Have a question about our trip (or Ireland in general)? I’ll do my best to answer it. Please feel free to ask in the comments! Without further delay, here are some questions from reader, Kate.
Conor Pass – to go or not to go?
A friend told me that I should go over the Conor Pass. I see you did, but I have not seen many others mention it…what did you think?
In my opinion, it’s absolutely worth driving Conor Pass if you’re heading into Dingle (see the picture post here, my writeup of the experience, and Jason’s driving post for more details.) It’s a beautiful drive and has at least two overlooks where you can stop to see the amazing view of valley and lakes below. Our B&B host had recommended going on a clear day because the view is better. In our case the weather turned from clear to misty. The views were still very beautiful, though understandably less expansive.
Now for the part you may have heard about: Conor Pass is infamous for only being one lane at some points. However, neither Jason nor I thought it was actually that bad as far as driving goes. You just take your time around the turns and there are shoulder-like areas where you or other cars can pull over to pass. The single lane portion of the drive felt fairly brief overall.
In addition to the shoulder areas for passing along the route, there are also two larger areas (can accommodate 5+ cars) for passing or parking at the two overlooks. I imagine on a clearer day it might be more busy and require more waiting and/or passing, but, again, everyone we saw on the road seemed to take driving safely on it very seriously (as they should, but it was still reassuring).
I’d say don’t worry about what people say about the road and take your time. It’s worth it for the beautiful views.
How do you choose where to stay?
I’m interested in the B and B’s that you stayed at, how you found them and made decisions about where to stay.
I almost exclusively used TripAdvisor. My considerations were:
- Emphasis on B&Bs: We weren’t sure if we were B&B people or not, but wanted to try it. It seemed like it would be a more personal experience, and we were right.All of the B&B hosts we met were lovely. All had dining rooms which essentially felt like small restaurants; so, while you could choose to be sociable with others, you could also keep to yourself without any problems. We ended up meeting many incredible people from all around the world. It was really interesting to hear what brought them there and where else they’d been. Conclusion: we are B&B people. :)
- Well-rated: Jason and I are picky. We looked at the top 5-10 B&Bs for all of the cities we were staying in. We’d narrow it down to a couple and email those. If those were booked up, we moved on from there.
- Location: We liked being walking distance to town without being in the center of it, which can be noisier. (Be careful on this one: TripAdvisor’s maps can be misleading. I recommend using Bing or Google maps to cross check the actual location.) If we weren’t walking distance, then that brings me to the next point, which is…
- Proximity to transit: This was a major consideration in Dublin, where we were without a car (and I’d definitely recommend ditching the car for Dublin. It isn’t really necessary with Dublin Bus and the LUAS, plus it’s also extremely congested.) Our B&B in Dublin (Quince Cottage) was about a 5 minute walk from the LUAS, and then about a 30 minute ride to Dublin. This was perfect for us.
- Cost: On average, we wanted to spend no more than $100 per night. Some places were cheaper; we also had a splurge night in Dingle. Because breakfast is often included, this ended up being a great deal (it’s very easy to spend 10-15 euro per person on breakfast alone, and it also saves time for exploration!)
- Good food: We’re foodies, it’s true. Breakfast being included is a plus, but why not have it also be an amazing one? We paid close attention to what people had to say about food offerings. A negative word on this wasn’t a dealbreaker, but it still influenced our opinion.
- Good hosts: There are disgruntled people everywhere, but if multiple people had the same complaints about a B&B, we took it into consideration and emailed other places first. We would also read a couple bad reviews to see what people’s complaints are. However, we were careful not to allow the few negative reviews to sway us too much; among the well rated B&Bs, negative reviewers are most likely going to be a vocal minority whose experiences aren’t indicative of the greater whole.
- Decor: This sounds silly, but remember what I said about us being picky? We prefer simple furnishings and have more modern taste. Places with frilly floral curtains, crazy patterned wallpaper, or dizzying carpets were eliminated. Your mileage (and preferences) may vary on this one. :)
- Noise level: If people mentioned that it was a loud location, we took this into consideration. One place we wish we’d taken this more seriously was in Kenmare.
Sometimes it’s also a matter of deciding what isn’t important to you. A couple things we didn’t care about so much:
- Room and bathroom size: While we did enjoy having a larger room where possible, if people complained about the room size we didn’t count it against the B&B. We ended up with some smaller rooms at times, but we spent most of our time out exploring so room size didn’t matter much to us.
- City living: We like convenience, but not at the expense of a good night’s sleep. Being in downtown can be a mixed bag, especially on the weekend.
Ultimately, you’re the best judge of what you and your friends like. Factors like budget may be more or less important. You may not care about noise level and prefer to be right in the middle of the action, or you might want to be in a more remote location and rely on a car. It’s easy to overthink it, so if worse comes to worse, take a handful of the best rated B&Bs and just email them – they get those ratings for a reason!
Where we stayed
I want to do a more full write-up on this at some point. For now, however, here’s the quick and dirty list with links to the TripAdvisor page.
Dublin (beginning of trip)
Hilton Dublin Airport – Easy to get to via airport shuttle. Large, clean room. 30 minute bus ride to Dublin, and there’s a large Tesco across the street for provisions if you’re too jetlagged to manage much else. Some of the hallways smelled strongly of cigarette smoke (I’m very sensitive to it), but the rooms were fine.
Kilcullen House – One of our favorite breakfast offerings, and truly wonderful hosts. They were incredibly helpful and helped us plot out our Connemara route. It was a great location in walking distance to downtown Galway, the Salthill promenade, and a number of pubs and restaurants even closer (about 5 minutes away).
Roadford House – Gourmet restaurant and B&B. Separate entrances for the rooms and restaurant a plus. The room was huge and had a beautiful pastoral view. We were able to package our room with dinner for two for one night, so this ended up being a very cost effective way to simplify dinner for one night and enjoy the food of one of the best restaurants in Doolin. Also: Beans the dog lives here! :)
Pax House – Somewhere between a B&B and a hotel. We were greeted with tea and delicious shortbread. The main room is enormous and has sweeping views of the water. This was our splurge night and our room had a beautiful view of the water and binoculars for spotting the local celebrity dolphin, Fungie.
Virgina’s Guesthouse – Lovely hosts, but the downtown Kenmare location ended up being a mixed blessing. It was very loud at night with drunken partying going on until about 4 am in the morning. We didn’t get much sleep. Next time, we think we’d prefer to stay in Killarney.
Landfall House – The hosts are a darling couple and absolutely hilarious as well. A beautiful dream house which they built up on a hill; gorgeous views of the water and Kinsale town. It’s a 10 minute walk downhill to Kinsale (allow 20 minutes to walk back) with sidewalks the whole way. Huge room and large bathroom as well.
The Pembroke – A very modern and cool boutique hotel in downtown Kilkenny. Walking distance to Kilkenny Castle and Kyteler’s Inn. The included breakfast was good, but not great.
Dublin (end of trip)
Quince Cottage – Beautiful B&B tucked about 30 minutes outside Dublin by LUAS in a peaceful and quiet location. It’s a 5 minute walk to the LUAS line, which comes frequently. Brendan is an amazing baker and greeted us with tea and homemade honey cake. He also was kind enough to drop us and our bags off at a nearby hotel to catch the airport shuttle on our last day.
What about the Glendalough monastic ruins?
Did you spend any time at Glendalough?
Sadly, we didn’t stop at Glendalough. The monastic ruins we visited were Clonmacnoise (between Dublin and Galway) and Kilmacduagh (between Gort and Corofin in the Burren). Both were amazing, though I’d have to say I favor Kilmacduagh because it was totally deserted (and also has the tallest intact round tower in all of Ireland!)
Kate, I hope this answers all of your questions. I want to do a more complete B&B write-up at some point, but this was a great chance to talk a little about where we stayed. Let me know if there’s anything else I can help out with!