to restaurants and pubs, take a look at places in Clifden.

What to do in Connemara?

Beyond driving around and just ogling the sheer beauty of the region, these are my favorite places to stop and linger.

Clifden: Ah, the picturesque town of Clifden. One of Ireland’s most beloved towns, Clifden is the largest town in Connemara and packed with restaurants and jolly, music-filled pubs.

We stopped in Clifden for a little over an hour, wandering around before getting back on the road, but if returning to the town, I’d love to stop in EJ’s, a historic pub that opened over 100 years ago on Clifden’s main street.

Drive the Sky Road: A scenic route originating in county Donegal and ending in county Cork, the stretch that contours the Connemara peninsula is breathtaking. Driving the road is simple, just venture along N59. Once you’re in Clifden, you can even rent bikes from Mannion Bike Hire to bike along parts of the Sky Road.

Connemara National Park: Nestled in the heart of the region, this state-owned, 3,000 acre park is free to visit and holds four of Connemara’s iconic 12 Bens, the area’s mountain range.

There are various trails around the park, including the well-known Diamond Hill. Offering widespread views of the region, the three hour hike loops toward towering Diamond Mountain. The trail offers three phases that range from a thirty minute loop, to the three hour one to its summit.

When we visited, we did the thirty minute loop, and couldn’t get over how incredible the views along the way were. On our way out, we also did the 15-20 minute forest walk, it’s so peaceful with hundreds of trees, gentle, bubbling falls, and even poetry attached to trees to read while on the trail.

Kylemore Abbey: Off of N59 close to the national park, you’ll find Kylemore Abbey. This Neo-Gothic castle or country house was built by Mitchel Henry in the 19th century as a gift to his wife.

If you’re either short on time or don’t feel like spending money on the entrance fee, you can still see the best views of the abbey and gorgeous landscape surrounding it from the parking lot entrance.

Fjords + Inagh Valley: Did you know Ireland has three fjords?

Near the village of Leenane, Killary Harbour is the most dramatic of the fjords. Extending 15 km inland, the harbour is one of three glacier fjords in Ireland. Twenty thousand years ago, you could walk on ice from here to Norway.

To drive into the fjord, you’ll want to follow R335. It’s a short drive- about 10-20 minutes from the start to the inner part of the fjord, and there are a few places to pull off and enjoy the beauty of the landscape. Keep an eye out for sheep- they’re often grazing on the size of the road, or tumbling down from the mountain side.

Before you leave the area, stop at Aasleagh Falls, a group of waterfalls with a mountain backdrop. It’s a perfect place to stop for a riverside walk or picnic.

Derryclare Lough: A small lake with dark waters and mountains in the background, the small island covered with trees in the middle is breathtaking. Look for the ‘Pines Island’ viewpoint for a place to stop and admire the view.

Enjoy other villages in the region: Each town in Connemara has its own distinct character, so if you have the time, don’t miss stopping in Roundstone, Ballyconneely, Cleggan, Claddaghduff and Letterfrack.

Have you ever visited Connemara? Is it a region of Ireland you’d like to visit one day?

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My Favourite Secret Beach in Ireland, Visiting Idyllic Ardmore

In only two days, Waterford County became one of my favorite places in Ireland.

Many travellers coming to Ireland haven’t heard of Waterford. Which is, in part, what makes it so great.

Vibrant street art, and tiny towns with ace coffee shops.
A greenway stretching miles and miles with soaring viaducts and fairy homes.
Ancient castles and ruins hidden in forests.
Tucked away beaches with damp seaside caves.
Morning walks in the mist, surrounded by rolling mountains and bleating sheep.

Known as the Deise, pronounced “Day-sha”, Waterford is named after the ancient Celtic tribe who settled in the area years ago. Dating back to the start of the 10th century, the city itself is Ireland’s oldest.

Although there’s much to see and do in, across Waterford, Ardmore is one of my favorite places. Known as a holiday village, Ardmore’s cliff walk with views of the craggy hillside and rolling waves is reason enough to visit.

Couple that with colorful, thatched homes, perfect round tower ruins, and classic seaside treats (fish and chips or a 99 anyone?), and it’s easy to understand why Ardmore rates nicely with locals.

And if you’re looking for a bit of luxury in Ardmore, don’t miss popping into The Cliffhouse Hotel. With stunning sea views from the terrace, pool and many of the rooms, it’s reputation for being the epitome of serenity is understandable.

A short drive from Ardmore town, you’ll find Goat Island, my favorite part of the area.

On the drive there, keep an eye out for McKenna Castle (formerly Ardoginna House). A beautiful hidden ruin in Waterford, it’s located on private farmland so be sure to ask for permission before exploring if you want to get closer to the castle.

Heading to Goat Island, you’ll drive or bike down a windy lane, where the destination is marked only by a single sign pointing ‘beach’.

Be mindful of turns on the road- it’s one of the narrowest I’ve driven on in Ireland. Twice driving down, I had to slow to let other cars pass. As with other narrow roads, don’t be nervous- you’ll find everyone is patient enough. Eventually, after a few minutes of driving, you’ll reach a small car park.

The beach may not be secret among locals anymore, but it’s ‘off the beaten path’ factor makes it a special venture.

After you park, walk down the sandy pathway that leads to the beach. If you’re visiting during high tide, the beach may be nothing more than a tiny cove.

Visit at the right time of day though (low tide), and you’ll be treated to a beach secluded by cliffs with caves and rock pools. With soft, golden sand and calm waters, it’s a ‘day at the beach’ dream.

The beach itself is secluded by cliffs, which makes it feel like a true hidden gem. My favorite part though, are the caves you’ll find beachside. Wandering inside them, and looking out at the ocean expanse, it’s easy to feel transported to the warm, salty beaches of Nusa Penida in Indonesia, or the Philippines.

Do take note, because of it’s seclusion, there aren’t amenities at Goat Island- don’t expect to find any shops or facilities at the beach. You’ll have to head back to Ardmore town to find food, drink and toilets.

I’d be remiss to say I loved Goat Island for its low key factor. The fact that it’s not well known or developed is exactly what makes it so special. At its heart, it’s a sandy cove where it’s easy to disconnect from the world and just enjoy a day at the beach.

Would you visit Ardmore and Goat Island?

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Irish Castles, Lush Greenways and Stunning Hikes: A Weekend in Waterford

Many travellers coming to Ireland haven’t heard of Waterford. Often overlooked, Waterford is, in my opinion, one of the best places to visit in Ireland.

Known as the Deise, pronounced “Day-sha”, Waterford is named after the ancient Celtic tribe who settled in the area years ago. Dating back to the start of the 10th century, the city itself is Ireland’s oldest.

What makes Waterford so wonderful?

It’d be an understatement to say there’s an endless array of things to do and see.

Vibrant street art, and tiny towns with ace coffee shops.
A greenway stretching miles and miles with soaring viaducts and fairy homes.
Ancient castles and ruins hidden in forests.
Tucked away beaches with damp seaside caves.
Morning walks in the mist, surrounded by rolling mountains and bleating sheep.

Driving from Kinsale to Waterford, we passed through one of Ireland’s remaining Gaeltacht regions, where Irish is considered to be the primary language.

On our visit, we arrived from the south of Ireland and returned to Dublin, renting a car for the entire trip. From Dublin, it’s a quick trip (under two hours) from city centre, and easy enough a jaunt to tack on to any trip that includes a stop in Kilkenny, Cobh or even Cork and Kinsale.

What to Do

Bike or walk the greenway: Hello, stunning aqueducts, gorgeous views, and sweeping coastal vistas.

Greenways are popping up all over Ireland, old railway lines are being paved over to make way for cycling and walking. The Waterford Greenway is 46 km (29 miles) of beautiful, flat road that takes you through eerie tunnels, over the top of stone viaducts, past rolling pastures, and in and out of towering trees.

As it currently stands, the greenway stretches from Dungarven to Kilmacthomas to Waterford City. If you’re hoping to stop somewhere for a refreshment along the way, Kilmacthomas has an array of cafes and coffee shops. Personal favorite from our stay: Couch House Coffee, with loads of indoor and outdoor seating.

We didn’t walk the entire greenway, but strolled parts of it for a few miles. My favorite part?

The fairy doors at either side of the path in the lead up to the Ballyvoile tunnel. Get close to see the details on them, but be careful not to stir the littles living inside. 😉

Go castle hopping: Once, Ireland had 30,000 castles, but after the invasion of Oliver Cromwell in the 1600s, most castles were destroyed. Even with most destroyed, there are still plenty of castles around the emerald isle, and visiting them on any road trip is one of my favorite ways to take a driving break and walk around a bit.

Our first stop in Waterford was Lismore Castle, a well preserved castle visible from the bridge (adjacent to a parking lot). The castle itself isn’t tour-able, but at times throughout the year, I’ve heard the gardens are open.

Nearby Lismore Castle, you’ll find Ballysaggartmore Towers, surrounded by woodlands. There are two different structures- both a short hike and amazing to see.

From the parking lot, it’s about a five minute walk to the first structure. From there, walk through the tower toward the path at the back. Then you’ll walk about ten minutes to the next set of tower remains. Both sets of gothic style buildings look like something straight out of a fairytale.

One other castle in the area you may enjoy if you’re nearby, Dunhill. The old ruins are what remains of a once proud castle int he Irish countryside. From the parking lot, it’s only a few minutes hike up to the ruins, making it a quick stop if you’re touring around.

Spend a morning in Dungarvan, an absolutely idyllic Irish village on the sea: We loved wandering Dungarvan, for its farmers market with lovely hydrangeas, the great assortment of lovely cafes (Cass & Co and Ormond’s were two favorites), and its general, small town, peaceful vibes.

We also received recommendations from friends to visit The Old Bank for good cocktails, in particular a lavender one.

Visit Waterford City: As evidenced by the Viking Triangle in the city centre, the city holds a ton of history.

We visited Waterford en route back to Dublin for a coffee break, and enjoyed strolling around the city, taking in the street art. In recent years, Waterford’s artistic flair has created some vibrant wall murals. We didn’t see them concentrated in any particular area, so we’d recommend walking around a bit. If you have time in Waterford, you could also consider taking a street art walking tour.

A few cafes we enjoyed popping in:

  • No. 9: Great breakfast stop
  • Blackfriars: Good coffee + good music
  • Arch Coffee: Fantastic flat whites

And, if you’re visiting during COVID times, where many restaurants and pubs may not be open or at limited operating capacity, the public bathrooms in the mall are clean and spacious.

Go for a morning hike at Mahon Falls: We’d planned to hik Counshingaun Lake, but the fog was too thick on the morning we wanted to go. Instead, we walked to Mahon Falls, an easy, short hike surrounded by rolling mountains to beautiful falls.

In total, it’s about 15-20 minutes to walk each way, and the track is relatively flat- there are a few inclines, but nothing I’d deem challenging.

Walking to the falls, we couldn’t see much- the fog was too thick. Although, we could hear dozens of sheep hiding in the morning mist, and that experience, of hearing before seeing was magical.

As we reached the falls, the fog began to break up and lift. Although we didn’t have a fully clear view, what we could see was absolutely breathtaking. And while some may say the fog wasn’t ideal weather, we’d argue that the fog enhanced the experience. Because visibility was so low, we felt like we were discovering things as we came upon them, since we couldn’t see them from approaching.

Coming back from the falls, stop at Crough Coffee for breakfast, or a cuppa to warm up from your morning walk in the mist. There’s plenty of outdoor seating, it’s the epitome of countryside coffee shop perfection.

Visit one of Ireland’s best secret beaches in Ardmore: Known as a holiday village, Ardmore’s cliff walk with views of the craggy hillside and rolling waves is reason enough to visit. Say nothing for the colorful, thatched homes and perfect round tower ruins also making the town an interesting spot to stop.

A short drive from Ardmore town, you’ll find Goats Island, a hidden beach where it’s likely you’ll only find locals. The beach itself is secluded by cliffs, which makes it feel like a true hidden gem. My favorite part though, are the caves you’ll find beachside. Wandering inside them, and looking out at the ocean expanse, it’s easy to feel transported to the warm, salty beaches of Nusa Penida in Indonesia, or the Philippines.

A few other stops to consider making in Waterford, depending how much time you’ve got in the area: 

  • Head to Jaybee’s Petrol station for a 99: It’s run and owned by a group of Amist-Mennonites, who have lived outside Tramore since 1992. The 99’s (soft serve ice cream) here are fantastic
  • Visit quaint seaside towns: Tramore and Dunmore East were two of our favorites. The summer carnival in Tramore would be lovely with kiddos, or for kids at heart
  • Drive along the Copper Coast: Beautiful scenes for a coastal drive, just as you’d expect. If you want to stop for a photo, park next to the Tankardstown Copper Mines
  • Stroll through Fenor Bog: Ideal for a sunset walk, the boardwalk leads through the bog and provides upfront access for bird watching, if that’s your thing

Where to Eat

Whenever we’re road tripping, we tend to eat a bit differently- stocking up on non-perishable groceries so we can have most meals and snacks in the car or at places we stop. We do this both so we don’t lose time driving around, and because sometimes it’s lovely having a sandwich while admiring gushing waterfalls or a beautiful seaside view.

That said, on this trip, we didn’t eat out anywhere because of COVID. In Dungarvan and Waterford, we popped into the places I’ve mentioned for coffee, breakfast, and snacks. But, we did spot plenty of pubs throughout the countryside in Waterford, say nothing for the dozens of restaurants you’ll find in towns and cities.

Where to Stay

In Waterford, I spent two nights at the Hallmark Bungalow, which sadly no longer exists. Location wise, it was right along the greenway, only a two minute drive from Kilmacthomas Viaduct, and easy to zip around the rest of Waterford.

As part of a B&B, it was fantastic value for money- we paid €40 for a huge bedroom and ensuite. Although Hallmark isn’t in operation anymore, I’d recommend using booking.com to find other B&Bs in the area. Instead of staying in Waterford city or another nearby town, I’d go for a B&B in the countryside. More peaceful, and with the kind of things you’ll likely be doing in Waterford, you’ll be driving or biking from thing to thing, so a central location in a city or town won’t matter too much.

Have you ever been to Waterford, Ireland? Would you visit one day?

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The Perfect Weekend in Colorful Kinsale, Ireland

Ah Kinsale, a charming coastal, fishing town in southern Ireland with relaxed vibes.

Cute and colourful, narrow streets wind throughout town- facades of bright green, pink and vivid purple abound.

Charming shops and cosy cafes line each street, and there’s no shortage of excellent seafood. Located town centre, the scenic harbour is protected by a pair of forts that used to protect Kinsale from battle.

For many, Kinsale begins their journey along the Wild Atlantic Way, as it’s the southerly starting point.

My first visit to Kinsale fell in the midst of my first time venturing around Ireland-  coming from Kilkenny and heading onward to Doolin. It was a fast paced, wonderful trip, but also meant we only had about a half day in Kinsale before continuing onward.

With COVID limiting overseas travel, I decided to take two summer road trips- one west, and another south/east.

Even though I’d been to Kinsale prior, I was excited to spend a night in the heart of town and have two days to see a bit more. Af the end of my stay, I even found myself wishing I could stay a bit longer- Kinsale is that lovely.

What to Do

Wander town: Kinsale is tiny enough to see on foot within only a few hours, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t spend a few mornings exploring all of the town’s winding streets, which are packed with bookstores, bakeries, flower shops, cafes, art galleries, and clothing stores.

Do a bit of shopping: If you’re like me, you won’t be able to resist popping into a few of Kinsale’s darling, local shops. Two of my favorites: Greenhouse & Other Stories, and Rain Beauty & Bath (ethical beauty products).

Enjoy sunset at Bridge Kinsale: A 20-25 minute walk from the heart of town, sunset views over the bridge are breathtaking. As the sun sinks below the horizon, watch dozens of fishermen and fisherwomen reel in their lines to check for the daily catch.

Drive out to, and hike the Old Head of Kinsale: The cliffs at the Old Head of Kinsale may not be as high or rugged as the Cliffs of Moher or Kilkee Cliffs, but they’re no less beautiful. Rugged, with rocks jutting out into the clear sea, walking the seaside trial along the cliffs is a beautiful way to spend a few hours.

Head to Cobh for an Afternoon: Last port of call for the Titanic, Cobh is a beautiful town in the south of Ireland to spend an afternoon in. Known for its cathedral, the tallest in the country, Cobh is full of other surprises- like it’s colourful deck of cards homes, similar to San Francisco’s pained ladies. We only spent a few hours in Cobh, but enjoyed wandering the seaside and picnicing along the waterfront.

Day trip to Mizen Head: If you’re lucky to have clear, sunny weather, venture two hours to the very edge of Europe, where sea blends with sky. Mizen Head is the tip of Ireland’s most southwesterly peninsula. From photos I’ve seen, it’s absolutely stunning. I tried driving out en-route to Kinsale, but was thwarted by unexpected fog.

Plus, en-route, you’ll pass lovely villages, like Clonakilty, Skibbereen and Baltimore. If you stop in Clonakilty, don’t miss the Blue Flag beach, or the Galley Head lighthouse at the Long Strand.

Where to Have Coffee:

  • Poet’s Corner – The Reading Cafe: As the name suggests, great for a spot of reading, and a place to exchange books, if that’s your fancy
  • Cosy Cafe: Great spot for breakfast
  • Kinsale Coffee: Namesake coffee spots in a small town always win
  • OHK Cafe: Very cute, great coffee drinks

Where to Eat

  • Lemon Leaf Cafe: The perfect spot for a healthy breakfast or lunch
  • Saint Francis Provisions: The spot for fancy cafe eats – do not miss the seasonal grilled cheese, it’s unbelievably good (mine had three kinds of cheese with green pesto and broccoli rabe)
  • Jim Edwards: Not just a hotel, but also a renowned bar and restaurant with seriously good eats
  • Fishy Fishy: The best spot for elevated, amazing seafood in Kinsale. The fresh fish and risotto can’t be missed
  • Dino’s: There’s a line down the block for a reason- the best fish & chips in Kinsale

Where to Drink

There are plenty of pubs in Kinsale, and while we popped into a few, only one stood out as an absolute can’t miss.

Dalton’s Bar is the spot for traditional Irish music- it’s the best spot in town to listen over a few pints. Some nights are sing-a-long, and even if they’re not, you’ll love relaxing in the midst of the pub’s cozy interior- there’s a crackling fireplace, and plush wooden chairs.

If you’re looking for more than one pub to try- we also liked Oscar Madisons, Kitty O Se’s, The Tap Tavern, and the Folk House Bar for a coupla pints.

Where to Stay

My first time in Kinsale, we stayed at the Valley View B&B, which was okay. By comparison to some of other B&Bs we stayed at on our roadtrip, it fell short in a few regards (small rooms, no breakfast time flexibility, and a small window and small fan- read: a very warm room). However, the owner was nice, and the view from our window of the surrounding countryside was stunning. On that trip, we took a taxi into town for the evening so we’d be able to drink at pubs, and had no problem getting one back to our B&B at the end of the night.

On my second visit, I opted to stay town centre at Pier House Boutique. It was a bit of a splurge, but ultra comfortable- the beds were so plush, we loved having a balcony with water views, and the location was unbeatable- right across from a large parking lot, smack in the centre of town.

Have you ever been to Kinsale? Is it on your list of places to visit someday in Ireland?

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Exploring Achill Island, Ireland’s Hidden Gem

Oh Achill Island.

A place where sheep rule the roads.

The biggest of the Irish Islands, and the most populated, likely because of easy access between the island mainland.

Lest we forget to mention, one most beautiful beaches I’ve seen in Europe.

Achill Island was a place I didn’t even know I needed to visit until I moved to Ireland.

Planning a west coast trip in early July 2020 was a bit of a last minute affair.

COVID-19 cases in Ireland had been on the decline for months, and holding steady at only ~10-20 new cases per day for weeks.

Things appeared to be going so well, the government moved up reopening plans. And, mid-July, we decided to plan a trip West, committing to take every possible precaution to avoid contact with others.

// 10 Tips for Traveling Safely in 2020 //

Over the course of a week, we drove from Westport to Doolin, then further south to Dingle and the Ring of Kerry.

Was it a lot to see and do in only a week?
Sure was, but when there’s sunny days in Ireland and sunset at 10:30 pm, you take full advantage.

From Dublin, we left early morning and drove straight to Achill, arriving just in time for lunch. As you drive onto the island, road signs alert you to the fact you’re entering an Irish Speaking Region: An Ghaeltacht.

Achill is virtually unknown to tourists. It’s often omitted in the tourist guides about Ireland, and there are no tours available from Dublin.

But, it’s got so much to offer- natural beauty with rugged coastline, mountainous peaks, and in my opinion, the most spectacular beach in Ireland.

Cresting over the hill adjacent just beyond Keel Lough, when a small town (Dooagh) came into sight, it was immediate Scandi vibes- Norway meets Faroe, but Irish.

Those vibes only intensified in our time exploring Achill- more than once I remarked how the ruggedness of the island reminded me of photos I’ve seen of the Faroe Islands, and parts of northern Norway.

Achill is without a doubt one of the most spectacular spots in Ireland. It’s the beauty of the ‘wild Atlantic way,’ but without the crowds.

Driving onto Achill, we knew our first stop would be at the far end of the island- Keem Bay. With the sun peaking through intermittent clouds, we were keen to get to Keem.

Coming over the hill that leads to Keem Bay, it’s hard not to do a double-take and ask yourself if you’ve been transported out of Ireland to somewhere far more tropical.

Aloud, I compared the water colour and mountain silhouettes to that of which I’d savoured from a hammock on an Indonesian island.

Once you arrive in Keem Bay, pull off and park in the overhead lot. Take in the views, use the restroom if you need to, and then walk down to the beach.

Here, you’ll find the postcard perfect view Achill is famous for.

Beyond being a beautiful place to sit on a beach or stroll the water’s edge, you can also hike around the bay for incredible coastline views.

After a picnic lunch and an afternoon lounging in the sun, we backtracked across Achill Island to visit Keel Bay.

Different to Achill, Keel Bay’s beach is long and flat. The waves in this part of the island are perfect for surfing, and we really enjoyed strolling the beach, watching surfers catch the last afternoon breaks.

The beaches and walking trails on Achill may be great, but it wouldn’t be Ireland without castle-esque ruins. Before leaving Achill for the day, of course, we had to visit Grace O’Malley’s Castle, Kildavnet Tower.

From Achill Island’s tourism site, the place name, Kildavet, literally means ‘the small church of Davnet’ and refers to the 7th Century saint Dympna, who built a small church here.

 

People believe the current remains of a small church at Kildavnet were built on the site of the original. Some of the current ruins are thought to date from the 12th Century, though there has been much renovation since.

Nonetheless, a beautiful sight to see before ending your time on Achill.

When we visited Achill, we lucked out with the weather- that’s for sure. We’d originally planned 2-3 days in Achill, not knowing if we’d see blue skies- even in summer, weather can be finicky because of proximity to the ocean.

Since we had such great weather on our first day and spent the better part of the day roaming beaches and walking trails, we moved on to other parts of the west coast on our second day. However, I’d definitely return to Achill for a full weekend- it’s an incredible place.

Leaving Achill, we stopped for a stroll through Newport, because no such thing as too many small Irish towns.

Our destination for the night was Westport.

Only an hour from Achill, it’s a great option if you want to stay near amenities- stores, grocery shops, restaurants and cafes. You could stay on Achill- there are a few b&b’s, but we chose to stay in Westport because more places were open with COVID restrictions just beginning to lift.

If you do decide to stay on Achill, restaurants and pubs that came recommended to us:

  • Pure Magic Lodge: Wood-fired pizzas
  • The Amethyst: Quality pub
  • The Annex: Perfect for post-beach pints
  • The Valley House: Lovely outdoor beer garden

Westport’s town centre is a prime example of Georgian-style – read: beyond charming.

We loved wandering the town’s streets, spotting all of its treasures- a bubbling river with a stone arched bridge; a tiny house covered in ivy; vivid flowers in dotted throughout the streets; and bright, coffee shops with gorgeous design details.

If you’re in the mood for pizza, we dug Westport Woodfire. And, for morning coffee, This Must Be the Place is absolutely lovely.

We didn’t stop in any pubs, because COVID, but I’ve heard Matt Molly’s Pub is famous for its Chieftains-member owner. Michell Henry’s restaurant also came highly recommended for its home cooked Irish food.

Lodging wise, we stayed at a hotel on the quay, outside of city centre and would 10/10 recommend the area.

There’s a cute street full of shops, but inarguably, the best part of the quay are the walking paths with mountains in the distance and waterside views.

Westport’s been voted Ireland’s most liveable town, and it’s easy to see why after only a few hours exploring town and its quay.

If I ever return to Achill, or to Westport to cycle the Great Western Greenway, I’d love to see more of Westport, as well as Ballycroy National Park with its panoramic views of the Nephin Beg Mountain Range.

Have you ever heard of Achill Island? Would you visit this dreamy island on a trip to Ireland?

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Ireland’s Far Less Visited, Yet Stunning Cliffs: Kilkee Cliffs

You’d be hard pressed to find anyone visiting Ireland for the first time that isn’t interested in seeing the Cliffs of Moher.

Waves crashing into rocks, cliff edges towering overhead, The Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s most visited and unique attractions.

Part of a dramatic stretch of coastline, 14 km of cliffside trail in total, the cliffs draw thousands of visitors yearly.

Millions of years ago, the area where the cliffs are today was the mouth of a large river. Over time, floods, sand and mud were washed to the area to become the compressed rocks the cliffs are today.

On my second visit to Ireland, at the end of May, we drove around the country, and of course, planned a stop at the cliffs. We were fortunate to have great weather, visiting on a beautiful, sunny day when wind was light.

We lucked out with fantastic weather, and as such, visited the cliffs early, predicting the cliffs would be quite busy as the day went on. Sure enough, as we were leaving around 11 am (after spending a few hours hiking along the cliffs, watching birds soaring and waves crashing), there were dozens upon dozens of people milling about the cliff paths.

I wouldn’t say a lot of visitors make the cliffs an unpleasant experience- because the hiking area is so large, it’s easy to head somewhere less crowded, but it’s also not ideal in the sense that, when I go on a hike or spend time in nature, I prefer to be as close to alone as possible. Especially somewhere as beautiful as the Cliffs of Moher.

All said, the Cliffs of Moher attract millions of visitors each year for good reason- they’re beyond beautiful. And, with increases in tourism to Ireland each year, it’s getting harder and harder to find dramatic landscapes – especially seaside – that aren’t swarming with people.

Enter: County Clare, and more specifically, Kilkee Cliffs.

Clare, a county located on Ireland’s west coast, is located along the Wild Atlantic Way.

Terrain across Clare varies from rugged coastline to rolling countryside to dramatic cliffs, to out of this world landscapes, to castle ruins- it’s quintessential Ireland.

In Clare’s, Kilkee, you’ll find the Kilkee Cliffs.

The Kilkee Cliffs give the Cliffs of Moher a run for their money. Just as unbelievably beautiful, the rock walls rising out of the ocean are hundreds of feet high.

The best part?

Nowhere as many crowds as you’ll find at Cliffs of Moher, and free to visit.

If you can’t find parking at the Diamond Rock Cafe, park along the waterfront bordering town and walk over. On a beautiful day, the views of town from across the bay are just lovely.

Once you’re at the base of the cliffs, you’ll climb at a steady pace (read: never too steep) for about 10-20 minutes. The last stretch to the top is the steepest, but the views from the part just below are the most incredible part.

If you’re facing the sea, to the left, you have the tallest sections of the cliffs, towering over the ocean below. And, to the right, horses grazing. Say nothing for the fresh sea air and sound of waves rhythmically crashing into the rocks below.

Another reason I love the Kilkee Cliffs?

They’re on the Loop Head peninsula, which is full of tiny towns and scenic views to check-out.

We’d originally planned on spending a day driving the peninsula on our first visit to Kilkee, but were lured away by the last day of ‘good weather’ to head to Dingle early to see what we could.

No doubt I’ll be back to the Loop Head peninsula, and when I return, I’m excited to check out:

  • Kilkee: We drove through this charming town of 1,000, but I’d love to spend more time wandering its cute streets, popping into a few shops and cafes
  • Lighthouse: The Loop Head Peninsula lighthouse is coastal perfection, and Star Wars fans, it was a filming location for Episode 8: The Last Jedi
  • Small towns among the peninsula- Kilbaha, Carrigaholt and Riverside, all of which have smaller populations than Kilkee, but are everything you’d imagine tiny Irish towns to be
  • Taste some of Ireland’s famous fresh seafood- I’ve been told The Long Dock in Carrigaholt has great eats and fantastic ice cream

Have you ever visited Ireland? Would you add the Loop Head peninsula to your next trip to the Emerald Isle? 

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