This was my (Meredith) first time visiting Ireland and I was hopeful it would live up to the countless positive things I’d heard from fellow travellers throughout the years. I can happily say that it did not disappoint! Ireland is gorgeous and FULL of so many amazing destinations, I knew I wouldn’t be able to see them all (but I could still see a lot of them!) Read on to learn what I did during my 5 day trip:
Days 1 – 2: Dublin
I took a morning flight from Berlin to Dublin and arrived around noon, leaving the rest of the day to explore the city. When traveling from Dublin Airport to the city center, save yourself some cash by catching the big blue Aircoach bus (line 700). You’ll have free wifi the whole way and its only 7 Euros! Once you’re dropped off at a central stop, you can pretty much walk anywhere you need to go. That was one of my favorite things about Dublin, was that I could walk anywhere I wanted to go in less than 15 minutes. When researching lodging, try and stay within the Dublin 1 or Dublin 2 area codes and along the River Liffey (specifically near the Ha’penny Bridge) if you want to be central. I stayed for two nights at Abigails Hostel and it was perfectly located, clean and had what I needed.
After regrouping at my hostel, I set off to explore the city, which was extremely easy to do since everything I planned to see that day was no more than 10 minutes away. When researching things to see in Dublin, the popular shopping area Grafton Street will likely be on any list you encounter. However, I would advise skipping this area entirely (unless you’re just dying to visit H&M or another chain retailer) and walking a few blocks over to South William Street and South Drury Street. Here, you will find stylish, independent shops and cafes that are unique to Dublin. Find out more of my favorites in this area in our Dublin City Guide. That evening I met some local friends for dinner at a charming bookstore-turned-bistro, The Winding Stair.
The next morning was spent exploring the storybook campus of Trinity College. There is a lot of hype surrounding the Book of Kells, one of Dublin’s most popular attractions. The art history nerd inside of me loved seeing it in person, but I will say that I was even more blown away by the Trinity College Library you pass through after seeing the popular illuminated manuscript (9 Euros to see both). It looked like something out of a Harry Potter movie (and the locals will tell you it actually was used as inspiration for Hogwarts)! Afterwards, I grabbed lunch with my friend Liza (long sidenote: she is from New York but has been living in Dublin and is the queen of discovering the coolest coffee shops..check her out on Instagram!) at New York style eatery Fallon & Byrne and took a stroll through St. Stephen’s Green, one of Dublin’s most beautiful parks. After perusing this part of the city, we made our way over to the Temple Bar area, which has unarguably the most dense hub of tourists in Dublin. Regardless of the crowds, it is still in my opinion a must-see area. A visit to Dublin is not complete without a pint (or two) of Guinness and some live Irish music at The Temple Bar! Yes, you will probably find more foreigners than Irish people inside, BUT that does not negate the fact that the musicians are superb and the lively environment will leave you with a permanent grin. We nabbed a table at the front right by the music and had a really great time.
Days 3 – 5: Shamrocker Adventures Tour
After my time in Dublin, I joined Shamrocker Adventures on a 3 day tour of Southern Ireland (called the Southern Rocker). All of their tours conveniently depart from a central location in Dublin that was easily walkable from my hostel. After our fall tour of Scotland with their sister company Haggis Adventures, I already knew I was in good hands with Shamrocker. If you’re young and on a budget, this is the perfect tour for you! I was traveling solo on this trip yet never felt like I was alone…I instantly had a bus full of fun, like-minded traveler friends within 5 minutes of departing from Dublin!
We made our way south through rolling green fields and made a short photo stop at the Rock of Cashel (where I spastically payed for a ticket and toured the entire thing in under 10 minutes, but it was worth it). Then we drove through the Golden Vale region to Blarney Castle. The castle sits on impressive grounds, there are many hidden gardens to explore and a very charming cafeteria/shop by the entrance for lunch. According to legend, kissing the stone endows the kisser with the gift of the gab. The only catch here is the stone is located at the top of the castle in a place where you must basically go into a full backbend to reach it (good luck!). That evening we spent the night in Killarney, which was sleepier than usual since it was Good Friday (in Ireland that means zero alcohol can be served by any establishment).
The next morning we set off in the rain to explore the dramatic Dingle Peninsula. We stopped at several impressive beaches (Inch Beach and Coumeenole Beach were my favorites) and had lunch at a perfect little pub in Dingle. This tiny fishing village is the perfect home base for any road trip in this part of Ireland, also make sure you try the homemade Murphys Ice Cream. We drove into Western Ireland and made our way through County Clare to Ennis, where we spent the night. Ennis is known for being the home of traditional Irish music. It was no surprise when we visited a local pub after dinner and watched as musicians came in with their own instruments and sat at a table, drinking beer and playing together for fun.
The final day we left Ennis bright and early (and again, sadly in the rain) for one of the most popular sights in Ireland, the Cliffs of Moher. We were extremely lucky that the rain partially subsided during our visit. I will say that this was probably the craziest weather I’ve ever experienced, at one point there was rain, hail, hurricane-strength winds and then sunshine…all in 15 minutes! As a photographer, it was cool to be able to capture the Cliffs with both stormy and sunny skies. I wish we could have spent more time here, there is a long trail (with the best views) that begins just to the left of the visitors center. Sadly it was so windy and muddy we couldn’t get past a certain point. After the cliffs, we drove along The Burren, Ireland’s other-worldly lunar landscape. We had lunch in the popular city (the only place large enough to be called a “city” in this region) of Galway before returning to Dublin in the early evening.
Between the friendly locals and overwhelming number of jaw-dropping scenes, Ireland is a place you could visit a number of times. Sadly, as an American, I’m not too comfortable with renting a car and driving on the opposite side of the car and the road. Which is why Shamrocker Tours offered me exactly what I wanted, a convenient and affordable way to have a comprehensive tour of Ireland. It is truly impressive reflecting back on all we were able to see in just 3 short days. Check out some more of my favorite photos from the trip below!