Ireland Adventures Pt. 7: The Journey Home

Hey, y’all!

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.

Day 11

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.

Pollnagollum 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.

Day 12

Homeward Bound


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.

A beautiful gift from Odette & Liam

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.


Sarah xoxo

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Ireland Adventures Pt. 6: DIY Game of Thrones Tour

Hey, y’all!

A good night’s rest helped us recover from our Slieve League adventure. Jeff and I are big GoT fans, and we figured we were so close to Northern Ireland and several filming locations that we’d make a day trip out of it.

Day 10


Mussenden Temple/Downhill Strand

The first stop on our list was Mussenden Temple in Co. Londonderry, which is apparently one of the most photographed buildings in Northern Ireland and was about 2 hours away from our hotel in Donegal. Mussenden Temple overlooks Downhill Strand, a seven mile-long stretch of beach. Downhill Strand was the filming location for Dragonstone in Season 2 when Stannis Baratheon rejected the Seven Gods of Westeros and let Melisandre burn their effigies.

We weren’t able to go into Mussenden Temple, but we were able to walk through the ruins of the castle that once stood near it, and we traipsed around the surrounding estate.

Portstewart Strand


Just 15 minutes down the road from Mussenden Temple was Portstewart Strand, also in Co. Londonderry. This acted as the coast of Dorne in Season 5 when Jaime Lannister and Bronn go to bring Myrcella back to King’s Landing. There wasn’t much to the beach, so we basically snapped a picture and left. The town of Portstewart was pretty cute, though.

The Giant’s Causeway


About 30 minutes from Portstewart is the Giant’s Causeway (not a GoT filming location.) On the way we stopped at Dunluce Castle. We didn’t feel like paying admission to see some ruins, and we were eager to get to our next destination, so we didn’t stay.

The Giant’s Causeway is in Co. Antrim, and is a beautiful stretch of coast that features some really interesting basalt rock formations.

Travel Tip: Unless you really love those audio tours or you’re super curious to go inside the visitor center, don’t bother paying admission. You can do a self-guided tour of all the trails for free; you just can’t go inside the visitor center (don’t worry, the restrooms are located outside of the entrance.)

We spent about 2 hours walking various trails and taking in the surrounding beauty. The folklore surrounding the area is an interesting read. The weather was overcast, but it managed not to rain at all until we were almost back in the car.

Ballintoy Harbour


About 15 minutes from the Giant’s Causeway is Ballintoy Harbour, which was used as Pyke in Seasons 2 and 6 . The nearby beach was used for the scene where Theon was baptized into the religion of the Drowned God in Season 2. It also doubled as Dragonstone in Season 4 when Melisandre burned Stannis’ bannermen that wouldn’t stop worshipping The Seven. Talk about multi-purpose!

The Dark Hedges


We tried to visit the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, which is only 5 minutes from Ballintoy, but they had just closed for the day. That will have to be for next time, too. The sun was starting to set, so we made our way to the Dark Hedges before it got too dark.

PSA: the road says no vehicles, and there’s a parking lot right across the street. For the love of all that is good in the world, “no parking” applies to you, too.

We parked across the street and took the short walk over. (Supposedly that parking lot is just for the hotel, but it was practically empty and no one gave us any grief over it.) The Dark Hedges at dusk were absolutely beautiful. The rude, entitled, and inconsiderate tourists spoiled it a bit, but we got some nice photos. The Dark Hedges were used as the King’s Road in Season 2 when Arya Stark was disguised as a boy on her way to join the Night’s Watch.

Heading Back

It was time to start making our way back to Donegal. We stopped at the Bushmill’s distillery, but they were already closed. As strange as this is going to sound, alcohol may have just saved our lives that evening. After stopping at Bushmill’s, we walked across the street to see if the convenience store had any hard cider. They didn’t have any, so we hit the road. Not far from there we came upon a bad car accident that had just happened minutes before. If we hadn’t made that extra stop, we might have been right in the middle of it.

After making it back to Donegal Town, we picked up dinner at the kebab place again and started packing up to leave the next morning. The end of our trip was looming closer and closer, and I wished we could hit the pause button.

Up Next: The final post–the journey home.


Sarah xoxo

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Ireland Adventures Pt. 5: Co. Donegal

Hey, y’all!

The last post left off in Dublin/Dunboyne; now it’s time to head north!

Day 8

We enjoyed our last complimentary buffet breakfast and checked out of Dunboyne Castle Hotel. If we had stuck to the Fly & Drive package we purchased from Gate1 Travel, this would have been our day to fly home, but we decided to add on a few extra days to explore the northern region. Now that we were driving to Donegal instead of driving, we went ahead and added me as a driver (plus we had to extend the rental), which meant a short detour to the rental car place before hitting the road.


Google Maps told us that the most direct route from Dublin to Donegal would take us through a little bit of Northern Ireland. Since that means crossing into another country, we figured that would mean an experience like crossing the border from the U.S. to Canada or Mexico. We were prepared for a passport check, car search, etc. What did we end up getting? A sign letting us know that speed limits would now be in mph. I don’t even remember seeing a “Welcome to Northern Ireland” or “Leaving the Republic of Ireland” along the way. Talk about low-key haha.

Enniskillen is in Northern Ireland and was about our halfway point between Dublin and Donegal. It seemed like a good place to stretch our legs. We had talked about detouring to the Marble Arch Caves nearby, but we had gotten a later start than we intended, so we decided against it. We found a place to park and walked to the main part of town. Along the way we found St. Michael’s Church, which was beautiful, and we picked up some freshly baked bread and a few other assorted goods at Leslie’s Bakery. (The “sourdough” bread ended up just tasting like French bread, but it was tasty French bread.)

Donegal Town

Once we got back on the road, we turned on the car radio for the first time. I really wanted to hear some true Irish music. We finally found a station that was completely in Irish, and I had to laugh when I realized that the song playing was Wheatus’ “Teenage Dirtbag” being sung in Irish.

Donegal Town is an adorable little town with a population of about 2,600. We were so excited to finally be far away from all the tourists and their gigantic tour buses! We arrived around 5:30 and got checked into Donegal Manor. I can’t recommend this place enough. If you’re ever looking for a place to stay in the area, you won’t be disappointed with this one! They offer baking classes if you contact them ahead of time, and the room was so spacious and comfortable. Of all the places we stayed, Donegal Manor offered the best value for your money by far. Breakfast wasn’t included with our stay (€10 per person), but we didn’t really mind because we just went to the Aldi in town and bought sandwich ingredients, since we already had fresh bread. Looking at a map from the hotel’s front desk confirmed our decision to drive to Donegal instead of fly: Donegal Airport is nowhere near Donegal Town–it’s about an hour north.

We had a low-key night because we were going to be hiking Slieve League in the morning. We thought we had a pretty good idea of what we were signing ourselves up for.

Day 9

Slieve League

Slieve League is the less-famous sister of the Cliffs of Moher, but it’s 3 times taller (just under 2,000 feet), making them some of the tallest cliffs in Europe. When we were reading about it online the night before, we saw that there’s a shuttle on most days, a visitor center, a restaurant, and a fairly easy walk to the top. We plugged Slieve League into Google Maps and hit the road (it was about an hour from where we were staying.)

It was misting rain again, and as we got closer, the wind picked up, but with a shuttle to look forward to, we didn’t mind. We had our rain jackets and waterproof hiking boots, and we were ready to go.

Travel Tip: If you want the easy breezy Slieve League experience, go on a clear day and have your GPS take you to the town of Teelin, where the Slieve League Cliffs Centre is located. If you want a more challenging experience, plug in “Slieve League” or “Pilgrim’s Path” and be prepared to do what we did…

The GPS led us to a cattle gate, which we passed through to end up on a one-lane road that wound part of the way up the mountain. The “car park” we found was basically just a sandy area big enough for maybe 4 or 5 cars to park. We realized at this point that the Pilgrim’s Path and the Cliffs Centre are nowhere near being in the same place (that’s what we get for not paying more attention), so we started walking. The road keeps going further up the mountain, but there’s not much space to park further up, and you eventually reach a point that no cars are allowed past. We were officially on the Pilgrim’s Path, and it was raining, windy, cold, and foggy. The trail was sandy but fairly easy until we reached a point warning that only experienced hikers should proceed. We figured we could handle it and wanted to get a good workout in anyway, so we kept going. We also were just too stubborn to not make it to the top.

After the warning sign, the path definitely changes. Instead of being a well-defined trail, it becomes rocky and uneven, with lots of muddy/boggy spots in between the rocks. Every so often there’s a rock or post that’s been spray painted yellow to let you know you’re still on the path. Despite the terrain, we saw sheep all over the place, which meant we also had to keep an eye out for sheep droppings as we walked. As we got higher, the wind got stronger, and the rain started to soak through my waterproof jacket. I also made the mistake of wearing jeans, so those were soaked. Jeff managed to step ankle-deep in a boggy spot, so his waterproof hiking boots now had water inside of them. We figured we’d made it this far, there was no point in turning back now. The wind was helpful when it blew at our backs because it gave us some momentum, but when it blew in our faces, that was less helpful. We finally reached the top, where the path ends. The winds were blowing so strongly that we had trouble standing still, so we didn’t get too close to the edge. Because the fog was so thick, we couldn’t see the ocean below. We could hear the waves and taste the salt in the air, but all we saw was fog, so it literally felt like we were standing at the edge of the world. It was breathtaking, despite the fog, and we felt really accomplished, but I wish the weather had been clear.

If it had been a clear day, we might have continued on to One Man’s Pass, but that will have to be for next time. We made our way back down to the car, and this time I managed to step in a boggy spot, so now we both had water in our waterproof hiking boots. Lovely. By the time we made it back to the car, we had hiked about 5.6km and were absolutely soaked to the bone. Jeff’s rain jacket had kept him mostly dry, but mine eventually couldn’t win the battle against the persistent rain. We both poured water out of our hiking boots before getting in the car. I don’t get cold easily, so in the 15 years we’ve known each other, this was the first time Jeff saw me truly teeth-chattering, full-body-shivering cold. He didn’t think it was possible haha. Our Slieve League experience wasn’t the adventure we expected, but it was a memorable one nonetheless.


Co. Donegal is located in a very large Gaeltacht region of Ireland, meaning that Irish is the predominant language spoken. After finishing our hike at Slieve League, we planned to visit the Glencolumbkille Folk Village, but it turns out that it’s only open in the summer and on Halloween. Next time. When we went to the town center of Glencolumbkille (“Glen” for short), it was pretty quiet. (It was a Sunday, so it wasn’t too surprising.)

We ventured into a pub hoping for food, a bathroom, and a warm fire, but instead we found complete silence. There were half-finished beers sitting on the bar, jackets hanging on chairs, but there wasn’t a single soul in the building. It was like the rapture had happened, and the silence was creepy. We wandered a few doors down to a small bar that was totally packed, and we could hear people singing at the top of their lungs. It turns out the local football team had lost a championship match the day before and were on a 2-day bender. They had been at the pub, but they don’t like the owner very much, so they just left (hence the half-finished beers). They were very friendly and welcoming, and they were eager to chat with us when they found out we weren’t locals. (PS: One of the songs they sang was “Teenage Dirtbag”–in English. Is this song still a big deal in other parts of the world?) Anyway, this bar didn’t serve food, so the football players recommended a place to eat that was about 10 minutes away in Carrick. If we weren’t so cold and hungry, we probably would have stayed and drank with them a while. They were a lot of fun.

The food at Hegarty’s was good, but they had fairy lights in their fireplace instead of an actual fire. Boo. We drove back to our hotel, and I’ve never been so excited for something as simple as dry clothes in my life! Later we met up with my friend Odette and her husband, Liam. I met Odette during my summer internship at the English National Opera during college, and we’ve kept in touch over the years. She and Liam live in Buncrana, which is also in Co. Donegal, northeast of Donegal Town. It was wonderful to catch up with them!

Afterwards we stopped by a place across the street to get some kebabs for dinner. So yummy! We took them back to our hotel and were glad to finally relax. We were exhausted!

Up next: Our self-created 1-day Game of Thrones tour through Northern Ireland!


Sarah xoxo

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Ireland Adventures Pt. 4: Dublin

Hey, y’all!

In the last post we left off in Clifden, now it’s time to go clear across the country back to Dublin!

Day 6



After another hearty buffet breakfast, we checked out of Abbeyglen and headed east. I want to see a ghost at some point before I die, and Ireland seems like your odds would be pretty good. So I managed to convince Jeff to let us stop about halfway between Clifden and Dunboyne in a place called Aughrim.

The Battle of Aughrim was the deciding battle of the Williamite War in Ireland, and it was one of the bloodiest ever fought on Irish soil (a.k.a. it’s known for being one of the most haunted sites in Ireland.)

Travel Tip: The Battle of Aughrim Interpretive Center isn’t open year-round and is cash-only. It was closed when we went, so we didn’t get to see the artifacts and displays inside.

Over the centuries, the village of Aughrim has grown around the battlefield, so there’s not one central point to visit. There are numbered plaques around town indicating various specific sites. It was raining again and we weren’t wearing our hiking boots, so we didn’t walk around long. We drove around a bit and then got back on the road to Dunboyne. No ghost sightings–phooey!


Dunboyne is a suburb northwest of Dublin, and Dunboyne Castle Hotel & Spa is definitely the most modern castle hotel we stayed in. None of the guest rooms are in the old part of the building. I’m not sure if it’s offices, event spaces, or what.

Once we checked in, we were starving, so we walked to a nearby restaurant to pick up some dinner. Once we got back to the hotel, we started looking into Aer Lingus’ cancellation policy because we really didn’t want to fly to Donegal. We had already driven a comparable difference from Clifden to Dunboyne with no issue. Our travel agent was technically correct that the flight itself isn’t refundable, but the taxes and fees are, and that’s the bigger portion of the total ticket cost. We tried cancelling the flight ourselves, but since she booked it, she had to do it. For future trips, we’re probably going to book our own local transportation so that we have ultimate flexibility and control.

Day 7


After a tasty buffet breakfast, we walked to the train station that was about a mile away and caught a train to Connolly Station in Dublin. True confession: most of the day when we were walking around the city I was singing “One Short Day” from Wicked in my head. (“One short day in the Emerald City…”)

Dublin Castle


First we walked over to Dublin Castle. We didn’t feel like paying the admission price, so we didn’t go in, but we certainly admired the architecture.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Then we walked to the famous St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which was absolutely worth the admission price. The architecture, the history, the stained glass…we were nerding out so hard. If you ever get a chance to go, absolutely do it!

Jameson & Guinness

I’m not much of a whiskey drinker, and I hate beer, but Jeff loves both of these things, so we made the necessary stops. 🙂 We walked over to the Jameson Distillery on Bow St. The tour didn’t interest us enough to spend the time or money, so we just stopped in the gift shop for Jeff to buy a special bottle only available at the distillery and then left.

On our walk to the Guinness Storehouse, we learned from a local that the north side of the river where Jameson is located is the dodgier side of town and is best avoided. When we got to Guinness, we learned that you can’t even go into the gift shop or any of the restaurants without buying an admission ticket (as much as €25 per adult).

Travel Tip: The price of admission varies by time slot, so check ahead of time. If you book a slot and show up late, you have to pay the difference if the next slot has a more expensive price. However, if the next slot is cheaper than what you paid, you don’t get refunded the difference. The walk-up rate is €25 per adult, regardless of what time it is, so that’s up to you to decide.

We hadn’t planned on buying a ticket and taking the tour until we found out you couldn’t even go in the building without paying for admission. Since I don’t even like beer, we debated on whether it was really worth it, but in the end we sucked it up and paid the walk-up rate. Ugh.

Anyway, we learned about the brewing process and got some fresh Guinness beef stew, which was tasty. The Gravity Bar on the top floor has windows all the way around, so you get a gorgeous panoramic view of the Dublin rooftops and the Wicklow Mountains in the distance. We didn’t stay long because it was too crowded to get much of a view.

Before we left, I used the WiFi to finally talk to our travel agent on the phone. She cancelled our flight to Donegal, but she said the refund could be tricky. Sigh. At least we saved ourselves a lot of hassle and baggage fees. Worst case scenario, it’s an expensive lesson learned. Those are hard to forget.

All in all, unless you’re a total die-hard Guinness fan that HAS to make the pilgrimage to the Storehouse before you die, skip it and go buy yourself a few rounds at a local pub with the money you would have spent on admission.

Trinity College

Trinity College is Ireland’s oldest surviving university, established by Queen Elizabeth I in 1592. It’s been on our bucket list ever since we saw the Long Room its Old Library on a Buzzfeed list of 19 libraries you have to see before you die (or something like that.) You get to learn about and see the Book of Kells, and then you get to see the Long Room in all its glory.

Travel Tip: Buy your tickets online ahead of time. You get to skip the queue, and the adult ticket prices range from €11-€14 each, depending on the time slot. We went at 4pm, one of the cheapest slots, and it still felt kind of crowded.

St. Stephen’s Green


After admiring the architecture of the buildings for a little while, we walked a few blocks to St. Stephen’s Green to rest our feet and do some people watching. In a way, Dublin felt like an older and smaller New York City. You had that city grime and your tourist traps, but it had a certain charm to it. The people weren’t quite as friendly as they were in smaller the country towns and villages–I guess some truths are universal.

Once we mustered up some energy, we walked back to Connolly Station to catch the train back to Dunboyne. On the way to the hotel, we picked up some take-away, and then we were happy to get cleaned up and get some rest.

Up next: County Donegal–we’re over halfway through!


Sarah xoxo

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Ireland Adventures Pt. 3: Cliffs of Moher & Clifden

Hey, y’all!

The last post left off just outside of Tralee after exploring Blarney Castle and Killarney National Park. On to the iconic Cliffs of Moher!

Day 4

We started off with a buffet breakfast at Ballyseede before we checked out and headed to the Cliffs of Moher. We were sad to leave Ballyseede behind, but we were excited for what was ahead! For the sake of time, we decided to bypass Limerick and take the Kilrush Ferry from Tarbert to Killimer. Doing that reduced our travel time by about 30 minutes and our mileage by about 75 kilometers.

Travel Tip #1: Buy your ferry ticket ahead of time and get an online discount (it’s priced per vehicle, not per person.)

Travel Tip #2: If you’re using your smartphone strictly on WiFi to avoid international roaming charges, don’t be an idiot like me and forget to download the ferry ticket PDF before getting off of WiFi. $10 for 24 hours of cellular service thanks to AT&T’s International Day Pass isn’t catastrophic, but I was still annoyed with myself.

The ferry ride was about 20 minutes or so, and luckily there were bathrooms on board. We had officially left Co. Kerry and were entering Co. Clare. On the way to the Cliffs of Moher, we stopped in a small town called Quilty to fuel up our car for the first time.

Fun fact: In the US, gasoline pumps are black and diesel pumps are green; in Ireland it’s the exact opposite, so make sure you’re paying attention!

The Cliffs of Moher


By the time we got to the Cliffs of Moher it was misting rain again and SUPER windy. It reduced our visibility, but it gave the cliffs a really cool eerie vibe. We walked the northbound trail that runs about 6 feet from the cliff edge. Jeff isn’t a fan of unrestrained heights, so I was really surprised he was on board. The fog in some places was so dense that we couldn’t see over the edge to the water below. It’s like we were up in the clouds at the end of the world. It was so exhilarating! We got some great photos along the way and made it all the way to the end of the trail where there’s a fence. Then we witnessed pure stupidity.

Beyond the fence is more land (I assume privately owned,) and there’s an outcropping of rocks. It’s obvious that someone pulled back the fencing at some point, and dozens of people have climbed under it, either to get photos or just out of curiosity. These 2 women got to the fence around the same time we did, and one of them wanted to get a photo on the outcropping. For context, this woman was probably about twice my age and size. Did she crawl under the fence like countless people before her? No. She swung out around the end of this wobbly wooden fence, right at the edge of the cliff, with the wind blowing fiercely. She got her photos, and then swung back around to return. I was convinced I was about to witness this woman’s fall to her death, but luck was on her side that day. Smh.

We took the trail back to the Visitor Center as the fog started to lift a bit. On our way there, we saw a tower to the south off in the distance. It turns out it was Moher Tower, located at Hag’s Head, the most southerly point of the Cliffs of Moher. You can either take a 3 mile hike from the Visitor Center or a 5 minutes drive. Unfortunately we didn’t have time for either, so that will have to be for next time. We got ourselves a cup of hot tea to warm up, and then we hit the road to continue our journey to Clifden.



We stopped for dinner at a pub along the way and arrived in Clifden via Galway around 8pm. Our next hotel was Abbeyglen Castle Hotel, located right near the town center, and it was beautiful! They also have a resident parrot. 🙂

It was at this point that we realized we were enjoying the driving so much that we wanted to cancel our flight from Dublin to Donegal and just drive. (We would also save ourselves from wasting time in the airport and having to pay Aer Lingus’ baggage fees.) We emailed our travel agent and she said the flight wasn’t refundable. (We left it alone for now, but that didn’t end up being the end of it.) Anyway, hot showers and a cozy bed had us asleep in no time.

Day 5

We slept in a bit and then caught the tail end of the buffet breakfast. We talked about checking out the nearby Connemara National Park, but it would be a full-day affair if we wanted to do it right, and we were already planning to head to Kylemore Abbey. Next time, Connemara!

Kylemore Abbey


Travel Tip: This is another attraction where you can save money (10%) by buying your tickets online in advance. They’re non-refundable, but they’re valid for 6 months from the date of purchase.

Construction of Kylemore Castle began in 1867 as a private home for Mitchell Henry and his family. In 1874, the family traveled to Egypt, where his wife Margaret developed a fever and died. Mitchell arranged to have her body brought home and built a “cathedral in miniature” in her honor. A nearby mausoleum now holds both of their remains.

In 1903 the property was sold to the Duke & Duchess of Manchester, who later sold it to the Irish Benedictine Nuns in 1920. It later became a Catholic girls’ school, until it had to close its doors in 2010.

There are also some lovely nature trails and some beautiful walled Victorian gardens that have been restored over the years. We spent a few hours wandering around; the whole thing is definitely worth checking out!

Night on the Town

Clifden is an adorable little town in the Connemara region of Co. Galway with a population of about 2,600. The town center was within walking distance of our hotel. Jeff bought me some beautiful silver earrings at O’Dalaigh Jewellers, and then we got dinner at Mannion’s Bar and a drink at Lowry’s Bar just down the road. Lowry’s was great because we got to chat with some locals and just have the traditional pub experience. Jeff had a hard time choosing from their selection of 150 different whiskeys!

After a long day of walking around, we were ready to hit the hay because the next day we would be driving all the way across the country back to the Dublin area.

Coming Up Next: Dublin–our one day in a big city!


Sarah xoxo

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Ireland Adventures Pt. 2: Blarney Castle & Killarney National Park

Hey, y’all!

Last time we left off in Waterford. Time to keep heading west to the famous Blarney Castle!

Day 3

We started off with our favorite breakfast experience of the whole trip at Faithlegg House Hotel & Golf Club. We were able to order a proper Irish Breakfast: the best bacon ever, sausage, baked beans, eggs (which I didn’t eat), mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, roasted potatoes, and toast. They also brought a lovely pastry tower to our table with homemade pastries, small cups of fresh yogurt with fruit and preserves. Of course, no breakfast in Ireland is complete without tea!

For all of our castle hotels, breakfast was included as part of our package, so it was nice to be able to eat a hearty breakfast and then be pretty well satisfied until dinner. It saved us some money and time not having to stop for lunch.

After breakfast it was time to check out and head to Blarney Castle! This was our first real day of country driving, and we learned a few things:

  1. There are a lot of REALLY narrow roads in Ireland–like just wide enough for one car.
  2. Many roads are lined with stone walls–mind your side view mirrors!
  3. There aren’t very many straight roads to be found in Ireland.

Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle was about 1.5 hours away from Faithlegg. Some friends had recommended we get there as early as possible to avoid having to wait in a really long queue to kiss the Blarney Stone. We got a later start than planned, so we were concerned we’d be wasting a lot of time waiting in line. God was looking out for us, and even though we didn’t get there until about 11am, we managed to get there just before a tour bus arrived, so our wait was less than 5 minutes. Perfection! It probably helped that it was a Monday, but I’m not questioning it.

Travel Tip: Buy your tickets online ahead of time and receive a discount. They are valid for 6 months from the date of purchase and can be used any day you like within that 6 month period.

We didn’t really realize before we got there how much more there is to Blarney Castle than just the castle itself and the Stone. There’s a Poison Garden, which was interesting, acres of beautiful grounds, Blarney House (not open to the public year-round), miles of walking trails, a lake, and even a small cave under the castle. We also wandered around Rock Close, and of course we had to make sure we made a wish and walked down the Wishing Steps (backwards with our eyes closed) then back up again with our eyes closed, as the superstition requires. The greenery everywhere was absolutely stunning; we ended up spending a total of about 4 hours here before getting back on the road.

Ring of Kerry/Killarney National Park

For the sake of time and safety, we chose to just drive the short portion of the famous Ring of Kerry. We had been warned that tour buses plus absent-minded tourists and narrow roads made the drive somewhat dangerous for those unfamiliar with the area. From Blarney we headed 1.5 hours west to Kenmare and then took the Ring of Kerry through Killarney National Park to the town of Killarney.

Now we were starting to see some REAL mountains–and some rain. I will say that while we were in Ireland it never poured rain like it does in Florida, but it would be a fairly constant mist that lasted the majority of the day. The intermittent light rain didn’t stop us from making a few stop along the way through the park, though.

We stopped at a few of the lookout points along the way (driving the ring counterclockwise meant it was easier to pull off to admire the view and then get back on the road.) We also stopped at Torc Waterfall, which was breathtaking. There were some stairs nearby, so of course we had to climb them to see where they led and to see if we could get a top view of the waterfall. There were a lot more stairs than we anticipated, and I had hyper-extended my knee in Silks class a week and a half before, so it was mad at me. What can I say, though? I’m determined (and a little bit stubborn.) We made it to the top of the stairs only to find that they led to multiple hiking trails with no top view of the waterfall. It was starting to get dark, and we still had a bit of a way to go to our hotel, so we headed back to the car.

Ballyseede Castle

We made it to Killarney (fun fact: there’s a roundabout there called The Haha), but we pressed on to our hotel outside of Tralee, Ballyseede Castle. We thought we’d be able to check in, then go get something to eat nearby, but that didn’t work out according to plan. It was raining, getting dark, and the hotel was in the middle of nowhere via some very narrow and winding country roads. Plan B: despite the fact that we were way under-dressed, we nabbed the last dinner reservation in the hotel restaurant and had a 5-course dinner. It was definitely more than we had planned on spending on dinner, but it was delicious!

Ballyseede was our favorite hotel because of its charm. They have a resident wolfhound, Mr. Higgins, and it’s easy to see from the pictures why it’s such a popular wedding venue. It looks like an actual castle, and our room was absolutely beautiful. Instead of being numbered, the 44 rooms are named for famous Irish people. Different groups of rooms had different themes (poets, presidents, etc.) We stayed in the Hyde room, named for Douglas Hyde, the first president of Ireland. After an adventure-filled day (about 5 hours of drive time) and that delicious dinner, we slept like babies.

Coming Up Next: Cliffs of Moher and Kylemore Abbey. The adventure continues!


Sarah xoxo

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Ireland Adventures Pt. 1: Kilkenny & Waterford

Hey, y’all!

As I mentioned in previous posts, we recently went on our belated honeymoon and decided to go to Ireland. It was absolutely gorgeous, and we were so sad to have to leave. We did a “Fly & Drive” travel package from Gate1 Travel, which was perfect. We had the freedom to go at our own pace and be spontaneous if something caught our eye.

Day 1: Getting There

We flew United Airlines from Orlando to DC and then DC to Dublin. The flight from Orlando to DC was delayed because the AC wasn’t working (oh hell no). With a 4 hour layover in DC, it was no big deal. The flight from DC was delayed because one of the windowsills in the exit row came off (what the what?)

Day 2: Hit the Road!

We flew overnight and landed in Dublin a little before 10am local time. Customs moved slowly but steadily, and then it was time to pick up the rental car and hit the road! Jeff did the driving for the majority of the trip because adding another driver cost an extra €10 a day. Driving on the left took some getting used to, but he got the hang of it pretty quickly. The Irish love their roundabouts, even when it comes to highways!



Our first destination was the town of Kilkenny to see Kilkenny Castle. It was built in 1195 and was restored and added onto over the centuries, so it’s a combination of different architecture styles (hi, nerd here.) There were also some lovely gardens, and we were really enjoying the cool weather–okay, me more so than Jeff, but whatever :). We didn’t go inside because we couldn’t stay long. We had to get to Waterford!


Waterford is the oldest city in the Republic of Ireland, and it’s the home of the House of Waterford Crystal (big surprise there). We made it just in time to catch the last factory tour of the day! The level of craftsmanship was incredibly impressive to witness in person. We bought a souvenir sterling silver Christmas ornament from the gift shop. We would have bought crystal, but we still had a whole trip and flight home ahead of us.

After our first pint and real meal in Ireland, it was time to head to our first castle hotel of the trip: Faithlegg House Hotel & Golf Club. After a long 2 days of traveling, we were happy to finally take a hot shower and get some sleep.

Coming Up Next: Blarney Castle, Killarney National Park, and our fanciest castle hotel of the trip. Stay tuned!


Sarah xoxo

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Ireland-Bound Pt. 3: Gorgeous & Photo-Ready

Hey, y’all!

Part 3 of this travel-prepping series: skincare and makeup. I work too hard on my skin to slack off on my regimen just because I’m on vacation. We’ll be taking lots of photos, after all! When you have to worry about luggage weight, liquid limits, and just plain efficiency, how do you pack for a trip? Read on to find out my plan!

PS: any items marked with an asterisk (*) were part of my September Ulta Beauty Haul.

In My Carry-on

When I’m planning on checking a bag, I pack my beauty/personal items with the mentality that if my bag is lost when I arrive at my destination, what do I need with me to comfortably get through a night (or two) without it? I also factor in any items that I don’t want to subject to air pressure changes, as well as my pricier products that I want to make sure are handled with care.

The Liquids


I’m able to fit A LOT into this quart-size bag from the Container Store:

I’ll also be adding the hand cream and rollerball perfume that I keep in my purse, plus my travel size hydrating mist from Juice Beauty. I’m choosing to keep my makeup look on the more natural side, so I’m not planning on bringing any liquid lipsticks, just tinted lip balm.

The Non-Liquids


This cute bag was a nifty bridesmaid gift from a wedding I was in this year. In it I’ll be packing all the non-liquid items that I don’t want to leave my side:

  • A little mesh carrying case for my makeup sponges so they have a chance to dry between uses
  • Body and Face Mineral Sunscreens (in stick form)*
  • My small Z Palette for my eyeshadows (sticking with neutrals that I can mix and match)
  • Lip scrub
  • Silicone face scrubber (I’m leaving my Clearsonic at home)
  • Deodorant
  • Highlighter pencil
  • Brow pencil*
  • Eye Brightening Powder
  • Sample size translucent powder
  • My dome ZPalette that has my blushes, highlighters, pressed powder foundation (if I want to use it instead), and medium-sized Z Palette Travel Jars for my CC Cream so I don’t have to bring the whole tube

The Z Palette Travel Jars will be easy to pop out of the Z Palette and into my liquids bag to go through airport security. I’ll also be packing my epilator and its charger in my non-liquids bag before I leave.

Makeup Brushes


I’m certainly not bringing every brush I own, but it’s a decent collection of everyday essentials:

  • Spoolie
  • Angled brow brush
  • Small powder brush for setting my eyeshadow primer
  • A few different eyeshadow brushes
  • Harley Quinn blending brush
  • Concealer brush
  • Small blending brush for applying eye brightening powder
  • Angled blush brush
  • Buffing brush for blending
  • Highlighting brush
  • Foundation buffing brush for pressed powder foundation
  • Large fan brush
  • Stippling brush
  • Large powder brush

In My Checked Bag


I reserve the folding toiletry bag for the items I’m not super worried about getting lost or damaged. Shampoo, conditioner, body wash, etc. are all items you can expect to find in most hotel rooms. Do I prefer my own? Of course, but I can’t fit my entire bathroom into a quart-sized bag. 🙂

  • Travel-size hair primer*
  • Travel-size hairspray
  • Travel-size dry shampoo
  • Hair balm (transferred to a travel bottle)
  • Micellar water (transferred to a travel bottle)
  • Shampoo (transferred to a travel bottle)
  • Conditioner (transferred to a travel bottle)
  • Body wash (transferred to a travel bottle)

I’m sure there are things I’ll remember at the last minute and toss in, but I’d say my beauty regimen is all set for a belated honeymoon in Ireland! Any recommendations for things to see and do while we’re there?


Sarah xoxo

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Ireland-Bound Pt. 2: Cute & Comfy

Hey, y’all!

Our trip is getting closer and closer, and I’m getting more and more excited! This post is going to be about some clothing items and accessories I bought for this trip, as well as for future travel. We’ll start from the bottom up.

Storm III Waterproof Hiking Shoes for Ladies

from The North Face

Photo of Women's Storm III Waterproof Hiking Shoes from The North Face
$109.99; Bass Pro Shop

I’m pretty sure the last time I got new hiking shoes/boots, my age was in the single digits. (I’m not exactly Queen of the Outdoors–glamping is more my speed.) Anyway, I read several posts online that recommended having some waterproof hiking boots for wandering around the Irish countryside. The hightop boot style isn’t really my thing, so I was looking for an actual shoe. I found these at Bass Pro Shop and loved them! They’re super comfy; I wore them one Saturday thinking I needed to break them in, but they’re good to go as-is. This color way isn’t showing on The North Face’s website, but they’re the same price as Bass Pro.

They have a Vibram sole for extra grip, a breathable mesh upper with waterproof membrane technology, anti-microbial OrthoLite footbeds, lots of cushioning, and great mid-foot support. I also just love the fact that they look more like hardcore sneakers than stereotypical hiking boots.

I’m super pleased with the compression socks I bought for the flight, too. I have 6 more pairs on the way that I’m going to use throughout the trip, but they’re taking forever to ship from New Jersey.

Women’s Denim Leggings with Pockets

from No Nonsense

Photo of Women's Denim Leggings from No Nonsense
$14.97; Amazon

Ok, I’ll fully admit that I used to be super judgy about jeggings, but I get it now. They’re super comfy, and for a trans-Atlantic flight, they’re perfect. These have a fake fly and fake front pockets, but the back pockets are real. I doubt I’ll use them, but whatever. I like the dark color and the softness of the fabric.

Chloe Glow Women’s Jacket


Photo of Chloe Glow Travel Jacket from SCOTTeVEST

Last Christmas I bought my husband the BauBax Men’s Sweatshirt. We had seen it blow up on Kickstarter, and they were having a holiday sale. I thought about buying a women’s one for me but decided not to. Now I’m super glad I didn’t because I LOVE this SCOTTeVEST jacket!

The cut is really flattering; it’s not bulky or baggy. It boasts 18 pockets–it took me a while to find some of them, and I honestly still haven’t found #18 yet. There are even pockets inside of pockets! There are pockets for your ID, camera & SD card, passport, tablet…the list goes on. The glasses pocket even comes with a chamois attached, and the chamois has a map of the jacket printed on it (I’m gonna need that!) There are loops along the neck to hold your earbuds, and there are buttonholes throughout the jacket that connect pockets to each other, so you can feed cables throughout as needed.

The sleeves also have a contrast cuff you can fold up, and those cuffs have thumb holes. This jacket is going to be perfect for flying, and the moisture wicking fabric means it will be great for trekking around without getting too warm. One feature I don’t understand is the infinity zipper–the front zipper literally goes all the way to the top of the hood, covering your face completely. It’s too fitted for that to be comfortable, so it’s not like I can use that to nap on the plane. If I did, I’d wake up with a zipper imprint on my nose. Oh well, no big. Honestly my ONLY complaint about this jacket is the fact that while it is machine washable, you can’t put it in the dryer. I’ll live.

Women’s Ultimate Gore Windstopper Hoody

from Mammut


This jacket is discontinued on the Mammut website, but you can find it in select sizes on other sites. I found this one on eBay for less than half of the original retail price. Somehow even though I live in Florida, where it rains all summer, I didn’t own a rain jacket, other than a short trench coat. This Mammut jacket is nice and lightweight, is a flattering slim cut, packs away nicely, and is really comfy. I don’t really understand the point of 2-way zippers on the front and sides, but whatever. I was kind of “meh” about the color because it looked like a seafoam in the photos, but in reality it’s a pretty Tiffany Blue. I would have preferred grey for versatility, but this will make it harder for Jeff to lose me in crowds. 🙂

I think Mammut’s jackets are made with climbing in mind, so several of their jackets have hoods that are helmet compatible. This appears to be one of them, so I should have room to wear a ponytail with little issue.

7-Piece Packing Cubes w/ Shoe Bag

from Mossio Travel

Photo of 7 Piece Packing Cube Set with Shoe Bag from Mossio Travel
$12.99-$15.99; Amazon

I picked up this handy set of packing cubes and laundry bags to help organize my suitcase, and it came with a shoe bag. Each cube has a handle on one side, and the non-mesh sides are a durable water-resistant nylon. I’m obsessed with anything organization-related, so I’m actually looking forward to packing……what?

Side note: as a woman, I hate the “pink tax” as much as anyone else, and for the first time ever, the pink set was cheaper than any of the other colors! Win!

Anti-Theft Signature Quilted Expansion Crossbody

from Travelon Bags

Photo of Anti-Theft Signature Quilted Expansion Crossbody in "Smoke" from Travelon Bags
$75; Travelon Bags

I only wanted to bring one purse with me on the trip, so I was looking for ideas on The Container Store’s travel section of their website. I came across several Travelon bags and was intrigued. Theft isn’t something I’m super worried about on this trip, considering that we won’t be spending a whole lot of time in big cities, but it will be nice to have for future travel.

Anti-Theft Features:

  • Main compartment has an organizer with RFID blocking card and passport slots
  • Main compartment and front pocket have zipper pulls that hook onto D-rings
  • Slash-resistant body panels and shoulder strap
  • Lockdown strap

I also like that the fabric seems to be water-resistant, and the pink lining is pretty. 🙂 The fact that it has a zippered gusset around the outer edge means I can expand it to fit everything I need with no problem at all.

PS: I got it cheaper on Amazon. 🙂

Slim Business 17″ Computer Backpack

from Kopack

Photo of Slim Anti-Theft Business Laptop Backpack from Kopeck
$36.99; Amazon

I have my Barracuda carry-on bag that I love, but I needed a personal item that was easier to carry than a tote. Since I’m planning on starting grad school next fall, it made sense to look for a backpack and kill two proverbial birds in one stone.

I ended up choosing this grey one for its features:

  • The laptop compartment is anti-theft in 2 ways: it has a zipper pull that clips to a D-ring, and it’s also located behind the straps, making it impossible for someone to take something out of it while you’re wearing it. It can also fit up to a 17″ laptop.
  • The main compartment has a double-layer anti-puncture zipper closure, and the zipper pulls can be locked together with a small lock (not sold with the backpack).
  • It has a USB port to be able to charge a phone/iPod/whatever, and the cable that connects that port to a power source is detachable. The backpack doesn’t come with a power bank, but it does come with the cable. I didn’t want a built-in cable because when the cable eventually goes bad (they always do), that feature would end up being useless.
  • It’s water- and tear-resistant.
  • It has a slim profile while still having lots of pockets to organize everything I need.

I was that nerd growing up that absolutely LOVED back-to-school shopping and getting my backpack, binders, etc. organized for the new year. Nothing has really changed, so I’m super excited to get this backpack all ready for flying across the Atlantic!

What are some clothing items and accessories you can’t bear to travel without? I’d love to hear about them!

Have a great week.


Sarah xoxo

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Ireland-Bound Pt. 1: Charged & Organized

Hey, y’all!

Our belated Irish honeymoon is just a few weeks away, and I’m so excited! We’ve been buying stuff to prepare for our trip, and I decided to do a 3-part blog series about it. Stay tuned for parts 2 & 3, and in the meantime, let’s jump into part 1: traveling overseas as conveniently as possible with electronic devices. So far the only thing we haven’t figured out is what we’re doing with our cell phones. Since we’re going to be renting a car and driving around, we want to have navigation available. We need to go to the AT&T store and figure out what our options are. Any suggestions from fellow travelers?

When I think about using electronics, the first thing I think about is a power source, and traveling overseas means I’m going to need an adapter to keep my devices charged. When I spent a summer in London during college, I bought a set of adapters that had me covered for all the major plug types, but that only means being able to plug in one device at a time. Now it’s 2018, and I was able to get something way more convenient:

Power Plug Travel Adapter International w/ 5 USB Ports

from Sublimeware

Photo of Power Plug Travel Adapter from Sublimeware
$23.45; Sublimeware

It has 3 different switches that each expose a different plug type: C (used in Europe, South America, and Asia), G (used in the UK and a few other places, and A (used in the US and other places). The pins for the A can also be tilted in to become type I, which is used in Australia. This website is a handy reference. With this one adapter, I could have up to 6 devices plugged in at any given time: 4 in the USB ports, 1 in the Type C USB port, and one in the regular socket. It claims to work in over 150 countries, so hopefully we’ll be set for awhile. 🙂

It also came with a little carrying case, but we’ll be storing it in this with our cables and such:

Glendale 2-Layer Organizer in “Heather Coral”

from Bagsmart

Photo of Glendale 2-Layer Organizer in Heather Coral from Bagsmart
$27.99; Bagsmart

I saw this one of those lists of 30-something things on Amazon that you didn’t know you needed, and it was so true! Until I bought this, traveling with electronics meant wrapping each of my cables with double sided velcro and then putting all of those in a zipper bag of some sort. The velcro would get stuck on stuff all the time, and any bulkier plugs would have to go somewhere else in my suitcase. Now I can put it all in one place. The elastic bands in the top layer keep cables neat and organized, there are mesh pockets for things like batteries, and there are even little pockets for SIM and SD cards. The bottom layer has a padded pocket that fits up to a 10″ tablet and padded dividers that velcro together, so they can be configured in different ways to best accommodate items like adapters, a mouse, etc. It’s made of a water-resistant polyester, and its dimensions (10.8″L x 8.3″W x 3.7″H) mean it will fit nicely into my carry-on bag.

What are the electronic devices you can’t travel without? Any suggestions on the phone thing would be much appreciated.


Sarah xoxo

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