This post is part of our Eurotrip Series. You can find the rest of the series here.
Our big trip to Europe started a bit strangely. On our final day in Boston, we received an email from Aer Lingus stating that our flight to Shannon, Ireland, was cancelled! Fortunately, we were able to scramble and get a flight into Dublin that arrived a few hours later. This changed our plans quite a bit, but we took advantage of the re-route and added an extra castle to the itinerary. Day One adventures included learning to drive on the left side of the road, visiting two castles, and marveling at the Cliffs of Moher.
- Air Travel/Transportation – How we got there and how we got around.
- Accommodations – Where we stayed in the city.
- Adventures – Write-ups of the activities we enjoyed during our visit.
- Total Trip Cost Breakdown – How much we actually paid for the trip and which loopholes we used.
- Aer Lingus – 12,500 British Airways Avios + $34 each
We selected Aer Lingus for our transatlantic flight, because they operate the shortest routes between the US and Europe. They are also partners with British Airways (BA), which allowed us to take advantage of a sweet spot in BA’s distance-based award chart. Flights between 2,001 and 3,000 miles only cost 12,500 Avios, and the flight from BOS to SNN is 2,895 miles!
We were very happy with our deal until the day of departure. As I mentioned above, Aer Lingus decided to cancel our transatlantic flight 11 hours before departure!! We spent most of our last day in Boston scrambling to amend our plans. Aer Lingus representatives refused to give a reason for the cancellation, only citing “technical issues.” They offered to put us on a flight into Dublin that arrived three hours later than our flight to Shannon. We had to accept the new flight to the opposite side of the country, because our trip had very specific plans, and we could not delay another day.
Overall, I was extremely disappointed with Aer Lingus. They offered no apologies or upgrades of any kind to make up for the short-notice cancellation. Additionally, we spent over two hours on hold just to speak with an agent. They refused to pay for any additional cost of a last-minute car rental from another airport.
- Rental Car – $32/day x 5 (Paid with Chase Sapphire Preferred)
As I mentioned above, we had to scramble to re-book our plans, which included a last-minute rental car. We wanted an automatic transmission, to ease the learning curve for driving on the opposite side of the road. (However, manual transmission cars are actually available at the Dublin airport for as low as 5-euros per day!) Our car was a very nice 2015 Jetta from Enterprise Rent-a-car. We paid with our Chase Sapphire Preferred card to get the primary rental insurance coverage. If we had paid for the insurance from Enterprise, it would have cost 254 EUROS!!
If you plan to visit Ireland, definitely rent a car! Driving the narrow, winding roads through the countryside was an experience everyone should try. Rent a car, get out of the city, and enjoy the rugged, green, sheep-covered beauty of the Emerald Isle!
- Night 0 – Aer Lingus Exit Row Seats
Our accommodations for the first night were technically our seats on the plane. Fortunately, I was able to book exit row seats for the long flight, and we were able to get a decent amount of sleep. This sleep was very important, because I had seven hours of driving in the upcoming day!
- Night 1 – Ballyseede Castle – 11,300 Barclay Arrival+ Miles
One of Brooke’s bucket list items was to sleep in a castle! She was understandably very excited when we arrived at Ballyseede Castle. Ballyseede is a sixteenth century castle that has been converted to a hotel, with a restaurant, a bar, and event space. Each room has a theme, and ours was the Japanese Room. The room itself was cozy, with a queen-sized bed and a relatively modern bathroom. We dropped our bags in the room and headed to the bar for dinner.
Dinner was simple and consisted of soup and sandwiches with a bottle of white wine. We recapped the day and chatted with some fellow travelers in the bar. Around closing time, one of our new friends asked the bartender if we could all see the event space. He graciously gave our group a tour of the space, compete with a history of the castle. The space was lovely, and it even included a sword used in the movie Braveheart!
The next morning, we spent a bit of time exploring the common rooms of the castle, along with the grounds and gardens outside. The castle dog also greeted us with a great trick, involving five small rocks… Descriptions don’t do the trick justice; you’ll have to visit the castle to see it!
Since our original plan was to fly into Shannon, on Ireland’s west coast, our original itinerary started there. However, our redirected flight landed in the east-coast city of Dublin. We now had to drive across the country to get back on track! Fortunately, I married a master-planner. Brooke was able to re-work our itinerary and even add a bonus castle! The drive across Ireland was relatively simple (as simple as learning to drive in a new country, on the opposite side of the road can be!)
We stopped for lunch in the small town of Birr and discovered a delightful little place called Emma’s Cafe. Tip: If you find yourself in a small town, ask locals for dining advice. After lunch, we visited Birr Castle. The castle itself is a private residence, so we were only able to walk the grounds. We spent about an hour wandering paths that passed by the castle moat, a small stream, an old telescope, and fields of daffodils.
After leaving Birr Castle, we made a beeline for the west coast and the Cliffs of Moher. We wanted to arrive well before sunset, so we could take our time exploring the area. We did make two quick stops to take pictures at the ruins of an old abbey and to briefly explore The Burren, a crazy, rocky landscape near the coast
Cliffs of Moher
Arriving at The Cliffs with a little over an hour remaining before dark, we eagerly walked up to the edge for an incredible view of the sheer rock faces. I was able to convince Brooke to scoot out to the ledge for a photo opportunity, which became one of our favorite photos from the entire trip.
We lingered at the cliffs until the sun began to set, soaking in the last drops of the absolute natural beauty of the area. Our final stop for the night would be Ballyseede Castle, two hours south toward Killarney National Park.
Trip Cost Breakdown
The following table breaks down our transportation and lodging costs. The rental car was nearly double the price of the one we booked at SNN airport, since we had to book it at the last second. Fortunately, we didn’t have to fork over an additional 254 euros for rental insurance due to the Chase Sapphire Preferred rental insurance coverage!
Our first day in Ireland was great, despite the airline’s best efforts to derail our plans. It took a bit of extra driving, but by day’s end, we were back on track and sipping wine in a castle! Cheers!