Ireland has its hooks in me!

All who know Steve or me know that it would be Ireland if we could be anywhere in the world today. We had planned to travel to Ireland this summer, but that has now become a 2021 trip plan. See Ireland – Making a Plan. I have decided to share the story of one of our memorable trips to Ireland. Yes, Ireland has its hooks in me!

This was a fun family trip. My sister, Charlotte from Oklahoma, flew to Shannon with me and Steve. My other two sisters, Marsha, also from Oklahoma, and Mary Ellen and her son, from Wisconsin, flew into Dublin. They all met us a few days later.

I should mention here that my sister, Mary Ellen, and her son’s luggage, were lost on the flight and never recovered. They both managed spectacularly with very minimal clothing, shoes, and jackets. Lost luggage is one of the air travel hazards.

I hope I never personally experience, lost luggage, lthough everyone should be prepared and have absolute necessities in carry-on bags. On top of that, their rental car broke down as they were driving halfway across the country from Dublin to meet us.

They were briefly stranded until a new car was provided. Great customer service from the rental car company! Although this trip was not without challenges for them, they were great sports and did not let these really huge problems ruin their vacation.

Here are a few of the high points from this eighteen-day trip. Please take a look at this Google Map that illustrates our general route through Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Ireland has its hooks in me

Jetlagged after our long flight and straight from the airport in Shannon, we picked up our rental car and drove about an hour and a half to Loop Head. It was a beautiful drive, and the lighthouse was spectacular. Car rental tip: do not accept a black or dark-colored car. The scratches from the hedges along the very narrow roads are so much more apparent on a dark-colored vehicle!

Car rental tip: do not accept a black or dark-colored car. The scratches from the hedges along the very narrow roads are so much more apparent on a dark-colored vehicle! Voice of experience here.

Ireland has its hooks in me

We could not, of course, miss a trip to the Cliffs of Moher. The 702-foot-high Cliffs are at the edge of the Burren in County Clare. It spans almost five miles of the Atlantic coastline. Can you smell that sea air?

Leamaneh Castle, in ruins today, was a defensive castle built in the 1400s. Legends say the owner Maire Rua MacMahon, aka Red Mary, often punished servants by hanging them. Also, she pushed one of her husbands to his death out of a castle window. A red-haired apparition supposedly haunts the castle.

Ireland has its hooks in me

Charlotte standing in front of one of Ireland’s most photographed icons, Poulnabrone Dolmen in the Burren. This portal tomb dates back to between 4200 BC and 2900 BC. How on earth did that 100-ton capstone get put in place?

Ireland has its hooks in me

Dunguaire Castle is one of the most picturesquely located castles in Ireland. Although one of us temporarily lost a cell phone on the castle grounds, we did find a great geocache here.

Ireland has its hooks in me

Kylemore Abbey, built in the 1800s is owned and run by the Benedictine community. The Abbey is a gorgeous and impressive estate complete with walled garden, paths along the lakeshore, and remarkable café. The shuttle bus was very welcome on this rainy day! I recommend planning to spend half a day here.

Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery

Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery is over five thousand years old. It is one of Ireland’s largest megalithic tomb cemeteries. Over 60 megalithic tombs have been discovered here. The history is astounding.

Ireland has its hooks in me
Ireland has its hooks in me

Dunluce Castle in Northern Ireland has a myth attached to it about how once during a fierce storm the kitchen fell into the sea killing the kitchen staff!

Ireland has its hooks in me
Ireland has its hooks in me

Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is an amazing display of thousands of mostly hexagon-shaped basalt columns formed during a volcanic eruption millions of years ago.

This is my abbreviated version of one of the many legends and myths explaining the Giant’s Causeway’s origin and destruction by the Irish giant Finn McCool and the Scottish giant Bendandonner.

As the story goes, McCool created stepping stones from the Antrim coast in Northern Ireland across the ocean the few miles to Scotland to settle his differences with his enemy Benandonner. After McCool saw the size of Bendandonner up close, he made a hasty retreat across the stepping stones back to Ireland.

As a frightened McCool hid from his enemy, McCool’s wife welcomed Benandonner into their home and showed Benandonner the McCool baby wrapped in swaddling in a bathtub. The “baby” was actually Finn McCool wrapped in a blanket.

At the sight of this enormous baby, Bendandonner believed he had taken on more than HE could handle and fled back to Scotland. He destroyed the stepping stones as he went, leaving the Giant’s Causeway on the Antrim Coast of Northern Ireland.

Ireland has its hooks in me

Bright and early the next day, we drove a few hours to Belfast and the magnificent Titanic Exhibition. This exhibition is billed as the world’s leading tourist attraction.

We had all been to Titanic exhibitions at home at different museums, and I was not too excited about this one in Belfast. I quickly changed my this is an amazing, not-to-be-missed, huge attraction that I highly recommend.

The Hill of Tara, known as Temair in gaeilge, was once the ancient seat of power in Ireland – 142 kings are said to have reigned there in prehistoric and historic times. In ancient Irish religion and mythology Temair was the sacred place of dwelling for the gods, and was the entrance to the otherworld. Saint Patrick is said to have come to Tara to confront the ancient religion of the pagans at its most powerful site. 

Ancient Sites | The Hill of Tara – Teamhair

Clootie trees, such as this one, are trees people tie with rags or tokens. People who are ill or have a specific problem do this with the belief that as the rags and tokens rot away, the illness or problem goes away. 

The Hill of Tara, although best known as the inauguration site and seat of Ireland’s ancient High Kings, is home to a passage tomb constructed here over 2.5 million years ago.

We spent a few days exploring Dublin. Our hotel was near the airport, so we took a bus into Dublin and relied on foot power, a Hop-on-Hop-Off bus, and an occasional taxi to get around. We visited Trinity College with that fabulous library.

We also were able to view the Book of Kells exhibit. Dinner one evening in Dublin was at an excellent restaurant in Temple Bar called The Shack. We had another great meal and experience at Brazen Head, proclaiming to be the oldest pub in Ireland, dating back to 1198.

Ireland has its hooks in me
Ireland has its hooks in me

Powerscourt House and Gardens is the site of one of the most beautiful gardens in the world.

Glendalough Monastic Settlement, was founded by St. Kevin during the 6th century. Glendalough is one of the most beautiful sites we have seen in Ireland.

We continued on south to our B&B near Kilkenny. After checking into the B&B, we drove to Kilkenny for dinner. I am happy I have lived to tell this story, but that was a frightening experience!

It was after dark when we began the short drive back to our B&B. This is where we encountered not one but two gigantic farm tractors at a bend on the narrow country backroad. The video is of poor quality because it was dark and only includes one tractor encounter, but take a look.

After our overnight stay near Kilkenny, we drove to the Ballinskelligs area and the holiday house we rented for a seven-day stay. This week-long stay and all the megalithic monuments, gardens, stone forts, geocaching, and adventures with all my sisters, nephew, and husband is a story for another day.

We reluctantly left our peaceful and secluded holiday home at the end of a week and began our meandering drive once again. Our first stop was at the very historic and magnificently haunted Leap Castle in County Offaly.

This castle dates to the 1500s was a site used by Druids’ initiation ceremonies and has seen a great deal of violence through all these centuries. The castle was taken from the O’Caroll clan in 1642 by Cromwellian forces led by John Darby.

The castle was burnt in 1922 and remained unoccupied until the mid-70s. The current owners, the Ryans, continue to renovate this castle today.

We knocked on the front door of Leap Castle and were invited in. The owner, Sean Ryan, shared some history of the castle with us and played us a tune on his Irish whistle!

Ireland has its hooks in me

A prominent feature on the grounds of this elegantly beautiful castle is the ginormous reflecting telescope. It was built by the Third Earl of Rosse, completed in 1845, and used for several decades. It was the largest telescope in the world for over 70 years.

Ireland has its hooks in me

The Hill of Uisneach is an ancient ceremonial site of monuments, burial mounds, standing stones, and a megalithic tomb. The photo shows our tour guide explaining the Catstone, a large limestone rock situated in the exact center of Ireland. The separations indicating the four provinces of Ireland’s boundary lines.

In Irish mythology, Uisneach is described as the sacred center of Ireland, the burial place of Irish gods such as Lugh and the Dagda, the site of a sacred tree (the Bile Uisnig), and a place of assembly (the mórdáil Uisnig) associated with the druids, which, according to later tradition, was held during the festival of Bealtaine. 


Clonmacnoise, on the River Shannon, was a Christian site founded during the 6th century. Here is an ancient cathedral in ruins, round towers, high crosses, and an early Christian cemetery. Some of the original high crosses and grave slabs are so delicate they are on display inside the visitor center.

We have traveled to Ireland several times, and each time we have driven throughout all of Ireland and Northern Ireland. We stay two to three days at each stop and most often at B&Bs. You may not enjoy a trip that includes so much driving, but it is our favorite way to see all there is to see. We are still not finished with Ireland.

Here are our must-haves for traveling in Ireland.

Ireland has its hooks in me!

15 thoughts on “Ireland has its hooks in me!

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  14. I’ve always wanted to go to Ireland. Now I want to go even more!

    1. If you ever get an opportunity, because of this crazy world we’re in today, I very highly recommend a trip to Ireland. The people are simply phenomenal, so quick witted and we speak the same language! Food is good, scenery and history will leave you in wonder every day.

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