Ireland is one of those countries everyone should visit at some point in their life. For me that opportunity presented itself in my final year of my undergraduate degree when my best friend and I decided that there is more to life than coursework. We booked tickets and before we knew it we were driving to Edinburgh and boarding a flight to Dublin.
The flight was extremely short, highlighting the fact that we weren’t actually traveling a great amount of distance away from home yet were about to experience a completely different country.
Once arriving at the airport it was very easy to catch a bus which took us directly to O’Connell Street. I usually take pride in the fact that I can usually understand many different accents coming from an international background, but I struggled with understanding the Irish accent. I think this was mostly due to the fact that they speak really, really fast, and embarrassingly often couldn’t understand people with strong Irish accents. This also could be down to the fact I was simply over excited about hearing Irish accents everywhere we went and perhaps wasn’t paying all that much attention to the words which were being spoken.
Once we wandered around for a while we learnt it wasn’t too difficult to get around the city itself, many of the main attractions were within walking distance of the main street and there were regular busses to and from our hotel in Ballsbridge. The first thing I noticed about Dublin was the fact it was very international, with lots of tourists, everywhere! We had a look around the Temple Bar area in the evening and I don’t think I heard one person speaking with an Irish accent anywhere for a while, and it was very much a “party zone” with lots of stag and hen parties in almost every bar.
The next day we woke up early as we were about to embark upon a trip across Ireland to the west coast. There are lots of companies which do day trips across Ireland, we went with Wild Rover Tours since we got to spend quite a bit of time at each stop. We got on our bus in the city centre and started our trip across the country. Our tour guide was quick to tell us something that made a lot of sense, Dublin is VERY different from the rest of Ireland, and it became clear that this trip was going to allow us to explore the Ireland that we originally wanted to visit. Our first top, strangely enough, was at a petrol station in Moneygall where there was what seemed to be a Barack Obama museum. Apparently Obamas roots have been traced back to Moneygall and he came to visit once and this was the result. There were doughnuts, which was the best part. That or the Obama mugs and key chains.
The next stop was the Cliffs of Moher, the main reason we wanted to go on this day trip. Before getting to the cliffs we drove through a few small traditional villages, which I would some day like to go back and explore.
The weather is known to be very dull and gloomy on the west coast of Ireland, which was exactly the opposite of what we experienced. Our tour guide told us we were extremely lucky to have such good weather, and it resulted in the best possible views we could ask for. I simply can’t express how breath-taking the view was, and pictures can’t capture the full beauty of this scene. We walked along the cliffs for two hours, spending most of our time on the northern path which I believe gave us the best views. We were in awe the whole time of the spectacular scene, it doesn’t hurt that a scene from Harry Potter was filmed here to, making it extra magical.
Luckily I’m not afraid of heights which meant I could take this truly awesome photo right on the edge. Also, as geologists, Becky and I spent a good amount of time talking about the cliff features and the limestone the cliffs are composed of, like the cool kids we are!
The next part of the journey was probably one of my favourite memories as I was surprised to learn that we were entering the landscape that inspired Tolkien’s Middle Earth. For some strange reason I had no idea that Tolkien drew inspiration from Irelands west coast, and I couldn’t contain my excitement. When we stopped in the Burren I could tell instantly why this was such an inspirational landscape. The vastness and extent of the unusually bare and craggy features would definitely allow someone to feel like they were in a totally different world. We didn’t get to explore the forests and the caves which I deeply regret, but you can’t do everything. I’m definitely coming back here in the future.
Our next stop was Galway, which started in Galway Bay which was absolutely beautiful. We passed a fair number of fairy rings and trees. Our tour guide used our time on the bus to tell us about Irelands history and traditions, which complemented the scenery nicely.
Galway was a much bigger destination than I expected, and we spent our time wandering around Eyre Square and Quay Street, overwhelmed by the amount of shops and places to eat and drink. We ended up having afternoon tea at the end of Quay Lane which was indeed very cute. Unfortunately this was the last stop on our Ireland west coast adventure, Becky and I have agreed that on our inevitable return trip to Ireland we’d want to stay in Galway and explore the West Coast and the more traditional side of Ireland. Alas we returned to Dublin.
The next day was spent exploring the city of Dublin more, visiting museums and shops, and my favourite thing to do on holiday: find places to eat! That evening we went on a pub crawl which started at The Temple Bar, where we had our first round of drinks. Dublin is a very expensive place to drink, which we learnt that evening, which ended up with me running out of money… funnily enough. On the pub tour we were taken to some traditional Irish pubs by two musicians who taught us about traditional Irish music and played us folk songs.
They were extremely lovey guides and taught us a lot about Irish music culture, I wish I could recall everything they told us, but there was a lot of drinking and my memory suffered as the night went on. all I know is that I was extremely happy and the pub tour was everything I hoped our last night in Dublin would be.
And yes, I tried Guinness. Yes it’s better in Ireland which made it drinkable for me, but no, I still don’t like it.
We did end up going back to The Temple Bar at the end of the night but the scene is definitely not as traditional there as the other pubs we had been to with the tour. It was at this point I ran out of money and Becky and I returned to the hotel and I collapsed into bed. Dublin and the Guinness definitely defeated me.
The next day, after reluctantly packing our bags and leaving the hotel, we spend our final hours in Ireland exploring the parks and overall recovering from the night before. We went on a Viking Duck Tour which took us round the city, with the best tour guide ever with the funniest stories, though I’m not sure all of them were true thinking back on it now.
It was one of those trips where I feel we only got a taste of what Ireland had to offer, but there’s only so much you can do in 3 days! Becky and I left Ireland with some wonderful memories knowing that we need to return in the future.
Until next time,