Day 6 (continued)
Once we rounded the Ring of Kerry, we headed north up to a town outside of Limerick, called Newmarket-on-Fergus. It was there that we stayed overnight in a castle! Dromoland Castle was the name.
Seeing a castle was one thing we were excited about, but sleeping in one was the icing on the cake! Dromoland is a fancy, five-star hotel complete with a golf course on the castle grounds and numerous activities to take part in, including horse and carriage rides, bicycle rides, row boating, archery and more. The website paints this place to be like something out of a movie. And that’s just how it felt as we drove through the front gates, winding our way through the green expanse of golf course before pulling into the castle’s circle drive.
We arrived just as the sun was setting, so our plans for the evening were to dine in the five-star restaurant, Earl of Thurmond. After making a late reservation at the front desk, we were escorted to our room in the oldest part of the castle. The room was decorated in Queen Anne style decor — lots of florals from the bed spread to the wallpaper. The full array of amenities were available, including a safe and iron (which aren’t commonly found in hotel rooms in Ireland). The iron came in handy, since the Earl of Thurmond restaurant had a formal dress code. Wrinkly attire probably would have been frowned upon.
Once we made ourselves all prim and proper, we made our way to the restaurant — which was easier said than done. It’s easy to get lost in the castle with all the winding hallways. We may or may not have taken the scenic route to get there.
But eventually we did get there and enjoyed an uber-fancy meal. I had the Irish Sirloin. He had the Lamb Roast. And I polished it all off with a raspberry souffle. Overall, I’d say the Earl of Thurmond was delicious, but a little too uppity for my taste. It felt like I could’ve been dining at a table next to Prince William and the Dutchess of Cambridge, which is fine and all, but I like getting more bang for my buck at a place that’s a little more laid-back. Do note, though, that if you stay at Dromoland Castle, there are little dining options within driving distance from the castle. So your best bet is to stay on the grounds and choose from their dining options, whether you order room service or take it up a few notches at the Earl of Thurmond.
Call us an old married couple, but once we finished dinner, we ordered a glass of Guinness at the bar and went straight back to our rooms. Driving the Ring of Kerry all day was pretty exhilarating but exhausting, so we decided to turn in early.
Much to our surprise, however, our sleeping arrangements left much to be desired. Before I pulled back the covers of our bed, I noticed a distinct separation between one side of the bed and the other. Pulling back the covers revealed the cover-up. To make a king size bed, they pushed together two double beds! The room rate we were paying was 280 euro, and at a rate like that, this was the last thing I would’ve expected. Too tired to make a big deal about it, we climbed into bed without giving much more thought to it. And it essentially felt like we were sleeping in separate beds the whole night — which technically, we were! I’m not sure if they really wanted to give us the castle experience by having us play out the role of king and queen sleeping in separate quarters, but I didn’t appreciate it. And unfortunately, I was too tired to argue it.
We woke up the next morning, ate breakfast at the Earl of Thurmond and made our way to the Fitness and Leisure Center. Along the way, we stopped into a beautiful rose garden. Me and my flower fetish enjoyed feeling like I was in a secret garden. With no other guests there to explore it with us, we had the whole place to ourselves.
We eventually arrived at the Fitness and Leisure Center. Boat and bike rentals are free to guests, so we opted for a boat ride on the castle lake. Mikey took the driver’s seat, so I could take pictures, and we took a relaxing ride from one end of the lake and back. We paused to photograph some of the wildlife and admire the view of the castle.
With that, we decided to leave Dromoland Castle for our next destination, the magnificent Cliffs of Moher. The cliffs are located north of Dromoland Castle in County Clare. There’s a noticeable difference in the weather in that region of Ireland. It is much, much, much colder. I made sure to bundle up in layers — two sweaters, a wool coat and gloves.
Upon our arrival, the cold weather hit me like a slap in the face. And not to my surprise, the place was packed to the max with tourists. Of the places we’d seen, this was definitely the most touristy. A lot of pushy people who seemed like they didn’t have a courteous bone in their bodies… but, that’s beside the point. We eventually made it through the indoor museum, learning about the history and geology of the cliffs. Amazing to think that these cliffs were formed millions of years ago. They’re primarily made of beds of shale and sandstone. Mother Nature sure knows how to do her thing.
From there, we ventured back into the cold to see the cliffs first-hand. Nothing but pure beauty!
We could’ve walked on top of the cliffs and peered over the edge without any sort of railing to prevent us from falling. But I’m not that adventurous. And it was cold. And I was getting hungry. So we piled back into the car and headed to the small village of Doolin for lunch.
Doolin is renowned in Ireland for its traditional Irish music. I wish we could’ve visited in the evening when trad musicians were actually playing. But since were there during the day, we didn’t get to sample the great music — just the great food! O’Connor’s pub served up a hearty helping of Irish Stew that was so utterly delicious, I still think about it today. The place was buzzing with tourists, so if you plan to visit Doolin, beware of that. Be sure to order at the bar too. We made the mistake of sitting at a table and waiting for a server for a while. Eventually, a waitress came over and clued us in to the ordering process.
O’Connors is surrounded by tiny tourist shops too, so before we departed Doolin, we did stop into a souvenir shop to look around while our food settled. Then, it was back to navigating the Irish countryside, heading north to Salthill, a resort town just outside of Galway.
The drive up to Galway is a very interesting one. What I didn’t realize was that we were driving through a region of Ireland called The Burren. “The Burren” means “great rock”, and its terrain is very interesting. Its rolling hills are composed of limestone pavements with criss-crossing cracks. This criss-crossing effect creates isolated rocks called “clints”. This type of landscape is known as karst-landscape, and The Burren is home to one of the largest in the world.
Once we made our way through The Burren, we inched closer and closer to Salthill on the map. Our hotel, Salthill Hotel, soon came into view alongside Galway Bay. We were happy to nestle into our hotel room after the long drive.
For dinner that night, we decided to walk along the Salthill Promenade to the area of shops, pubs, restaurants and casinos not far from the hotel. The Promenade is a walkway along Galway Bay that stretches far from Salthill to the city centre of Galway. It was a nice walk along the bay, even though we couldn’t see much of it in the dark. We first stopped into a pub called O’Connors for a drink before walking a few more steps to a diner called the Galleon for dinner. It was a nice, cozy place to recap the day’s events before walking back to the Promenade for one last stroll by the bay.
When we curled into bed for the evening, I made sure to update our travel journal with the day’s happenings. Mikey’s Grandma Riley had given us an Irish Blessings Journal for us to take with us on our trip, and I thought it would be a good way to keep track of all the things we did. Mikey even made a few notes himself. Much of this blog will hold our Ireland memories, but in some ways, it’s still more official to put it in actual handwriting.
From there, it was lights out until the sun rose over the Galway Bay. Stay tuned for our Day 8 adventures in Galway City and our return to Dublin.