Ireland 2017

Dunguaire Castle

Last night I returned from an eight day adventure across the pond. We spent four and a half days in Dublin, and three and a half in Reykjavik. I saw amazing natural wonders and met beautiful people. This post is all about Ireland. The follow up on Iceland can be found here.

airbnb is your friend

We began in Dublin heading to our apartment right in the city center. Just off O’Connell Street it was the perfect home base for our time in the city. O’Connell is lined with hotels, bars, restaurants, and is the main thoroughfare of Dublin. Madigan’s became our “local” pub for the trip and the staff is beyond friendly and super hilarious. The weather was spotty even for August so we had a mix of bright sun, overcast humidity, and pouring rain. Walking is easy to do but layers will be your friend. As will comfortable walking shoes. There are a lot of things to see in limited space, but being comfortable will be help to get in those extra miles for all the sightseeing you can.

Phoenix Park

Our friends were running the Dublin half marathon, which is actually the reason this trip happened. We walked through Phoenix Park to greet them for their finish. Here’s where those comfortable shoes come in. Our taxi driver dropped us at the southern entrance to the park and we then discovered the race finish was at the northern entrance to the park. Thank the luck of the Irish for the good weather! We walked through the park full of tall grass, sweeping lawns, and the second largest standing obelisk in the world, Wellington Monument. The Dublin Zoo is in the park, as well as the president’s residence. After seeing our runners finish, we headed to a pub for a few pints for recovery.

Cliffs of Moher

We booked a full day trip to Galway and I HIGHLY recommend this to anyone visiting Ireland. You can drive completely across the country in a few hours out of Dublin, staring at beautiful scenery along the way. Our tour was booked through Kennedy & Carr and our driver Dominic kept us entertained with stories and even songs. He started in the beginning explaining the formation of the island, the story of Irish independence and the strife that came with it, and ended with current events such as Brexit and where he hopes his country will go. The end point for our trip was the Cliffs of Moher. Everyone I know who has been to Ireland has been there, and it’s for good reason. At the recommendation of our tour driver, we took the Doolin Ferry for a trip to see the cliffs from below. The boats leave on the hour, and the entire journey is about 45 mins. A word of caution though, the sea was rough for us so I wouldn’t try this if you have trouble with sea sickness. The trip back to the dock was smoother so it may have been a wind issue, but even I had to hold hard to the rail at times to avoid slipping. The views from below are great, and you can see some of the sea birds that make their nests there. If you don’t have the time, or the stomach, for the ferry there is nothing to fear. The cliffs from above are breathtaking.

Brazen Head

Pubs are obviously a huge part of the Ireland experience. The bartenders are pleasant, helpful, and always willing to engage in conversation. The Irish are hands down the nicest people I’ve ever met. Their gift of gab is real, and it was rare to meet someone who didn’t feel honestly interested in us. For women the experience is different, but probably not for the reason you’d think. It was illegal for women to drink in pubs up into the 1970s. Pubs that did allow them kept them in separate rooms called “snugs.” The women’s restrooms in older pubs are often in odd places due to this history. They literally had to figure out where to put a separate set of water closets. Now everyone drinks together, and you can find whatever you’re looking for whether that’s a quiet place to sip some whiskey or a rowdy spot to drink many pints. The photo above is from The Brazen Head, which calls itself Irelands oldest pub. Drinks have been enjoyed there since 1198, when it was a coach house. It’s a stop on those hop on hop off tours, so be prepared for large crowds. We went in the space between lunch and happy hour and found the courtyard nearly empty. After an hour or so it became totally slammed as people stopped in for drinks before dinner. It’s worth a stop to see the rich wood inside pub, and the beautiful outdoor seating.

Guinness Storehouse

The Guinness really does taste better in Ireland. The beer is just as dark, but with a light and refreshing taste. The head is sweet and I was a little sad when it was gone. The Guinness Storehouse is a great stop in Dublin and I think it’s worth braving the crowds. Go before lunch, and you are totally fine skipping the guided tour and just enjoying it yourself. Each level covers a different part of the Guinness story. My favorite was the advertising level, where you can see the amazing marketing Guinness has come up with over the years. There are a lot of fun photos to be taken there. You can learn to pour the perfect pint, or you can go straight to the Gravity Bar to enjoy your comped taste of Ireland’s finest. The bar is at the very top of the building and has the best view of Dublin. The 360 view will show you the architecture of old buildings and rolling hills at the edge of the city.

River Liffey

The River Liffey cuts straight through Dublin and serves as a helpful landmark to find your way. It’s a great walk where you can see tourists and locals alike. Definitely make a stop for photos at the Ha’penny Bridge. There are plenty of bars and restaurants along the way where you can quell your hunger or quench your thirst.

Ireland is a land rich with history, pain, and redemption. The people of this island have battled nature, the English, and themselves. They received all the knowledge of the known world after the rest of Europe slipped into the dark ages. They kept this info safe in the Book of Kells, and shared it with humanity when the light came back. The 1798 Irish Rebellion and the Easter Rising of 1916 showed locals and the world the power of the Irish people. Many believed in their right to self govern, and with over 200 civilian deaths in 1916 the rest of the island began to feel the same. Ireland still deals with the struggle of having two separate nations in one area, separated by religion and violence. In spite of all of this, the Irish people are warm, humorous, and always ready with a helpful tip or a friendly chat. The rest of the world can learn a lot from them.

Tips!

Save your money on the trip to and from the airport by riding the Aircoach. Each trip is 6 EUR and it’s super easy to find. The ride from the Dublin airport to the city center is about 30 minutes.

There are taxi stands at all hotels and some other spots around the city. There is an abundance of taxis since there is no limit on medallions. Since we always saw them at the stands, we actually didn’t know you can hail a taxi just as you would anywhere else. After the race we found ourselves in the suburbs with no sign of a stand. I quickly found the app mytaxi which allows you to call a taxi just like an Uber. You pay through the app and it makes it easy if you are stuck away from the city center and need a ride.

The hop on hop off buses can be fun if the weather is good. It’s a great way to spend the day making your way around Dublin and saving on the walking. If you’re planning to visit the Guinness Storehouse you can buy a ticket from the bus tour company before. This gives you a skip the line pass which can really come in handy on busy days. Buy it along with your bus ticket and you’re good to go.

If you can afford the extra cost, go with a private tour to Galway. We had a group of seven and the bus easily could have fit 15 or 20. The cost came to be about 130 USD per person and it was 100% worth it. The large buses will get you to the same place, but the journey will not be the same. We had the chance to go off the original itinerary and stop at a totally empty abbey. Kennedy and Carr is only one company, there are many others who I’m sure will offer a similar experience.

Most pubs stop serving at midnight or 12:30. There are “late” bars that will stay open until around 3am. You can look these up easily on google or yelp. The Temple Bar area has a lot, but expect to pay more in that part of town than others. We went to The Globe which had amazing dancing and a great crowd. There is a large room in the back with couches and is a great place to go with a group when it’s crowded.

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