Dublin: Day 2 (King John’s Castle, Cliffs of Moher, Dunguaire Castle, Sean’s Bar, driving adventures)

We started bright and early on our 2nd day in Ireland because we had a lot of driving ahead of us! This was our plan for the day:

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Kinda cool to be able to drive from one side of the country to the other in just a few hours!

Our first stop was Limerick, to visit King John’s Castle. The castle was built by King John in 1200 and is built on the River Shannon. It has a really cool past, especially in the struggles between the English and the Irish. Learning more about it was particularly interesting coming right off the heels of a visit to London!

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The visitor’s center, that you tour first, is very interactive and well done. We arrived on a Monday morning and there were no more than 10 other people there – a lovely change from fighting crowds like we did the day before at Guinness!

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You learn a lot about the society at the time, various jobs people held, and how so many lived in the castle walls.

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You also hear about the castle’s role in war time – Ireland has had a long brutal history and many lost their life there on the castle grounds.

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Once you finish in the exhibit area, you wander out onto the castle grounds. It’s self guided and around each corner seemed to be something cool to check out.

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Inside each door was a maze of rooms to check out, sometimes up narrow and steep staircases! I think this would be a kid’s dream stop – so many places to explore.

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This is an example of one of the small rooms; each was set up to look like it might have then. This particular one was for the mint, which was once located on the castle grounds.

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In many of these rooms, there was an interactive element:

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The views from the top of the castle were some of my favorite from the entire trip!

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I shared this picture, in a tiltshift version on Facebook shortly after we returned:

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What I didn’t realize when I was snapping the picture of this church across the river was that a funeral was just finishing up. As we walked to lunch later, we passed in front just after the casket had been loaded in the hearse. The hearse was completely glass in the back, which is why I didn’t recognize it when zooming. And I must say it was the most gorgeous hearse I’d ever seen. The casket was draped in flowers in the back and it was stunning. The family was nearby so I did not snap a picture as we passed.

This is the tilt shift version I shared:

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More pics from the top:

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A view back onto the castle grounds:

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My original thought was to fly through here, hit the Cliffs, and then have lunch but we enjoyed this visit so much that it was lunch time before we knew it. We asked at the gift shop for a recommendation and one of the employees pointed us across the river to a small seafood restaurant.

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The menu looked great, the people were friendly, and it quickly filled with locals (a good sign!). It ended up being a fantastic choice!

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The view from our table, across the river to the castle:

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I ordered smoked salmon (shocking!) drizzled in honey and cracked pepper. It was served with brown bread and butter. I guess you could make it into a sandwich but why would you? Dad ordered this, too. We both LOVED it.

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Jason ordered a burger as big as his head.

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Following lunch, we wandered over to the church with the cemetery in the above pictures.

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Then we hit the road towards the Cliffs of Moher!

One word: WOW

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You should mind the warnings:

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The Cliffs of Moher wore me out – they are huge and hilly so it’s a lot of steep steps. If you are into hiking, there are several trails you can hike up and down the coast. At your own risk, of course, but I’m sure someone crazy would love it.

This was one of the top sights I wanted to see and I’m so glad 1)the weather was good and 2)we got to see it. It’s impossible to capture a photograph of the magnitude and beauty in it. A must see!

We piled back in the car and made our way through the countryside. This is where our car adventures went from hilarious to terrifying.

Check out these road signs!

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I mean, what does that mean? Hold on? Pray? Good luck?

This sign really should just be plastered up and down the roads because it’s almost always accurate:

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This is a good example of the roads – narrow, and lined with stone walls. Dad had problems staying ON the road so we met every bush from Dublin and back. But we didn’t meet a wall!

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The terror point comes when a tour bus is coming at you because they don’t slow down, stay in their lane, or care much about your matchbox car. Passing one inflicted a bit of damage to the car, though we didn’t hit it. The brightside, right?

The Irish drive like maniacs. And that’s saying a lot coming from me. I guess they are comfortable on the roads and just like people in Charlotte, the speed limits are merely suggestions. But to make it even worse, the speed limits on some roads are INSANE. I mean, someone sitting at a desk in Charlotte must have come up with them.

This is a 2 lane (oh yeah, I know it appears to only be 1 but rest assured, cars are going BOTH WAYS) unpaved road with blind driveways and check out the speed limit:

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Yeah, I don’t know how fast that is either but Google tells me it’s 50 MPH.

As we were whipping through the countryside, we did get to see some gorgeous scenery. Most of which we couldn’t take pictures of because we were flying past it before I could pull my camera to my face.

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After navigating through several little towns/villages, we arrived at Dunguaire Castle. Unfortunately, they were closed but we still got some pictures.

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This castle is on the coast and would be GORGEOUS when the tide was in. But it wasn’t, so the surrounding water was just mud. Boo.

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From there, we were on our way to Athlone to visit Sean’s Bar. Sean’s Bar is the oldest pub in Europe! It’s actually been there since 900AD – over 1000 years ago.

It was a Monday night so we seemed (at least, based on the conversations) to be the only tourists in sight. Just like every Irish person we met, those hanging out were incredibly friendly. I had a conversation with a nice guy who lived nearby; he was amazed we had driven all over in that one day. He said Americans are the only ones who would do that – driving into Dublin was a big car trip for them! Dublin, by the way, is just 1.5 hours away.

When they aren’t driving, they seem to enjoy a slower pace in life.

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The sun was setting, and we were tired, so we grabbed dinner to eat in the car and made the (easy – all freeways now!) trek back to Dublin.

A full – and wonderful! – day of exploring Ireland.

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