Roadtrip to Ireland

February 27, 2013

Image and text by Gabrielle.

The roadtrip destination has been decided — I’m writing this from a Ferry to Ireland!

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but one of the reasons we ended up extending our stay in France from the original plan of one year, to the current plan of 2 1/2 years, is that we wanted to fit in more traveling. We want to A) take advantage of how geographically close everything is here, and B) make the most of the frequent school breaks. (The schedule in French schools is something like 6 weeks on 2 weeks off.)

For this particular school break, we had long daydreamed about going to Egypt. It’s the number one destination on our kids’ travel wishlist — and really, on mine too. The pyramids! A camel ride to the Sphinx! And it’s only a 5.5 hour plane ride away! But we weren’t able to make it work. Yes, there is instability in Egypt right now, but we’ve done our research and sought out trusted advice, and really felt like we could safely and confidently take our family there. So that’s not actually what stopped us. Mostly, it’s a budget thing (we’re putting our savings elsewhere at the moment).

So last week, we started dreaming up alternate plans and Ireland was the winner! Yesterday, we drove 2 hours to Cherbourg, a port city here in Normandy, then boarded a ferry (the boat is called Oscar Wilde!) last night at 8PM. We drove our van right onto the ferry, so we’ll have our car when we arrive. We booked two side-by-side cabins to fit the 8 of us and slept through the night. The ferry is big — not-cruise-ship-with-swimming-pool big — but big enough that there are restaurants and a couple of shops. So we’ve spent the morning exploring the ship.

The ferry lands at 2PM today in the Irish town of Rosslare. From there, we’ll be driving to our hotel in Cork and the first tourist spot on our schedule: The Blarney Stone!

I know very little about Ireland, so I’ve been reading as much as I can over the last few days. If you have recommendations or advice, please let us know! We’re planning to use County Cork as a base and explore from there. Ben Blair wants to see the Cliffs of Moher. And we all want to see Dublin. But we’d love more particular advice.

P.S. — I posted the image of Ben Blair at top about a year ago, but I had to share it here because I think he looks so Irish! I’m not actually sure if Ben has any Irish heritage — I believe his Blair line of relatives are Scottish and English. But my grandmother Lucille was an Evans and apparently, my whole Evans line hails from Ireland. (Genealogy is cool!)

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1 Grietje February 27, 2013 at 9:09 am

Drive around the ring of kerry, it’s not to far from Cork and it’s a magical route. Don’t forget to stop at The gap of Dunnloe. You can start this trip in Killarney.


2 Helen February 27, 2013 at 9:13 am

We are hoping to spend a week in Cork this summer – I’m looking forward to reading all about your trip.


3 catherine February 27, 2013 at 9:15 am

The Cliffs of Moher are obviously a must, but you should try your best to get to Killarney so you can see the Dingle Penninsula and the Ring of Kerry. My husband and I spent a week in Ireland two summers ago and stayed in Killarney. The town is beautiful!

Also, if you’re able to find an Aran Sweater Market, they make the most amazing sweater, scarves, and hats. The hat I bought is my absolute favorite souvenier from the trip!

The Giant’s Causeway is amazing too, but may be too far away for you in Cork. We weren’t able to make it there either due to time constraits, but I wish we had.

Another fun town we stopped in was Ennis. It’s adorable and has some great restaurants. We bought UK copies of Harry Potter there with the Celtic art covers as another souvenier!

Have fun!

P.S. Apparently if you are of Irish lineage, you’re supposed to make fun of “silly tourists” for kissing the Blarney Stone :D


4 catherine February 27, 2013 at 9:18 am

Oh, and touring the Guinness factory is definitely fun!


5 Jess February 27, 2013 at 9:41 am

I second the Guinness factory suggestion! Even if you don’t drink alcohol it’s pretty interesting, and they have a great display on all of the advertising over the years. Fascinating from a design point of view!

Also the shop is kind of hilarious, they’ve added beer to everything, even chocolate :)


6 carrie mckown February 28, 2013 at 12:30 am

Beyond the above comment about the Blarney Stone and the “silly tourists”…
In the mid 90′s after completing our trip to the top to kiss the Blarney Stone we were told by a the bus driver that the staff urinate on the Blarney Stone at each closing of the castle tour. I have no proof of this but it did cast a bit of nastiness on our visit. He could have been teasing us as “silly tourists” but be warned.


7 Kyran February 27, 2013 at 9:16 am

Cork city is beautiful! If you get down to the southeast, Waterford is lovely, with a cool museum about its Saxon history. Nearby, in Tipperary, is Cahir Castle, a truly authentic medieval castle. I’ve heard Cashel is also amazing, though I didn’t make it either of my two trips to Ireland. Dublin is a beautiful, lively, cosmopolitan city. The kids will love the mummified cat and rat in Christ Church cathedral, and the bog people in the National museum. Have fun, and enjoy the beauty of the place and the people! Try to find a live music session in a pub if you can. I found them pretty child friendly. xoxo


8 Lisette Wolter-McKinley February 27, 2013 at 9:21 am

I love how six kids does not stop you from having grand adventures. You are an inspiration to everyone who just decides to stay home because it is easier.


9 Linda K February 27, 2013 at 9:22 am

Take the time to go down to Cobh (pronounced Cove) – and their wonderful local museum. Most lovingly and carefully curated local museum I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. Cobh was the last port of call for the Titatic too which is woven in nicely. More importantly it was often the last port of call for most seeking a better life in the “new world.” The house are all brightly and beautifully coloured – it was my favourite accidental discovery of my 2-week jaunt around Ireland. Enjoy yourselves (and yes Ben Blair looks so Irish in that pic!)


10 Jess February 27, 2013 at 9:37 am

We ate at this restaurant in Dublin a couple of years ago –

You can look at example menus online – mains from 11,50 to 18 euros except the prime fillet of beef – and I can honestly say it was the best food I’ve ever eaten! I had a veggie risotto, which is pretty hard to get just right ie not boring, but it was spot on and a generous portion! Also when we were there, the atmosphere was light and modern and several tables had children with them. They do lunch and Sunday brunch too, my mouth is watering just looking at the menus! I’m willing to bet the buttermilk pancakes are delicious :)

Speaking of pancakes, one traditional Irish food is the boxty, a potato (surpise surprise) pancake. If you have the opportunity to eat at a boxty restaurant, do it! They’ll basically be serving a slightly thick savoury crepe (and sweet ones for pudding), but seeing all the different ways you can eat pancake has such novelty value. We went to Gallagher’s Boxty House in Temple Bar, it was pretty packed and atmospheric!


11 Jennifer February 27, 2013 at 9:45 am

Take a day trip to the Aran Islands if you can fit it in. It’s an amazing experience to stand on the edge of the world!


12 Katrina February 27, 2013 at 10:53 am

I second this. A day of biking around the picturesque tiny village of Inishmore in the Aran Islands is hands down my highlight from a trip to Ireland.


13 jennifer February 27, 2013 at 11:29 am

i third this!! it’s a wonderful experience!


14 Julie February 27, 2013 at 5:54 pm

I 4th this! This was one of my fave things I did while in Ireland. Lovely day. I actually did a “find” search in the comments to see if anyone suggested it!


15 Bridget February 27, 2013 at 7:52 pm

Yes – definitely hit the Aran Islands. We spent the night there. You take the ferry from Galway (another great port city). The island is beautiful. Also, we loved Killarney, Dingle, the Guinness brewery, Temple Bar in Dublin, etc. Don’t forget to try an traditional Irish breakfast. Not terribly healthy, but still good to try. And the Cliffs of Moher are amazing! Have a great time!

16 brenda February 28, 2013 at 12:39 pm

I agree with the aran islands . I am an Irish expat living in Boston. I am beyond excited that you are going to Ireland. Of course I am going to recommend my hometown of Galway City on the west coast. You can do the Cliffs of Moher from there as a daytrip, also get a ferry to the Gaelic speaking Aran Islands and Galway is a beautiful family-friendly walkable city. Best place to eat, right next to the city museum in the Latin quarter is Ard Bia, then walk the promenade or visit the really little sea-side aquarium, on a Saturday there is a farmers/crafts/art market. If you go to Dublin you must visit Dublinia a great educational and fun place for kids, mine love it, it is a virtual tour of Medieval Dublin and you should check out the Irish Design Shop in the RHA and visit the city centre Powerscourt Townhouse for design shopping- Article for homewares and Bow for clothes and Jewelry all from Irish designers. In Cork you have to experience the English market. Have a great time ! Eat, drink and be merry and enjoy the craic agus ceol( fun and music)


17 Lindsay February 28, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Aran Island was by far the best thing I saw in Ireland. If those are the only cliffs you see, you won’t be disappointed. It’s fun to do a little “hiking” around and see beautiful countryside.


18 sioux February 27, 2013 at 10:01 am

my husband and i honeymooned in the west of ireland. you made a great pick!

yes: cliffs of moher! spectacular and a little hair-raisingly high.

don’t miss: the aran islands. it’s very off season, so it might be hard, but if you can even only fit a day trip in (ferries from galway and possible someplace further south), go, go, GO! unbelievably beautiful and stark and the coolest 4,000 year old stone forts to explore!

also: the towns of Doolin and Dingle are sweet and off the beaten path enough that tourism hasn’t taken over. They are south of Galway, but north of Kerry.

enjoy! have a pint! eat lots of brown bread and spuds!


19 jennifer February 27, 2013 at 11:29 am

i second a vote for dingle. it is by far my favorite place in ireland! we go every time we make it to ireland.


20 Erin February 27, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Yes to Dingle and Doolin! I would totally do those before the Ring of Kerry (I lived in Dublin for a year). And tea and scones every day! Have a fantastic time!


21 Julie February 27, 2013 at 5:56 pm

A 3rd vote for Doolin. One of my other favorite stops other than Inishmore. They are on my list for traveling with my boys.


22 melanie February 27, 2013 at 10:07 am

We honeymooned in Ireland.
Looking back, the part we most enjoyed was driving the roads in the west and happening upon ruins of castles, abbeys and the like. If we ever go back, we will probably skip Dublin altogether!
So my best advice is to not have an itinerary at all- just drive and see what you can find. It’s magical!


23 Joan February 27, 2013 at 10:08 am

There is an amazing bookstore in Dublin…


24 Sheila D. February 27, 2013 at 10:10 am

I agree that Doolin is great, super music!
After the Cliffs of Moher, keep going up to Mayo. Take the Hawk Walk at the Falconry School at Ashford Castle — we’ve done it twice and we will probably do it again this summer when we visit family in Mayo, your kids will love it. Go to the beach while you are in Mayo — the Silver Strand or the White Strand, gorgeous! Pop in to Westport, a picture perfect Irish town.
Go to Dublin if you have time, but don’t make it a priority, the west of Ireland is awesome!


25 Maura February 27, 2013 at 10:11 am

One word….Kinsale! Best little town in Ireland!


26 Evelyn February 27, 2013 at 10:19 am

Yes, Kinsale is worth a visit. It’s a lovely town on the coast with great food. Very close to the town itself, guarding Kinsale from the sea, are James Fort and Charles Fort. Either one is worth exploring.


27 karen February 27, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Yes, I agree. Kinsale is lovely!


28 Heather A. March 1, 2013 at 1:48 pm

Yes, Kinsale! Love this town. Was a highlight of our trip of the Southwest of Ireland!


29 Mary February 27, 2013 at 10:13 am

Keep in mind that many Irish roads will require a slower journey than might the case in the U.S., so sometimes it takes a lot longer to get from one place to another than you might think based on mileage alone. Also, look out for sheep and cows! Once I had a flock of sheep run out from behind a rock outcrop whilst I was driving by. One ran right up the side of the car, did a back flip and kept on going–no damage to either the sheep or the car, but ’twas adrenalin-producing. I love Connemara (Twelve Bens-the mountains, not husbands; loughs with mountains around them like small fjords), but given places you’ve already described, I don’t think it will fit in your trip. Have fun.


30 Lavina February 27, 2013 at 10:14 am

I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and never commented, but I have to jump in because we went to Ireland just last fall and had an amazing time.

If you go to the Cliffs of Moher, make time to wander around the Burren, which looks like what I imagine the surface of the moon to look like. The wildflowers there are supposedly amazing in the spring (it might be too early for that, but still). Also around there is Poulnabrone Dolmen, a portal cave from the Neolithic period. We happened to go at sunset, and it was the most magical experience. Ireland knows how to do proper sunsets.

In Dingle, there is Murphy’s ice cream ( They also have a storefront in Dublin if you don’t make it to Dingle. I’d never thought Ireland was the place to go for ice cream, but I was so wrong!


31 Tracy February 27, 2013 at 10:17 am

I spent a semester in Cork during college. It is a wonderful city! See if The Gingerbread House is still there, on Paul Street. If you have a chance to visit Kinsale, it’s close by and absolutely charming. Little galleries and nice restaurants, beautiful little harbor. Ring of Kerry, Dingle Peninsula, and Killarney are breathtaking. Cliffs of Moher and Aran Islands are pure magic. Enjoy!


32 nicoledee February 27, 2013 at 10:47 am

me too tracy! UCC! what what! :o)
lived on barrack street – itll be 10 years ago in the fall. dang.

and gabrielle – to second, third, and whatever the other suggestions – i think you ought to try and make it the aran islands.


33 Heidi February 27, 2013 at 6:40 pm

Yes! The gingerbread house! I spent a semester in Cork and I loved stopping there for a snack on the way to tesco for groceries. Like nicoledee, it will have been ten years ago this fall…


34 Kate T. February 27, 2013 at 10:24 am

My husband and I surprised his mom with a trip to Ireland last year. It was awesome! If you’re looking for something cool to do in Blarney (besides smooching the stone), the Blarney Woollen Mills have beautiful knitwear. Some things are pricey, but little souvenir mittens are inexpensive.

Oh, and for the castle……..wear good shoes!! The stairs are murderously steep. I climbed up with a toddler in a carrier, and it was terrifying.


35 Alison February 27, 2013 at 10:25 am

My husband is from Dublin and we have family in Ireland. You will have a wonderful time! The Clifs of Moher are definitely worth the visit and I second the suggestion to Dingle. If you don’t have time for the Ring of Kerry, driving the Dingle Peninsula is beautiful.

Kinsale is a small village south of Cork with some neat shops and beautiful beaches. We also had good meals in Kinsale although unfortunately I can’t remember the names of the restaurants.

In Cork, there is the English Market which is wonderful. We enjoyed lunch at the cafe on the upper level.

In Dublin, both Trinity college (and the book of Kells) and Christ Church are must sees. Enjoy!


36 Emma February 27, 2013 at 10:44 am

The west coast of Ireland, including Galway and the town of Dingle and Dingle Peninsular, was the highlight of our trip to Ireland. Foxy John’s Pub in Dingle was fantastic – the tiny pub doubles as a hardware store!


37 ktbuffy February 27, 2013 at 10:46 am

I echo everyone above raving about Doolin. It’s one of my favorite little towns in western Ireland, and the live music seisuns at O
Connor’s pub are not to be missed. Just outside Cork, in Ballylickey, my cousin runs a beautiful four star country house hotel called Sea View House that is outstanding. If you can’t stay there, at least try for a meal– the colcannon is exceptional!


38 Kristi February 27, 2013 at 10:50 am

I greatly enjoyed eating & shopping at AVOCA in Dublin & the surrounding area. Visiting Powerscourt House & Gardens just outside of Dublin was a highlight of the trip as was the Guinness Factory tour & seeing the Book of Kells & Old Library at Trinity University (I even got to watch a cricket game at Trinity, but I don’t know if they play in February).

Everyone I met in Dublin were wonderfully friendly & helpful, but I was surprised by the amount of litter; everyone just seems to chuck their trash into the street there.


39 Lucy Mitchell February 27, 2013 at 10:50 am

Cead Mile Failte (a hundred thousand welcomes!) I think your route sounds pretty good. Cork is a nice city and from there you have all of West Cork (stunning scenery and you should get some nice seafood.) And theres Kerry, also beautiful, Kenmare there is a very pretty little town with nice restaurants. The roads are windy, be prepared for a lot of driving. The B and B’s in that part of the world(County Kerry and Cork) are more like boutique hotels (at least some of them are) and prob better value than hotels. All of the west coast is lovely really, Sligo and Co Galway too. I live in Dublin, any questions, let me know!


40 Aoife February 27, 2013 at 10:53 am

Gabrielle – I am thrilled Ireland won out for your travel plans. Being a Cork girl myself I know you will have THE most wonderful time.

How long is your trip for? There are soooo many wonderful stops to make throughout the country but if you are concentrating on the Southwest of Ireland I would really recommend the following trip through West Cork into the Ring of Kerry and up the West Coast to Clare then maybe onto the Galway, if you have the time and across the Dublin. It will get you off the beaten tourist route and into the heart of the stunning countryside. The rawness and beauty will blow you away.

I agree that outside the main highways linking the bigger towns and cities the roads can be slow so do factor in some extra time to really get under the skin of the counties you are visiting and avoid always taking the “bypass” around the towns. Don’t be afraid to take the kids into the pubs with you – it’s a multi generational thing – and the small, local places are best for a real deal Irish pub music experience especially at the weekends.

Here is my suggested itinerary for West Cork into the Ring of Kerry and onto Clare:

Cork – Kinsale – Clonakilty – Skibbereeen – Baltimore – Schull – Bantry – Glengariff – Kenmare – Sneem – Cahirsaveen – Killarney – Listowel – Cliffs of Moher – Burren – and onto Galway City and across the Dublin OR straight onto Dublin.

The countryside, the people, the chat and the laughs are what the real Ireland is all about – get out to the small towns and villages and enjoy!


41 Aoife February 27, 2013 at 2:21 pm

BTW please don’t think me crass for suggesting the kids go to the pub with you – as I know you don’t drink alcohol – BUT often it’s the only place on a long drive around Ireland that you can stop to go to the toilet and grab a bite to eat – the kids would enjoy a glass of 7UP and a bag of Taytos – now that is a true Irish pitstop on a long drive ;-)


42 Trish February 27, 2013 at 3:38 pm

I think Aoife has suggested the perfect route . As a Kerry girl living in Dublin (but who’s heart is in The Burren Co. Clare) make sure you visit the Burren perfumery and linnanes pub in Newquay and eat baked crab and seafood chowder . Then a walk around the “flaggy shore” . Look up the Seamus Heaney poem “postscript” to get a feel for the place . There is also a wonderful ice cream parole in the area , basically in a field :-), and they do marmalade flavour.

When you get to Dublin don’t miss the Irish Georgian house on Merrion square and the natural history museum, otherwise known as the dead zoo, accross the square.

A dart (train) trip is a must especially south along the cost as far as killiney . It’s much more spectacular than taking the car . DunLaoighre is a nice town to explore with a pier to walk on and lots of kid friendly restaurants .

Also, for your little kids a trip to imaginosity is a must . It is out of town bug on the green LUAS (electric train) line which is free for kids Saturdays and Sundays for all of March.

Lastly, if you fancy a bit of culture and are in Dublin on the 6th,7th or 8th , I am involved in putting on a version of Mozart’s magic flute which we have adapted for younger audiences which I can thoroughly recommend . It is showing in The Civic Theatre.

Hope you have a wonderful te exploring.


43 nicoledee February 27, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Aoife – after just a couple of weeks in ire when i did my semester in cork, i realized that pubs are just the place where everyone gathers. i remember kids lining the window to watch hurling matches on the tele when i was there.
nancy spains was a favorite of ours – since it was on our street! ;o)


44 Stacy February 27, 2013 at 5:47 pm

We lived in Ireland for a year with our family and the kids looked forward to a late lunch in the pub every Sunday after an outing. One coke each (no free refills in Ireland!) It’s often the best place to find economical food for a family that *tries* to avoid fast-food. A Sunday carvery meal is great!

I suggest you visit Newgrange — it’s older than the pyramids.



45 kimberly February 27, 2013 at 10:54 am

the Giants Causeway is a must. get there!


46 Janan W February 27, 2013 at 11:04 am

We visited Ireland while stationed in Italy for 3 years. Loved Blarney Castle. Hit up a few Woolen Mills (I have a crisp white duvet covered in clover). Cliffs of Moher are awesome and take a lot longer to get to then it should…those tiny winding roads. In Cork we found Turkish Delight (which we all tried but no one was very delighted with) And they really use NO seasoning in cooking. Really. So after a few bland-beyond-belief attempts (and a crazy Irish breakfast) we mostly ate at FishNChip shops and even a Chinese restaurant one evening. Have fun!


47 Kelley February 27, 2013 at 11:07 am

I went to Dublin last year, so many fun things to do there! I would highly recommend the Leprechaun Museum. Lots of fun activities there for the kids, and I came out with a lot of knowledge about Irish myth and folk lore. I was 21 when I went and had a blast, and all the other 3-10 year olds and their parents seemed to be loving it too ;-)


48 Lucy Mitchell February 27, 2013 at 11:07 am

I forgot to say, the kids movie The Secret of Kells is pretty good (age five to eight or nine) and would be nice to see if you are taking them to the Book of Kells. Also, if you are in Dublin, Christchurch will give you a picture of how old the city is. I live about fifteen minutes away and am not sure exactly what is exhibited, how shameful! But it was founded in the year 1030, and is very well maintained. Like some other readers have said, if you are stuck for time, it might be wiser to stick to the west coast. Dublin is a big city and quite expensive.


49 sofija February 27, 2013 at 11:11 am

Ireland, what a great choice!! I was there decades ago and still remember it so well. The people of Ireland were the nicest people I have ever encountered (this is coming from someone who has been to 17 countries in Europe). They love giving directions and helping you even if they don’t know the answer.
I agree with all the people who suggested Killarney, the Ring of Kerry,and Galway, with all those cool ruins and castles on the way.
Definitely spend some time in the pubs, the live music there is incredible.


50 Petra February 27, 2013 at 2:30 pm

Hi Sofija – I think I recognize you from your name and your picture? We knew each other in California, mutual friends of Andrea.


51 sofija February 27, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Yes!! How great to find you here.
Please stay in touch! My e-mail is


52 Stephanie February 27, 2013 at 11:13 am

Ireland, what fun! I was just there over the Christmas/New Year Holiday for my brother in law’s wedding. Mostly stayed in the Dublin area so my family-friendly suggestions are:

1. Viking Exhibit in Dublin called Dublinia:
It was great for the kids, very interactive and not too long. And it’s connected to Christ Church.
2. Malahide Castle:
I didn’t visit any other castle so can’t make comparisons, but I enjoyed it because it was fairly small (so doable for the kids) we had a tour guide which was great and then you can roam the garden grounds which even in the dead of winter where quite lovely. Also their is an Avoca store & restaurant on the grounds and as another reader commented is fantastic (it’s like the Anthropologie of Ireland!).

Hope you all have a great time, can’t wait to hear all about it!


53 Kerry February 27, 2013 at 11:24 am

Driving to Dingle from Dublin was my favorite part of our trip to Ireland. The scenery is gorgeous, it’s not as touristy as the Ring of Kerry, and you hear a lot of Gaelic on the radio and in town around there.

The Book of Kells at Trinity College in Dublin is a great stop. Oh and if you’re looking for crystal as a souvenir, bypass Waterford and go for a more affordable brand like Killarney Crystal.

And look for 99s! They’re little vanilla soft serve cones with a chocolate stick in them that nearly every gas station/convenience store sells. You’ll see a big plastic ice cream cone outside of stores a lot of times. I probably had 5 or 6 of them on our trip.


54 hugoandmathilda February 27, 2013 at 11:30 am

When will you be in Dublin?! I want to see/meet you! :) Well if not, enjoy x 6!


55 hugoandmathilda February 27, 2013 at 11:32 am

oh sorry, enjoy x 8 :) the parents as well…


56 Pamela Balabuszko-Reay February 27, 2013 at 11:32 am

I never know what I’m going to read when I click on Design Mom. Why do I think travel is so daunting? You just do it.


57 lynette February 27, 2013 at 11:33 am

One of the best family trips we ever took. I took my 4 month old baby along with my 4 year with us and I had never had my babies blessed so much by the priests as we stopped at all the old churches. Some of the nicest people I have ever met. I loved just sitting in pubs and listening to everyone talk in their native tongue that is slowly dying off. Everything in Dublin is amazing – we love the double decker bus tour!
You will love the Cliffs of Moher. There is an amazing restaurant in the village right before the cliffs that serve amazing vegetable crepes’ – to die for! Enjoy your wonderful trip of the 40 shades of green!


58 Emily February 27, 2013 at 11:44 am

How exciting you’re going to get to see so much of Ireland! I’ve lived in Dublin for nearly five years now and one of my favorite museums is great for kids – the Natural History Museum off Merrion Square. It’s a whole two floors of every animal you could think of. So many hundreds more recommendations I could make, but definitely think about picking up a few souvenirs from the Irish Design Shop (behind the Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre). Really beautifully curated and all Irish made things – and you can see the attached studio space of about 15 different designers – in a building that was once used for horses! Tons more on my website under the Dublin category!


59 Rochelle February 27, 2013 at 11:52 am

Oh, have so much fun. I love Ireland so much. The best part is just driving around the countryside and finding fun castles in people’s backyards! It’s crazy. The beauty of the Dingle Peninsula made me cry. The whole place is simply stunning.


60 Alice February 27, 2013 at 12:09 pm

I’m a local girl here in Cork, so I’ll be interested to hear your impressions! :)

Here are some ideas of things to see and do around here:
I’d recommend the coasts (like Ballycotton Cliff Walk & the area around Mizen Head which has a quirky little museum in the lighthouse), and the islands. Then there are the more woodland areas, like Torc Waterfall (that’s in Kerry), Glenbower wood and Currabinny. Blarney Castle is definitely worth a visit, and I like Camden fort (which occasionally has art exhibitions) and Charles’ Fort (which sometimes has re-enactments) too. Fota Wildlife park is a nice way to spend the day, but can be expensive. In the city, there’s The Gluxman Art Museum on the University College Cork (UCC) Campus, The Crawford Art Gallery, The Cork Vision Centre, The City Gaol and… the butter museum. (Yes, seriously.) :)

You might find this site useful:
Check the heritage page, in particular!

I’m not sure that everywhere is open at this time of year, and I’m afraid I don’t know much else about anywhere further afield, but I hope you enjoy your visit regardless, and I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that the weather stays dry! It’s going to be cold though! Good luck!


61 Lexie February 27, 2013 at 12:15 pm

We just took our honeymoon in Ireland over Christmas! It was AMAZING. We had the best time. We stayed closer to Dublin and didn’t quite make it as far south as Cork, but we definitely will next time we go.

To see:
- In Dublin we would highly recommend seeing the cathedrals. Christchurch, St. Patrick’s, and St. Audoen’s we loved.
- The River Liffey at night. Beautiful.
-Francis Street. Home of the antique quarter. Go early, the shops close around 3. Amazing selections!

To Visit:
-Newgrange (, a prehistoric passage tomb. It’s only about an hour or so north of Dublin in County Meath. They hold tours and will tell you all about the history of the area and then let you go inside the actual tomb. It is cramped but terrific. And the whole thing was built 2,000 years BEFORE the Egyptian pyramids! How’s that for history! It is also located near the Boyne River and the Boyne River Valley is just beautiful.
- Tara. On the way to Newgrange, stop by the Hill of Tara (, the previous seat of the high king of Ireland. They say you can see 3/4 of the country from there on a clear day. Wouldn’t miss this.
-National Museum of Ireland, Dublin. Great selection. The cool
thing about this museum is that a lot of their pieces were found right there in the city.
-Guinness Factory, Dublin. My husband and I do not drink, but we still made the trip to the Guinness factory. The seven story building tells the brewery’s tale with fun exhibits and big displays. You can learn all about the growing of barley, the importance of clean water, and the secrets to brewing (and pulling!) the perfect pint. It’s 100% kid friendly. They also have a cool vintage advertising display that I bet you would just love. On the top floor is the Gravity Bar from which you get an eagle eye’s view of the city. There’s no need to purchase alcohol to enjoy the museum!
-Trinity College. Visit the campus to see the beautiful Book of Kells ( they have on display.
-Dublinia, Dublin. A slightly corny but really quite fun museum of Viking History. They have fun interactive exhibits and cool displays. It clearly meant for children but my husband and I had a ball. I would definitely recommend this for a rainy day which you’re bound to get this time of year (or any time of year, really).
-Glendalough (pronounced Glen-da-lock), County Wicklow, is an Early Medieval monastic settlement founded in the 6th century ( There are ruins and they are cool. Bonus: two beautiful lakes nearby.
-Wicklow Mountains. On your trip to Glendalough you will pass through the Wicklow Mountains which are just gorgeous. Take R115 for the best views (

To Eat:
-The Queen of Tarts. I cannot recommend this place enough. The name is rumored to come from the Patrick Kavanagh poem Raglan Road. Their scones and the full Irish fry up is to die for. Bonus points if you purchase and mail me one of their adorable Queen of Tarts mugs ;) I didn’t have enough euro on me to purchase one the day we went and I’m still bummed about it. It would have been the best souvenir!
-A pub. Once again, my husband and I do not drink alcohol. However, due to lack of other options and the common time crunch, we found ourselves eating at pubs quite often. In the early evening a lot of the pubs are family friendly and the food is g-o-o-d. I would recommend going just for the brown bread, an Irish staple we have tried to recreate since coming back to states many times. We were unsuccessful. It must be an Ireland only thing. Just like the sad fact of life that bagels anywhere outside of New York are automatically mediocre.

Thank you for allowing me to relive our trip. We had the best time. Irish people are good. Truly kind and welcoming to travelers. Look forward to the spectacular Dublin doors – each painted a fun and surprising color. Also, keep an eye out for the literary plaques with small bits of text and usually an engraved picture (like this: Dublin is a writers’ city after all.

You will have a wonderful time, I just know it. We cannot wait to go back when we have children and re-explore our favorites through their eyes.

My apologies for my wordiness. Good luck! And stay dry!


62 Kipin February 27, 2013 at 12:17 pm

I did a study abroad in Egypt in 2010. I had an amazing time and it was one of the greatest learning experiance of my life. BUT I will say that Cairo is the most dangerous place I have ever been on Earth. I’m not even talking social unrest, I’m talking traffic accidents. There is no way to explain it until you see it. Defiantly a must see, but be careful! I recommend staying in Zamelek.


63 Sarah February 27, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Delighted you picked Ireland .You must definitely do the ring of Kerry, it is simply breathtaking and it’s very close to Cork. If you do go to the Cliffs of Moher, continue onto the beach towns of Lahinch(wonderful fish and chips in the restaurant beside the beach) and perhaps continue along the coast to Galway. Just a little outside Galway you have Connamara, one of the few places in Ireland where the locals still speak Gaelic, from there you can go to the Aran Islands. If you an try and catch a look at our local sports of hurling and gaelic football. Have a fantastic time.


64 Emily February 27, 2013 at 12:25 pm

My brother, his wife, and three small children (2 1/2 year old twins, and 7 month old baby) just got back from a week long trip in Egypt. It was less expensive than usual because of the instability there and they had a fantastic and very safe time. (He is a pilot for Qatar airlines and they live in Doha so it was fairly close for them but he said it was well worth it and they never felt unsafe.)


65 Emily February 27, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Hi Gabrielle, long-time reader and Dublin resident here. You’ve gotten some great suggestions! You didn’t mention how long you’re in Ireland for, which will really circumscribe where you can manage to get to — it takes a loooong time to get between some destinations, particularly in the west! I love Dublin, but agree that it’s really in the south and west that you’ll experience the most dramatic parts of Ireland :) My favourite places are West Cork, Dingle, and Westport (all great areas to visit with kids). I work in the arts/design sector in Ireland, and will send you my contact details via twitter in case you have any questions while you’re here! :) Ireland’s a terrifically small and close-knit country, you’ll find everyone knows everyone here, or just about!!


66 Petra February 27, 2013 at 12:32 pm

I’ve been looking at your Ireland pics on instagram and hadn’t seen you’d posted about your trip here too. We were in Kinsale last week, and I’m bummed we missed the chance to bump into the Blair family! Do take a trip to Kinsale, it’s about 1/2 hour drive from Cork, and enjoy wondering around the town which has pretty shops and restaurants. There is a sweet walk along the coast from Scilly (on the edge of Kinsale) to Summercove which is a delight for the views. Our 3 year old managed the walk fine so June should too. At Summercove, there is a great pub called The Bulman with the most amazing views (and food, and a cozy fireplace). A fun thing to do from Cork would be to take the train to Cobh, which has a good museum about Irish emigrants, and also a big display about the Titanic. My kids all found it fascinating. In Cobh, climb up the hill to the amazing St. Colman’s Cathedral – it reminds me of something Mediterranean the way it is perched hill-side. Another fun trip would be to drive through west Cork to Baltimore, where you can take a ferry to an island. We took the children to Sherkin, and spent the day wondering around finding hidden bays and ruined churches. Another eye-poppingly beautiful West Cork town is Glandore – absolutely stunning setting. Heading east from Cork you could visit Ballymaloe House and gardens, home of the world famous Ballymaloe cooking school. The tiny cafe is very nice, it has a lovely shop and the gardens are beautiful. When you visit Blarney, the gardens are quite extensive and fun for the children to explore. The village of Blarney has some nice eateries, and Blarney Woolen Mills is nice too. Lots to do, so many beautiful places. I hope you love it!


67 Petra February 27, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Oh you have to go to Kenmare in Co. Kerry too. Beautiful town. A couple of years ago when you posted about churches being converted in to houses I sent you a link about a church in Kenmare which had been converted into a restaurant (called The Vestry) where my husband proposed to me, and where we had our wedding dinner. It’s now been converted into a house, not sure if it is still for sale, but if it is, you could buy it instead of your Normandy cottage!


68 Erin February 27, 2013 at 12:37 pm

The Dingle Peninsula for sure!


69 Petra February 27, 2013 at 12:44 pm

Oh, and Ben does look very Irish! I love those peaked caps on a man – always make my husband wear one, especially when we are in Ireland.


70 Jill February 27, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Dingle Peninsula (fun to rent bikes in Dingle and tool around a bit) and Kinsale are our favorites! In Dublin, check out Cleo for spectacular & unique Irish hand knits.


71 Annie W February 27, 2013 at 12:57 pm

My husband and I went to Dublin about a year ago. We visited the Skerries Windmills just outside of Dublin and both agree that it was our favorite part of the visit. We also went to Malahide Castle which was pretty cool too. Dublin was amazing and the people there are so friendly!


72 Diana February 27, 2013 at 1:10 pm

You have gotten many great suggestions! My husband is from outside of Dublin, so we have done a lot of the touristy things in that area. I would suggest definitely Glendalough (12th century church and round tower) and Newgrange (totally amazing, it is an ancient burial mound and the entrance aligns with the sunrise on the winter solstice! It is older than the pyramids in Egypt, super cool) Pretty much you can’t go wrong, the people are lovely and it looks just like the pictures. Hit some smaller cities (Westport and Kilkenny come to mind). Also, many of the old castle have fantastic playgrounds, which is great to know. Malahide castle has a zip line!



73 Petra February 27, 2013 at 2:28 pm

I second Glendalough – it is simply beautiful, and close to Avoca too, also a great place to visit. Both are on the way to Dublin from Cork.


74 Alice February 27, 2013 at 1:18 pm

I love Ireland, I met my first love there at the age of five (our parents decided we were going to get married- sadly, we lost touch after, oh, a week!?), and the Cork area is beautiful. I’d love to go back again sometime soon though, you saying about how close everything is here in Europe really makes me think I don’t make the most of this!! Have a lovely time! x


75 Ellie February 27, 2013 at 1:29 pm

I have no travel tips for Ireland, but the Cliffs of Moher is where the Princess Bride was filmed:) Ben Blair does look Irish!


76 Áine February 27, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Hi Gabrielle! This is so exciting, I am a long time blog reader and am so excited you’re coming to visit my beautiful motherland. I currently reside in Cork and trust me you must visit the Farm Gate restaurant in the balcony of the historical English Market for a steaming bowl of chowder served with traditional soda bread, then for afters visit O’Conaills on French Church street (the richely historic old Huguenots quaters) for the best hot chocolate you will ever have! Cork is considered an artisan food county and the locals here really know their food. You are in for a treat!
If you fancy a quick trip then visit my home county of Tipperary to see the Rock of Cashel. This is referenced in many folklore stories here in Ireland and features on many adverts both at home and abroad to promote tourism here (you must pick up a book of Irish fairy tales for your family, they are amazing!) Close to Cashel is my home town of Cahir, here you will find a beautiful castle that has featured in numerous movies, Excalibur to name one. You will feel transported back to the middle ages by just walking around here.It’s about 50 minutes from Cork city so it’s quite close.
I hope you and your family have an amazing time, I can’t wait to hear about your adventures.
P.S. I’ve crossed my fingers that the rain will stay away during your visit ;)


77 ann February 27, 2013 at 1:51 pm

We really loved Glendalough in County Wicklow…

Also enjoyed Sligo, Yeats hung out there with a few society ladies who help foment revolution.


78 Pam February 27, 2013 at 2:32 pm


I love your blog and read it daily.

We visit Ireland often from Maine. We have several children and often have visitors from America visit us while we are there. All the suggestions above are wonderful, very traditional. One thing that our family always enjoys is a medieval banquet dinner at one of the castles. If you drive from Cork to the Cliffs you can go through Adare, a LOVELY little town, and continue on to Bunratty Castle for a banquet. It is a lovely show of traditional song and you even get to eat meat with your hands, like they did long ago! A win for all ages. Also, arrive early because outside the castle there is an old fashioned Irish “town” you can explore. Perfect for the kids! Lots of photo opps too!
Another bit of advice, you can’t drive from Cork to the Cliffs in one day. But, you don’t need to worry about making hotel reservations beforehand. Just look for a B&B sign and knock on the door and ask if they have a room/s available. I usually choose houses that look neat and tidy from the road. They often have a bedroom or two with several beds in one room. You’d probably get a way with two rooms.
Please email along the way if you have questions, I’d be happy to guide you. We have made many trips ourselves and have relatives that live in different areas around the country.
Enjoy! Good choice! I’ve heard the weather has been very nice so I hope it continues for your holiday.



79 Boni B. February 27, 2013 at 3:36 pm

If you want to do a little shopping in Dublin…. Avoca, is my favorite store. It has Irish goods for children on up as well as sweet stuff for the home. Bonus! It has a delicious restaurant on the top floor. It is only a few blocks from the tourist center downtown.


80 Ester February 27, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Enjoy the trip – Ireland is beautiful!
If you do the Ring of Kerry (as suggested many times), I recommend stopping in Portmagee to see if there are boats going to the Skellig Islands. I’m not sure they’d be running at this time of the year, but if they are, it’s definitely a place to see.
Just across the bridge from Portmagee is Valencia Island from where the first transatlantic telegraph cable was sent in the 1850s.


81 Ellie February 27, 2013 at 4:53 pm

Another vote for the burren. Take the coast road from lisdoonvarna to ballyvaughan. Amazing views! Enjoy.


82 Elena February 27, 2013 at 5:07 pm

I agree with Ester, Skellig Mchael is just so incredible. See my pictures here:

On your way to Dublin, you should stop and have a picnic in Glendalough, County Wicklow. It is magical there.

I love Ireland… The people there are the nicest. It is one of my favorite place to visit.

I hope your visit is grand!



83 alanna February 27, 2013 at 5:51 pm

When youre in CORK CITY theres ONE thing to do: walk up to st. Annes church, climb up the belltower and ring the Huge bells yourself!!! You might have to check the opening time though. You can basically play any song you like and youll have the greatest view all over the city and sometimes even the bay.


84 Marie February 27, 2013 at 6:09 pm

Gino’s for ice cream in Cork and drive to Kinsale, near Blarney, lovely harbour town and call in to the bookshop – amazing! Aillwee caves and Doolin are both near the cliffs of Moher and O Connor’s pub in Doolin is great for music too! And learn a cúpla focail too :)


85 Aoife February 28, 2013 at 2:28 am

Ooh another Aoife from Cork! I’m kind of embarrassed by myself. I’ve lived in Ireland, both Cork and Dublin, my whole life and have barely visited any f the places mentioned here!

I’m in East Cork which was already mentioned above. Just getting ready to head out to my weekly mum and baby group. This week it’s in Ballycotton which I’m so excited about because i’ts such a beautiful village. Bit out of the way but on the drive down I’ll pass my mothers flower shop in Castlemartyr (which reminds me, I need to change her window display!), Garryvoe hotel and the beach, Stephen Pearce pottery where you’ll find a lovely cafe and iconic pottery, Shanagarry Design Centre, where you’ll find another cafe and lots of lovely things to buy, Ballymaloe Cookery School where world famous chefs have learned their trade, a gorgeous shop and farm shop, walk around the gardens to see the animals (I recently did a one day course there and learned how to make butter, cheese and yogurt, and got to drink raw milk!) And maye if I’m lucky I’ll be able to buy fish from the fishermen on the pier, or at the very least in the shop up the road. Which is infinitely more exciting than buying it in the supermarket!
Fota Wildlife park is a favourite with my kids, as is the house next to it and the beautiful gardens.
Now I think I’m going to make a list from all of these recommendations and try to get to see at least some of my country this year!
Thanks for visiting and reminding me how lucky I am to live here!


86 Design Mom February 28, 2013 at 2:53 am

Wow! The whole family is just pouring over all these comments and suggestions. We’re so excited to start exploring! And so grateful for your suggestions. We can already see this trip won’t be long enough at all — there’s just so much good stuff to see! Thank you for your help. You guys are the best!


87 Megan February 28, 2013 at 4:51 am

I live in Cork now, past 8 years, from the States originally. Anyway, don’t know how long you are planning on staying but if you’re based in Cork, there are a ton of things to do and so many more you won’t be able to get to. But it’s beautiful and if the kids are ok with driving you’ll be able to see a lot. Based on numerous friends and family coming to visit and several road trips, the Cliffs of Moher are definitely must see (who wouldn’t want to see the cliffs of Insanity!). They are about 2.5 hours drive from Cork. Then Dingle and Slea head drive, it’s less tourist populated than the Ring of Kerry, both have their merits, but I think Dingle and Slea Head Drive beat out the Ring of Kerry. Around Cork itself, Kinsale is great and Charles’ Fort is fun to run around in. There are some great beaches around there with surfing if you fancy that. Surfing is a winter sport in Ireland and you just need some good wetsuits. I’d recommend Garretstown or Inchydoney beaches. Also out in West Cork is Drombeg Stone Circle, dating back to the Bronze age, with the ruins of prehistoric huts next to it.

Anyway I’m sure you have too much to do and see already. It’s a great area. Now you’ve got me thinking of doing the opposite journey, Rosslare-cherbourgh!


88 April February 28, 2013 at 5:13 am

Having recently returned from a monthlong trip to Ireland, I highly recommend your ideas. A word of caution about the driving the ring of Kerry: it is very curvy and extremly narrow in many places. Allow the tour buses and trucks the right of way. Dingle was a favorite as well as ennis. Great deals on wool items in all Aran markets however the larger ones have more variety( 2 for 1, childrens & household items). Make sure your cameras are fully charged. Locals depend on the tourists andare exceptionally helpful Enjoy.


89 JenReyn February 28, 2013 at 6:18 am

Yes, I second Christchurch in Dublin…the kids will love the mummified cat in the organ. Also, the book of Kells at Trinity college is so very interesting. We also loved the early man site at Newgrange…so cool! The Bunratty castle would be so fun for your kids as well. There is an entire village set up just like medieval times. There were women dressed up, baking fresh apple pie in one of the “houses” and the castle is so fun for children to explore. I loved Ireland and can’t wait to take my kids there this summer after our move to Heidelburg. Speaking of moving…any chance you could do a post on moving across seas. My husband is a BYU professor and we are doing a a sabbatical for 8 months starting in May…I’m kind of panicking about going with 5 kids…and a dog!


90 Kyran February 28, 2013 at 9:16 am

Thought of you all when I saw today’s “Dispatch from Dublin” on Poppytalk, and clicked through to the author’s Dublin-based blog (she also wrote the Design Sponge city guide) Looks like a fun resource. Hope you are having a wonderful time! xo


91 Erin February 28, 2013 at 10:05 am

I just got back from studying abroad in Cork, Ireland in the fall! I love Cork. If you get a chance to go to Dingle you should definitely do it. It’s a tiny little town with a really beautiful coastline. Also St. Finn Barres cathedral in Cork is really nice and the Cliffs of Moher are a must! Jackie Lennox Chip shop is known for it’s (cheap!) fish and chips and I probably went there once a week. They give you a LOT of chips and you can get them with garlic mayo (which is my favorite) or curry or other kinds of dip!


92 Tracy February 28, 2013 at 1:00 pm

I’ve no tips on Ireland and it is still on our wish list, but I can totally relate to the kids wanting to go to Egypt. Our boys hoped and hoped we would make it there before we moved back to the states. It didn’t work out, but the Egyptian exhibits at the Louvre, though obviously not the same as being there, were a pretty great substitute.
Happy Trails!


93 Claire February 28, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Ireland is such a beautiful place. I was lucky enough to visit there a few years ago, although mainly did the top half (we literally drove across from Dublin and then over the top and back down).

If you’re visiting the Cliffs of Moher, there’s a gorgeous tiny town really close to them called Doolin. We ended up staying a night there and had dinner at the tiny pub – it’s full of colourful buildings with thatched roofs and a short walk to the beach. If you like cliffs then further north there’s also some beautiful ones called Slieve League Cliffs. We stayed at a hostel in Donegal and the owners recommended them to us since we liked the Cliffs of Moher.

If you’re going even further north then the Giants Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge are both musts visits.

I hope you guys all have a great time! :)


94 Annie February 28, 2013 at 8:49 pm

I haven’t been to Ireland but my aunt runs a writer’s and artist’s retreat in West Cork near Beara so if you ever need to do a retreat to work on a project, look up Anam Cara.

I thought I’d leave you a favorite poem (you can always substitute Cork for Clare) that be fitting. It was read at a friend’s funeral and I love it:

And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stone
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you’ll park and capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.
~Seamus Heaney

Hope the trip catches your hearts off guard and blows them open!


95 Aoife March 1, 2013 at 8:20 pm

<3 Seamus Heaney – perfect quote!


96 Maike March 1, 2013 at 5:02 am

I wish you such a good time in Ireland! My favourite little country in Europe. Since you announced the trip, this comment section is overflowing and I am not sure if you can read all that is posted here.
Just try and take the music in. The people. The landscape. All the irishness.
It can be like a good therapy session. Life changing and all that.
Have a wonderful time!


97 Ma March 1, 2013 at 8:12 am

Rock of Cashel is pretty cool! I have some pictures of it on my site ( I also like Killarney.. it’s a very cute town. How fun… I wish I could be there, too. That’s where my husband and I want to take the kids for their first European trip. :D


98 Ann March 1, 2013 at 7:11 pm

I’m so sad I’m late in commenting on this but we went there so long ago it’s hard to remember (pre-kids). I remember loving Doolin and Galway. Tops. It’s all gorgeous though and such friendly people. We did a driving tour too and stayed in farmhouse b&bs except in Dublin of course. We visited family in the north and enjoyed that so much. We’ve been thinking of taking the boyz there soon so I will be coming back to these comments and saving where you went with your family.


99 Pamela March 3, 2013 at 3:00 am

we are doing this same trip next week! we are driving from paris to cherbourg to hop the oscar wilde with our 4 children! we are staying in cork, dingle and galway. i’m loving all the tips here from your commenters! looking forward to hearing about your trip!


100 Stacey March 4, 2013 at 7:31 am

Jump into the sea in Howth followed by calamari with lemon on the pier. Visit Avoca and pick up beautiful wool, and a snack of course! Have the kids do a jig on the Aran Islands… And have a beach picnic in Dingle (it’s chilly so wear your Avoco blankets and scarves)!

Have so much fun!


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