Do grand coastal landscapes make you happy? Country sides and horses? Live music? Whiskey? Maybe Guinness? If you said yes to all then you should probably get to Ireland stat! What an amazing country! It was one of those trips where expectations were exceeded. One of the first things we came to realize is that Ireland is much smaller than we imagined. This was a welcome realization since we planned to drive all over it plus some as we reached into Northern Ireland (part of the UK). After flying to Dublin with a couple friends from Switzerland we grabbed our car and hit the road! First stop: Belfast.
Driving itself went smoother than everyone anticipated. Being on the other side of the road only took a few minutes to get used to. We also expected to run into narrow back roads with a lot of our trip being in the countryside but we never ran into problems (or anything). The countryside is beautiful! Trees covering side streets and blankets of green as far as we could see. It’s extremely rocky ground so the fields were spotted with boulders that only added to the charm. They made good use out of all the rock, as we saw it everywhere in the buildings and fencing.
Belfast will live in our memories as local spirit, live music, and dancing. We have to say, the people we encountered during the entire trip were all so friendly and fun! We met many in Belfast, some travelling as us and others growing up there… all with a story. Aside from mingling with the city folk, we got our fix of the outdoors from Belfast as well. The Giant’s Causeway is the perfect day trip from there so we set off. Every experience we had outdoors was a very memorable one. Mother nature really flexed her muscles the closer we got to the Atlantic. We hiked around the Giant’s Causeway area as we made our way down to the main attraction. It resembles large stepping stones jetting out into the ocean. Legend has it that they were created by a giant to be able to meet with another giant in Scotland for battle. Alternatively, they were formed from a volcanic fissure, but you can decide for yourself.
Belfast wasn’t the only spot with amazing live music, cue Galway. As soon as we arrived, we knew we’d have a blast in the city. It could’ve just been St. Patrick’s Day but it was lively and we were staying right in the heart of it all. Thanks to our local friend we’d met in Belfast we were recommended a spot for a drink, Róisín Dubh, that turned into a concert and it was phenomenal! There are a number of great things to do just outside of Galway. Due to weather we weren’t able to get to most but that wasn’t going stop us from visiting the Cliffs of Moher!
Hardly anyone was there and rightfully so as it was pouring rain and cloudy. We figured it would pass as we made our way up to the cliffs. The closer we got, the windier it was and it really just became comical as to how crazy we felt hiking out on the edge of a cliff in 65 mph winds. Despite the clouds, the view was amazing. Everything was so massive, including the crash of the waves as we looked down. A little mud never hurt anyone!
St. Patrick’s Day there was as busy as we expected. A sea of green flowed through the streets as beers poured from open taps and whiskey flowed from the bottles that day! Knowing we had a drive to Dublin ahead of us the next morning we aimed for equal parts whiskey and water. Between all of the whiskey and Guinness it was important to keep our bellies filled with something more substantial than booze. We had a great meal of some amazingly fresh seafood one night and I personally am already craving more chowder! Besides the seafood, a popular dish is the boxty which is essentially a potato pancake. This was nice to share and of course we had some corned beef per family tradition as well. Yum!
Enough talk about food let’s get back to the whiskey and Guinness, shall we?! As a day trip from Dublin, we visited the Jameson distillery in Cork. It was a great tour and we really learned a lot from it! We were able to taste test and compare different whiskeys in the end, finding our favorite. It was a busy day in the Cork area as the Blarney Castle and Cashel Rock were on our to do list as well. Luckily it was the most beautiful day for it!
The Blarney Castle and grounds were very nice and definitely worth a stop. We made it up to the top of the castle to see a man waiting to assist us in kissing the Blarney Stone. The view from the top was perfect by the way and what we imagined when we think of Ireland. The stone is in an odd spot so in order to reach it, you really have to lean back down in between slabs of rock. With help, we held on, leaned back, and gave the stone a smooch. Legend goes that after said kiss, we’d have the gift of gab and flattery. To be determined!
We drove by Cashel Rock on our way back to Dublin. It’s a fortress and historical site dating back to the 1100s that has remained unrestored for some time. It’s also one of the most remarkable spots of medieval architecture in Europe so you can imagine its beauty! Country and pastures surround the area and adds to the awe of the fortress set at the top of a hill. We arrived just before sunset and it really gave us all the happy feels.
With so much to do we can’t say we saw a lot of Dublin city but we did make it to the Guinness Storehouse! It was absolutely huge and was a half day affair no doubt. We learned how to pour the perfect Guinness (different than the average beer) and of course enjoyed our pint at the lookout point up top. We did wander the city a bit, enough to know that it has a very fresh vibe and stays lively in the Temple Bar area.
Looking back, we did so much in those 6 days road tripping in Ireland. And yet, there was so much we weren’t able to do! It just goes to show how much the surprisingly small country has to offer. The countryside and cliffs were gorgeous, the people were fun, the drinks were abundant, and the music was incredible… what more could we ask for! Our next trip will come over Easter break. Although we don’t know where we’ll go, we do have a car rented just in case. Knowing us, anything could happen!