Referred to as The Wild Atlantic Way, the west coast of Ireland provides postcard perfect photos around each of its very winding roads. To see this beauty, we would have the opportunity to spend even more time in the car. As you might expect, the kids could not contain their enthusiasm. Well there was enthusiasm, just not the happy kind. Even the best travelers have their weaknesses and parts of the experience that they would rather skip – and for our kids (as we learned) is time in the car.
Heritage and Insanity
Our first day along The Wild Atlantic Way had the primary objective of visiting the Cliffs of Mohr – also known as The Cliffs of Insanity, if you have watched “The Princess Bride,” but was also one of the backdrops in “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” Just over an hour drive from Limerick, the Cliffs of Mohr is a huge draw to County Clare, but there is more to see!
Just outside of Shannon (near Limerick) is Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. I seriously debated this stop. Ultimately, we visited to make the timing for the rest of the day work out well. Bunratty is what could best be described as Colonial Williamsburg for Ireland. The center-piece is a 600 year old castle. From atop Bunratty Castle, you can look out onto the Shannon Estuary. We did not spend much time in any one area of the Folk Park as it was freezing (or pretty close to freezing) that morning. Goose had a blast skipping in and out of the various little houses depicting life in the 1800s, pretending to sweep, set up a fire, and teach school. He even got to see a real goose.
Next we drove to and through The Burren. I had limited expectations of the area. I knew that the primary feature is a karst landscape, but really had no idea what that meant. The 250 square kilometer area is covered with limestone rocks that have created illogical paths all over what would otherwise be a sheep field. Occasionally, we would spot sheep hidden between crevices of the limestone.
Several websites and guidebooks suggested hikes to take in this area. However, both kids had fallen asleep on the way to The Burren, which meant the complaining of bellyaches and headaches had ceased – so we let them sleep and enjoyed the view from the car.
Just under an hour later, we reach the Cliffs of Mohr. Though it was cold at Bunratty Castle, it was bone-chillingly cold at the Cliffs. From the moment we exited the car in the car park, we were all shivering – well except for Chicken. She had buried herself in the stroller underneath a fleece blanket. Only once during this stop did we drag her out of the stroller to see the Cliffs, but I am pretty sure she did not look due to the cold.
We did enjoy seeing the Cliffs. They really are phenomenal and a must-see on a trip to Ireland. However, the kids enjoyed the visitor center more. There was a small interactive area for kids. It really did not compare to the one at Giant’s Causeway, but they were really tired of being in the car, so it was a nice break to run around indoors – where it was not freezing.
After the frigid stop, we returned to Limerick for the evening. Trying to recover from the “meal of joy” from the night before, we ate at The Locke Bar and Restaurant. We were seated in a cozy room adjacent to the bar, which I decided must be the American family room (other families from the US were also seated in there). Our server Lizzie was originally from Florida and had stopped in Limerick to earn some money along her multi-year backpacking trip. She was a great server and the food was delicious. Best of all, Low Key felt redeemed from the food debacle of the night before. Highly recommend the restaurant if you find yourself in Limerick.
The Ring of Dingle
Before we went to Ireland, I was asked dozens of times – “are you going to drive the Ring of Kerry?” And my very adult response was, “No, my husband really wants to drive the Ring of Dingle. He hopes to find berries in Dingle and call them dingleberries.” He thought this was hysterical. By the time I had explained it over a dozen times, I no longer found the humor.
However, it was a good thing that we chose Dingle over the Ring of Kerry. To drive the Ring of Kerry is a trek – like all day – and that is if you happen to be driving without stopping and without traveling with children that need restrooms in remote places or that express various aches related to being in the car. No, no, Ring of Kerry was not for us (though we did drive a small section of it – more on that later).
From Limerick, the drive to Tralee is pretty easy. This is the best starting point for the Ring of Dingle. We decided to take the slackers way out and only drive through the Connor Pass and into Dingle and then cut back to Inch Beach – completely skipping the coastal ring at the tip of the peninsula – and on to Killarney, where we would spend the next three nights.
The road up to the Connor Pass is curvy and steep. The kids actually faired pretty well along this section of the road. At one point, they were chatting away in the background completely unaware of the 600 foot drop off to our right. I was very tensely watching the road and developing a plan of what I would do should we tip off the road. Fortunately, we made it to the top, because I never came up with a good solution. The view from Connor Pass is absolutely phenomenal and worth the battle of nerves to the top.
We continued the winding road from the top of the mountain down into Dingle. The kids needed a break from the car, so we stopped in at the Dingle Aquarium. While I am sure to many, it is a phenomenal aquarium. Our family has visited some of the top aquariums in the US and tends to compare every experience to that of an Orlando theme park. In other words, we were not the target audience for this aquarium. On the upside, we did get to stretch our legs a bit before getting back in the car – though Low Key never found any dingleberries.
We continued along The Wild Atlantic Way passing Inch Beach on our way to Killarney. Someone recently asked me if we walked along the beach. The answer: no. Why? 1) It was freezing 2) the kids had fallen back asleep.
One thing I was reminded of on this trip was the saying “don’t wake a sleeping baby.” On this trip it was more like “do not wake a child up if you intend to get back in the car a few minutes later.” Goose and Chicken missed some sites along the way, but you know what – it will be ok.