Travel Fail: We gain a day in the Irish countryside

I realized this doesn’t sound like a fail. In fact, gaining a day sounds kind of impressive – especially when the International Date Line isn’t even involved. Losing a day is a easy peasy… an hour at a beach turns into an all day affair, finding something for lunch takes until dinnertime and so forth. Losing a day is easy; but gaining a day, now that takes some work. Still, you’ll have to believe me, this one was a fail.

First of all, the location of the Irish countryside alone sounds like it should have been impossible to gain a day. Winding roads, rolling hills, verdant pastures all lend themselves to the whiling away of days, not the powering through of days. In the Irish countryside people should take time to savor the beauty, enjoy the scenic route and to smell the four-leaf clovers not hurry along and reach their destination in record time.

Here’s the thing, kilometers are confusing.

Rental car in Northern Ireland.

Me, reading the map and apparently not having a good grasp on what a kilometer really, truly represents.

After seeing Scotland and spending time in Belfast, for the first time in our lives (outside the U.S.), we rented a car. The rental was for 4 days/3 nights and our end game was Dublin where we’d return it before spending a few nights in the city and then flying home. The most direct route between these two cities takes about 1.5 hours. Our hearts were in the right place though and we opted to take the scenic route that should have taken us all four days and all three nights.

Rental car in Ireland.

We nicknamed her Dory. You know, like the blue fish on Finding Nemo.

First, we set off along the beautiful Antrim Coast (see our drive here) and then after a night in Portrush (so cute) and another night in Bunbeg (blah), we set out toward Dublin with the idea that we’d find a cute town along the way where we’d grab a hotel.

It was on this last day that things went wonky but before I get to that part, I’d like to point out that we did in fact try to take it nice and slow. We tried really hard and here are some of the things we enjoyed. Also, this was the first day driving in Ireland instead of Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland uses miles; the Republic of Ireland uses kilometers.

1. We enjoyed the open road.

Because really, being on the open road (especially when it’s this open) is always nice.

Open road in Ireland.

On the map this looked like a main road. I may have been wrong.

Here’s an action shot of the nothingness around us.

2. We enjoyed getting off the beaten path.

See, it sure looks like we had plenty of downtime. I’m standing by a gate in the middle of nowhere for crying out loud!

Gate along the Irish countryside.

As a city girl, it’s not often in my life that I have to open a gate before driving through.

Any time we’d see a sign for a picnic area, vista point or the like, we’d pull off the road and check it out. Sometimes it was nothing more than a rest stop, but other times we’d drive down a tiny dirt road for 20 minutes before finding something like this with instructions to close it behind you lest the livestock escape.

Closing a gate along the Irish countryside.

So we did.

And then we’d find little gems like this…

A lake in the Irish Countryside.

What do you do when you find yourself at a random lake with a dock? You walk to the end of it, obviously.

Ireland car driving into water sign.

And I’m pretty sure we saw a sign like this which we didn’t think to photograph. This image credit belongs to Good thing we saw the sign or we might have landed Dory in the lake.

3. We enjoyed the small-town life.

All too often when traveling you find yourself in cities – Edinburgh, Glasgow, Belfast, Dublin… but on our detours through small towns and into roadside parks and local leisure spots we found people enjoying picnics, fishermen doing their catching fish thing and bored teenagers trying their best to stir up trouble in the middle of nowhere.

Little village in Ireland.

The little villages were cute and quaint to pass by, but yeah, if I was a teenager (or an adult) here, I’d be probably be bored too. Seriously though, those kids were driving way too fast!

Irish countryside and coastline.

It sure was pretty to visit though.

4. We enjoyed seeing things you probably wouldn’t see on a road trip in the United States.

Like the remnants of an old castle or maybe a church… either way, it looks cool.

Castle in the Irish Countryside.

Like this one near Bunbeg.

Or what remains from an old ring fort…

Ring fort (Grianan of Aileach) in Ireland.

Like this one, The Grianan of Aileach near Londonderry / Derry.

5. And yeah, we enjoyed the sun.

I’ve mentioned before and I’ll probably mention again that we got crazy lucky with the weather on this trip. It was sunny and hot and we brought all the wrong things to wear. Still, if your biggest complaint for a trip is that you brought too many sweaters and not enough tanks tops, you probably should just shut up about it.

Sunny Ireland in Bunbeg.

Is that the sun in your eyes? In Ireland? In May? Say what?!

See? Doesn’t it look like we took things nice and slow?

Here’s what went wrong. Ireland is really small… like really, really small. The whole island is roughly the size of Indiana and we didn’t exactly account for this when planning our driving route. In my defense, my thought process was that even though we would have a rental car for that portion of the trip, we didn’t want to spend the whole time inside the car. Still, although this point may have some merit, we could have managed our time better and seen a bit more of the country.

The plan was to hit the open road and somewhere on the way, find a cute place to spend the night. So there we were, lollygagging along and then BAM! we hit the Dublin suburbs – one day too early. Google Maps says the whole driving part probably only took us just under four hours. For anyone who’s ever taken a road trip, that’s a short driving day.

I promise you, we spent tons of time doing this:

A park in the Irish countryside.

And barely any time doing this:

Driving in the Irish Countryside.

Regardless, there we were, in Dublin. After a little deliberation over whether it made sense to grab a generic, suburban hotel and return the car, as planned in the morning we decided that it worked better for our budget to go ahead and return the car that night and get a partial refund.

We returned the car at the airport and spent the night in the airport. Also, in case you’re wondering, the Dublin airport ranks as my #1 airport for sleeping. Seriously, it was better than some hotels and there was no one nearly as heinous as this.

Here are a few more of my favorite photos from that day spent driving hanging out.

The Irish Countryside.

The Irish Countryside.

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