I was in Ireland the first week of October for a travel blogging conference called TBEX. We spent three days in the lovely town of Killarney, learning about all things related to travel writing, photography, social media and more. In this post I will introduce you to TBEX, but also to the beauties of Ireland. I will take you to explore the best things to do and places to see on a trip to Ireland, and on a road trip across the country. Going from the Killarney National Park to Galway, form the Cliffs of Moher to Dublin. If you’re planning the ultimate road trip in Ireland, this is the travel guide for you!
What is TBEX?
TBEX is a big travel blogging conference, which is hosted every year in a different location. When I saw the 2017 European edition was going to be held so close to home, I couldn’t help but buy a ticket! I’m very glad I did, as it was an incredible learning experience, where I also met loads of other cool travel bloggers and interesting brands to potentially work with. There are various sessions held throughout the two days of conferences, with some of the biggest travel bloggers and experts in the field as speakers. While these are extremely interesting and there is lots to learn, the social events are what I enjoyed the most, and have convinced me to attend another future TBEX.
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How to get to Killarney
The event was held in the town of Killarney. We got a flight from London into Kerry, which lasted about an hour and a half. Booked early in advance the Ryanair flights can be as cheap as 15 GBP. Getting from Kerry Airport to Killarney is really easy, with regular public buses running every hour or taxis costing around 20 EUR. There are other airports in the area, such as Shannon, but Kerry is considerably closer and easier to get to Killarney from. With flight prices being roughly the same we figured Kerry was the best one to fly to.
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This part of Ireland is especially known for the Kerry Road Ring and the Killarney National Park. The Killarney National Park was the first national park of Ireland and is now a place of high ecological value because of the quality and diversity of its habitats. The Ring of Kerry is a circular tourist route that goes around all the most scenic spots of the area, including Killarney and the National Park. On the first afternoon we escaped part of the conference to explore the Killarney National Park, we might have missed some networking but it was well worth it! It took us around an hour and a half to walk from the conference centre in Killarney to Torc Waterfall. Most of the walk was beautiful and scenic, as it went through the park. What we weren’t expecting were the strong winds coming from the lake. There was so much spray coming from the lake at one point that we thought it had started raining! By the time we reached the waterfall we were a bit damp and tired, but the view was worth it. We were so exhausted and cold after the walk to the waterfall (we’re not in great shape, I know!) that we hitched a ride back to Killarney with a lovely American couple.
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A Taste of West Cork
On the final day of TBEX we went on a tour organised by the TBEX hosts and Irish tourism boards. While I really enjoyed the conference days and socials in the evening, I have to say the Taste of West Cork tour was the highlight of the event for me. We set off really early in the morning from Killarney, and were on the road by 8am. The first stretch of driving was the longest, where we spent about an hour and a half driving on small country roads and past cute little towns. The winding country roads can take their toll if you have issues with car sickness (or had too much to drink at the closing party the night before…) so you might want to be equipped with travel sickness pills. We eventually arrived in Skibbereen for the first trop of our tasting tour.
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The first stop of our tour was at the Kalbos Cafè, where some of the most renowned local artisan food producers had gathered with tasting samples for us to try. We tried some incredible scotch eggs, black and white pudding, scones and other local Irish products. Claire even tried seaweed, check out her reaction in the video! The next stop was the Fields of Skibbereen local supermarket, which has been open in West Cork since 1935. In Skibbereen we also visited the Heritage Centre, where we learnt about the Irish potato famine. The potato famine is a big part of Irish history, and it was extremely interesting to hear the story told by Terry Kearney, the local historian. If you ever visit the Skibbereen museum centre, make sure to ask of her and she will be more than happy to give you a tour. If you want to know more about the Irish potato famine you can read more here.
On the second stop we went to the town of Clonakilty. Here we had a light lunch (you know, we were a little hungry after all the samples in Skibereen!) at the Emmet Hotel, a lovely family run, boutique hotel. Before getting back on the coach we also did a short walking tour of Clonakility, exploring the small side streets and immersing ourselves in the stereotypical Irish atmosphere. We also did a stop at the De Barra’s pub, a famous venue for folk music lovers, where we practised pouring pints of Guinness.
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After departing Clonakilty we drove to Timoleague, a small town of only 350 inhabitants, but with a rich and emerging food culture. We were surprised to find in such a small town two extraordinary restaurants just next to each other. One is Monk’s Lane, run by an Irish-Italian couple, who grew the majority of the vegetables and fruits they cook in the orchard just behind the restaurant, which we were lucky enough to get a tour of. Just next door there is Dillons Restaurant, a venue often used also for wedding receptions, with amazing food and an adorable beer garden in the back. After sampling food and drinks at these two lovely restaurants we wandered around the town of Timoleague for a bit, before driving to our last stop of the day; the Ummera Smokehouse. Here they make an award winning smoked produce, from salmon to chicken and other artisanal products. The owner even gave us a tour of the fridges and where the smoking happens.
The Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher are one of the most famous landmarks and tourist attractions of Ireland, they also hold the title of Irelands “Most Visited Natural Tourist Attraction”. Our Taste of West Cork ended in Cork where we then also spent the Friday night. We went out a bit to explore the nightlife, but after the early start and all the food we had all day we didn’t have the energy to stay out late (eating is a tiring business)! We went to bed early so that we could be up at 7am to go pick up our rental car from the airport. The journey lasted about two hours and a half, with most of it driving through a beautiful green countryside, the only big city that you have to drive through or around is Limerick.
When we finally arrived at the cliffs of Moher we were greeted by a huge grey cloud. The clouds were so low you almost couldn’t even see the cliffs. Fortunately there is a nice museum and café at the cliffs, where we spent a bit of time learning about the history of the cliffs while waiting for the mist to lift up. The cliffs are 8km long and at their highest point reach 214m. The views over the sea are incredible and being so high up over it really has a way of making you feel the power of nature.
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After spending some time at the Cliffs of Moher we had intended to drive straight to Dublin, doing a short stop in Limerick to grab some food. However when we Google mapped it we realised Galway was actually closer and since neither of us had ever been there, we decided to give our road trip a #YOLO impromptu turn! It took us about an hour and a half to get to Galway from the Cliffs of Moher and the drive this time was even more scenic, with some of the last roads having views over the sea. We were really glad we did that, as we absolutely loved Galway. The town centre is really cute and quaint, and there was an incredible atmosphere. There were street performers at every corner, competing for the attention of the casual passersby, which added to the liveliness of Galway. After wandering around the centre for a bit we sadly had to set off around 4:30pm, ready for the two hour and a half car journey ahead to Dublin.
We arrived in Dublin on Saturday night exhausted from the long day of driving, so couldn’t really appreciate the fun local nightlife. We ventured out to explore Temple and if we hadn’t been so tired it would have been an incredible night out. Everybody is super friendly, with live musicians playing and people dancing in the streets. If you’re the kind of person that enjoys a good night out, I recommend trying to arrive in Dublin for a Saturday night less exhausted than we were, as you’re almost guaranteed a good night! The best area to explore for an evening in Dublin is Temple, where the famous Temple bar is, but also a wide variety of other Irish pubs.
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After having recovered from our road trip we only had one day to explore Dublin properly, before flying back to London on Sunday evening. Our first stop was Trinity College, the university famous for its picturesque campus and the Book of Kells Exhibition in its Old Library. The queue for the library was huge and since we only had a day in Dublin we chose to wander around outside instead, to see as much as possible of the actual city. We enjoyed exploring Temple during the day as the atmosphere was very different from our visit the previous night, but still with a great lively vibe. The Guinness Storehouse is another of the main tourist attractions in Dublin. Even as a non-beer drinker I enjoyed paying it a visit, especially because of the beautiful views from the rooftop terrace.
Have you been to Ireland before? How did you find it? Let me know in the comments below! This is the complete travel guide to our Ireland trip, outlining all the stops that we did ourselves. If you’re planning a trip Ireland these are also the main tourist attractions and are considered the best things to see in the country, so make sure you don’t miss them!
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