Aughnanure Castle, Blarney Castle, Blarney Stone, Christ Church Cathedral, Clare Abbey, Clifden, Clifden Castle, Cliffs of Moher, Connemara, Connemara National Park, Curracloe Beach, Doolin, Doolin Pier, Dublin, Dublin Castle, Guinness Factory, Hags Head, Ireland, Jameson, Kylemore Abbey, Letterfrack, Nissan Micra, off-roading, Old Jameson Distillery, Omey Island, Phoenix Park, River Liffey, Saving Private Ryan, Spire of Dublin, St Patricks Day, St. Patrick's Cathedral, Wellington Monument, Wexford, Wicklow
Ireland has been a blast to visit. Not only was I able to travel all over the southern part of the country but I was fortunate enough to spend it with one of my best friends. Alex arrived the day my parents left and we spent the next three days in Dublin. With St. Patricks Day just two days away, the city was crawling with people. We spent these days walking around the city and seeing many different sights.
Our hostel was only a block away from the Spire of Dublin, located on O’Connell street. This was a great landmark for us and made it easy to find our way back to the hostel each day. Seeing the Spire was the first thing we did on Sunday after arriving into the city and getting settled in the hostel. That night we grabbed some dinner, a Guinness, and caught up while listening to some live local music.
Since we didn’t have a car, we spent all of Monday wandering around the city seeing the good, the bad, and the ugly. Touring the famous Dublin Castle was very interesting and had many cool features. One of these was seeing part of the old Record Tower wall which is surrounded by the River Poddle that still runs underneath the city today. My favorite was seeing St. Patricks Hall, where every Irish President is inaugurated. Our next two stops were to view Christ Church Cathedral and St. Patricks Cathedral. Both of these were gorgeous cathedrals and we finished off the day walking through the huge Phoenix Park.
The following day was St. Patricks Day which we had a blast enjoying. Tons of people were in Dublin to celebrate this holiday. After enjoying a great St. Patricks Day, Alex and I rented a car and headed down the east coast to Wicklow. Here we saw some ruins and also found a nice little beach. It was a good relaxing day and continued the drive to Wexford where we would be staying the night. Arriving into town, it was time to find a place to sleep and easily found a very nice B&B.
Wicklow was a nice town and was not busy at all. Waking up in the morning, we headed to Curracloe beach right outside the town. This is where the D-Day scene from Saving Private Ryan was filmed. Both Alex and I enjoyed the beach and the great views that it had. Now it was time to jump back in the car and make the drive to Blarney Castle. I had already been here with my family but Alex wanted to see it so I visited it again. Unlike when I was with my family, it was a nice sunny day and the castle was crowded. We had to wait in line for over an hour to kiss the Blarney Stone. It was a different experience and I was thankful it wasn’t crowded like this with my family. Driving into Cork, we were able to find a hostel and ended up walking around the town that night.
With a 2 1/2 hour drive ahead of us, we woke up early and started the journey to Doolin and the Cliffs of Moher. Taking our time, we made a couple stops and were able to visit the Clare Abbey which Alex spotted off in the distance. This was really fun to wander around these ruins and cemetery which have been left untouched. Arriving into Doolin, we quickly found a hostel to stay at which was surprising and headed down to the pier. We walked along the rocky coast and could see the cliffs off in the distance.
With the low clouds clearing away from the cliffs, it was time to go explore the Cliffs of Moher. I was excited about seeing the cliffs again and being able to walk along the hiking trail which runs the length of the cliffs for 20km (12mi). Parking in the visitor center, we first hiked north along the coast and found some really cool spots and a place to hike down towards the bottom. Since the sun was going to set in a couple hours, both Alex and I wanted to hike south along the cliff to Hags Head. It didn’t look far off in the distance but ended up taking us 1 1/2 hours to get there. This was well worth it and we were able to enjoy the awesome sunset. Making it back to town around 9pm, we headed to the pub where we a delicious and fresh mussel soup was enjoyed. With some live music playing, we ordered a couple pints and enjoyed the great atmosphere.
Waking up on the seventh day, we decided to take it easy because all we needed to do was drive to Connemara which was 2 1/2 hours away. A fellow backpacker needed a ride to the cliffs which we gave him and he was grateful for. After dropping him off, we headed to Galway and ended up walking around the town and visiting the Galway Cathedral. It was a nice stop and we were soon on our way again to Connemara. I had seen there was accommodation in Letterfrack so that was our destination. Neither of us really enjoyed the town much and decided to continue on to Clifden. As we were walking around the town in Clifden looking for a place to stay, a guy approached us and said he had a place. We decided to follow him and he gave us a great rate at the B&B he owned.
On Sunday morning, we woke up with no plans and were pointed in the direction of the Clifden Castle which used to be an old manor house. This turned out to be one of my favorites because we could walk inside and it had not been touched or restored at all. Our next order of business was to explore Omey Island. This was a blast and we had a little too much fun off-roading in our little Nissan Micra. Next, was to go to the Kylemore Abbey which is still in use today as a monastery. The last and final activity for the day was to visit Connemara National Park where we hiked the Upper Diamond Trail to the top of the mountain. From on top, the views were spectacular. Arriving back into Clifden, we grabbed some food and a Guinness at one of the pubs and met some really nice locals.
Day nine came, our last full day and we had a long 3 1/2 hour drive back to Dublin. Leaving early in the morning we made good time and arrived at the Guinness Storehouse just after noon. The tour of the storehouse was self guided but was very well done and covered a lot of the history. At the end, we even got to pour our very own pint of Guinness which was enjoyed in the Gravity Bar overlooking Dublin City. Next, it was time to tour the Old Jameson Distillery. This was the site of the original distillery before it outgrew the property in Dublin and moved to Cork. Both of these tours I thoroughly enjoyed and was happy we were able to do them.
Tuesday morning March 24th came around and it was time to say bye to Alex as he headed back to the states and I headed to London. We had a great time together and were able to see and do a whole lot. It was so nice spending St. Patricks Day with a good friend! Our travels throughout Southern Ireland were fantastic and we weren’t rushed at all. Always having time to stop and pull over, we were able to see many various sites along the way. Each night was also an adventure finding a place to stay because we only had a shell of a plan of the things we wanted to do. This was a great 10 days together with some memorable times.