It really is possible to see all the best parts of this country in just one week without feeling frantic. We meticulously planned this itinerary and it served us so well! Let's just in!
We very nearly lost our first flight because we just HAD to get drinks at the Penn Brewery in the airport. We made the attendant radio down and beg on our behalf. The pilot had mercy and let us on the plane, but they had to put the ramp back down for us. After a short flight to D.C. we caught a six-hour flight to Dublin on Aer Lingus where we were served snacks, dinner, and a small breakfast that was just as Irish as it could be with all the brown bread and beef stew and strong coffee. The flight had free movies and games and was actually super comfy.
Day 1: Dublin
We landed in Dublin at 5am, figured out our rental car and then committed to staying awake no matter what to reregulate our body clocks. So we had brunch at Kalph Café who claimed the world’s finest baked potato. We had full Irish breakfast, with blood sausage and the whole bit, and pots and pots of tea. Then we walked all over town taking in the sites, from Trinity College to the Temple Bar area.
Next, we walked to the Guinness Factory and had a comprehensive tour of their storage facility. We received official training in how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness and watched Irish river dancers in the bar. We grabbed a quick lunch of roasted pepper soup of Croque Mousier sandwiches at the Guinness restaurant and headed to Brazenhead, an adorable bar that weirdly mirrored our Brazenhead in Columbus. Dad talked to a local about a brand of whisky he wanted to try and offered the man a drink. “No,” he said, “I’m an alcoholic.” “But you’re drinking a Guinness,” my dad said. “Well that doesn’t count does it?”
We finished the night with shopping and pub hopping in the Temple Bar area and finally settling in to watch the world cup over dinner at Gogarty’s Pub.
Day 2: Kilkenny, Rock of Cashel, and Dingle
The next morning we headed out early for Kilkenny. I had heard amazing things, but this precious little town far exceeded our expectations. This town just looked like a postcard everywhere you turned. We pulled in around 10am and were desperate for a good breakfast and cup of coffee so after asking a few locals for recommendations, we landed at Marble City Café. We had the loveliest breakfast of porridge with cream and berry coulis, bacon and egg croissant, crepe style pancakes with maple cinnamon syrup, apple tart with cream and lingonberry, and cups and cups of strong black tea and coffee swirled with cream. We couldn’t help but linger over our delicious breakfast located in a narrow stone alley called a slip that used to be home to a medieval outdoor market.
We peeked into several building whose history amazed us. There was a pub that had been the home of a woman convicted of witchcraft who escaped in the night, sprawling Kilkenny Castle grounds, and rows of colorful shops known as the medieval market. Before leaving town we had a pint in the Smithwick’s factory and popped over to cathedral to see a century old and still standing round look-out tower.
After a few hours of countryside driving we arrived at Rock of Cashel, home to some of the very most important buildings in Ireland. We passed stalls with Belgium chocolates, sheep milk lattes, and piles of wool sweaters on our way to the Rock and hustled to join the tour. The tour guide reminded Dad of his dad with his long stories and engaging personality. He told us a darling story his Nan told him of how a large dip got into a distant mountain. He told us the devil took a bite out of the mountain and went after his enemy in Cashel. He spit the hunk of mountain out and the Rock of Cashel was formed. After poking around the castle grounds a little longer we went back down the hill be buy a few woolen cardigans and get back on the road to Dingle.
My dad has dreamed of coming to Dingle for years and years so we couldn’t get there fast enough. Dingle is a smallish pier town that has boomed over the years as its perfect traditional Irish charm has been discovered. There are rows and rows of pubs, each with live music. We checked into our B&B, The Last Cottage, and then headed to Murphy’s Pub for dinner, drinks, and live music. Dingle their produces gin, vodka, and whisky and the Dingle gin and tonic I had that first night was certainly the best I’ve ever tasted. We listened to traditional Irish music and sipped on Irish coffees and neat whiskeys, but the food wasn’t incredible. We finally got to bed late that night before a long day in Dingle the next day.
Day 3: Dingle and Dingle Peninsula
On the morning of Day three Ben and I started the day with a walk down the pier to The Strand Café for a fresh scone with raspberry jam and butter and “takeaway” coffees. We jumped in the car to drive the Dingle Peninsula and Conner’s Pass, an approximately 500km scenic drive around the coast. Our first stop was at the beach, where I put my toes in on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean for the first time and watched a brave swimmer take on the 40-degree water. A few miles later we walked up the hillside to see “beehive cottages” constructed in 2,000 B.C. The door to the bathroom read, “Dear Customer, please close the door, as my sheep will eat the toilet paper.”
All along the drive, we would pull off to step outside and snap a few pictures of the spectacular view, but we stopped again for good at the Tea Café overlooking the bay for some dried fruit scones, freshly squeezed orange juice, and a pot of tea. We had a long chat with a sweet couple from England while overlooking the bay. After a few more miles we stopped at the filming sight of The Last Jedi and climbed a hill for some of the most stunning views of our lives. We loved the view so much that we knew we had to take the treacherous drive up Connor’s Pass for one more mountainside hike that took our breath away.
It was our goal to be in the Dingle Pubs all night long, so we started our night at 4pm in Jack Benny’s Pub where I had an elderflower cocktail and we all split a steaming bowl of Guinness and red wine braised beef stew topped with garlic bread and mashed parsnips. Next, we stopped in Foxy John’s, Dad’s favorite, which was a bar by night and a hardware store by day. Dad immediately struck up conversation with John and Erica, the bar tenders, and a local man who maybe had the strongest Irish burr I’ve ever heard. We settled into the company and stayed a long time, listening to the Bagpipes playing at the back of the bar.
Soon we were hungry enough to need dinner. We headed off to The Marina for potato leek soup, fried haddock and chips, and pints of Guinness. After dinner we swung by the Reel Chip Shop for a bag full of more fried haddock and salt and vinegar fries that we wolfed down at a picnic table outside the grocery. We ended the night in O’Flannery’s where the owner also led a band playing traditional Irish music. He played guitar, tin whistle, and accordion while he sang Irish ballads and played lively jigs. We were captivated and stayed almost the rest of the night, drinking and singing along. We met some new friends from Boston who introduced us to the “baby Guinness” shot before we headed back to our B&B.
Day 4: Limerick, Cliffs of Moher, and Galway
In the morning we reluctantly left Dingle to travel up to Limerick. We had breakfast at Café Rose, and had huge omelets, raspberry crumble, eggs benedict, and rich hot chocolate. After breakfast we walked over to King John’s castle where we toured the grounds of the castle whose history dates back to Robin Hood himself.
After a long drive north we arrived at the Cliffs of Moher. They were every bit as stunning as we had hoped they would be. We had heard there were puffins who lived on the cliff face so when we met a couple from New York with binoculars we immediately became friends and got to see thousands of puffins lining the rock crevices.
We ended the day in Galway. We stayed in a lovely Airbnb hosted by Aileen who gave us dinner recommendations and sent us on our way into the city center. Galway was the first Irish town that felt so strikingly European. Located along a canal, people lounged by the water with cans of wine and baguettes, surrounded by flowers and flowing water. We walked up to Quay’s Street and listened to live bands playing in the street before heading to Seven for bangers and mash and the official BEST fish and chips we had in Ireland. After dinner we were back at the pubs for the night, hopping from one to the next before we finally had to head to bed.
Day 5: Galway and Northern Ireland
On the morning of day five we woke up in Ireland and shopped around the bustling city center. Ben and I stopped into the Boulangerie for a slice of lemon drizzle cake and americanos before we all met up at the canal bridge where a troop of young kiddos were starting kayaking camp. At the bridge, their leaders plopped them into the canal from the bridge, completely submerging them in the water and just delighting them all. We walked to the bakery up the street for flatbread margarita pizzas and raisin rock rolls for our nearly six-hour drive to Northern Ireland.
After a very long car trip, we wound up in Northern Ireland, technically a part of the UK. We didn’t have a place booked to stay here so we crashed in Finn McCool’s hostel. We had a four-bunk dorm to ourselves and were starving at nearly nine o’clock, so we tried our luck at finding an open pub before turning in for the night. We ended up at the Bushmill Inn and Restaurant where, in my opinion, we had the best dinner so far in Ireland. We split grilled mackerel Caesar salad, parmesan truffle fries, potatoes gratin, and panko crusted shallot long stemmed broccoli. The inn was dark but dreamy with its cozy living rooms and snugs scattered all about the lower level of the inn. Fires were smoldering in the hearths and the seating was plushy red velvet and study dark wood. The real star of the evening though, was the Heverlee glass.
Apparently, in Ireland, they use glasses with small divots cut in the bottom so when you pour in a pint of beer, the carbonation can never quite settle, and the beer never loses its head. Ben and Dad were amazed and soon struck up conversation with Peter, the restaurant manager, and two bar tenders. The conversation moved well into the night, covering whisky tasting, soccer, international education, and Peter’s son Henry’s recent battle with leukemia. These connections, with people all over the world, were some of the most meaningful moments of our trip. We exchanged information with Peter and made him promise to stay with us if he ever found himself in the States. He made a similar offer and gave us one of the famous Heverlee glasses for good measure.
Day 6: Giant's Causeway, Rope Bridge, and Ashbourne
On our last full day in Ireland we woke up in our hostel and had a quick breakfast in the shared kitchen before walking up the road to Giant’s Causeway. Here we hiked up the hill and over the ravine through the misty rain to see the amazing hexagonal formations formed on the coast by a long-ago volcano. We were floored by the absolute beauty and hiked up to the top of the volcano to stand on the cliffs edge in the sheep pastures to look out over the cerulean bay and blackened coastline.
Next, we hurried down the road to the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge. Game of Thrones was filled in part in this fisherman’s hideaway. The rope bridge connects two islands with gull swooping and nesting between and coves and seas that could have been straight from Peter Pan down below. We hiked around the gorgeous North Irish countryside all morning and stopped in the tiny tea shop close to the bridge for Victoria sponge, caramel shortbread squares, and peppermint tea.
To close our trip, we drove to the countryside north of Dublin to stay in a lovely B&B that was just an “English gardens cottage” as it could get. We had dinner at the Snail Box, where hundreds of mainly American baseball hats decorate the walls, swung by the grocery for Irish treats to bring home, and had our last drink at the Fox Inn and pub just a short walk from our B&B. After a long soak in the clawfoot tub and repacking to prepare for heading home, we drifted off to sleep on our last night in Ireland.
Wrap-Up and Final Thoughts
As we reflect on our trip we have narrowed down our top-ten favorite experiences and three things we probably would skip next time. This trip was an absolute joy and gift. We will always treasure the time we had with one another and with the gorgeous green country of Ireland.
TOP TEN (in no particular order):
THREE THINGS TO SKIP:
TIPS FOR THE NEXT TRIP:
NEW THINGS TO TRY:
Where to Stay:
Ben and I stayed at Summercamp Hotel and honestly I can’t imagine there is anywhere more perfect to stay on the island. It was cost effective but truly lovely, centrally located, and so accommodating. We had free coffee at a station right outside our room and they gave us free bikes that we used to explore the island, something that would have cost us over $70 each to rent every day!
I’m only giving one recommendation here because I haven’t found a single other place on the island I would compare to Summercamp.
2. How to Travel
The island includes six towns. I’ve divided my recommendations between those towns. Summercamp is located in the town of Oak Bluffs and we used the public bus system to travel between towns. Because we went in May, the island wasn’t at all crowded, yet but it was warm enough to walk if the bus stop was a little far from our destination.
We only had to call an Uber once to get to a beachside dinner destination and otherwise, we used all-day public bus passes that were just $8 each!
3. Where to Eat
Oak Bluffs: Back Door Donuts - These are island famous and the apple fritters sell out fast! Get here early!
Vineyard Haven: Waterside Market - Ben got a DELICIOUS breakfast burrito here and I got a hot caramel latte that was perfectly made. The vibe in this one makes it a can’t-miss stop.
Aquinnah: Orange Peel Bakery - Getting here was one heck of a commitment. The closest bus stop was about 2 miles away so we literally hiked through the woods to get to this isolated forest bakery that is just a dream. We had a chocolate chip cookie and blueberry lemon cake that were both well worth the hike.
Edgartown: Sea Shanty - With a view of the harbor and a breezy open patio, this is a no brainer for lunch. We ordered and split the BBQ pork flatbread and basically gorged on the free popcorn.
Aquinnah: Helman’s Cafe - This little cafe is located in the middle of a tiny neighborhood way off the beaten path. Everything on the menu is truly farm-to-table and the avocado toast was just perfection.
Menemsha: Larsen’s Fish Market - Located just off Gay Head Cliffs, this seafood shack prepares their famous lobster rolls, bisque, and chowder from just caught lobster. This makes you feel like the truest local.
Edgartown: The Dunes - This high end restaurant won for us as our one expensive dinner stop and it was one hundred percent worth it. We had grilled swordfish, sweet pea risotto, and grilled asparagus and goodness, it was worth every penny.
Oak Bluffs: Giordano's - This is a great stop to pick up a picnic dinner for the beach or on your hotel balcony. Grab a slice of pizza and a side of pasta with garlic bread. We also swung by the convenience store for a bottle of wine and had the perfect picnic dinner.
Coffee & Snacks
Oak Bluffs: Black Dog Cafe - Located right next to the Harbor, this is the perfect spot for pour over and a treat from the bakery as you walk the path around the harbor.
Edgartown: Mad Martha’s Ice Cream - Well. Ben called the Reese’s ice cream from Mad Martha’s the very best ice cream he has ever had. He may or may not have eaten a cone two times a day everyday we were there….
Edgartown: Behind the Bookshelf - There is almost nothing I love more that having a cup of coffee created by someone who is just deeply passionate about the process. I had a muddled iced mint latte (the best latte I’ve ever had, and this is a big deal) and a lavender latte. DO NOT SKIP THIS.
Oak Bluffs: Offshore Tavern - The best fries of my life right here. I mean if Ben was here he would tell you they have great craft beer. But the most important part is that the lemon rosemary fries will blow your mind.
Oak Bluffs: Nancy’s - Also located on the Oak Bluffs harbor, this is a great stop for nighttime drinks.
Edgartown: Bad Martha’s - Bad Martha's is one of only two breweries on the island and Ben called the Vineyard Ale one of the best beers he has ever had. Check out the tasting room outside of Edgartown.
Edgartown: 19 Raw Bar - Check out this spot right next to the bus stop to try the third island made beer from Washashore Brewing Company.
4. Where to Shop
Each of the towns has its own unique flair. For example, Edgartown is so quintessentially New England, with all the nautical decor, hydrangea bushes, and high end shops, while Oak Bluffs feel like an easy breezy island town with boardwalk shops and tons of grab and go options. Here are some unique and gorgeous shops that you shouldn’t miss.
Edgartown: This town is THE MOST DARLING PLACE IN THE WORLD. For real. Do not miss the ORIGINAL Vineyard Vines, Lilly Pulitzer, Edgartown Books, and Rose Water Market.
Oak Bluffs: Grab a super discounted sweatshirt or t-shirt by ducking into all the (almost identical) shops that you see on boardwalks everywhere and haggling for a good price. Also check out Black Dog General Store!
5. What to Do
Oak Bluffs: Ride bikes to East Chop Lighthouse and take a stroll among the historic Gingerbread Houses and Temple.
Edgartown: Hike to Edgartown Lighthouse and South Beach for some of the loveliest views on the island.
Menemsha: Visit the Martha's Vineyard Cultural Center, Gay Head Cliffs, and still functioning Gay Head Lighthouse.
Here we are in our sixth and final part of the cooking and baking series and we are wrapping up with the PERFECT cheap, easy, and sorta fancy bread recipes that have been a weekly (if not sometimes daily) staple in our kitchen over the last six months. A friend recently asked me if I bake bread when I’m stressed and the answer is absolutely yes! I bake bread to give my hands something wholesome to do with themselves - something that makes a product that fills bellies and bring smiles. I bake bread because there is nothing more soothing than the steady push and pull of kneading the dough or more comforting than the steamy cracking open of a perfect floury crust. The yeasty smell of baking bread will always be my favorite scent and these recipes make it easy enough to keep that smell in the air almost anytime.
Join me in a few weeks for my first trip lookbook in a long long time...my review of our upcoming trip to Martha’s Vineyard! And in the meantime, enjoy the best gift I can give you: my three ride-or-die bread recipes. Here we go!
1. No Knead Dutch Oven Bread
This recipe is the one that began it all. I read a version of this recipe in Shauna Nequist’s book Bread and Wine and started making it to share over every pot of soup and bowl of salad shared over my table. This is the bread that brings my people the biggest smiles. It’s crusty and just the right balance of soft and chewy. If you’ve never been a bread baker, this is your gateway.
2. Egg (or Challah) Bread
I made this bread for the first time on Christmas Eve and we ate it with butter and jam while we opened presents at my Grandma’s. While this loaf looks super fancy and maybe a little intimidating, the dough has the stringy and soft consistency of a brioche and is a cinch to work with. This bread comes together beautifully and can serve as the centerpiece of a meal.
3. Homemade One-Hour Sandwich Bread
Some of you may know that Ben is raising money to go to San Salvador in June of this year. In order to raise the last of the money for his trip, I’m baking a bread whose recipe is adapted from this one! When I need a quick and warm loaf of bread with dinner, this is what I whip up. Unlike literally any other bread I’ve ever made, this one is done in one hour, start to finish. People, this recipe might be magic.
BONUS: Bread Illustrated
1. Slow Cooker Taco Soup
When you’re making healthy food a priority, that means cooking at home, and making that happen in real life means making close friends with your slow cooker. This recipe reminds me exactly of the chicken tortilla soup we had in El Salvador last summer and is just the right mix of delicious, simple, and healthy. It’s the perfect soup to transition to summer.
2. Energy Bites
Ben and I are both big snackers so we need to have healthy and filling snacks lying around. These have been a staple in our fridge for years because they taste like candy but aren’t horrible for you! And with only four ingredients to mix together, these are a no-brainer.
3. Thai Chicken Meatballs with Zucchini Noodles
I scrolled over this meal in my Instastories one day and DM’ed the blogger immediately to ask for her recipe! This is what she sent me and you guys, I’m just obsessed. The chia helps bind the ground chicken together and the Asian seasonings make the zucchini noodles come alive. Also feel complete permission to skip the homemade meatballs and just throw in a bag of frozen turkey meatballs, you do you.
4. Balsamic Vinaigrette
5. Avocado Dressing
Bottled dressings tend to have all sorts of sneaky fats and preservatives so when I found out how easy it is to whip up dressings and vinaigrettes at home I basically just stopped buying the bottled stuff. I tend to just use my bullet smoothie blender and then pour what’s left in a mason jar to store in the fridge. This is perfect on fiesta chicken salad or even as a chip dip.
Bonus: Chocolate Dipped Orange Slices
Finally, even when you’re eating healthy you need access to something sweet. These chocolate dipped orange slices are heaven right out of the fridge in the summer, especially with some flaked salt over the top and dunked in the darkest chocolate.
Welcome! I'm a brand new wife, second year music teacher, Jesus follower, and am chronically curious about just about everything. Join me as I kick off this adult life.
"I am the Vine, you are the Branches. If you abide in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."