The season is upon us! When the weather in Ireland get’s a little less cold, the festivals begin and the throngs of tourists start arriving at our airports and ferry ports. This year I’m coming back with a couple of Yankee Doodles! My Fiance, who has been to Ireland before and one of her friends who has a very romantic view of the country. She tells us, she’s been obsessed with Ireland and the idea of going there since she was 8 years old! This has put a little bit of pressure on me. I know what I love and appreciate about Ireland but that’s not necessarily what somebody else will love. My Fiance loves Dublin and doesn’t like the more rural parts of the country. I love the rural parts. So what’s the compromise!?
Here’s some places I like and recommend people to go to and some general tips I’m flying into Shannon for my first time in about six years. This is the best option if you intend to rent a car for your trip and if you’d like to start your trip in the more rural parts of the country. Of course you can rent a car in Dublin too but it can be a little more confusing driving out from Dublin. Dublin is a major European city! The roads show that. It can be quite confusing, at first. The busy roads are also probably something you don’t want to tackle right away, either, particularly if this is your first time driving on the ‘wrong side of the road’ If you are renting a car, a GPS is a must. If you have a GPS unit, check out if you’ve got European maps, or if you can buy some. If not, you should check to see if you can use your phone in Ireland. European roaming charges are now pretty reasonable. If you’re coming from the United States, you’ll want to buy a SIM card for your phone for the trip. NOTE: If you are on contract, your phone is locked. Obama signed off on a law meaning, if you are out of contract, your provider must unlock your phone for you. Which allows you to put an Irish SIM Card in there. If you have an iPhone, changing the SIM cards can be a chore. FUCKING APPLE!! If you are on Verizon, I believe they do not use the same type of SIM card as the Irish. If you are with AT&T or T-Mobile, you can put an Irish SIM card in your phone as long as it’s unlocked! Dublin
Once, I pick up our lady guest, we’re planning on spending the day in Dublin exploring the city. She wants to go to the Guinness Storehouse. I’ve been there a few times before. The brewery part itself, is pretty boring. You can get certified on how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness. Some in other countries may not realize but you are meant to pour Guinness in two parts. Sports bars in the US fail at this and their pints taste like shite! The coolest parts of the Storehouse are the original lease that Arthur Guinness, himself, signed. The restaurant that uses Guinness in their recipes in some interesting ways and of course, the Sky Bar! Probably one of the best views of Dublin. You get to see the city from a unique viewpoint, looking down over those old familiar red brick buildings and along the river Liffey. All while enjoying a nice pint of the Black stuff! If you are a booze tourist, there’s of course great places to drink in Dublin and in fact all over the country. If you have an interest in Distillers\Breweries. You might also be interested in the James Distillery which is also in Dublin City. Did you know that Dublin Zoo is one of the world oldest Zoos. I remember going there when I was a kid and HATING it. It was just so depressing and small. I’m torn about Zoos. I love them, because I love animals but at the same time, when I see animals that look miserable in their small enclosures, it’s really heartbreaking. The Dublin Zoo staff have worked hard on re-working the Zoo and re-focusing efforts more on conservation. They’ve been heavily involved in breeding programs to try and bolster the population for certain challenged species. The Zoo is also located in Phoenix Park which is where the Irish version of the White House is. Our President Michael D. Higgins lives there. He’s a former lecturer and poet. He’s physical embodiement of a Leprechaun! He’s well liked by virtually everybody in the country and is a great Ambassador. Phoenix Park itself is a wonderful place to go for a stroll. Not too far away from Phoenix Park, you’ll find Kilmainham Gaol (Jail). This is a very historic site in Ireland. It’s the prison in which the Irish leaders from 1916 were held and eventually executed. The tour guide we had when I went was excellent. He told us the stories of the various high profile prisoners that were there. The plight of people during the famine. Definitely one for the Historians. May not be everybodys cup of tea! If by any chance you find yourself going to Ireland and there’s a Hurling or Football match on in Croke Park, you should definitely try to get a ticket, though that can be a difficult task. Hurling is one of the fastest paced games in the world. Both Hurling and Football are two of the oldest sports in the world too, Sports which have influenced other popular sports today. Something which is unique about this sport is that it’s big, big money but the sport is still completely amateur. The players play for the fame and glory. Croke Park in Dublin is the main stadium for the GAA, the organization which regulates the Gaelic sports. It’s where all finals get played. The picture above is from last years All Ireland Hurling Final, which I was lucky enough to attend. Croke Park is also pretty historic and was the site of an attack by British forces on citizens. They drove an armored car outside the stadium and fired on fans. The Fuckers!! Dublin is a great city for walking around. You’ll want to walk all around, you don’t need to have places in mind to go to. Just walk. Stephens Green has a nice park, Grafton Street is a pretty cool shopping area but it also gets some of the Islands best street performers, O’Connell Street is cool, it has the Liffey running along side it and is where the Famine Memorial Statue resides. Temple Bar is the main tourist area…Go for a look and then leave, quickly. It’s the most expensive place in the entire country. It’s a honey trap, you could do without it. Dublin is the only city in Ireland that has a really good public transportation system. If you’d like to see the Coastal parts of Dublin, you can take the DART out to Dún Laoghaire and Howth. Nice for a stroll. Whealans and the Button Factory usually get pretty good musicians. Big name headliners play at the 3 Arena. Kilkenny I’ve never ever been to Kilkenny, which is a bit crazy. The Irish themselves talk very highly of it. It’s a town many will go for a weekend away (staycation). It’s the site of the biggest comedy festival in Ireland every year. The Kilkenny Cat Laughs. It’s meant to have some really nicely preserved castles and a nice quaint town. Aside from this, I don’t know a thing about the place. But it comes highly recommended, so I hope to stop there!
Next we’ll head down to Cork. Personally, all I care to see in Cork is Rory Gallaghers gravesite. He’s the Irish Jimi Hendrix. If you haven’t heard of him, look him up. We also plan to go to Kinsale and Cobh to see the shoreline. Cork is the Republic of Irelands second largest city. I’m not that big a fan of the place, to be honest. It doesn’t have the same character of Galway and it’s not as spoiled for choice as Dublin. There’s some really nice cafes, pubs and restaurants along the river Lee and the city is surrounded by hills…like a crappier San Francisco 🙂
After Cork, we hope to drive out to Dingle, which is a beautiful town. I have not been there in about 20 years or so. It’s home to a Dolphin which has become somewhat domesticated. He came into the harbor one day and never left. He chases boats and kayakers and has become one of the towns biggest tourists attractions. Whilst in Kerry, I want to go to legendary Irish explorer Tom Crean’s pub. After that we will make our way up to Clare.
Clare is home to some of the best attractions in Ireland. You’ve got the Cliffs of Moher, The Burren, Lahinch, Milltown Malbay and Doolin Cave to name a few. This is up there with my favorite parts of Ireland. I have toyed with the idea of moving to Clare and I still may do so in a few years time. I love it that much.
That night we’re going to finish our day trip in Galway. Galway will be our base for the next few nights. I picked Galway to stay in because it’s got a pretty good night life for my comprades. It’s also the town that I’m from, I know it very well and I have friends that still live there, as well as family. There’s a lot to do in Galway but if you want to see the real beauty of the country, you need to go out to Connemara. Clifden is one of Ireland nicest towns. It’s a Ghost town most of the year, it’s pretty far out of the way but it’s steeped in history. It’s the site of the first ever transatlantic flights landing, it’s also the site of the Marconi Wireless station. The Sky Road is magnificent. Go to Clifden! During our time in Galway we also intend to get a boat out to the Aran Island.
We will end our time in the West with a trip to Westport, Co. Mayo. Which again is one of the nicest towns in Ireland. It’s also home to Croagh Patrick. A great hike. It’s pretty easy compared to most mountain but as a 30 year old out of shape loser, I will struggle. But the struggle is worth the view and the sense of achievement. After that hike, we’ll scramble back to Galway, go see the local soccer club play and then go out on the town for a few pints.
That’s one week in Ireland. There’s even more to see. Rock of Cashel, Donegal, A cruise down the Shannon. The town of Carrick-On-Shannon, Strandhill and Benbulben in Sligo. Yeats gravesite. There’s a tree in Coole Park which has carvings in it from Irish literary greats. So many castles! And of course there’s plenty to see in Northern Ireland too, if you are so inclined like Giants Causeway!
Ireland though expensive, is the perfect holiday trip for adults. There’s great food, beer and people. Amazing scenery and the country is so small and diverse in it’s sites that you can fit a lot in, in a short period and see some very unique stuff.