We took a week and went to Ireland and Northern Ireland to experience its beauty. Our first trip was in October-November of 2016. We had just gotten back from Iceland the same year, so we knew it was going to be really hard to top that trip! But Ireland did not disappoint.
Embarrassingly enough, we did not realize that Northern Ireland was a part of the United Kingdom until we started researching on how we should spend our time there. When you cross the border, you don’t really notice until you go to buy something. Ireland uses the Euro currency and Northern Ireland uses the British pound.
Here is a taste of the itinerary we came up with, and hope that it will help you out if you decide to plan a trip to Ireland! We tried to hit some of the highlights, and when we go back again, there are a whole slew of things we want to hit next time. 🙂
We love driving ourselves around, so whenever we have an option for a car, we rent one. Yet remember that the Irish do drive on the opposite side of the road if you are American, and some of the roads can be quite narrow with unforgiving stone walls. And just like England, there are roundabouts galore. The public transport getting around Ireland is not the most ideal. If you just stick around Dublin then you are fine, but venturing out, you need more. There are plenty of touring companies that can be found that will take you all around on a coach bus. I took bits and pieces from touring companies to make our own itinerary honestly.
Day 1: Arrival to Dublin
Dublin has Ireland’s biggest international airport, so flying here is ideal. There are flights to Shannon airport too though. We arrived in the afternoon and spent this time around Dublin. We first drove to our bed and breakfast in the village of Lucan. From here we took the bus into Dublin city center. We saw Christ Church Cathedral, the medieval Dublin Castle, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the Guinness Storehouse. We had dinner in a pub in the Temple Bar area. On our way back to the B&B, we did get a bit lost on which bus stop to get off at, and note that we did not have any internet on our phones for GPS. Luckily we wandered through a neighborhood at night, and found a nice couple that gave us a ride back. Here is where we experienced the first true Irish hospitality!
Day 2: Blarney Castle and Cork
After our full Irish breakfast, we drove to the Blarney Castle to kiss the Blarney stone. You can read more about that here. Legend is that kissing the stone will give you the gift of eloquent speech. The castle itself was grand, being able to walk through different rooms. We met an Australian guy ahead of us that we chatted that we ended up seeing in Killarney the following day.
We checked into our B&B and took the bus to Cork. The Jazz Cork festival was happening while we were here, so people crowded the main streets. There were line-ups of bands in many of the city’s pubs to play around the clock. On Marvin’s request we went to the Cork Butter Museum. There wasn’t much to it for the 4 euros they charged, but it was interesting to learn about the history of County Kerry’s butter production and the Kerry cows that are used. We love butter and have bought the KerryGold butter back at home, so that is why this was of interest to us.
Day 3: Ring of Kerry
We did not have time to do the full Ring of Kerry, so we did a miniature portion of it, which included the Killarney National Park and its three lakes. We started in the town of Kenmare and made our way to Moll’s Gap, Muckross House which is a Victorian mansion inside the park, and the Gap of Dunloe (which reminded us of Iceland a little). We stayed the night in Killarney, and had a walk around the town during the evening.
Day 4: Cliffs of Moher
You shouldn’t go to Ireland without seeing the breathtaking Cliffs of Moher. This included a walk that could be quite dangerous along the cliffs, with stunning views the further we kept going. This definitely was one of our favorite moments on the trip (besides food). This is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Ireland, which was clear why. These cliffs are featured in movies such as The Princess Bride, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and Leap Year.
We drove north and stayed the night in Galway. We had a stroll through Galway in the evening for dinner. The streets were full with shops and restaurants.
Day 5: Londonderry
Next city is Londonderry, also well known as Derry. Driving from Galway to Londonderry crossed the border from the Republic of Ireland into Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. This whole city has such fresh history, we could just feel it as we walked the streets. In 1972 an event known today as Bloody Sunday took place during a civil rights march, where 13 unarmed men were shot by British paratroopers. The U2 song Sunday Bloody Sunday has a new meaning to us now. Londonderry also has the only remaining completely intact walls around the city, built in the 17th century. We were able to walk on top of the walls all the way around.
Day 6: Giant’s Causeway and The Dark Hedges
The next day we headed farther north along the coastline until we got to The Giant’s Causeway. This is the only UNESCO world heritage site in Northern Ireland. The formation of the thousands of hexagonal rocks from volcanic activity many years ago was mind blowing. We walked on these weird steps that led out into the ocean facing towards Scotland. Legend says that 2 giants started building a bridge to fight each other. If you are a Led Zeppelin fan, the Giant’s Causeway are on the Houses of the Holy album.
We stopped by The Dark Hedges on the way to Belfast and captured a shot of the famous tree trail that is featured as the kings path in The Game of Thrones (we haven’t watched the show before though).
We made it to Belfast by the time it was getting dark, but that didn’t stop us from wandering out into the city to see what it had to offer. Belfast is Northern Ireland’s capital and where Titanic was made and first left port. We accidently found these narrow alleyways called The Entries where we found some pub food to eat.
Day 7: Belfast and Dublin
We started our morning out in Belfast again, and walked around the site the next day of where Titanic was made. It was astonishing to just be there. There is a museum called The Titanic that we walked into the gift shop. We wish we could have done the tour of it, but we needed to get back to our hotel to check out before noon.
We drove back and crossed the border to Dublin to spend the rest of the afternoon seeing what we missed of the city on Day 1. We walked around Trinity College, which is one of Ireland’s ancient universities that holds the Book of Kells. The Book of Kells is an old manuscript containing the four Gospels. We got a hot chocolate at Butlers Chocolate Café. Butler’s is Irelands own chocolate, which we brought back as a few souvenirs.
The next morning early, we had a flight back home. Ireland and Northern Ireland are a wonderful dream destination to explore and experience. I definitely recommend staying at B&B’s, talking to the locals, see the Cliffs of Moher, Giant’s Causeway and eat traditional Irish food!
If you are booking a trip somewhere, don’t forget to get travel insurance. You should always be prepared for the unexpected.
Have you been to Ireland? What were your highlights? If you are planning a trip, what’s one thing you don’t want to miss out on?