I was wondering why I didn’t visit Ireland in my 30s when Irish Whiskey and Guinness would have made me light-headed and helped me ward off the fatigue from a 10-hour long flight from San Francisco to Dublin in the last row of economy class with squished leg room for even a relatively shorter person like me.
As much as I wanted to adjust my eyes to the darkness, when we landed in Ireland it was smack in the middle of the afternoon. I didn’t know the Island time was a phenomenon outside of tropical Islands. Our rental car agent took his sweet time to give me a car, supposedly an upgrade but with no GPS.
I am not the same type of a traveler once I used to be. It’s only natural we change and I am glad to have gone through the changes I had. I am not keen on spending more than an afternoon in the city any more. We drove to the city center while I trained my brain to drive on the left side of the road. It’s no small feat to switch to other side of the road when you are sleep deprived. I managed to take my family safely to the Trinity College parking lot.
Next few hours, we did the typical touristy things such as walking around, clicking random pics, drinking coffee at cute bakeries and spending time at Temple Bar area where we had no business.
What impressed me the most about Dublin are the fact that it’s small, culturally diverse, slower than I imagined it to be, drivers were forgiving and didn’t mind violating a traffic rule or two. My kind of place…A Russian lady, who owned a bakery, was super nice to help us settle down for some time and freshen up in her bathroom as we just landed. This is not the kind of hospitality I would have expected in any other capital city in the world.
I am saving the adventures and places we visited to another post. First I feel a strong urge to share why I feel in love with Ireland.
First thing first, Food !!! A quick grocery store visit, I fell in love with the Irish Soda Bread. The unique texture, which is formed by the reaction between acidic sour milk and baking soda, was just apt for my palate. Butter, black current jam generously smothered over the soda bread was my breakfast for the next 9-days. Hey, as they say, when in Ireland….
The Country Side:
You don’t have to drive far to be out in the country side in Ireland. Greenery everywhere ! With my newly acquired left-hand driving skill and google maps on the phone, (used eSIM for data. More on that later) we were off to a 2800KM road trip around Ireland. Thanks to Google’s logic, it took me through some serious country roads with room for only one car at a time. Some might call this annoying that google avoided high-ways, and I have no idea why, but I found it super interesting.
Miles and miles of green farm fields, grazed by sheep, cows, horses and donkeys, I was convinced I was in a magical land.
Rain and gloomy weather the first couple of days, we were assured by locals that this kind of weather is considered good in Ireland.
National Parks and Mountains:
For such a small country, there are 6 national parks and we managed to cover 3 of them. If you are from North America, the national parks in Ireland and may be even most of Europe might be a bit of a disappointment for you. But, this is where your attitude comes into play. You have to look at each country for the beauty it has to offer. Comparison will get you nowhere.
The short 5k hikes we did at the national parks still offered some of the best scenery the country had to offer.
Awe Inspiring Coastline:
Wild Atlantic Way, is a 2,500 km driving route passes through nine counties and three provinces, stretching from County Donegal Peninsula, to County Cork on the Celtic Sea coast. Unintentionally this is the route we followed. Ever since I discovered travel and how it nurtures my free spirit, I have embraced the style of “winging” the trips. Very rarely my trips of actually planned. And Ireland was no exception to that. Every evening we would look at the map and see what route we should take to get to the next airbnb location and what we should along the way.
Thankfully, this time it also turned out absolutely stunning. I knew I wouldn’t go wrong with this approach in Ireland. The Atlantic coast line was jaw dropping beautiful. Some of the view points we drove to were wild….to the point at one of the view points I got knocked down by the wind twice as I attempted to walk closer to the cliff to take pictures.
Amazing Road Trip Opportunities:
Sections like Dingle Peninsula and Galway offer loops that you can drive through to get some spectacular views of the coastline. You might wonder what is so special about these loops road trips, given we are already on a 2800km road trip across the country.
These are some special drives that I can’t recommend enough. They are filled with mind blowing views of the coast line, rural villages and sporadic cafes.
If there is one thing I highly recommend in Ireland in terms of accommodation, it is the farm stay. What better way to understand a country than living a day in your life like a local. Stay at farm, feed the horses, cows and sheep. Shepherd them around in the farm, and retire to a stone house with wood burning fire place.
Eat, drink and listen to locals singing and dancing to Irish tunes. It’s a wrap. We felt fully immersed in the Irish culture. This is the moment I realized how much I loved this country. Emotions were flowing deep. I felt a sudden pang of separation anxiety as I remembered that the trip is coming to end in a day.