Did you know Ireland isn’t just Ireland? There’s The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. I found this out a couple years ago but find some people still don’t know this. But Ireland, what a wonderful way to start off my 14 week adventure.
Day 1: My first day consisted of a lot of flying and very little sleep. From Seattle, to Chicago, to Newark where we left about three hours late because our navigation system wasn’t working and had to trade planes at midnight to finally arrive in Dublin. I left my house at about 7am on Tuesday Sept 14th, I didn’t get into Dublin until 12:30pm on Wednesday.
Day 2: Transportation from Dublin’s airport to my hostel was pretty easy. I got a little confused once off the bus so stopped in a local pub and got a few odd stares from the old men having a beer at 1 in the afternoon but the bar tender pointed me in the right direction and I was set to go! Three people in my room were napping which didn’t help the fact that I wanted to nap as well. I had only gotten 2 hours of sleep on my flight but it was only 2pm and I wanted to re-set my clock after the 8 hour time different the best I could. The first hostel mate I met (in my room of 14) was an Italian named Paolo, who was also backpacking by himself. After relaxing in the hostel for a bit we headed off to walk around the city, checked out a few sites and grabbed dinner in a pub. The next couple days consisted of a lot of pubs haha
Day 3: Paolo and I headed off on the free city tour our hostel offered after a fairly sleepless night. I hadn’t been as tired as I’d hoped after about 20 hours of traveling and 2 hours of sleep. Before the tour started I spotted some other solo travellers, one girl from Wisconsin, Natalie, and another from Australia, Rebecca. Soon we had a small little group going! Paolo’s English was good but it was too hard for him to keep up in a group of fluent English speakers so split off. About half way through the tour we stopped at a pub for some Guinness, because who goes to Dublin and doesn’t have a pint of Guinness?
Apparently Guinness doesn’t travel very well, something to do with it sitting in the barrels for days/weeks and that’s why it’s not that great of a drink in the states. I’m not a dark beer drinker but I actually liked it! At the pub I heard a Canadian accent and we collected our 4th solo traveller, Justin. The tour spit us out on the far side of Dublin so we took our time exploring on the way back. We spontaneously decided to book a tour to the Cliffs of Moher for the following day that Justin had just booked that morning, and stopped by the Book of Kells. It was really interesting reading about what it took for them to collect the colors way back then, and read about how they created the pages (calve skin) cause they didn’t have paper! They estimated they used an average of 185 calves to create the book :O The short little exhibit then lead us upstairs into the Trinity College Old Library which was absolutely beautiful.
Back at the hostel before going out to dinner I met a new roommate and solo traveler from Australia, Jake, who I invited out to dinner. We headed out to O’neills, another pub that had been recommended to us for a traditional Irish stew (very delicious by the way). After enjoying some great stew, beer, and conversation we headed back to our hostels where Jake decide (at 10:30pm) he’d join us on our 6:50am bus to the Cliffs of Moher the next morning.
Day 4: The 12 hour tour to the Cliffs of Moher was amazing but my new friends definitely made it 100 times better. We woke up at 6am, packed our bags with snacks and water and headed off. Our tour guide was a hoot! He kept trying to teach us Irish/ Gaelic but it wasn’t really working at 7am. One of the best parts of the tour was on the way across the Island to the West coast where the Cliffs are we took the country roads vs. the main highway. The countryside looks pretty much exactly as you might expect. Green EVERYWHERE with a few trees popping up here and there with stone fences dividing most of the farms. We had an hour and a half to explore the cliffs which we thought was plenty of time but ended up running around anyways. Anyone else a Harry Potter fan? Behind us is where they filmed Harry and Dumbledore entering the caves at the end of the 6th movie!
After a quick stop in another pub for lunch we stopped at the Burren, which is a national park of basically flat cracked lime stone. Our last stop was at a quaint little Chocolate shop that grew their own coco beans and had some delicious hot chocolate, then we headed back to Dublin. Instead of eating out again we decided to cook dinner at our hostel. Ground turkey, red and yellow bell peppers and pasta topped with parmesan cheese. Only 4 euros each when split between the 4 of us.
Day 5: We got a little of a late start to the day since we all decided to sleep in after waking up so early the previous day and finally left the hostel about 11am. The boys wanted to go on a tour of the Guinness Factory but I hadn’t heard great reviews of it so Natalie and I went exploring and found Phoenix park to hangout in while we waited. Apparently the tour wasn’t even a tour of the factory/ where they brew the actual beer and it was self guided but the view from the top of the factory with a fresh Guinness made the tour worth it for the boys. By the time we met up again it was time for lunch and once again we found another pub to eat lunch at. I was short on time before I needed to head back to the hostel before heading up to Belfast so we grabbed another beer at the pub around the corner from our hostel where I had initially asked directions. Dublin had a perfect ending with a very funny old man with a very thick Irish accent who kept asking us where we were from and trying to teach us Gaelic. My new friends dropped me off at the bus stop and I was off to meet my uncle and aunt for my destination, Northern Ireland.
On the drive up from Dublin to Belfast there wasn’t much of an indicator between the two countries besides the road signs turned from blue to green. The speed was still on the same sign but went from km to miles. Since it was already late evening by the time we were approaching Randalstown (small town outside of Belfast where they live) we stopped at a pub in a small town/ village for dinner and drinks. Hostels are great for meeting people but having a nice quiet room and a giant bed is something else, even after only 4 nights without one haha.
Day 6: After sleeping in once again my uncle made a delicious brunch, bacon (more like Canadian bacon than from the states) omelette, and potato bread. After packing up our things we headed off to explore the northern coast. The country side really is beautiful, we had a tour book in which all the photos of attractions/ destinations were sunny. We joked around the company hired a photographer to drive around to all the sites on the same 1 day it happened to be sunny.
After driving through several cute small towns we made out way to the coast. I really should have kept better track of all the names of places we stopped/ drove through but this is what I remember. We mostly did a scenic tour since the weather wasn’t that great, cold, windy, and started to rain half way through. We did stop and get out at the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge which was pretty cool.
The rain didn’t let up really after this point so we mostly stayed in the car. At one point we were in a caravan of old and new mini coopers! We think they were on their way to a car show. We ended the day at a distillery, but the last tour had just left so we were unable to see the factory BUT we still got the free sample of whisky 😉
Day 7: I tried to not sleep in but it didn’t work very well ha. I got ready and we went off to explore the city of Belfast. We did a black taxi tour which was a great way to learn more about the history or Northern Ireland and war and why and how it all went down. Belfast is still slightly segregated between Protestants and Catholics and they have a wall and gates that are only open between 7am to 7pm. During the day people can walk/ drive through but when they close people can only cross through the city center. The wall was originally built to protect both parties from those on the other side who didn’t want peace. It was really interesting exploring the wall and reading all the writings, a lot of them are about hope and peace.
After the Black Taxi Tour, which I highly recommend, I went and visited the Titanic Museum which is actually really cool. It took me about two hours to get through but they talk about the city of Belfast before they started building, the ship yard company responsible for building the ship, what it was like while building and then the crash and the after math. By this time it was already dinner time so we headed back to the house. After dinner we went out to my aunt and uncles favorite local pub. But since it was a Monday the pub was pretty much empty haha. I packed my bags and the next morning we headed off to the airport for my flight to Glasgow.
- The lights change Red -> yellow -> green, to give them a warning to start changing gears.
- Farmers paint a spot on their sheep in different colors to know whose is whose haha.
- Thick Irish accents are REALLY hard to understand.
- Gaelic makes absolutely no sense to me.