Ireland has always existed in my mind as a place of green and wool sweaters. I am Irish, but all that I have really felt of that heritage is the sunburn I get when May hits….and maybe a love of all types of potatoes, as well. As part of my semester abroad, I decided to take a weekend adventure to Ireland, all on my own, to try and reconnect with part of my roots.
The Guinness Factory in Dublin
To try and skirt around the cost of staying in a hostel, I stayed with a friend in her dorm at the University College of Dublin. I am quite lucky to have the amazing friends that I do, as she welcomed me with open arms and an open refrigerator.
Dublin is a city, just as any other city you might envision. I did not get to spend too much time exploring clubs and the nightlife because I was a woman traveling on my own and I did not to be wandering the streets of an unknown city at night (even if they all did speak English).
Grafton Street is the “major” street you will hear about in Dublin. It is sort of like London’s Oxford Street. It is lined with loads of shops and at the center there will sometimes be a live band performance. While I was wandering, I got to see Key West, which I found out from my friend, is an up and coming rock band in Dublin.
Other things you might want to check out include the Guinness Factory Tour, which is OUTSTANDING. It is about 15 euros, and with that you get to tour the entire brewery, as well as participate in taste tests, smell tests, pour tests, and you get two Guinness pints. Well worth the money. There are also a lot of museums in Dublin, ones that all looked interesting, though I did not get the chance to check them out.
Daisies lining Dun Laoghaire coast
I would also suggest taking a trip to Dun Laoghaire and then walking down along the coast to Sandymount. It is a beautiful, rocky Irish coastline, lined with daisies and washed up seaweed. It is a great place to sit and meditate on life, write, take photos, or mingle with local Dublineers who run, walk their dogs, and just chat along the path to the lighthouse.
Dun Laoghaire coast
You can walk the coast all the way down to Sandymount where the James Joyce museum is located. It is a tower where James Joyce actually spent time of his life, and if that interests you about as little as taking an accounting class interests me, I would still recommend you go because at the top of the tower you get a great panoramic view of your surrounding areas.
Howth is technically considered a seaside suburb of Dublin, but you have to take the DART to get there, so it seems like it deserves its own section. The DART is just Dublin’s inexpensive, high-speed train. I think it was around 4 euros for a return trip, there and back from Howth.
Fishing Boat at little town of Howth
This place is a fishing village. If you’ve been to New England, it might feel familiar to you. I liked it because although I was freezing my pants off, the town was quite cozy and made the city feel smaller than it really was. There are nice seafood shops that line the path to the sea, and occasionally there is a little market open that sells homemade jewelry, wooden and leather goods, and good street food as well.
Howth also is home to “Howth Head” which is a mountain top that looks over Howth and some of Dublin. I have heard it is a breathtaking view but did not have the time to actually go and hike it. The ascent is 130 meters and the grade is considered easy, so it’s not a terribly difficult hike to go on. If I had gone at an earlier time when it was not so dark out, I definitely would have made a point to hike it.
Cliffs of Moher
Cliffs of Moher
You know that awful feeling you sometimes get when you can’t fall asleep? Every thought you’ve pushed back during the week, possibly just during that day, they all just come rushing back and you sit there with either closed or open eyes, wishing it could all just stop. If you haven’t had that feeling, lucky you! If you have, I have found your antidote at the Cliffs of Moher.
Flowers you can find at the cliffs of Moher
This place is glorious. I had seen pictures and I expected it to be beautiful, but that did not quite cut it. It is an incredibly long stretch of green cliffs that look out over a crisp blue sea. The stretch is so long that I spent an hour walking and still only saw around half of what was there to see. On one side is the sea, on the other are cattle and sheep grazing on grass that is so green you would think it was dyed, but it’s not. It’s just that green.
Cows grazing at the cliffs of Moher
The sun is rarely out in Ireland, less so than in England even, but the grey skies add to the beauty. It feels incredibly balanced at the Cliffs of Moher with beautiful hues of green and blue against the dull grey sky, and while you are not alone at the Cliffs (anytime you go there are sure to be other tourists walking alongside you), it still feels like you have the place all to yourself.
Looking out over cliffs of Moher
The wind is so strong that it cuts out people’s voices. Even though you can see them, you can’t hear them. Just find a beautiful spot to look out at and sit down for a while. Breathe, make some decisions you were too stressed to make earlier in the week, feel gratitude for all the things in your life, or just smile out at the view. You will not be there forever, but you can make sure the moment counts.
Waves crashing on coast of the Burren
The Burren. It just sounds awesome, doesn’t it? I went here after the Cliffs of Moher (both these places, by the way, were stops on a bus tour I took across Ireland from Dublin). I am not really sure how to explain what this place is. It is actually a National Park of Ireland and it’s beautiful. The whole landscape is covered in glacially carved rocks that jut out of the ground, out of more green grass.
The strange thing is that there are also Mediterranean flowers that grow in this area as well. I took one home to press into a book as a memory of the place. Also here, is a rocky coastline, with black rocks making up the beach and blue water crashing into them. Unlike the Cliffs of Moher, there was no one down on that coast. You really could have the entire scene to yourself, and I did. It was one of the most amazing moments of my life, one that I will not soon forget.
Coast of the Burren