Discover Ireland wheelchair accessible hotels, attractions, things to do, tours and activities for disabled travelers. Read our informative review to learn if Wheelchair Jimmy’s Ireland Driving Tour was wheelchair accessible and wheelchair friendly or if Wheelchair Jimmy recommends this driving tour be avoided by travelers in wheelchairs.
Wheelchair Jimmy Accessibility Comments:
JIM’S IRELAND DRIVING TOUR AUGUST 2011
Note: All hotels listed below are searchable in our website
A few years before I launched WheelchairJimmy, we took one of our most memorable trips: Two weeks cruising around the British Isles and 8 days driving around most of Ireland. While the cruise ship made overnight stops in Dublin and Cork, Ireland, we wanted to really see and explore Ireland. Planning the logistics of accessible accommodations and transportation presented a few challenges but what a great trip and great memories! The festive Irish pubs and songs, the colorful rolling hills and so many sheep! What a journey – the fun never ends!
Just so you know, when traveling internationally we like to experience the local culture wherever possibly so we attempt to avoid chain hotels. And we love driving trips! It doesn’t always work perfectly but heck, that’s how new memories are created. I’ve been asked many times how we did a driving trip to Ireland, so I finally recreated most of the road map. We had a terrific time and you will too. Here’s our crazy story.
Google Maps Link: https://goo.gl/iMtwAq
NOTE: For illustration purposes on the Google Map above, I have not included the drive from Heathrow Airport to Fishguard.
Day 1: Drive from London to Fishguard, Wales
I couldn’t find a wheelchair accessible vehicle in Ireland, one that I could drive, so we went with Plan B. In Western Europe this plan always starts with a call to Trevor Pollitt who operates Wheelchair Travel UK located about 20 miles from London’s Heathrow Airport. Crazy as it may sound we started in London, not Ireland. We rented a Peugeot station wagon equipped with hand-controls. It’s the exact same vehicle we rented in 2009 and Trevor delivered it to Heathrow. I then drove across half of England, drove over the spectacular Severn Bridge and river into Cardiff Wales, then drove across Wales (all on the opposite side of the road for me). All totaled it took about 4 hours, and we arrived in the small coastal town of Fishguard Wales, which also acts as the main ferry port sailing to Ireland.
Hotel: Ivybridge Guest House, Fishguard Wales. Since we were booked onto the ferry to cross the Irish Sea the next day, we wanted to be reasonably close for an early morning sailing. I searched potential accommodations forever and found only the Ivybridge B&B. It has only 14 rooms, and they had gone to great lengths to renovate one room to be wheelchair accessible including a small hydraulic lift in the bathroom. Really. Let me just say that it was accessible but the design was not so good. A WJAR 2 rating on the WheelchairJimmy index. It was the only accessible room within 30 miles in 2011, and I give them tons of credit for the effort.
Day 2 Fishguard to Waterford, Ireland – Ferry Fiasco
From Fishguard we boarded the Stena Line super ferry and crossed the Irish Sea to Rosslare, Ireland. It’s a 3hr 30-minute crossing. What a Fiasco! I’ve taken many ferries around the world, in fact, I used to commute by ferry into Seattle. But the Stena Line threw me a curve ball. I drove onto the ferry, up 2 or 3 levels along a narrow circuitous ramp, and then parked the Peugeot within inches of other passenger vehicles. I sat in the Peugeot and planned to read a book. Time to relax I thought.
Several minutes later I heard the ferry Captain delayed sailing because I had failed to come upstairs to the main concourse. Apparently all passengers are required in the main cabin during sailing. This should have a simple solution, but the wheelchair was in the trunk and I was parked within inches of a concrete wall and another car. Eventually, probably a hundred cars were forced to move and re-park to provide sufficient room for me to exit the Peugeot, transfer into the wheelchair and get to the steep ramp leading to the concourse. I’ve learned now to ask whether I can remain in my vehicle during sailing. I really hate to inconvenience others, and I delayed hundreds of passengers. Sorry.
Things-To-Do: Upon landing we drove directly to the Waterford Crystal retail store and explored everything Waterford.
Hotel: Athenaeum House Hotel Waterford, Ireland. We had a spacious room, which was well decorated and very clean. They have a wonderful spacious dining room and bar with lots of local Irish ambience. Service was excellent and friendly. The hotel is a 5-minute drive from downtown Waterford. Our room was excellent and very wheelchair accessible. A WJAR 4 on the WheelchairJimmy index. The Athenaeum House is highly recommended.
Day 3 Waterford to Clonakilty, Ireland
Things-To-Do: Driving south along the coast we visited Cork, Ireland, Blarney Castle and the Blarney Stone. We took the Castle tour which is accessible, although “kissing the Blarney Stone for good luck” requires a climb straight up about 200 steps, then hanging upside down to kiss the slimy stone while they hold your feet. It was actually fun to watch (and extremely crowded). As a side note, when the cruise ship was earlier docked in Cork, we also toured the Old Jameson Midleton Distillery (a very informative and accessible tour) and the beautiful coastal town of Kinsale, Ireland. On our drive we continued from the Castle and spent the night in the small coastal town of Clonakilty, Ireland.
Hotel: Macliam Lodge Clonakilty, Ireland. Again it was difficult finding an accessible property but this nice B&B worked well and the hostess Maeve was great, very friendly and easy to speak with. Our room was clean, comfortable and wheelchair accessible. The lodge has no views to speak of but was well located along the main street about 5 minutes from the town center. We walked (rolled) along the very level street into town for dinner. A WJAR 3 on the WheelchairJimmy index.
Days 4 & 5: Killarney, Ireland and The Kingdom
Things-To-Do: We drove from Clonakilty and spent 2 nights in the very festive resort town of Killarney and used it as our launching pad to the “Kingdom” and the 112 mile drive around the Rings of Kerry. During this period we visited Killarney National Park, Ross Castle, Kenmare and the Dingle Peninsula (and the not-so-little and very crowded town of Dingle). We loved our 2 evenings and dinners in Killarney, which turned into a real memory as we met a true Irish Leprechaun. Honestly, he was a kind, clever, jovial elderly man who spent a couple hours showing us his town.
Hotel: My 2011 notes somehow misplaced our specific hotel accommodations, however we were located directly downtown in the heart of activity. I believed we stayed at the Killarney Park Hotel but am uncertain. The good news is that we could easily walk (roll) throughout town without getting back into our vehicle. There are a multitude of nearby accessible restaurants and pubs, and all of downtown Killarney was very level and wheelchair friendly. Our hotel too was very accessible whatever its name. Sorry.
Day 6: Killarney to Tralee, Ireland
As we headed north toward the famous Cliffs of Moher and Galway, we stopped in Tralee, Ireland for the night. Frankly there’s not a lot to see or do in Tralee but we needed a convenient stopover.
Hotel: Ballygarry House Hotel & Spa Tralee, Ireland. We had a very nice stay at this hotel with a large, well appointed room and excellent food. Service was very friendly. The hotel is a couple mile drive from downtown Tralee. We arrived about the same time as a tour bus pulled in, so check-in was lengthy and dinner and breakfast dining had to be planned around tour bus customers. We had an excellent wheelchair accessible room and bathroom. A WJAR 3 on the WheelchairJimmy index, but I highly recommend the Ballygarry House.
Day 7: Tralee to Lisdoonvarna, Ireland and Cliffs of Moher
Things-To-Do: We drove the coastal route N69 to Tarbert, Ireland, then N67 across the inlet bridge into County Clare and Kilkee and to the spectacular Cliffs of Moher. Plan to spend a couple hours here. Please don’t miss the Cliffs and the well-done Visitor Center which is very wheelchair accessible.
Hotel: Sheedy’s Country House Hotel Lisdoonvarna, Ireland. The charming Sheedy’s Country House Hotel is a gem, one of the finest small hotels anywhere. Our best room and dining experience in Ireland! The room was beautifully decorated and the bathroom was both exceptionally clean and appointed with the little extras like face towels and extra soap. We fortunately decided to stay for dinner and were surprised with a true gourmet meal. Each dinner course was exceptional and a real taste treat! The owner, Mrs. Martina Sheedy, was a wonderful hostess, which made our stay special. There are several hotel and dining choices in this cute town of Lisdoonvarna, but Sheedy’s stood alone in providing a terrific overall experience. WJAR rating of 5 on the WheelchairJimmy Index although we had to park the station wagon on a slightly gravelly surface.
Day 8: Lisdoonvarna to Galway and Dublin, Ireland
Things-To-Do: On our way to Dublin we first drove straight north to Galway, completed a short drive-around, and then headed to Dublin. Initially we had wanted to spend some time in the area but we ran out of time. So straight to Dublin.
Dublin Things-To-Do: We had a couple days in Dublin including an earlier travel day from our Cruise ship. We stopped at a few must visits including St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Trinity College (if you like history and books, the Book of Kells is unforgettable!), the Guinness Storehouse for a tour and beer, and of course a couple Irish pubs. The tours are all very wheelchair accessible and the pubs were reasonably accessible including “some” accessible restrooms.
Hotel: Camden Court Hotel (Camden St.) Dublin, Ireland. We drove to Dublin for our last night, and unfortunately the hotel provided a depressingly small room with old furniture, spotted carpets and sticky bathroom floors. Their online photos show a nice lobby and beautiful bed but don’t buy this promotion. I asked for a wheelchair accessible room and it was the smallest and most depressing room I have ever stayed at. I couldn’t even turn around in this old, dreary, non-air conditioned room. The parking facilities were the worst I have ever encountered. Avoid this property at all costs. A WJAR 2 on the WheelchairJimmy index and certainly a hotel to avoid!
Dublin, Ireland to Seattle, Washington: Ooops – Car Return
Naturally we had to return the rental Peugeot, so we arranged a crazy exit. Trevor Pollitt from Wheelchair Travel UK had to fly to Dublin to assist. We arranged this upfront but it was a bit tricky. He had flown in earlier that morning to a domestic terminal, so he walked over to the grassy entryway for the international terminal. We spotted him along the somewhat busy terminal entry highway and picked him up. Trevor dropped us off and drove the Peugeot back to London via the Stena Line ferry departing Holyhead, Ireland and sailed back across the Irish Sea. It worked perfectly!
Ireland is a country like no other. While its beauty is breath taking, the Irish people and culture are so uniquely special. What an adventure! The fun never ends!
Wheelchair Travel UK Visit Website
Ivybridge Guest House Fishguard, Wales http://ivybridgeguesthouse.co.uk/
Athenaeum House Hotel Waterford, Ireland Visit Website
Macliam Lodge Clonakilty, Ireland http://www.macliamlodge.com/
Ballygarry House Hotel & Spa Tralee, Ireland http://www.ballygarryhouse.com/
Sheedy’s Country House Hotel Lisdoonvarna, Ireland http://www.sheedys.com/
Camden Court Hotel Dublin, Ireland http://www.camdencourthotel.com/
Rings of Kerry Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ring_of_Kerry
Beara Peninsula Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beara_Peninsula