If you've been following me on Twitter or Instagram, you'll know that I went on a week long trip to The Republic of Ireland. It was my first time going there, and it met and exceeded my expectations. Going to Ireland was a dream come true! It is 1of 2 countries in the world that I am absolutely obsessed about (the other being New Zealand), so I was very very excited :) I was lucky to know a friend who lives in Dublin, so she suggested places to see and was my travel companion for most of my Irish adventures. Here are some of my highlights:
Bunratty Castle & Folk Park
Located near Limerick in County Clare, Bunratty is a 15th century castle. I absolutely love castles, and since this was the first castle I entered in Ireland, it was beyond exciting. After a day visit through the castle and grounds, my friend and I returned later that night to enjoy a proper medieval banquet. This banquet included a four course meal, mead (yummy!), wine, dessert, and live entertainment. All for the cost of €45. It's a bit pricey, but it was totally worth it. Especially for the mead. Oh, the mead!
Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher is always on a list of places to see in Ireland, so I just had to experience it for myself. Rather than going straight to the highest point by car, I did a 3 hour (8km) walk up to it. The walk was led by Pat Sweeney, a local historian and farmer who has worked tirelessly to create a walking trail from the village of Doolin to the Cliffs Visitor Centre. For only €5, you learn about the history and geology of the area, and of course see one of the most beautiful scenery ever. I found the walk to be fairly easy, however there were a few times when the trail was very steep. The trail is also not fully complete, so closer to the end you will be walking a feet or 2 from the edge of the cliffs. Not recommended for those who have a fear of heights.
Dublin is Ireland's largest city and has much to offer. From museums and cathedrals to beautiful historic buildings and excellent pubs. I spent 4 nights in Dublin with 3 of those nights at a wonderful little B&B - Tipperary House, which is in the city centre and near Heuston station. In the 4 nights altogether, I did almost everything on my to-do list. Here are some of the places I visited:
- National Museum of Ireland - Archaeology
- Dublin Castle
- Trinity College Library to see the Book of Kells (but really because I fell in love with this library several years ago when I saw how beautiful it looked on the inside. Seriously, go Google it!)
- Irish Whisky Museum (the basic package gets you 3 whisky's to taste)
- Guinness Storehouse (this biggest tourist attraction in Dublin)
- Christchurch Cathedral (you can explore their underground crypts)
- St. Patrick's Cathedral
This is a part of Dublin Castle
As for good places to go for food and drinks, I have to warn you: AVOID BUYING DRINKS IN TEMPLE BAR. Temple Bar is well known for its pubs and shops, but it is also a major tourist trap so everything is expensive. For example, my friend and I went to a pub (I can't remember the name of it) and both of us ordered a vodka and orange, which came to €17. Let me retype this in case you didn't get it the first time: €17! That's almost $34 CAD for two drinks! So we learned our lesson and went north of River Liffey (which runs through the centre of Dublin) to buy drinks.
I also went to The Brazen Head, which is Ireland's oldest pub established in the 1100s. It is a true traditional, Irish pub. It was very busy, but they have a number of bars throughout the space (and reasonably priced food and drinks).
Overall, what I was surprised the most about Dublin was how dirty the streets and sidewalks were. There was garbage and dog feces everywhere. I thought downtown Toronto was dirty, but I was wrong. Dublin, with a 1/3 of Toronto's population, is much worse. I blame the fact that there aren't enough public garbage bins. So just be prepared for that. Despite this, going to Dublin was a dream come true. Fingers crossed I see it again next year, but as a student ;)
Newgrange and the Hill of Tara
One of the best parts about Ireland is that it is a small country, so you can do day trips anywhere in the country. There are a number of companies that offer day tours, so I took advantage of doing one to Newgrange and the Hill of Tara.
Thank you to the couple who photo-bombed my otherwise perfect picture in front of Newgrange
Newgrange is a Stone Age passage tomb more than 5, 000 years old. That makes it older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids of Giza! You can only see Newgrange by doing guided tours. After I checked in at the visitor centre, I hopped on a shuttle bus to the actual site where I was greeted by a tour guide. Although the tomb itself looks massive on the outside, it is incredibly small on the inside. There is a narrow passage that goes to the centre of the tomb, and at the end of the passage is a circular opening. The ceiling is low, so I walked hunched over (and sideways sometimes) until I got to the opening. Once inside, the tour guide used electric lights to show us what a winter solstice would like from inside the tomb. If you're a history buff like me, I'd definitely recommend visiting Newgrange.
The Hill of Tara, according to legend, was the seat of the High King of Ireland. There are a number of ancient monuments on the site including Ireland's Stone of Destiny. Don't forget to touch it because if a loud screech is heard throughout the country, you are the true King/Queen of Ireland (exciting! but it didn't work for me...). With the exception of a small passage tomb and a church, there are no other large structures. Instead, there are areas of raised land, which once held the foundations of buildings. The Hill of Tara is better seen from a birds-eye view, but it does provide an exceptional scenery.
The Stone of Destiny in all its glory
Have you been to Ireland? If so, what was your favourite part?
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