World Tour: Ireland
Introducing a new series: World Tour
This series will hop around the globe spotlighting some of the places our site members live or travel.
We’ll tell you about touristy things to do and also some behind the scenes tips or less well-known locations provided by members who live there. If you’d like your location featured in an upcoming article please email me at email@example.com. I’d love to hear from you!
World Tour: Ireland
by Maibella Rhoiden and Kyla Sterling
The first stop in our new World Tour series is Ireland (including both The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom). We thought this a great choice since Dublin will host an official Tower event in October of this year. If you’re going to the Britain and Ireland Party - or if you plan to visit Ireland sometime - we hope this article will give you ideas on places to see. (add in link to B&I Party registration).
If you’re flying to Ireland, the first thing you’ll notice as you pass over is the color. Ireland is called the Emerald Isle, and they aren’t playing around. “I have yet to see the same vibrant green as I saw all over the country when I visited. My pictures look photoshopped. No one can believe the intensity of the beautiful countryside without visiting themselves,” says Kyla Sedai. “I didn’t know there could be so many shades of green,” adds Maibella.
If you are visiting Dublin the Dublin Bus Tour is highly recommended. Maibella says, “I loved the bus tour! I did it on my first day in the city, after an overnight flight. It was a great way to get a taste of what Dublin has to offer. You can hop off and on the bus at various locations throughout the city, making is a customizable to your particular interests.”
Approximately a 30 minute drive west of Dublin is Kilmainham Gaol. You may wonder why touring a jail is something you would want to do on vacation. But it really is not-to-be-missed. The history of the jail is closely linked with the story of Irish Nationalism and is considered by some to be one of the most important Irish monuments of the modern period. According the the Kilmainham Gaol website, restoration construction is ongoing through December 2015 and this may impact tours. Be sure to call ahead to ensure that you’ll be able to get in if you choose to visit before the end of this year.
For another kind of history you can drive about 45 minutes north of Dublin to the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Center, also known as Newgrange. Newgrange is a monument from the Stone Age, constructed over 5,000 years ago (it’s older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids of Giza!). The main site is a large, circular mound with stone passageways and chambers inside. The construction of the monument was designed to capture the light at the winter solstice and direct it to the innermost chamber. Maibella says “Going inside this monument was like traveling back in time. It was truly incredible. But beware - the passage is TIGHT! I’m very claustrophobic and I almost panicked on the way in. It was very much worth experiencing once but I don’t know if I could do it again.”
If you have some time to get out of the capital and see some more of the country, there are some great places to visit. The best way to do it? Circle the country. Start in Dublin and make your way south to Kilkenny to visit the castle there. An astute tour guide will be able to point out the amazing defensive architecture. Kyla Sedai “came away with a profound appreciation of Norman engineering. And a nice bruise from trying and failing to storm the keep.” That will get you pointed towards Cork for Blarney Castle and a pub crawl featuring the best live traditional bands you’ll find anywhere.
Kyla Sedai storms the castle.
Before you get to Cork, detour to Waterford and tour the crystal factory. Waterford Crystal is renowned the world over. You can see their artwork in every stage of its creation, and then take some home.
Once you’re done in Waterford, it’s finally time to hit Cork - and you don’t want to miss Blarney Castle. After all, it’s one of Ireland’s most famous monuments, and you don’t want to go all the way there and NOT come home with the gift of gab! You can explore the castle from bottom to top, kiss the Stone, and then get lost wandering the surrounding park and gardens.
Kyla Sedai kisses the Blarney Stone.
From there, head East and take a bus tour of the Ring of Kerry. It’s a lovely scenic drive that includes several stops for sightseeing and souvenir gathering. Among the stops are anything from historic manor houses to ancient standing stones, so it’s a great way to absorb a lot of history while still enjoying a relaxing drive.
Then it’s time to head North and stop at the stunning Cliffs of Moher. (You may know them better as the Cliffs of Insanity from The Princess Bride.) If you’re afraid of heights, don’t worry; the pathway will keep you well away from the edge but still let you see the breathtaking drop to the sea several hundred feet below.
Once you’re finished there, it’s off to Galway to visit some of the historical sights there and grab a side trip to beautiful Kylemore Abbey. It’s a beautiful castle (“everyone in Ireland lives in a castle, I promise,” says Kyla Sedai) and Victorian garden nestled in the heart of the Connemara district. The whole area is lovely, and it’s the most heavily Irish-speaking place in the country.
If you venture further from Dublin you can visit Northern Ireland. The trip is totally worth it! Three hours driving north from Dublin will bring you to Giant’s Causeway. This natural rock formation extends all along the beach and out into the North Atlantic Ocean. The hexagonal rock features was created when ancient lava flows cooled and broke apart, forming basalt columns. It it an impressive sight indeed!
Hop back in your car and drive 10 minutes east of Giant’s Causeway to experience the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. This bridge extends 60 feet from the mainland to a rocky island and is 80 feet above the roiling surf. Visitors can cross the bridge and spend time relaxing on the lush green top of the rocky island. On a rare clear day (don’t count on it being a clear day, count on rain) you can see Scotland as a smudge on the horizon in the distance.
Maibella crosses the bridge in 2004 (left) and 1996 (right) - the rope bridge is replaced each year with a more sturdy version.
The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland have so much to offer visitors and locals. Hopefully we’ve given you a taste of what you could experience there and whetted your appetite for travel!
If you’ve been to Ireland, we’d love to hear from you! What were your favorite places or things to do that we didn’t mention? If you’re planning a trip to Ireland, will you be visiting any of the places we’ve described?