Jenna's Top 5 for Ireland
1. Best activities/attractions: Cliffs of Moher (located on the West Coast of Ireland South of Galway), St. Patrick's Cathedral, and The Guinness Factory (both located in Dublin).
2. Best Restaurant: The Temple Bar (in Temple Bar District in Dublin). Live music really makes this place, along with the great beer and delicious food!
3. CrossFit Gym Recommendation: CrossFit Dublin (located right on the river in Dublin (City Centre).
4. Cultural Tip: On the western part of Ireland, the Irish speak Gaelic instead of English, so you will hear (even more) conversations that you aren't able to understand even a single word of (it's a fascinating language to listen to though)! The Irish also have a wonderful sense of humor, but say their witty remarks in a regular voice, catching you off guard sometimes haha.
5. Best Mode of Transportation: IF you are planning on staying in Dublin, it is very easy to get around simply by walking. Dublin is actually a very small city and you can easily walk from one side to the other in about 15 minutes. IF you are planning on traveling to the other parts of the country, I would recommend renting a car so that you have the ease of stopping wherever you would like (and always having a safe refuge from a random rain downpour)!
So we kinda, no, definitely had a rocky start. After all the craziness of getting to the Frankfurt airport via 3 different trains, we rushed to our departure gate and saw that our plane was delayed. We ended up arriving at midnight and while getting our rental car discovered a couple things: 1. Steering wheels are on the right side (ok) BUT it’s a manual with the stick on the left (a little more tricky). And 2. Dublin's streets are not on a grid and most of them are one way. They are super windy, very narrow, and you never know when you are going from a one way street to a two way street or if an alley is one way or two way. Oh and Matt’s not used to driving on the left, so he was always hugging the left side of the lane, causing me to have a couple mini heart attacks and sharp intakes of breath when we almost hit cars or walls with the mirror on my side haha. I’m SUPER impressed with his ability to drive on the opposite side of the road WITH a manual on the opposite side too though! Basically, he’s been amazing. I definitely would’ve killed us by now.
We finally make it to the city centre but the gps did not understand the specific directions of our airbnb apt. that we were staying at. We literally drove around in the dark for an hour just trying to figure out where “Block E” was, not realizing it was an apartment building haha. When we finally thought we were in the "general vicinity", we tried to find a parking garage, but by then everything was closed, so then we tried to find street parking… while also trying to make sure we remembered where the car was at so that we could find it the next day. Oh and in Dublin if you don’t move your car by 7 (on the street) they clamp it. So not only did we get in super late (we finally called the lady who owns the apt, not even caring how much the international fees were going to cost us), but we had to wake up at 6:30 and try to find the car and move it. After only a couple hours of sleep we dragged ourselves out of bed and just when we got outside, it started POURING rain. Matt and I were literally sprinting up and down the streets, drenched, darting from doorway to doorway for cover, trying to find our car! I remember looking back at him one time and just laughing (like a crazy lady). There was literally nothing else you could do in that situation haha. We found our car eventually, jumped inside of it, and then the rain stopped. By that time we decided that we were definitely awake and we might as well go find a grocery store and get some much needed coffee.
Just as a tip, the one GREAT thing about airbnb is that you can go buy groceries and cook your meals in the kitchen, saving you a good amount of money AND you can usually do laundry there. Honestly though, looking back we should have just gotten a hotel rather than an airbnb. The bed and pillows were hard, we were always trying to be quiet and not wake up the owner, and it would've been SO much easier to navigate simply putting a hotel name into our gps rather than trying to find an apartment building. My advice - unless you are renting out the entire apartment/house, don't do airbnb. Pay a little extra and get a hotel.
After breakfast we decided to do our “day in Dublin” and started off at Dublin Castle… sounded awesome… wasn’t really that great though (oh and someone said using the word “awesome” is bad here in Ireland? If any of you know why, please tell me). A lot of Dublin Castle was created later on in history , so it wasn’t the original one and didn’t have the “castle” feeling about it. That was ok though because we were going to stop in at some castles on our way out to Galway the next day that were AMAZING.
We then walked to Christ Church Cathedral and St. Patricks's Cathedral. Christ Church Cathedral was beautiful, but St. Patrick’s Cathedral blew me away! GORGEOUS! I was in awe of all of the architecture and the grandeur of it! Definitely a must see if you are in Dublin! It is the largest cathedral in Ireland and it was very enjoyable to walk around reading all of the tombstones for important religious figures, figure out the stories told by the stained glass art, and admire the intricate architecture. Matt and I then went and sat in the gardens outside which was a hub for families just hanging out and gave you a great view of the cathedral.
The next stop was the Guinness Factory! That was quite the experience! Everything is super detailed and very well organized. We walked through a tour that explained the entire process for making beer and then took a beer tasting class so that you can "properly drink a guinness". Poor Matt though couldn't drink any because he literally cannot have gluten (otherwise he's WRECKED and throwing up for 24 hours). He did try a super small sip though (and luckily was ok afterward). He refused to go without the experience of tasting some Guinness made from the actually factory of where it comes from!
We decided to go out do dinner at a cute little place on the river that had a good gluten free menu so that Matt could enjoy it. My favorite part was when the taxi driver who was taking us there (a little old Irish man) dropped us off and said in his thick Irish accent: "Well here ye be. 12 Euros. That's all I can rip you off for today!" Adorable.
After finishing dinner we wandered through Temple Bar District and heard the sounds of Irish Music! It ended up being "The Temple Bar", one of the best Irish Pubs in Dublin! We got a great table up at the front where the Irish band was playing and drank ciders and listened to the most amazing Irish music for a couple hours. Definitely a highlight! At one point the band took a break and so we asked this older Irish bartender when the band was coming back on. He responded, “Oh they’ll be back half past the hour - unless you didn’t like them. Then I can just send them home!” I just LOVE their humor here in Ireland! Oh and evidently this was the site of a Guinness world record for longest marathon guitar playing (114.5 hours) by Dave Browne in 2011! I can't even imagine the crowd that was drawn by that, watching a man play for days straight! Makes my fingers hurt just thinking about it!
The next morning we got up early and headed out for trip to Galway on the West coast of Ireland, stopping at the Rock of Cashel (castle) and the Cliffs of Moher.
Rock of Cashel. Amazing. A friend of ours recommended it and we are so happy we were able to visit it! Go there if you are in Ireland. It's so authentic and is surrounded by the beautiful countryside! It was home to the "high kings" around the 5th century A.D. and then was donated to the church in the 12th and 13th centuries A.D.
We decided to try to get back on the road quickly because we desperately wanted to get to the Cliffs of Moher with a lot of daylight so that we could see it's amazing views! We were not disappointed. Cliffs of Moher is now one of my favorite places to go to in all of Ireland! The views were breathtaking and there were miles of little paths that went along the cliffs that you could walk.
After exploring Cliffs of Moher for a couple hours we headed into Galway where our hotel was at. We didn't explore much of Galway because we were exhausted from a long day, but loved how cute of a little town it was. We hope to go back someday and explore more of it!
The next morning we headed back to Dublin but really wanted to end our trip visiting the Wicklow Mountains National Park (specifically Glendalough). This was also recommended to me by my friend Heather Pepin who traveled there and said it was a must see! The park is about an hour outside of Dublin and is perfect for a little day trip if you are ever staying there! We drove about 45 minutes on a VERY small (but beautiful) country road through the Wicklow mountains to get to Glendalough and during this drive, decided that our children were going to be named distinctly Irish names... because obviously they will be little Irish gingers! We came up with 2 boy names and 2 girl names... however they will be kept secret until the kids arrive and we decide which names "fit".
We finally arrived at Glendalough and ate a delightful lunch at "Heather's House" and then drove down to the trails and walked around the monastery. Unfortunately it started pouring and got really cold, so we got back to car and decided to head into Dublin. We were so bummed that we didn't get to spend more time there! Matt and I promised ourselves though that we were going to come back someday, stay in a little B&B, and explore EVERY trail (9 total)!
We dropped our rental car off at the airport and then took the shuttle service to our hotel - The Hilton Airport Hotel. I chose this hotel because it has shuttle service to and from the airport (saving you money on taxis) and it's very close to the airport which is a must if you have an early flight the next day (we were leaving for Barcelona at 5:30a.m.). I highly recommend it!
Overall, we LOVED our 3 day trip to Ireland! It was way more exhausting for Matt because he was driving us all over Ireland (so thankful for him), but completely worth the trip and the extra money for the rental car. Now on to Barcelona!
Do you have any other favorite places in Ireland to travel to? Any questions about planning your own trip?