Have you ever heard a bad story start out with, “So, this one time on a road trip….”? No, you haven’t. That’s because a road trip is never about the destination. It’s all of the in-between moments that makes it memorable and if nothing else, a great story. When thinking of what we wanted to do for our first anniversary, Gus and I decided to plan a road trip. To make it even more interesting, we picked Ireland as our destination! Check out some fun facts on car rentals in Europe and how we got from Shannon to Dublin over a 6 day period.
Renting A Car In Ireland
- Don’t skip the insurance
- While the main highways do not have pot holes, the insurance saved us when we ventured off the beaten path. There were times when the brush stuck out well into the road, and we could hear the scraping of the branches on our car doors. Better safe than sorry.
- You want GPS, but also a map
- We opted for the GPS because, well, we’re millennials. However, we also had a map with us and it actually came in handy a few times. When a GPS tells you to take a right into a field of sheep, best to have a back up plan. We used the National Geographic Ireland map and it was great for giving us an idea of what towns and villages were in our surrounding area.
- Manual vs. Automatic
- In Europe, a manual car is by far your cheaper option. But if, like us, you don’t have a manual car at home, you don’t need the added stress thinking about the wrong side of the car, wrong side of the road, and shifting gears. You can add “gawking at the landscape and castles” to the list of distractions, too. It happens. Trust me.
- Don’t pay extra for air condition
- Some, not all, car rental options will add an additional cost for air condition. We were in Ireland end of May, early June. Our car didn’t have air condition and we didn’t suffer. Disclaimer: We didn’t get a drop of rain while we were there, (so much for those rain coats we bought) so maybe take this advice with a grain of salt! Rain or shine, roll the windows down!
- Know what kind of gas your car takes
- Many of the cars in Europe require diesel fuel. Make sure you clarify what fuel your rental takes before leaving the parking lot. A couple we met in Doolin had made this mistake, and it cost them a couple days of vacation fixing the issue.
- Know how to lock your doors
- You think this is ridiculous. Before our trip, I would have laughed at this tip, too. But when you get out of your car and you realize you have NO idea how to lock your car door you’ll think back to this post. Pro tip: Some European cars require you to push your door handle IN to lock it. It took Gus, myself, and two elderly Irish men with a fantastic sense of humor to figure that one out.
Sights to see from Shannon to Dublin
- Cliffs of Moher (Location: Liscannor, Co. Clare)
- We decided to fly into Shannon Airport to start the road trip. Shannon is a fairly small airport and we flew through customs without any issue. The Cliffs are a short, hour drive from the airport.
- The day we went to the Cliffs there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. We hiked from cliff to cliff stopping only briefly so I could play daredevil and climb to the edge for a photo op. We also made sure we went up to O’Brien’s Tower.
- You can go here for more information on pricing and parking. It is a small fee for entry into the park and parking if you have a vehicle. We didn’t expect to spend so much time here, but it is breathtaking, peaceful, and a place you just don’t want to leave too soon.
- Wicklow Mountains (Location: South of Dublin)
- Living in the district, there are times you just want to get away from the city lights. We made it a point to add the Wicklow Mountains on our list because of this. While there are many great cities to explore in Ireland, if you’re more of an outdoor person, don’t miss this region.
- Use your map to find a few villages to grab lunch or drinks as you make your way through.
- When looking up sights and trails in the Wicklow Mountains, we had read of a waterfall near the Sally Gap. We made the decision to find it using only our map (the GPS wasn’t great in the mountains!). Friends, we got lost…wonderfully lost! Instead of driving around for another hour, we stopped in a small town to ask for some help in locating the nameless waterfall. While the bartender was a gem of a man, his directions were not ideal for lost tourists in a foreign country. Nonetheless, through chatting with him, we found the show Vikings (where are my Ragnar fans?!) was filmed in the area. We must have been down on our Irish luck, because apparently we had just missed the crew by a few months as they stayed at the exact same hotel!
- Over two hours later and some seriously close calls with two way traffic on crazy narrow roads, we found the waterfall. Driving through these mountains allowed us to marvel at God’s handy work. People were swimming at the bottom of the falls and hikers were passing through with a smile on their face. Guys, don’t miss this drive. Don’t miss these views.
- Castles (Location: Everywhere)
- We did not pay to tour the inside of any castles in Ireland. We did see the following from the outside: King John’s Castle (Limerick, Ireland), Bunratty Castle (Country Clare), Dublin Castle (Dublin City).
- We opted to stay in a Scottish castle during our stent in Scotland. But, if touring or staying in a castle is on your bucket list, here area few I have on my list, too. If you beat me to it, let me know your thoughts, deal? Ashford Castle, Blarney Castle (kiss the stone for me!), Donegal Castle.
- St. Patricks Cathedral (Location: Dublin)
- This church was founded in 1191 and is the tallest and largest church in Ireland. Check here for more information on visiting the cathedral.
- Trinity College- The Old Library & Book of Kells (Location: Dublin)
- If you are thinking of studying abroad, might I suggest you take a sneak peak at this centuries old university? Take time to stroll through the cobbled squares and marvel at the architecture.
- Get to the Old Library well before it opens. We were rewarded for our early arrival as the line stretched out around the building as we were leaving the Library. We took the tour to see the Book Of Kells, written over 1,000 years ago! You can go here for information on admission and additional information you might have.
- Most of the pictures you see on the internet are of the Long Room. Some of the oldest books are stacked floor to ceiling in this room. It took everything I had not to climb on the ladder and reenact the Belle scene in Beauty and the Beast as she swings from bookcase to bookcase. Ropes and security can be such a buzz kill.
- Guinness Storehouse (Location: St. James Gate, Dublin)
- I am forever ruined now that I know what a true Guinness beer tastes like. Fun fact: I actually hated beer until our trip to Ireland. Now I crave Guinness. It’s not great for my calorie count, but hey, you win some you lose some.
- We really enjoyed the tour, learned the secret to pouring a perfect pint, and then enjoyed our own pour on the rooftop level overlooking Dublin City. I’m telling you, Arthur Guinness, really knew what he was doing when he signed a 9,000 year lease at St. James Gate. We aren’t really the best “museum” goers, however, they have done a fantastic job with the Guinness tour and I highly recommend it.
- Did you know that Guinness beer does not travel well? That means if you like Guinness in the states, you’re in for a REAL treat when you taste Guinness in Ireland. Here, I already have google flight up and ready for you so you can book that trip STAT.
Next week we dive into Road Tripping Ireland Part II: for the cities, bars, and restaurant recommendations for Ireland! Also, check out my gallery for more photos of Ireland!