So we are back and here are some random thoughts/observations. We put 1,867 km (1,160 miles) on the car during the trip. A GPS is a necessity and you can get the maps off ebay for $30 or so for a Garmin. They worked great as did preplanning a variety of stops in the GPS as POI files. So no matter what use a GPS you are familiar with.
Driving is intimidating until you get the hang of it. That took 2 to 3 days and by day 5 you are all set. Shifting left handed was not difficult, but trying to shift and manipulate high and low beams on the column at night was extremely difficult. Roads turn suddenly and often a sharp turn is not well marked. We found turns almost always followed increases in speed limits which made absolutely no sense.
We weathered Storm Abigail (torrential rain) and Storm Barney (85 mph winds) while there. In fact we were in a 100 km/hr zone heading into the winds during Barney and I could barely get to 70 km/hr due to the constant wind. We were unaware of the weather and their forecasts are inaccurate for the most part so basically you should know you may get any type of weather. One night we actually saw snow while in Kingscourt.
If you are going for beer be sure to plan each brewery and know where there beer is served. Running into craft Irish beer is like finding a needle in a haystack anywhere other than Galway. They also seem to think someone making a Harp clone and serving locally is craft which is not quite my definition.
We stayed in:
Finding a pub was easy, finding one serving food outside a larger area was more difficult.
If I was going again I would plan more time in Dingle, we only did one night and it was a fun one. Galway has quite a bit to offer and would be a good place to set up central command and run out from. We drove through Limerick just to say we did and it did not excite me. Waterford to me was a waste of time as far as a city, the tour of the manufacturing floor was great just to see those craftsmen at work. Dublin is a large city with almost no parking, I would skip driving in Dublin if possible it took an hour and fifteen minutes to go less than 8 miles.
Every town has a speed limit of 50 km/hr or less. M roads allow 120 km/hr, N roads are 100 km/hr and R roads are typically 80 km/hr. If the road is not one of those it is most likely 1 1/2 lanes or single lane. Single lanes are a little stressful to traverse, especially at night. I would personally suggest you not drive after dark unless you know exactly where you are going.
We toured Guinness, it is a huge tourist trap and you really don't see the production facility, but it is a good tour. If I did it again I would pour my own pint and try some of the more interesting beers.
The Cliffs of Moher were spectacular. I am told it is hit or miss if they will even be visible.
The Bunratty Castle was a great. Lots to explore and Durty Nelly's is next door.
The Blarney Castle seemed like an Arboretum with a tourist trap (the stone). I'll bet it would be great in the summer with flowers in bloom.
Waterford Crystal was great for the craftsman aspect.
Some of the better finds were Sean's Bar in Athlone. It was great. We hit an awesome pub in Doolin, Gus O'Connors. The food was crazy beautiful. All the pubs in Dingle were a blast, most were also hardware stores or haberdashery stores. In Galway the Oslo Pub is where Galway Bay Brewery was until about a year and a half ago. It served everything they made and they make quite a few. Their Hooker beer is a pale ale and can be found fairly widespread.
All the people were awesome, one gentlemen just keep buying rounds and finally I had to ask him to stop.
As far as food finding out Corned Beef is nonexistent in Ireland was a bit of a letdown. Also when they cook cabbage it is separate from the dish and added as a vegetable. They serve Bacon, but it is closer to ham. the Bacon and Cabbage at Gus O'Connors in Doolin was good enough I would return to Ireland just to have it again. A Full Irish Breakfast is a heck of a meal. Typically two sausages, two pieces of bacon, a fried egg, black pudding, white pudding, tomatoes, mushrooms, and toast. I had that at a few of our B&Bs, but eventually gave up and just went with something less. When I had it I would be full until nightfall.
Our trip was a Groupon from Great Value Vacations and I highly recommend them. Everything was simple and easy.
We also purchased an Irish Heritage Card for 25 euro each and used it for several heritage sites. Dublin Castle, Jerpoint Abbey, Dunmore Cave, Kilkenny Castle, Trim Castle, Newgrange, etc... I may have forgotten a few. Most heritage sites are 4 euro to 9 euro to visit and the card was easy as pie, show it and gain entrance and special tours. You cannot get it ahead of time, but any site will sell it, some may only take euro and not CC.
If anyone is planning a trip and has questions, just ask.