We thoroughly enjoyed our time in the north and weren’t ready to leave. All good things must come to an end, though, so it was time to start making our way back south to head home.
Marble Arch Caves
We checked out of Donegal Manor and headed back towards the Enniskillen area to visit the Marble Arch Caves. It was a lot of small windy roads, but we were fairly used to them by this point. We arrived at the visitor center about 15 minutes before the next tour was scheduled to begin. We were disappointed to learn that because of the recent rainfall the water levels inside the cave had risen enough to down the boat tours, so we’d only be walking it. Not a huge deal, so we bought our tickets.
The caves were beautiful and the tour guide was very informative, but I have to admit that it paled in comparison to Carlsbad Caverns. I don’t necessarily feel like it was worth the admission price, but that’s just my opinion.
Travel Tip: It’s important to note that the Marble Arch Caves are not wheelchair or stroller accessible, and you have to climb about 150 steps to exit the cave.
After leaving the Marble Arch Caves we drove about 30 minutes to another part of the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark to visit Polnagollum Cave. This is another GoT filming location from Season 3, where it served as Hollow Hill, the hideout for the Brotherhood Without Banners. It was absolutely beautiful, and I’m not sure why there was a gate blocking the well-defined path to the mouth of the cave. Sigh. I wouldn’t mind going back to explore the cave when rain hasn’t caused the water levels to rise so much.
Back to Dublin
It was time to keep making our way back to Dublin to fly out the next day. On the way we detoured to Newgrange, but it had already closed for the day. Another one for next time. We checked into the Travelodge near the airport, which we’ll never stay at again. They tried to charge us for parking, and as Jeff put it, it was basically a clean “roach motel.” Lesson learned.
We went to gas up the rental before returning it the next morning, and grabbed some dinner. Ironically, here we are in Ireland, and the most convenient thing we can find is McDonald’s, which neither of us have eaten in years. The menu didn’t seem much different, but we’re no experts.
We made it back to the hotel to re-pack our suitcases and get situated for our early-morning wake-up.
We had to get up pretty early so that we could get to the rental car place by about 6am. By the time we dropped the car off, we had driven exactly 2,131km around Ireland. We got to the airport a little after 6, and honestly waiting to get our boarding passes and check our bags took longer than anything else. Security didn’t make us take off our shoes, but they were definitely picky about the definition of a “quart-size” bag for liquids. After going through regular security, getting our VAT refunds, going through U.S. pre-clearance, and U.S. Customs, we made it to our gate just in time to start boarding.
Our flight took off a little behind schedule, but we were sharing a row with a friendly woman named Siobhany, who was traveling from Belfast to Vegas for her friend’s hen party. It turns out a lot of people from Belfast will take a train to fly out of Dublin because it’s more convenient. In Dublin you go through customs before you leave; if you fly from Belfast, you don’t go through Customs until you arrive in the U.S., which is tricky if you have a short layover.
We had a short layover in Newark, NJ, and we had to literally run from one end of the terminal to the other to make sure we caught our flight. We landed in Orlando around 3:30 and got a Lyft home. After 14 hours of flights and airports, we were home and missing Ireland already.
We’d love to go back to explore the places we missed: the Arran Islands, Torry, Bunratty Castle, the Wicklow Mountains, Binvenagh Mountain, and many more. Maybe we’ll get to drive the entire Wild Atlantic Way one day. Hopefully someday we’ll have a chance to explore more of Northern Ireland, as well. This honeymoon was perfect for us. Instead of drinking on a beach all day, we were active and exploring nature and history together. It also didn’t hurt that the weather was nice and cool. 🙂 If you ever have a chance to visit the Emerald Isle, don’t miss it. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
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