Firstly, I'd like to thank Rabbies Tours for allowing me the opportunity to work with them on a media tour in exchange for this post. The funny thing is, I would have written about this incredible experience anyway! I have traveled to 31 countries so far, and while Miami is home and Barcelona is my favorite city to date, Ireland has become my favorite country.
Yes, there, I said it: Ireland is my favorite country.
Ireland is truly amazing, guys. The breathtaking scenery, the incredible selection of craft brews, the whiskey - REAL IRISH WHISKEY - the mouthwatering food, and the warm, friendly, welcoming people...I couldn't find a single thing wrong with my entire experience, except perhaps that I was only visiting and had to return home to Miami at the end of the week...
I set out on the Ring of Kerry, Killarney and Cork tour with 8 others, which was really an amazing thing, considering that other tours were sold out for that time. Rabbies specializes in small group tours, with smaller Mercedes passenger vans that accommodate up to 16 people. I have done a ton of tours over the years, both for personal leisure and for the blog, and I can tell you that a maximum of 16 people is truly a great thing. Smaller groups means that the tour guide can get to know everyone personally, there is less risk of stragglers who are always running late and holding up the group, and even better for solo travelers like myself, you get a chance to get to know your fellow passengers and make friends!
Now, originally, I wanted to join some friends on their here, but they were sold out! The Ring of Kerry, Killarney and Cork tour actually ended up suiting me and my traveling style far better, as it was full of scenery and small towns, but also...PUBS. A lot of pubs, and even when the itinerary didn't include a pub, my lodgings were near enough town that I could easily walk to the pub after we finished for the day. I've long dreamed of drinking my way through Ireland, as I love craft beer and whiskey, so this was of particular importance to me! The pub scene in Ireland is rather spectacular, and I even developed a newfound love of...CIDER.
My Ring Of Kerry, Killarney and Cork tour included:
Birr Castle and Gardens - I took a stroll through a beautiful garden and had a lovely lunch at the cafe. It was pretty rainy that day, so I spent most of my free time at this location in the cafe.
Even at this little cafe, the food was delicious - and very inexpensive!
There was a castle on the premises, however is was closed to the public on the day we went to the location. But look at how pretty it is!
The Village of Adare - Named ‘Ireland’s Prettiest Village’, we had a short time to explore a collection of thatched houses and historic buildings, including a cathedral, which I absolutely love! I tend to find my way into cathedrals all over the world. Having grown up in the stark, plain churches common in the Southern Baptist religion, I am always fascinated by the lovely stained glass windows and ornate architecture in Catholic churches.
I picked up a habit while in Croatia in April; I've begun lighting a candle for myself and Angeline every time I find a cathedral. There's just something so serene and hopeful about this gesture, this routine...it makes me feel grounded and connected to home even when I'm halfway across the world.
The Caha Pass on the edge of the Beara Peninsula - Ireland’s unexplored secrets await you in this stunningly beautiful and isolated peninsula.
I recommend stopping in at the cafe and having an Irish coffee, if time allows during your tour. We had a nice 30 minute break for the restroom and coffees before setting off.
Killarney - I LOVED Killarney. While I really enjoyed the Greyhound Bar and Market in Kinsale, I didn't actually get to experience the town in all of its glory, as I arrived at 7 PM and we left for Cork at 7 AM. Killarney was situated perfectly to explore the Ring of Kerry, and the town itself is the perfect spot for travelers, as it has plenty of accommodations, restaurants, pubs and shopping. The nightlife was amazing, with live music in many of the pubs, and so many things to do!
Killarney National Park - Whether it's a hike, a stroll through the forest, or just a visit to the beautiful waterfall, this is an absolute must for anyone traveling through the Ring of Kerry! It was so beautiful!
Ladies View - Another point of interest - one of the most beautiful views in this part of Ireland, was Ladies View. It's absolutely gorgeous, even on a rainy day! Imagine what it would look like if the sun were shining!
Glengariff and Garinish Island - Sail serenely from the picturesque village of Glengariff to the scenic woodlands of Garinish, or skip the boat ride and pay a visit to one of the charming pubs in town.
I met the owner of Bernard's and he was a delight! He even shared some of his lunch with me, as they didn't serve food at that time of day and he thought I needed to eat. Ha ha! The Irish are so friendly, this happened to me quite a bit; I'd randomly realize that I had sat down at a pub and struck up a conversation with not just the bartender, but the actual owner. As someone who frequents bars alone quite a bit due to the nature of my solo travel for the blog, it always warms my heart to see an owner so invested in their bar that they send their time actually working there!
The Drombeg Circle - My very favorite part of the Ring of Kerry Tour with Rabbies Tours was our stop at the Drombeg Circle, a little east of Cork. I was so moved by my visit there that I wrote about it separately, here.
If you are in Ireland, it is one of my top recommendations for somewhere to visit! It is one of the most visited megalithic sites in Ireland and is protected under the National Monuments Act.
Kinsale - We arrived in Kinsale in the early evening and I set off to find a pub that was recommended by my tour guide, Dee. As it turns out, the Greyhound Bar and Market is actually the oldest pub in Kinsale, and it used to be the headquarters for the NRA, complete with guns hidden behind a false wall behind the bar!
The bartender knew everything there was to know about the town, the history of the bar, and was a pretty good judge of beer and whiskey as well.
I tried quite a few beers on his recommendation, as well as the new Jameson Black Barrel Whiskey that I hadn't heard of before....I wasn't a fan and quickly switched back to Jameson Caskmates.
When traveling on your own, its important to make friends with the locals to get great recommendations. He told me of areas to check out in Cork and in Dublin, and where to avoid. Making friends with bartenders and waiters, waitresses - it's like having a unaccompanied tour guide in a new place!
We ended our time in Kinsale with a stop at Charles Fort, a lovely fortress structure still standing at the edge of town.
West Cork villages - Enjoy the delicacies of market fairs and delightful village views in these famously cultured communities.
Cork City and the English Market - Cork was a huge city, but the tiny pockets of shops and neighborhoods reminded me of NYC, which I found quite interesting.
I only had a few hours to explore the city on my own, and was in the mood for shopping, so I found my way to the English Market. What a sight! I was disappointed that I hadn't come better prepared with something to hold purchases, as I wanted to buy. all. the things!
I wound up purchasing a few jars of honey and marmalade to bring back home for friends. I also found my way to a liquor store and bought a few ciders to bring back for a friend at home as well.
Did I mention the scones? They were all over Ireland, everywhere, but the ones in the English Market were especially delicious!
I had planned on visiting the brewery while in Cork, but I spent so much time in the English Market that I didn't have enough time. I made one last stop to Saint Peter and Paul's Cathedral and lit a candle before setting off to Dublin to conclude the tour.
Rock of Cashel - A historic fortress, home to some of Ireland’s most iconic views, awaited us at the Rock of Cashel. Now, I actually didn't know that much about this landmark until I booked the tour and began researching it, but as the time grew near, I became increasingly excited.
OH, THE PHOTOS!
I'll be writing more about the Rock of Cashel at a later date, keep an eye out! There were simply too many photos between the Rock of Cashel and the Bishop's Walk to fit it all into this post.
Once our four day tour was over, we drove back to Dublin, where I spent two nights before departing home. My time in Ireland was so amazing, I can't wait to go back for another visit. I am already talking to my girlfriends about planning a trip in 2018!
To find out more about this and other Rabbies Tours, visit their website at Rabbies.com. They offer tours in Ireland, Scottland and England!