Ireland Road Trip: Cork & Kerry between Christmas and New Years

We’re just returned from exploring the Cork & Kerry areas which we spent a lot of time about 10 years ago.  The kids were not born then so it’s all new to them.  We were very much looking forward to visiting familiar places – hope the seafood chowder and open-faced, smoked salmon sandwiches at O’Sullivans Bar in Crookhaven in West Cork were as good as they were.

We have been doing some research on places to stay and we’ve found a cottage on Airbnb which is less than 50 a night!!    Just looking at the photos, the place is very cozy (aka a bit small ) but it’s okay as we’ll only use it for sleeping, breakfast… oh I’m sure we’ll use the wood burning stove at night as we love those and don’t have one here in our home…. but we’re there to explore!!

Here are photos of the cottage shown on the website.  There were some differences like a new washing machine, a round kitchen table and a different sofa, but all in all it was essentially the same and our home for four nights.

The cottage is the section with the three sky light windows on the right side.

PROS:  It’s a lovely cottage in the remote area of Ahakista on the Sheep’s Head Peninsula.   It is quiet, has beautiful views and was rebuilt from a 100 year old shell of stone. All the money the owner makes from it’s rental she puts back into the property.  Next up are solar panels and a hot tub.

CONS:   My only “issue” with the house was that it had steep steps from the top floor to the bottom leaving the top was wide open.  So in the middle of the night, if you were to walk from bedroom #2 to the toilet, if you were not careful, you could take a tumble.  I’m sure for an adult that would not happen but we were concerned for the first days with our 4.5 year old old… so we kept her down stairs or when she was up to use the toilet we went with her.  If I were to recommend it to a family with small children, I’d recommend a stair gate at the top – in fact, I think a stair gate would be a good idea regardless – rather be safe than sorry!

Day 1

We left Dublin around 9 am and headed via the highway down to Cork with a visit in Kinsale. It’s pretty much the same feel of a sailing village with a mix fisherman, tourists and a fair share of range rover driving yummy mummies.  On the way out we spotted a nice playground which we thought was new… well new to us.  At our last visit we didn’t have kids so perhaps it was there all the time and we had never noticed it.

We were looking for a place to have lunch and settled for Jim Edwards Seafood Restaurant.  We were thinking about the Spaniard or the Bullman but had already parked our car and so just decided to find something in the town.. BUT they must have seafood chowder and it must have a cold beer for Nils.  I wrote a review on Tripadvisor here about the entire meal but overall the food was good.  I’d recommend it, but I would not dine their again on a future trip to Kinsale rather try something else.
Here is Soren with his first bowl [of many]seafood chowder on our 4 night trip.
Here are a few photos I took of Kinsale.

Kinsale is also home to Stone Mad.

It’s a lovely jewelry shop which me, my MIL and three sister-in-laws own many pieces from but for some reason at this stage in my life, I’d rather not spend 70 euro on a pair of bling bling, I’d rather buy my black, short Hunter wellies, which yes, I’m still on the hunt.  The one shop in the village which sold Hunters didn’t sell short ones.  As I needed a pair for this trip, I opted for a blue pair from Fat Face until I get them.   They are cute and very comfy!!

My in-laws rented a small place in Kinsale for a while just across the bay (in the little pink houses).

On the way out of town towards the cottage, we drove by a lovely beach area called Garretstown Beach.  I would love to return here in the warmer weather with the kids.  They have a very popular, surf school too, Gtown Surf School.

Day 2

We first started out going down the Sheep’s Head Peninsula to the end where there is a lighthouse.  The road was so windy and Maebh was a bit car sick at the end and threw up a bit.  From then on when we had a windy road, which was pretty often, we asked the kids to look out the window and enjoy the view.

After a very cold, windy wind-swept visit to the tip, we headed back over a rocky pass and over towards Bantry and then on to Kenmare for lunch.

Getting to Kenmare we had to go over the Caha Pass where the kids thought it was pretty cool to drive into the rock tunnels.

Kenmare in Kerry – one of our favorite towns. We love it so much Maebh’s middle name is Neidin. [Kenmare (Irish: An Neidín, meaning “the little nest”!]  It’s also known as “Ireland’s most Dutch town”!

The town has not stayed the same over the past 10 years, it has gotten better.  Better restaurants, great shops including Fat Face and a few other boutique shops but some of the old favorites remain like the Purple Heather Bistro and O’Donobahains.   I did a quick TripAdvisor search and decided to go eat at P. F. McCarthy’s pub as they were given the best ratings for their seafood chowder.  Truthfully when we walked in, I thought ugh not nice atmosphere nor is it a cozy pub but the food was surprising excellent … Soren really liked the chowder here too.  It was full of fish – perhaps a bit too much if that is possible.

After our lunch, we ended up driving a bit and stopping at two really nice beaches.  The first one was a small beach but very quiet and lovely rockpools for the kids – would be amazing in the summer.  Of course, I can’t think of their names this second, but I will ask Nils and update it.  I think the second one was called Caherldaniel.

And our typical Aquarius water-boy, can’t keep him out of the water…

The second beach  was very nice too… would be great in the summer – soft white sand beach with amazing views.

Day 3

We headed towards Schull, Mizen Head, Goleen and with our final stop being O’Sullivan’s in Crookhaven for what we remember is the best seafood chowder and open face smoked salmon sandwiches.

First stop was to pop around Schull – visit the pier to see if the resident seal was around (which he was not this time) then poke in a few shops and a stop at the playground.  We think this down has changed a bit since we rememberd it 10 year ago… Perhaps it was because it was winter and all the tourists were not present but it was not as quaint as we remembered it.

We then make our way to the Barley Cove Beach which was SOOOO windy!  Maebh and I stayed back and explored a part that was sheltered and when Soren returned he was completely soaked from going in the water!!!  One day we will try and spend a few nights, in the summer, at the nearby Barley Cove Beach Hotel.

And off to Dermot’s place – O’Sullivan’s where you can have a pint of beer in the most southerly pub in Ireland.  The seafood chowder to me and Nils was delicious – Soren & Maebh didn’t like it too much as they didn’t like the dill.   But one thing we did notice is you get less than you did before. You’d think the soup would be up to the line in the bowl…

It was as if keeping a heaping ladle of soup from each bowl, nets you an extra bowl for every so many served and there was a lot being served as it was PACKED!!  Perhaps the bust of the Celtic Tiger or a bit of greed, but we both agreed it was not good.  It was bit like the bar I worked at in Boston where they poured generic ketchup into Heinz bottles to save money !!  Overall, the food was good – not cheap at 6.00 a bowl and 11.00 for an open faced sandwich – went spent more at that lunch than we did a dinner the day before! Oh and of course, horrible beer selections for me… so tomato juice it was.  It was nostalgic and we’re glad we visited.  Perhaps next time we visit, we’ll come by sailboat.  (Update: We came with our friends Nicole, Sam & Mason) when they visited from Boston.

Day 4 

The last day, we drove down past Castletown Bearhaven to Dursey Island where there is a cable car which still is operational.  The most westerly of Cork’s inhabited islands, Dursey is separated from the mainland by a narrow sound known for its strong tides. It is accessed by Ireland’s only cable car, which runs about 250m above the sea. It can carry six people at a time (locals get preference) on the 15 minute journey. Without any shops, pubs or restaurants, this peaceful little island offers day-trippers an escape from the hustle and bustle of modern living. It is, however, home to three small villages and forms part of the Beara Way Walking Trail. Dursey is an excellent place for viewing wildlife, as a variety of birds can be seen here, including rare species from Siberia and America. Dolphins and whales can also fre – quently be spotted in the waters surrounding the island. On the island’s most westerly hill sits the 200-year-old Signal Tower, which boasts commanding views north to the Skellig Islands and south to Mizen Head. There are also ruins of the ancient church of Kilmichael, which is thought to have been founded by monks from Skellig Michael.

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