Scotland and Ireland – November 2018
- Day 1 – Inverness: I checked into an Airbnb overlooking the mouth of the Ness river with views of the Inverness castle. Inverness was a surprisingly much smaller than anticipated city, but the downtown is very nice. I explored various pubs, listened to some Scottish music while watching older couples dance to the traditional songs, and I had a casual dinner. Due to no sleep on the flight, I went to bed quite early, but the town folk were ready to have fun on a Saturday night.
- Day 2 – Rabbies Isle or Skye tour: A 12 hour tour of all things Scottish highlands. We saw good landscapes and natural features of the highlands, plus a newer built castle. The guide gave us a lot of great history and background information on Scotland while we were driving, which was helpful to pass the time given the northern end of Skye is about 3.5 hours from Inverness. We really lucked out with weather given the mid-November timeframe – sun all day, not incredibly cold, and no wind. I would recommend the tour. We saw a lot despite the short sunrise to sunset winter clock.
- Day 3 – Edinburgh: I traveled via ScotRail from Inverness to Edinburgh (about 4 hours for only 8 pounds…not bad). Side note on ScotRail: if you buy a ticket online, you need the exact card you used to redeem a paper ticket. That was a small unforeseen issue, but the ticket office was luckily able to remedy it quickly. Upon arrival, I checked into a my Airbnb in Grassmarket right next to the Edinburgh castle. For lunch, I had Bene’s haggis fritters. Interesting taste if you can get past the fact you’re eating sheep stomach and lungs. I then walked the Royal Mile for a bit before doing Little Fish Tour’s whisky tasting at the bar Waverley. The smoked whisky from Laguvulin was my favorite. After the tasting, I had a quick dinner and did Mercat Tour’s ghost underground tour. The tour was alright – good story telling, and the bridge vaults were interesting, but there wasn’t a whole lot of substance for the amount you pay.
- Day 4 – Edinburgh: I woke up and enjoyed a Scottish breakfast…haggis round two. I spent some morning time at the National Museum of Scotland. Next, I did a Harry Potter tour via an Airbnb experience. I met some people from my hometown on this tour. We had fish and chips after the tour and then toured Edinburgh Castle. After the castle, I did the “Taste of Scotland” with the Scottish Whiskey Experience. The tasting was a really good primer into how whiskey was made. They gave us 5 types of whisky to try (one from each main Scottish whisky region). Again, my favorite was from Islay with the smokey peat flavors. Finally, we had a 3 course fancy dinner. The dinner was very well done and had a good selection of food. You could also order drams of essentially any Scottish whisky there is for a reasonable price.
- Day 5 – Dublin: I flew RyanAir from Edinburgh to Dublin. We checked into our Airbnb on Cow’s Lane in the Temple Bar area. We walked around town for a bit to orient ourselves. We then did an evening Connoisseur tour of the Guinness Storehouse. They give you 4 half pints of various Guiness, teach you how to properly pour the “classic” Guiness (which you drink), and then you get another glass at any of the Storehouse bars. The tour itself was self-guided, but the Connoisseur portion had a guide. Overall, it was an OK tour but maybe not worth the price. We finished with dinner in a pub where I had Irish stew.
- Day 6 – Dublin: The City has a decent audio guided app called the Dubline, which takes you through the history of Dublin in a line- shaped walking tour. We did that in the morning. At noon, we did Irish Whiskey Museum’s tasting. They gave us 3 types of blends and a single malt whiskey after explaining the distillation process through a series of different rooms with a tour guide. It was a good tour, but I think Scottish whisky wins in my book. In the afternoon, we took a 30 minute train to the Howth Cliff Walk. Since the weather was nice, this was a good time out of the city for a bit. We walked 6k along the coastline with some great sea views. We ate all of our meals in pubs this day.
- Day 7 – Galway: In the morning, we went back to the airport to rent a car from Avis. We got a little hatchback called SEAT mii. Driving on the left side of the road for the first time was not as bad as I imagined. It’s hard to gauge how far left you are, given the steering wheel position. We drove up to Newgrange to see the Stonehenge of Ireland. Then, we stopped off at Trim Castle to see the castle where Braveheart was filmed. We ended in Galway, where we checked out their Christmas market and had some authentic Irish food…pizza.
- Day 8 – Dingle Peninsula: We started this morning by heading to the Cliffs of Moher. The views were a little misty, but pretty good. These are pretty big cliffs. After I managed to fall in some mud, we set of through the countryside to Dingle. The drive through Conor Pass was fun. Once in Dingle, I had some fish and chips and checked out the town. Dingle is certainly a pub town.
- Day 9 – Cork: In the morning, we headed to the Ring of Kerry with the main goal of learning how to herd sheep. We got to cross a few crazy single track mountain pass roads where the posted speed limit is 60mph (but you can go nowhere near that). Once outside the Waterville area, we met Timothy and his daughter on their sheep farm. They showed us how they trained their sheep dog, Rose. Then, we collected about 70 sheep from the top of the hill using the dog. They explained how sheep farming is conducted and had us wrangle a sheep. After that, we continued on the Ring of Kerry. A highlight was the Kerry Cliffs. We ate at a small pub called The Blind Piper. That night, we ended in Cork, where we stayed with an Irish woman in her spare bedroom.
- Day 10 – Dublin: We took a slow drive back to Dublin through the south east of Ireland. We went to Blarney Castle, which was cool because the inside of the castle is largely untouched. Of course we kissed the Blarney Stone (when in Rome, after all). We then headed to Midleton, where Jameson’s distillery plant is. We did the tour of the old plant and sampled a lot of whiskey. We ended with a lunch at their restaurant and drove back to Dublin.