Monthly Archives: February 2015

Ireland roundup! The final post

We’ve been back for a month and a half now and I am slowly settling back into life stateside.  Bret was thrown back to the wolves a couple weeks ago and is forging the path for the next year of his postdoc back here while still finishing up the work he started in Ireland.

We wanted to close the blog with a suggested itinerary.  Since we could not agree on an itinerary less than 10 days… you are stuck with that length.  However, if you wish to go for longer, I’ll add a few of the other highlights you could tack on.  I will also add the caveat that we are not city people.  While we don’t mind a day or two in a big city, we vacation in the country.  We want incredible views, nice walks or hikes, and some quiet when we go on vacation.

The general aim of this itinerary is to maximize the time you get to spend in a couple of places that we really loved, the Beara Penninsula and Connemara.  We loved so many places, but ultimately the combination of incredible views and low tourist density made these two places really stand out for us.  For this itinerary, we recommend that you fly in to Cork and out of Shannon (or a round trip to one or the other, but it will add a couple hours of driving time on one end or the other).  There are a few notable exceptions, but a lot of the standout scenic destinations in Ireland are located on the west side of the country, so unless you want to spend a day in Dublin and a few extra hours driving, we recommend flying straight to the source!  Also driving in Ireland can be an adventure…  we highly recommend minimizing the amount of car travel and alternating longer days in the car with days that you stay in one place and explore locally.  There are also plenty of trains and buses, but it is difficult to access the out of way places if you use mass transport and you are going to add a ton of travel time as there are not a lot of direct routes,

Alright, on to the route

Day 1: Cork City/ Kinsale

Fly into Cork city and spend a few hours walking around the city and along the River Lee.  There are huge churches everywhere and a few museums and galleries.  Most of the stores in the downtown area are big chain stores, so save your shopping for later.  Then jump in the car and head to Kinsale.  It is about a 40 minute drive to this small and incredibly scenic seaside town.

Things to do in/ near Cork City and Kinsale

  • English Market!  If all you do is walk around and take in the smells and the people watching it is worth it.  If you are planning on doing some picnicking on your trip (which I highly recommend), pick up some supplies here (the smoked salmon from Frank Hederman is super yummy).

  • Charles Fort.  Even if you are not into 17th Century military architecture, this fort is pretty amazing.  It is a fairly long walk from Kinsale, but the views of Kinsale harbor along the way are really lovely and there is a pub along the route where you can stop and refresh if you need.
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  • Harbor Tour by boat.  The tour is relatively inexpensive and especially after you have seen the fort from the inside, it is cool to see the fort from the water.DSC_0473
  • Accomodations.  We only spent one night in Kinsale (after we took the long bike road there), as it was pretty close to our home.  We stayed at Tierney’s Guesthouse and it was an affordable and comfortable spot.  The breakfast is pretty good.  In fact, I would recommend the Lemon Leaf Cafe for lunch if you are looking for a spot.  For dinner, the Fishy Fishy cafe was a standout for us.  The fish was fresh and delicious!  You’ll definitely want to make a reservation, but here are a ton of good restaurants in Kinsale if you don’t get in.DSC_0463

If you have an extra day…

  • Ballymaloe.  This is actually about a 40 minute drive from Cork City, but if you have an extra night (and some $$$. It is spendy), it is worth the drive.  The farm is a pretty renown foodie destination.  An early adopter of the locavore movement, the food is delicious and it is worth an extra hour or two to explore the manor.  Also, drop by the nearby town of Ballycotton.  It is a lovely seaside town and if you don’t want to stay at Ballymaloe overnight, there are several hotels and b&bs in Ballycotton.DSC_0449

Day 2: Drive to Glengariff

The drive along the south coast of Cork is very scenic.  There are several small towns that dot the way and a few places you’ll want to stop and take in rural Ireland.

  • Definitely stop at Drombeg Circle.  It is a neolithic stone circle that is pretty amazing.DSC_0437
  • Glengariff is nice little town at the base of the Beara peninsula with a few hotels and several Irish sweater shops.  If you are thinking about taking an Irish Knit sweater home, this is a good place to look—  but be sure to read the tags, many things are made in Ireland, but they also slip in some items that are not made in Ireland.  We never stayed in Glengariff, so I can’t recommend a spot, but it would be a convenient jumping off place for exploring the Beara.  We did stay at this hostel that is a little further out.  It was inexpensive and the hosts are so nice! Also, Airbnb probably has some nice options if you take our recommendation and stay a few days here.

Day 3 and 4: Take in the Beara Penninsula!

We highly recommend spending a couple days.  Take one day to circumnavigate the peninsula.

  • Be sure to give yourself time to take the tram over to Dursey Island at the tip on the peninsula.  You’ll want to check the timetable and make sure it is open when  you arrive.  If you are adventurous, do the loop hike around the island (3-4 hours hike with a little elevation gain/loss) and have a picnic.
  • Go for a day hike on the Beara Way.  DO IT!  It is worth a little planning, the views are so amazing.  There are several places that you can access it.  We were able to shuttle cars, to we did a stretch from just outside of Glengariff to Adrigole.
  • Have a walk or a picnic at the Glengariff Nature Reserve. Take the walk up to Lady Bantry’s Lookout, the view is really amazing.
  • Bike around the peninsula.  I wish that we had been able to do this, but we just ran out of time…  next trip 🙂  You can rent a bike (and grab lunch) here.DSC_0421
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Day 5: Drive through Killarney National Park to Adare.

The drive from the Beara to Killarney along the N71 is a little harrowing.  Very large tourist buses and very skinny , curvy roads.  However, the views of the Macgillycuddy Reeks are amazing.  Killarney National Park is the oldest national park in Ireland and it has been largely untouched.  There are old forest, mountains, lakes.  It is really pretty.  You’ll want to take your time with the drive and get out of the car and take in the views at least a few times.  Muckross House is a nice place to take a walk and/or have a picnic.  Adare is a nice town that is about halfway from the Beara to Galway.  We only actually stopped there once, for a nice lunch, but if you are going to check the Cliff of Moher and the Burren on day 6, you’ll need a break from driving along the way.   I have also heard good things about Adare from friends that spent more time passing through.  You could also stop in Limerick or have a long day in the car and try to get closer the Cliffs of Moher.  There is also a ferry that cuts a chunk of the drive out if you want to skip Adare.DSC_0203DSC_0217 DSC_0224

Day 6:  The Cliff of Moher and the Burren

It is pretty hard not to include the Cliffs or Moher as a must-see.  It is VERY touristy so expect some crowds, but the reason for its popularity is apparent as soon as you take your first peak over the edge of the cliffs.  Perhaps better known as the Cliffs of Insanity, from the Princess Bride, they are a pretty amazing sight.

The Burren is a really unique landscape in Ireland.  It is a rocky limestone landscape that is teeming with endemic species (75% of Ireland flora are found in the Burren).  It is worth at least driving through (maybe stop at this Chocolate Factory en route).  If you are interested in hiking, there is a great 2-3 hour hike,  Mullaghmore-Blue-Loop-Walk, that takes you through the heart of the Burren.  It was a little difficult to find the trail and appropriate parking, but it is definitely worth the effort.  I think as long as you are not blocking access to the road, you’ll be good to go even if you don’t get a spot in the designated parking area.


Stay the night in the Kinvarra or Galway.  Kinvarra is a small town about 30 minutes south of Galway.  There is good food and several decent spots to stay the night.  Including this crazy hostel you can find through Airbnb and this B&B.  Both are walking distance to town.  There is great pizza at the Tide Full Inn if you are starting to crave something other than fish and chips or beef and Guinness stew.   If you are ready for some city time, stay in Galway.  It is compact, but the downtown area is nice to wonder around and people watch.  There are also plenty of restaurants and places to stay.

Day 7, 8, and 9  Connemara, Westport, and Achill Island

Drive west from Galway along Galway Bay through the town of Spiddal into Connemara and get yourself a little lost.  This area is so quiet and scenic.  I can’t even express how much I loved the landscape and the general vibe in this area.  We stopped in Clifton to stretch our legs and wonder around, but it would have been really nice to stay the night there and linger longer in this area.  The Twelve Bens offer some impressive vistas and would be great to hike around.  We did not get a chance to do so, but if I could go back that would top the list.  Wesport is the largest town you’ll pass through between Connemara and Mayo and it is definitely worth a stop.  While Mayo is not quite as scenically impressive as Connemara in general, Achill Island is worth the trip a little further north.

  •  Westport is a really nice small town.  There are a bunch of nice pubs and we had a couple of notably delicious dinners there (here and here).  We also found some really unique handmade gifts at the Craft House.  There are several pubs in town that sell locally made beers that are definitely worth trying.
  • We had a really lovely stay at the Elephant Guest house in Westport.
  • The Bervie Guest house in Keel on Achill Island was SOOOOOO LOVELY.  I only got to stay a night there, but it was definitely on my list of places to get back to.  It is a quaint inn with very sweet and kind owners and an incredible restaurant.  You won’t regret a night or two at this place.



Day 10:  Drive back to Shannon or Cork. 


Other notable destinations

If you have more than 10 days to go visit Ireland.  Here are some other places we really loved!

  • Schull-  If you want to spend an extra day on the south coast of Cork, go to Schull and stay at the Grove house.  It is a very quaint little town that is a bit out of the way.  We went there on several recommendations from local Corkers.  Grove House is a beautiful B&B, the owner is so nice, and the food was delicious.
  • Cahersiveen/ Valencia Island.   Rent bikes and ride around Valencia Island (visit this crazy candle maker he is super nice, but don’t try to take his picture).  There are two pretty amazing old dwellings in different states of disarray, Ballycarbery Castle and Cahergall circle fort.
  • Dingle-  We visited Dingle three times.  It was fairly convenient to get to from Cork and had a good variety of fun things to do.  We hiked the tallest peak outside of the Macgillycuddy Reeks, we biked, we took a boat tour to the Blasket Islands, we listened to wonderful traditional music at a local music shop (and at a lot of the pubs if you can stay up past 10pm).  It is a little more on the beaten track, so expect things to book out. If you go, get dinner at the Goat Street Bistro and/or An Canteen.
  • Giant’s Causeway-  And the North coast of Antrim (Northern Ireland).  The Giant’s Causeway is a pretty cool geologic formation-  definitely worth and afternoon of exploration and hiking about.  We stayed in Bushmills both visits, once at a hostel, which was a little dirty, but otherwise ok and once at a Pub which was great.  Save some time to do the Bushmills tour and have dinner at Tartine, it was very nice.  The drive north from Belfast to Bushmills is pretty great, the views get more scenic around each corner.
  • Donegal-  I LOVED Donegal, the Slieve League mountains and Glenveagh National park are excellent places to hike, and there is plenty more to do.  The ONLY reason Donegal didn’t make the list is because it is a little further out and should be a destination on its own (maybe combined with Northern Ireland flying in/ out of Dublin).
  • The Wicklow mountains.  if you are going to fly in/out of Dublin, the Wicklow Mountains are nearby and really accessible for hiking, waterfalls, etc.  Definitely worth checking out.
  • Dublin-  Speaking of which, if you are going to go there, make a reservation and have dinner at the Winding Stair… super yummy.  We loved it and everyone we sent there had excellent meals.


So, this is it.  The final post.  We’ll be archiving this site to in a couple weeks if you ever want to relive all this excitement.  Don’t worry, we’ll keep you up to date on our adventures.  After all, Oregon isn’t too shabby either and now there is Oval to entertain us 🙂

our 52 pub challenge… the best and the worst.

I am pretty amazed at how much Bret and my best and worst lists aligned. It probably isn’t that surprising… we went to all the pubs together, so if we had a great time or a bad time, it was generally a mutual experience.

The Best!


I already wrote a post about Mok’s way back when I thought I would write more about all the pubs we visited.  Feelings have not changed much over the course of the year.  We still love Mok’s.  We had our last pint of Beamish there last night and true to form, it was full of adorably tipsy old men.  Bret and I were probably two of four people in the packed house that were under 60 and I was the only lady there until right before we left.  We had a nice chat with another Tottenham Hotspurs supporter and we were repeatedly offered handfuls of peanuts by another man.  It was real sad to walk away from such a cozy and inviting spot.

The Oval

The Oval was pretty much our first stop in Cork and it remained a favorite throughout the year.  Clearly… we named our puppy dog after this place.  Most of you who visited had a pint at the Oval while in Cork.  We never had a bad pint there.  The bartenders and other patrons were always friendly.  There are enough nooks of various sizes to accommodate any size group we had, and create such a cozy ambiance.  We learned at some point, that the Oval is one of seven or eight pubs known as the “Heritage” pubs. While a couple of them are actually in historic, old building, what they really have in common is the same owner.  The owner also owns the towns largest independent microbrewery, so in generally we like the beers at the Heritage pubs more than at Cork pubs in general.

El Fenix

We celebrated the completion of our 52 pub challenge here!  Or so we thought until we looked over the list one last time the next day and realized that we had forgot to log three pubs…  Still, the intention was there.  It was a great spot to finish.  It is one of the Heritage pubs, so the beer is good.  The company was very friendly.  The ambiance was warm and inviting.  El Fenix had been on my list for a long time, but Bret was more hesitant.  I think it won him over in the end.  We had a long chat with another fellow at the pub about pubs in Cork.  He claimed to be a regular of El Fenix and thought it was a shame that we had not made it to the pub next door, The Charles for a 7am beer (apparently that is a thing to do).


Tom Barry’s

Tom Barry’s is probably the closest pub to our home that made it to the Tops list.  It was a really nice spot to go for a pint on a sunny, summer day.  The back garden is large and packed with  wooden picnic tables.  They also have a few outbuildings that always have fires going in case things cool off or there is an unexpected rain shower.  It is a very popular spot for the college crowd and fills up quickly, rain or shine.  Bret was real keen to try this place out early on, but I was skeptical.  It doesn’t look super special from the outside.  It ended up being one of my faves, though!

Sin E (pronounced Shin-eh)

This was my favorite place to go to listed to music.  The was traditional Irish music on tap a few nights a week here-  and early enough that Bret and I could actually get there before our bedtime (we’re so lame).  Another one of the Heritage pubs, the beer was always yummy and the ambiance is warm and dark.

 Mutton Lane

We discovered Mutton Lane down an alley that emanates out of the English Market.  Again… a Heritage pub (you can see there is a trend of us liking the Heritage pubs).  It is centrally located, good beer, great ambiance.  We had many a good time popping in for a pint when the rain surprised us while we were doing errands.

Crane Lane

I actually only went to this pub once, but it was memorable enough to make the Tops list.  Yet another Heritage Pub, this one is also a moderately large music venue.  We went there the day the Kim and Rocky got into town.  They had a local music showcase in the afternoon and we saw a great local band called the Shaker Hymn.  It was a really fun day!


This place is another one with a great outdoor garden space.  They also serve decent food (and large portions) and good beer.  It was sort of one the way to the soccer stadium, so we went there a number of times before cheering on the Cork City FC.

The Corner House

This one we also only made it to once, very close to the end.  We probably never would have made it there if we had not challenged ourselves to try so many.  We loved it and wished we had discovered it earlier…  They had less common microbrews on tap, which we really liked, and friendly folks and ambiance.

 Top rated- Honorable mentions


This one probably only makes the list because we had such a funny night there.  Typical Irish pub-  The have three kinds of stout (Guiness, Beamish, and Murphy’s) on tap and an array of crappy macrobrews (Coors and Heineken products).  The night we went there though, there was a group of geeky college students singing show tunes for the amusement of some older ladies.  It made quite an impression on me…  This one did not make Bret’s list though.

Arthur Mayne’s

This one was on Bret’s list, but not mine.  Don’t get me wrong… It is an awesome spot.  If this place existed in Corvallis, I would probably live there.  It is another of the Heritage pubs and the food was pretty good at this one.  The nice things about the Heritage pubs is that they all have a similar and solidly good selection of beer and wine, but they all have very unique things about them too.  Some serve food, some are just pubs, some have music.  They have good art and some local flair.  This one is located in an old pharmacy and they have all these old relics from mysterious elixir bottles to 50s era perfume.  It is a great spot for a pint.

The Bottom of the Barrel 🙁

Bret and I had far less overlap on our bottom tens…  I think that is because we would still take many of these places over a typical american pub.  Irish Pubs really are that great for some good and some nebulous reasons.

The Woolshed

We only went to this place once.  We wanted to watch a big game and this is as close to an American- style sports bar as you can get in Cork.  A bunch of TVs, crap food, crap beer and wine selection.  We decided after the first attempt that we would rather not watch games than go here.

Tom Lynch’s

I am not at all sure that this one really makes Bret’s bottom list or if he is just appeasing me.  We had a really odd experience here.  We went there for an after-dinner pint one night, so I had some leftovers in a clear container that the bartender kept referring to as salad in a derogatory manner.  There were also flies all over the place.  Bret chatted the bartender up about the local Cork Rings game that was hanging on the wall.  We later saw some folks playing it at another pub.  Apparently there is a city wide pub team league and they have tournaments now and then.  It looks a lot safer than darts considering the level of drink that some patrons manage at the old man bars.

The Old Oak

This place probably isn’t that bad.  It is located on one of the main shopping drags, so there is a lot of tourist traffic and it seems pretty busy.  Bret and I had a rare squabble as a lead in to grabbing a pint here, so neither of us loved it and it never got a second chance.

The Castle Inn

Some one referred to this as a college guy’s pub.  That about sums it up.  The only seating is a wooden bench that spans the length of the pub and it is pretty hard to miss the trough in the in Men’s bathroom.

The Evergreen

We popped in this pub on our way home from a Cork City FC game.  It was just alright.  It is a large pub with a crap selection of beer and not a lot of that special ambiance that makes Irish Pubs so great.

The Hawthorne

Again, this place is just alright.  The shame about that, it that it has a prime location right on the Lough (pronounced Lock).  The Lough is a fairly large lake with a park around it.  It was a 10 minute walk from our house, so we went there for walks now and then when we wanted to see folks fishing or playing in the grass with dogs and hurleys or if we wanted to be harassed by water fowl.  It would have been a great place to have a pint on a nice summer day, if it had any character at all…

Bret and I don’t really agree on any of the other bottom-tier pubs, so I won’t bore you.  Cork was a fantastic place to take our 52 Pub challenge!  We had a great time testing the beers and exploring the city.  We’ll post once more, so keep your eyes out for our suggested 10-day itinerary if you are thinking about heading to the Emerald Isle sometime.  It is hard to pick and choose, but we’ll get that post out soon, then shut this thing down.  Until then,  here is a picture of our adorable new family member taken by my friend, Brianna!!!  Her name is Oval!

More on Cork City

We are back in Oregon and mostly settled back in to our old lives.

Looking through the Ireland blog, I realized we talked a lot about the places we traveled but not so much about Cork City where we lived. We really liked Cork City and I wanted to post a few pictures from there.

St. Fin Barre’s cathedral was directly across the street from where we lived and every day when I left the house I was in awe of this spectacular building.



Market to Work.MP4.Still002

Market to Work.MP4.Still003

One of our favourite places was the English Market. It is essentially a farmers market with a much larger emphasis on red meat, poultry, and fish than the farmers markets in the US. They also do have lots of local and not so local fruits and veggies. It might not be as great as it once was, but it is a place where you can still interact with your local butcher, talk to a local farmer, and chat with a local fishmonger.




The food in Cork city was pretty good and we had a lot of spots we really liked. Electric, Fenns Quay, and Market Lane to name a few. However, I am slightly embarrassed to say that our favorite restaurant in town was probably a Mexican place called Cafe Mexicana. I think it was a combination of the margaritas:
and the mascot:
that made it our goto date night. The food was OK, but the service was great and we liked the ambiance of the place.

And finally breakfast. Pretty much anywhere in Ireland you can get a variation of the full Irish which is bound to be pretty good. Most of the best full Irish breakfasts we had were in B&B’s. My personal favorite in Cork City was at a place named Clancy’s. They definitely didn’t have the best service or ambiance but they had the most comprehensive and enjoyable full Irish breakfast in Cork.

Well, that is all from me from this blog. Stay tuned for our Cork pub review which Emily should post soon. Thanks to all of you that have been following along our adventure. All the great feedback we got helped inspire us to keep it going. Our plan is to archive the Ireland blog and start a fresh, probably with a lot of puppy pictures. The url should stay the same so if you are following along you shouldn’t need to do anything. Thanks again for following and hope to talk to you all soon.