Where to go with a car near Dublin and Cork?
November 26, 2012 1:30 PM   Subscribe

Driving Around Dublin: SO and I will be visiting Ireland (Dublin and Cork) for about a week and half right after Christmas and we'll have a car. What are some fun, interesting day trips from the two cities (or stops along the way between them?)

We like history - the more ruined the better, a really nice catacomb would go over well, geek stuff, local and traditional foods, and good long hikes.
posted by The Whelk to Travel & Transportation around Ireland (14 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
North of Dublin is Newgrange, Knowth, Dowth.
Newgrange is an amazing neolithic site. It is definitely worth the trip, especially if you can get tickets to go inside Newgrange, and see the simulated solstice sunrise.

Not far from Newgrange is the town of Slane.
In Slane, you can find the Hill of Slane. It is an important historical site in its own right.
But, what I love about the Hill of Slane are the ruins. There is an old medieval monastery there. The tower (and the stone staircase inside the tower) are still intact.

The Hill of Slane is NOT a tourist site. There will be no one there. No entry fee, no tour buses. It will be hard to find on a map - you might have to ask directions in town. But once you get up there, it will be just you on top of a great hill with a medieval ruin all to yourself.

Stop in Slane before going there, and bring a little picnic to enjoy there. And see if you have the courage to climb the tower staircase. It is only 6 stories high.

Trust me - finding this forgotten ruin, way off the beaten tourist map, and climbing the old stone staircase to the top of the tower - it will be among your most memorable experiences in Ireland.
posted by Flood at 1:55 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

OK, first thing. The whole island is one big day trip. Don't fool yourselves into thinking you can't hit the west coast or whatever. The longest trip is Cork to Donegal, and that's 8 hours.

You are going to want to visit Cashel for sure, and Barryscourt Castle reasonably close by. Blarney if you want to be all touristy and stuff. I'd do Newgrange, and definitely try and spend some time in Wicklow (Glendalough is there, as are some of the oldest forests in Ireland). Some great hiking up in Wicklow.

For catacombs, check out Christchurch Cathedral in Dublin, as well as St. Michan's church, which was the inspiration for Bram Stoker's Dracula (and which Dublin is celebrating the centenary of this year, BTW).

For geeky walking tours check out ingeniousireland

Foodie-wise, you SO want to check out Cork. Most especially the English Market on Prince's street in Cork, but also around the area. If you're a dairy junkie the way I am, Cork is where you want to go.

More to come as I think of things!
posted by LN at 1:57 PM on November 26, 2012

Personally I much prefer Blarney to the Rock of Cashel. It's cheaper and there's a lot more to see, whereas the Rock felt like a total rip off. The grounds are quite big and really nice to walk around in. The House tour is fun too in a cheesy kind of way (although I think it will be closed at that time of year). It's right by Cork so definitely day trip material, whereas for Cashel we spent more time driving there and back than actually walking around the place.

We've also really enjoyed the hiking around Killarney. There's a big national park right by the town with a big lake and weird, small mountains. Made a nice break from the green rolling hills down here in Cork (which are a bit too much like where I grew up in NZ to excite me, heh). It's a good sized day trip from Cork and that whole area is nice for driving around as well if you like that kind of thing.
posted by shelleycat at 2:38 PM on November 26, 2012

Clonmacnoise. Old church and cemetary from the 6th century or thereabouts. I was there last spring and it was fantastic. Very few tourists, right on the River Shannon, maybe an hour and a half drive from Dublin, right in the Midlands. Highly recommend it, especially if you're into ruins.
posted by fso at 3:10 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Well, it's also available by the Dublin train/monorail thing, but I really liked visiting Howth. It's a small coastal town just north of Dublin, and has a nice beach to walk on. It was chilly when I visited it, but there were dogs running around on the beach with their owners, the beach was pretty, and there was a cool walking path.

I'd recommend it if you feel touristed out and just want a laid back place to relax a bit. If you have the Lonely Planet Ireland guide, it has a small write-up of Howth in it.
posted by shortyJBot at 4:36 PM on November 26, 2012

For trips from Dublin, I'd second the earlier suggestions of Newgrange (Neolithic tomb complex) and Clonmacnoise or Glendalough (early monastic settlements). Glendalough has the bonus of having a lot of good hiking possibilities nearby.

For geeky things, Birr Castle in County Offaly has the restored Great Telescope, a huge Victorian telescope set up by the Earl of Rosse of the period. The castle itself isn't oepn to the public but the gardens are well worth a visit.
posted by Azara at 5:04 PM on November 26, 2012

A lot of stuff is closes in Ireland around Christmas that wouldn't be other places and a lot of other stuff will have more restricted hours than the US. Closing at 3 or 4 is not uncommon. So just be careful planning that you get the winter hours for the places you plan to visit. Also keep in mind that its going to get dark there much earlier because its a lot further north.
posted by fshgrl at 6:09 PM on November 26, 2012

Well I would have called Cashel a monastery rather than a castle. To see a real castle with a working portcullis you could stop by Cahir Castle. Both Cashel and Cahir are pretty much on the road from Cork to Dublin.
posted by Long Way To Go at 9:18 PM on November 26, 2012

If you like military history then Charles Fort is cool. It's a big beautiful star shaped fort right by the ocean, and there's a lot of information and stuff around the place. It's about half an hour from Cork and right by Kinsale, which is a fishing village known for it's food and stuff (particularly seafood). Kinsale is worth a trip anyway. There are walks along the coast starting from Charles Fort too if you want more hiking.

I had a really great meal a year or so ago at The Pig's Ear in Dublin. I found the recommendation by looking through epicurious.com and there were several other places suggested over there. Eating out in Dublin can be a bit hit and miss so getting recommendations is worth the effort. There will be plenty of great pubs around for eating and drinking too. In Cork we like the Woodford for lunch, and I'm sure others will have all kinds of suggestions.

Lots of places over here have an early bird menu which can be good value if you like eating a little early. They are a two or three course set menu which generally goes until 7.00 or 7.30 pm (you just have to order by that time but can keep eating afterwards) for usually 20-25 euro. I'd never seen a system like that before coming here and rather like it, so figured I'd mention it!
posted by shelleycat at 12:44 AM on November 27, 2012

I second Barryscourt and say absolutely do not miss Glendalough, but make certain on the way that you stop in the town of Kilkenny. There is a ton of medieval sightseeing and the town just felt very genuine to me. Not too big and industrial or over-touristy, and not too small and quaint, either (there is enough small and quaint in Ireland to get sick of rather quickly). Give yourselves a few hours for a walk-around stopover. Absolutely visit Rothe House and give Kilkenny Castle and the Black Abbey a try. Have a pint at Kyteler's Pub. It was by far and away my favorite pub in Ireland. While there wander downstairs (I just think the low vaulted ceiling down there is super neat).
posted by No Shmoobles at 3:21 PM on November 27, 2012

Response by poster: I'm on my way to Cork RIGHT NOW and I want to say that the advice so far has been spot on, the Pig's Ear was * amazing*.

Also the NYE's celebration was super fun. Fireworks and Rockabilly!
posted by The Whelk at 12:54 AM on January 2, 2013

Response by poster: In case anyone finds this on google, there are no plastic bags in the whole of Ireland and if you're like me and used to putting all your morning indoor picnic shopping into a huge sturdy plastic bag from the grocer, be warned that these sturdy plastic do not exist and you'll get, at best a small flimsy paper bag which, when carried in the fine mist will make your baguette very soggy indeed. Bring a reusable bag if you plan to do any serious shopping.
posted by The Whelk at 5:13 AM on January 7, 2013

Go to a Dunnes store and buy one of their thick plastic carrier bags (the light brown ones, not one of the thin ones). Don't get a paper one, it's raining too much, and don't bother with Tesco as their bags suck. Then just make sure you remember to not throw it away! There's a Dunnes on North Main Street in Cork. If you get lost just ask someone. If they don't know they'll most likely go around asking random people for you until they find someone who does. If you're holding up traffic at the same time, no bother it's grand.
posted by shelleycat at 10:49 AM on January 7, 2013

Like this.
posted by shelleycat at 10:51 AM on January 7, 2013

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