Staycation in Killarney, Co Kerry

Admitting you’ve been on a foreign holiday this year will make you a social pariah faster than you can say “cancelled.”

Like many others, I’m staying at home this year as I don’t think travelling abroad is worth the risk at the moment. I try not to judge anyone who is going abroad as I really enjoy my holliers and would probably be heading away were it not for Covid-19 crashing the party.

This summer seems particularly long with no weddings, concerts or other events to break it up. Even going to the pub is an ordeal and so after five months working at home, I was climbing the walls and desperate for a change of scenery. (I know, first world problems or what?)

Luckily, I managed to cajole my boyfriend into a staycation (also known as a holiday at home) in the wonderful surroundings of Killarney, Co Kerry.

We chose Killarney as there was lots of affordable mid-week accommodation and I’d never been to Kerry and my boyfriend had only been once.

Also, it was far enough away from Dublin to make it feel more like a proper trip away.

We were staying right in the heart of town in the Killarney Avenue hotel. It was quite reasonably priced for mid-week (€318 for two nights) which was pretty good for a four-star hotel.

There are tons of BnBs and hotels in Killarney but it’s definitely worth paying a little more to be closer to town. It was a beautiful hotel with lots of hygiene measures in place and we felt very safe and relaxed.

The residents’ bar was closed but you could order drinks to your room at no extra cost which was fantastic! The staff were also lovely, very obliging and couldn’t do enough for you.

The only small drawbacks were breakfast wasn’t included (you could pay extra but we decided to dine out instead) and the car park is quite narrow and small although I think there is some undergound parking also.

One of the first things you’ll notice in Killarney are the famous jaunting cars, a horse and cart with a “jarvey” driving them.

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Killarney’s famous jaunting cars

Killarney was absolutely buzzing with staycationers and locals alike when we arrived on a warm Wednesday afternoon. We checked in and went for a stroll around the town to try find a spot for dinner.

We also got some delicious Murphy’s ice-cream which was the perfect antidote for the hot day.

A lot of the restaurants were booked out or very busy. We were torn between an Italian restaurant Salvadors and Robertinos and a fish place but went for Salvadors as it served alcohol (priorities haha).

I had carbonara which was absolutely delicious but took some time to consume! My other half had a seafood dish and we split a bottle of white wine.

We had to queue for about 10 minutes but the weather was lovely and warm so we didn’t mind.

After dinner we went for a stroll around town and found a cafe called Curious Cat where we ate breakfast the next day. I also spied a tiny vintage shop which I vowed to visit.

The weather was perfect the first day however, rain threatened the next day. But we’d planned to drive out along the Ring of Kerry with a picnic lunch so we weren’t too worried.

One of my favourite travel bloggers Melanie May was in Kerry at the same time so I was avidly watching her stories to see her recommendations. She advised skipping Muckross House and going straight to Ladies View to admire the stunning scenery of Killarney National Park.

An interesting fact we later learned in Killarney House was that Ladies View gets its name from Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting who visited the spot in 1861.

Nowadays, there’s a nice cafe with an open air deck which wasn’t too busy and we enjoyed a coffee and cake here.

On the way up to Ladies View, we stopped and took some photos of a deserted old church.

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Deserted old church

We had no real plan for our drive and we continued motoring the twisty windy N70 road, keeping an eye out for errant sheep along the way.

The road has a few steep inclines but the sharp bends are the most dangerous part so drive with caution.

We ended up in the picturesque town of Sneem which has lots of statues (including one of Charles de Gaulle), colourful buildings, retro signs and murals.

But the most amazing thing we saw was definitely a bearded man with a giant billy goat on a lead! I didn’t believe my boyfriend at first until he showed me.

I loved the colourful buildings and retro signs
Sneem Tavern
Sneem is a very cute town
Bee mural in Sneem

Sneem was quiet enough while we were there and we tried to picnic on a bench but rain sent us back to the car!

There is a caravan park in the town, ideal for staycationers on a road trip.

On the way back down, it became quite misty and we even had to turn on our fog lights to make sure other cars could see us.

The scenery was breathtaking
Killarney’s famous lakes
Sneem

That night we ate at the hotel’s restaurant and went for a late-night stroll hoping to find a speak-easy.

Needless to say, we didn’t and settled for room service drinks and late night TV from the comfort of the enormous bed.

We could use the pool at the Killarney Avenue’s neighbouring hotel, the Killarney Towers just across the road but it was booked up on the second evening.

However, the staff kindly allowed me to use it at 12pm on our last day even though we’d checked out by then,

I went for a relaxing swim while my boyfriend took a stroll through the town after breakfast in Noelle’s Cafe. I wouldn’t recommend this place, the staff seemed rushed off their feet which is fair enough but they messed up my order, the table wasn’t clean and neither was the floor.

As I recall, the food was fine but nothing outstanding. The decor was cute but Curious Cat is a much better bet.

In Curious Cat, I had French toast with bacon and coffee while my boyfriend had a full Irish with Sneem black pudding.

We also stopped at The Tan Yard for a coffee which we had sitting outside, enjoying the mild weather.

Before leaving I was dying to check out the vintage shop I’d seen, Hazel’s Nuts About Vintage on Glebe Street.

It looked small so I told my boyfriend I wouldn’t be long but inside, I got sucked into a vintage paradise.

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The most adorable earrings

The stock was fantastic and really reasonably priced. I tried on Versace jeans that were amazing but didn’t fit and I spent ages rifling through the jewellery, trying to decide what to pick.

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One of the outfits on display

Eventually, I went for a Ireland map pendant necklace (I’d wanted one of these for ages), some gorgeous dragon earrings and a sparkly lurex jumper with a pink/purple leaf design, perfect for autumn and Christmas. The total came to €45. (There are pics on my IG stories highlights).

I think the jumper was €29/€30 and the jewellery about €7-8 approximately. I could’ve spent a lot more in this shop, it really is a gem and worth checking out if you’re in Killarney.

Also the owner told me they sell at a market on Sundays so definitely worth checking out the market if you’re visiting at the weekend.

Our final stop before hitting the road was Killarney House and Gardens, We initially thought the house was closed and enjoyed a stroll around the gardens which are very well-maintained but also have spots growing wild to encourage bio-diversity.

My boyfriend is responsible for the macro photo skills

We saw lots of bees (did you know there are 21 bumblebee species in Ireland? I learned this from a display in the grounds and it was really fantastic to see the efforts being made to protect pollinators.

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The beautiful grounds of Killarney House
Misty views of Killarney House and Gardens
A very enjoyable stroll
A feast for the eyes

We also got to go inside and visit the house for free. I’d forgotten my facemask but they had ones for visitors which was great.

I love history and the house was full of beautiful and interesting exhibits, telling its story and that of the local area.

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Killarney House
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Killarney memorabilia
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A stag’s skull on display in Killarney House

Sadly, it was then time to hit the road and we headed back to get the car. We had such a wonderful and enjoyable stay in Killarney and I hope to be back in the future

I hope you all have enjoyed this post. I’m very aware that travelling in Ireland is not cheap and not an option for a lot of us at this time so I’m grateful for the opportunity.

Please note, we paid for everything ourselves, this was not a gifted stay. Leave me a comment and let me know if you’ve been to Killarney or if you’d like to go in the future. Don’t forget to check out my InstagramTwitter and Facebook page.

Edel

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Lovely Lisbon: Portugal’s purse-friendly capital

This time last year, I’d never even been to Portugal but since I’ve enjoyed two visits to very different parts and fallen in love.

I went on a press trip to The Algarve last year and when it came time to book a holiday this year, a friend recommended Lisbon.

When it comes to holidays, I’m pretty easy to please but I do like a new destination every time.

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What’s great about Lisbon:

In terms of value for money, Lisbon is extremely good compared to Dublin/Ireland in general.

We weren’t on a tight budget but the majority of our meals plus drinks came in at under €35.

Public transport is excellent, it only costs €1.50 for a journey on the Metro, regardless if you’re going 10 stops or only 1. They also have the famous trams and modern trams and buses.

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The no 28 tram

We bought reloadable Viva Viagem travel cards which we could also use on the tram and the overground train to Sintra. They are just 50 cent.

Be careful if you’re topping up the travel card as I accidentally deactivated mine by removing it from the machine too soon and had to buy another.

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Beatles t-shirt and vintage shorts

DINING OUT AND LOCAL DELICACIES

Our lunch in Brick Cafe just around from our Airbnb in Intendente came in at €17 for two large dishes, a coffee, and a juice.

Even the most expensive meal we had at the beautiful Pharmacia Restaurant in Lisbon’s Apothecary Museum, overlooking the ocean, only came in at about €65 for two meals and drinks.

The quirky restaurant lets you choose a “prescription” cocktail, including a ‘Placebo’ non-alcoholic one.

However, the service was not as good as some of the cheaper restaurants, i.e. they forgot to bring us water and an ashtray.

It was hotter than normal for September so it was nice to be able to sit outdoors at Pharmacia and also in Alfama where I sampled the tasty bacalhau (codfish) dish for the first time.

Not only was the food affordable, but it was also delicious. Seafood is abundant in Lisbon, whether you want to try octopus, squid or sardines.

Strolling around the cobbled streets of Alfama, we saw some older ladies selling shots of ginjinha liqueur in a chocolate shot glass. Of course, we had to try it and afterward, I tried the ginjinha with tonic, equally delicious.

My tastebuds were also tickled by the sweet tawny port wine, served over ice. I barely touched a gin and tonic because of all the delicious local drinks.

Taqueria Patron in Bairro Alto is a great Mexican spot, we ate here twice.

The nachos and tacos were delicious and we even got a free shot the second time!

One dish I was dying to try was the feijoada, a black bean and pork stew which my Brazilian friends introduced to me to many years ago in the Epicurean Foodhall (RIP).

We found a lovely Brazilian restaurant called Terras Gerais Bistro where we tucked into feijoada served with collard greens and orange slices with a brigadeiro (traditional Brazilian sweet) for dessert.

My boyfriend had never had feijoada before and was so impressed, he recreated it at home.

The restaurant owner was lovely and very welcoming and it felt like dining in someone’s home.

Memmo Alfama
Memmo Alfama

Another lovely place we enjoyed a drink was the Memmo Alfama hotel where we could sit out on the balcony overlooking the sea.

Memmo Alfama Hotel
Memmo Alfama Hotel

My other favourite bar was the quirky Pavailhao Chines, which felt more like a museum as it was full of war memorabilia, antiques and collector’s items.

We initially thought it was closed because the door was locked but you just have to ring the bell to be admitted.

Luckily, another couple arrived and rang the bell just as we were about to leave.

THINGS TO DO

The 33C heat was a major deterrent to sight-seeing but we did venture out in the mornings and late afternoons.

Among the highlights for us were the Jardim Botanico, the Castelo de Sao Jorge, the Feira da Ladra flea market and a day trip to Sintra.

The Jardim Botanico proved to be the perfect place to escape the heat, with the giant trees blocking out the sun.

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Flowers at the Jardim Botanico

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Jardim Botanico

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Jardim Botanico

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The shade was badly needed!

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Jardim Botanico

We also enjoyed numerous drinks in Cais do Sodre and strolling around the Praca do Comercio.

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Praca do Comercio

On Sunday, we took a train to Sintra but almost missed it after a misunderstanding with the travel card and then by me leaving my bank card in the machine!

The train fare was about €5 and it was just 40 minutes outside of Lisbon.

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The town of Sintra

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Street sign in Sintra

There’s lots to see in Sintra and we chose the Quinta da Regaleira and the Palacio Nacional.

I had been thinking about visiting Sintra ever since I read about it on fellow blogger Shona’s site.

Our Lonely Planet guidebook wrongly informed us that entry to the Palacio Nacional was free on Sundays – turns out that’s just for Sintra residents!

It was €10 each to enter the Palacio Nacional. It’s an incredible building with a blend of architectural styles.

Like much of Portugal, Sintra was once ruled by the Moors but later it fell to King Alfonso Henriques.

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Chandelier in the Palacio Nacional

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Ceiling decoration

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Fountain in the National Palace courtyard

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Tile mosiac

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Close up of a tile mosiac

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Tiles and plasterwork at the Palacio Nacional

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Views from the Palacio Nacional

Sintra is surrounded by hills and woods, with palaces and grand buildings around every corner.

The fairytale settings bring hordes of tourists so be prepared for the crowds, both attractions were quite busy.

We had to queue for a short time to get into the Quinta da Regaleira.

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Me at the Palacio Nacional

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Sintra

The Quinta da Regaleira was full of amazing twists and turns, winding stone staircases up to turrets and towers and tunnels behind waterfalls.

It consists of a chapel, palace and gardens and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

I was captivated by the imposing-looking Castelo dos Mouros but it looked like it would be an arduous climb!

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Castelo dos Mouros

Food-wise, Sintra was not as good or as cheap as Lisbon but we fuelled up with coffee and a toasted sandwich.

There are lots of little gift shops where you can buy quirky items like a fish-shaped oven glove but I went for postcards and fridge magnets as usual!

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Quinta da Regaleira

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Sintra

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Sculptures

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Fountain

Much of the architecture of the Quinta da Regaleira is said to feature secret religious symbols and references.

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Quinta da Regaleira

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Views from Quinta da Regaleira

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The gardens of Quinta da Regaleira

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We also visited the Castelo Sao Jorge and the famous Feira da Ladra flea market.

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Castelo de Sao Jorge

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Views from the castle

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At the top of the castle

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Views of the Carmo Convent

At the castle, we learned the story of the legendary knight Martim Moniz who threw himself through the castle doors to stop the Moors from closing it, dying in the process.

We had seen depictions of this at the Martim Moniz metro stop but couldn’t figure out what it was about till then!

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It was a hot sunny day

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Me and my bud, Mr Stone Lion

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Old cannon at the Castelo

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Castelo de Sao Jorge

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Lisbon’s famous suspension bridge, Ponto 25 de Abril

Next stop was the market but we didn’t stay long as it was BOILING hot by late afternoon.

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Pottery at the Feira da Ladra

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Views of the cupola

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The market

Check out the beautiful skirt I bought for €15 (I probably could’ve haggled better!) here.

Feira da Ladra means ‘Market of the female thieves’ but thankfully we didn’t get robbed!

There was a lot of junk at the market but there were also some really cool antiques and if you were willing to hunt for them, some good bargains.

I also saw some old Tintin comics and cool maps.

The market is on every Saturday and it’s best to go early in the day.

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Old magazines and newspapers at the Feira da Ladra

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Maps and comic books

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Moorish-style water fountain

My other shopping recommendation for vintage-lovers is Retro City Lisboa which was only a few minutes’ walk from where we were staying.

It has a good selection of vintage shoes and clothing from eras ranging from the 50s to the 90s and I bought this gorgeous dress there for only €18.

Towards the end of our holiday, we visited the famous Se Cathedral which was truly beautiful and afterward we had a drink in Portas do Sol.

And I found the most delicious fresh pasteis de nata in a tiny backstreet kitchen while walking from the Portas do Sol down to the seafront.

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The Se

Inside the Se
Inside the Se

DOWNSIDES

The only major downside to Lisbon is its extremely steep hills, they are tough to navigate in the heat and not for travellers with mobility issues.

However, the trams are handy and you can use the same travelcard for the metro.

There are also elevators in some buildings that will take you up to the top of steep streets, very convenient!

Parts of Cais do Sodre are a little seedy and people approached us trying to sell us coke and weed (possibly just bay leaves) but at no time did I ever feel in danger.

Don’t fall for it 😛

Lisbon is also a lot cleaner than Dublin (they wash the main streets every night), there seemed to be a lot less homeless people (that’s not to say they don’t exist but there definitely seemed to be fewer) and public transport is much better.

English is widely spoken but if you have a few words of Portuguese, try and use them!

I feel there’s still so much of the city we haven’t seen and I hope to be back one day.

We flew to Lisbon with TAP Air, the national airline and it was a great experience. Bags and a small meal and drink are included in the fare, there’s more legroom than on Ryanair and we didn’t have anyone sitting beside us on either leg of the journey.

Our return flights for two were €354 (we got a €20 discount for registering online).

Hope you all enjoyed this post and if you’ve any thoughts, leave me a comment below by clicking the grey speech bubble on the bottom right.

Thanks for reading and if you would like to follow me on social media, check out my Instagram, Twitter and Facebook page.

Edel