We’ll always have fond memories of Ireland because it was our honeymoon! To write this, we had to spend some time reminiscing about March 2017. We love a good self-driven road trip, and this one just happened to be spent mostly hugging the coast of the lower half of the Republic of Ireland.
Fun fact: Ireland was Abe’s first time out of the country, and boy has he developed a love of travel since! For our readers from the United States, Ireland is an excellent first country to visit if you haven’t traveled internationally before. People are amicable and helpful, everyone speaks English, and the country will not be a “shock” to your system.
Upon landing in Dublin at about 5:00 AM, we grabbed a bite to eat, picked up some maps at the travel info desk (which was open), and rented our vehicle! We set up the rental ahead of time and decided that, due to the opposite side of the road driving, Abe would be behind the wheel. While hand controls were available, we didn’t need them.
That first day was jam-packed! We visited the Book of Kells, Trinity Library, and the all-important Guinness Storehouse! After all, we arrived in Dublin on Abe’s birthday, so we had to grab a proper pint! Interested in visiting the Guinness Storehouse? Here’s their accessibility guide.
Lessons Learned: There is no place to practice driving, so come mentally prepared to drive on the opposite side of the road and car (for our American readers). The elevator for the Book of Kells and Trinity Library is tiny, which may be an issue for powerchairs, and requires a guide to operate. Also, the Guinness Storehouse closes early during the week, so plan accordingly!
We left Dublin and made our way to Waterford, by way of a quick stop at Kilkenny Castle. The behind the scenes tour of the Waterford Crystal Factory was fascinating. Simplest thing we can say? It’s fully accessible, everything is gorgeous, and it’s not a place to be a bull in a china shop (think $13,000 mirror)!
Rock of Cashel/ Cork
After departing Waterford, we made our way over to Cork by way of the Rock of Cashel. While we were able to make it up to the grounds, it isn’t the easiest to manage. Then again, the Rock of Cashel, which was the traditional seat of the Kings of Munster for several hundred years before the Norman invasion, dates back to the 12th century. Nevertheless, Cashel guides helped us get up to the site and granted us access to “more accessible routes.” It’s definitely worth calling ahead to notify them of any accommodations you may need because this is worth seeing. So much history!
In Cork, we visited the English Market (couldn’t ever find an elevator to the second level), walked around town, listened to a hurdy gurdy, did some shopping, and took an impromptu drive to Blarney Castle. While Blarney Castle itself is not wheelchair accessible, the surrounding gardens are. And, since we entered the grounds towards the end of the day, it was free!
Ah, Killarney. If we were to go back to Ireland (which we’re planning on doing at some point), we’re definitely spending a significant amount of time here.
On this trip, Killarney is the only place where we stayed for two consecutive nights, and it wasn’t enough!
It was here that we went horseback riding in Killarney National Park, celebrated Saint Paddy’s Day, and did a rush drive of the Ring of Kerry. Note: This is a hot spot, but we visited in the middle of March, the off-season. We also did a lot of the drive in reverse, so we didn’t get stuck behind what tour buses were operating. Also, because we did a self-drive, we could stop wherever and whenever we wanted to!
Lessons Learned: Saint Paddy’s Day, outside of Dublin, is a low-key affair. Plan to devote at least two days to drive the Ring of Kerry. Ireland closes early, especially on the weekends, with pubs and restaurants opening again around 8:00-9:00 PM!
Dromoland Castle, Newmarket-on-Fergus, Co. Clare
We definitely splurged on an overnight stay at Dromoland Castle, eating and sleeping like a king and queen for a night. There is a flight of stairs up the regal entrance, but they have a lift for wheelchair access. Our room was larger than our apartment, and it was a fair hike from one end of the bathroom to the other! There was a step up to the bathroom in our “accessible” room, so calling ahead is advisable. Our dinner at the Earl of Thurmond, a Michelin star restaurant in the hotel, was decadent and delicious (even if Abe had to don the monkey suit since dining attire is semi-formal)! The luxury accommodation offers a slew of activities (for an extra fee, of course), including a horse-drawn carriage ride throughout the property that we recommend.
Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare
Enter the Cliffs of Moher where Maggie almost got blown off the edge (just kidding, well not really) because of the high winds. There are a few accessible paths that offer spectacular views. We happened to visit on a very windy and rainy afternoon (it is Ireland after all), which made the steep paths slippery. So, hold onto someone or something. That being said, it is a must-see, just hang on tight! Here’s specific information about accessibility at the Cliffs of Moher.
Our last stop before returning to Dublin, Galway, is a fascinating port city with charming pedestrian-only streets and a plethora of eateries. Maggie tried fish and chips for the first time but was not a fan. This was another cold rainy day, so we just explored the shops and sites, including the Spanish Arch.
Lesson Learned: If you visit Ireland in the off-season, make sure you bundle! Maggie is always cold and could have used her long-underwear on most of the trip.
We ended our trip where we began, in Dublin. We visited Dublinia, which is an interactive history lesson on the influence of the Vikings on Ireland. The museum was newer, fully accessible, and loads of fun. Our last morning in Ireland was spent eating breakfast at the cutest bakery ever, the Queen of Tarts, with its eclectic decor and delicious food.
- We brought our accessible parking placard from the States with us. On our last night in Dublin, we got a parking ticket and a boot on the car! We wound up just paying the ticket since we had a flight to catch. This is an issue and something to be mindful of if you plan on renting a vehicle overseas in general. Each country is different, so do your homework about this ahead of time! Learn about the country’s parking regulations, and if you need to apply for a temporary placard.
- We had a mix of accessible and non-accessible rooms at each place we stayed in. But, that didn’t matter when it came to room size (apart from the castle) and elevator capacity. Rooms tended to be tight, even for Maggie’s small manual chair, and elevators were very small! Both things are items to discuss when booking accommodations.
- In general, when deciding if you should do a trip as part of a tour or on your own, make a pro-con list! There are benefits and disadvantages to both, and factors include accessibility, budget, time, activities/locations, and much more!
Well, there you have it! Our whirlwind trip! The Republic of Ireland should be on everyone’s bucket list of travels, and from the East Coast of the United States, it’s a quick 5.5-hour flight! The country is beautiful, has such a rich history, and its people will happily chat with you over a pint.
So, until next time, Sláinte! 🍀
Maggie & Abe