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Travelzoo Experience: Sister Trip to the Emerald Isle

One of the most coveted perks at Travelzoo is the Travelzoo Experience, in which Deal Experts and other employees take advantage of the same travel, entertainment and local deals we publish to our subscribers and report back on their experience.

The Emerald Isle. I truly never understood what this meant until my first day of driving through the countryside in Ireland. It's the kind of green that actually takes your breath away. My eyeballs, so used to my New York City cement surroundings, were practically popping out of my head at every turn.

Then there are the people. Everyone in Ireland is incredibly nice (even though many were a little too nosy about who I'd be voting for in the upcoming election!). Then there was the biggest surprise ... the food. Going in, I had no idea that Irish restaurants, even at the smallest little roadside cafe, would serve me some of the best meals of my life. 

My sister and I opted for a driving tour of Ireland in an effort to explore our Irish roots and visit a country that neither of us had been to before. The package we booked included airfare, hotels and the rental car*. Our eight-night tour took us from Dublin west to County Roscommon, then south to Galway, Killarney and back to Dublin. It was a lot of ground to cover, but it gave us a feel for what different parts of the country were all about. I'd encourage visitors to see the charming coastal towns like Westport. The Dunboyne Castle in Roscommon was truly spectacular, but very secluded and not the ideal stop for sightseers like us. Though, I'd recommend it for a relaxing spa getaway. 

There was something to love about every place we went, but some of the highlights for me included:

  • Croagh Patrick: According to legend, this is the mountain from which St. Patrick banished all the snakes from Ireland. A harrowing hike to the top was rewarded with one of the most beautiful views I've ever seen, including a chapel built by Patrick himself.
  • The Dingle Peninsula: The drive in was lovely, the town itself was adorable and the drive out was breathtaking. This is scenery that I have only ever seen in movies and it's not to be missed.
  • Ard Bia at Nimos: This Galway restaurant was one of the best I've ever been to. It had the most charming atmosphere and incredible food . I'd put it up against any restaurant in New York City ... no wonder they have their own cookbook!
  • Killarney National Park: There is so much to explore in this enormous park, but one gem stood out above the rest. We hired a small boat to drive us across Lough Leane ("Lake of Learning") to a small, secluded island known as Innisfallen. There, we found the remains of an ancient monastery where the famous Annals of Innisfallen were written.

*Very important disclaimer: Driving in Ireland is not for the faint of heart. I quickly got over my fear of the "other" side of the road, but it was replaced by a fear of the hairpin turns, narrow roads, fearless (crazy) Irish drivers and lack of streetlights at night. It was often hard to tell if the driver or the passenger was more freaked out. We actually decided half way through the trip that we would no longer drive at night, which ended up shortening the time we were able to spend in towns on our day trips. So, if you choose to drive across Ireland, please be aware of what you are getting into! Oh, and definitely get yourself a GPS.

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Tips by
Caroline

Deal Expert, New York
Friday, February 15, 2013
See more Tips from
Caroline Eber