People may say we're crazy when they see this trip report -- too much moving around, too much driving -- but I say to each his own! That's what's great about travel -- we all focus on what we'd like to do. SO... here are our ~10 days in Ireland -- our first trip, for our 30th wedding anniversary. Thanks upfront to all posters here who offered wonderful advice and suggestions.
O'Hare to Dublin - Taxi from DUB to City Center
Drop bags at The Dean - "boutique" hotel within walking distance to city center/sites and one where they provide earplugs as a matter of course. I loved the HIP and my husband did not prefer the NOISE. I will stay again 100%. Cool/design rooms, rooftop w/views and a rope swing. Courteous employees pretending I'm hip even tho I'm old. https://deandublin.ie/
Walked thru town to Fallon & Byrne on Exchequer Street for Lunch. Grocery/prepared foods to stay/go. 1.50 euro for 1 stalk of corn.
National Gallery self-guided ... hit the highlights (FREE)
Walked St. Stephen's Green & Merion Square. Victorian Doors & Oscar Wilde Statue
Tour @ Christ Church Cathedral (AMAZING docent) Something for everyone ... history, art, architecture, opportunity ring the bells in the tower.
PUBS: Toner's and Doheny & Nesbitt (recommended by friends from Dublin) Classic interiors and friendly locals.
DINNER: The Fish Shop @ 76 Benburb St (very few tables, 100% courtesy staff, EXCELLENT menu options, hip ambiance w/whitewashed walls!)
Skipped breakfast @ Hatch & Son's (St. Stephen's Green location) .. Only coffee spot open = Starbucks....!
Book of Kells =10am Access Tickets LOVED/"antechamber" full of great info/library amazing ...! Calder in the plaza outside.
LUNCH: Dollard & Company: highly recommend ... bakery, butcher, order food to eat in, pizza ovens, etc.... I like to poke through grocery stores and food emporiums when I travel. This was fun.
PUB: Walked along river, ha'penny bridge and thru Temple Bar area (stopped at Merchant Arch for a pint)
on way to Dublin Castle tour (another AMAZING docent -- great variety, something for everyone, recommend)
PUB: Long Haul on walk back to hotel.
On way to dinner:
PUB: The Barge ... fun ambiance, on the canal.
DINNER: The Exchequer in Ranelagh (they have 2 locations) Our "official" anniversary dinner, although we had many haha ... service, food, menu, WINE = TOP SHELF.
After Dinner: PUB: J. O'Connells on walk back to hotel.
Rented Car in Dublin, drove to Kilkenny.
(I drove 100% of the trip; we rented manual. No issues. Rented from Hertz on Haddington Rd, Dublin)
Pouring rain ... walked up to Kilkenny Castle and elected to skip interior... walked park and gardens.
Next up: CASHEL! LOVED this stop.
Had lunch reservations at MIKEY RYAN'S -- again, raining but checked out the herbs and outdoor space out back ... LOVED and will return. https://www.mikeyryans.ie/
After lunch, Rock of Cashel! A highlight... amazing view of countryside and TWO good docents. Take time to tour the chapel (separate tour & ticket); good information on restoration, etc. Recommend!
After Rock --- T J Ryan Pub (classic interior, friendly bartender & patrons) in town before heading to Kenmare for the night at O Donnabhains.
O Donnabhains was lovely. Clean, friendly, pub on the ground floor that was lively w/fire and trad music. Breakfast in the mornings was served by husband & wife while kids ate in uniforms w/bookbags and then left for school. I am not a B&B lover, but I will return here. Rooms are Spartan but clean.
DINNER @ No. 35 in Kenmare. Lovely ambiance, excellent food, candle lit, affable hosts, service not rushed.
Stopped in a few local pubs for trad music. Easy town to walk.
...to be continued ... out of space!