Wednesday, 11 December 2013

A Whistle Stop Tour of Ireland

Written by Kate Power
If you can, I would advise spending a whole year in Ireland.

Visit the best cities in the world like Cork, Galway, or Belfast. Go to the small towns and soak up the sights and sounds. Get invited to go surfing on the Atlantic Coast at Doonbeg, find yourself in Enniscrone, find out why it’s called the Devil’s ladder in Kerry or discover the undiscovered beauty of islands like Baltimore off the Cork Coast. You could spend a long time in Ireland and still not discover everything. But, we don’t always have the time, so I’ve taken a couple of highlights for a quick stopover in Ireland.

Dublin
Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. Photo Credit: Tinou Bao
A hop-on hop-off bus tour is a good way to spend a morning.

Dublin is a small city so it only takes an hour or two and if nothing else, it’ll help you figure out where everything is.

A good place to stop off is at either the National Gallery or the National Museum; both are free and offer a real insight, if in broad sweeping strokes through Irish history. You cannot leave without visiting the Guinness Storehouse. Its reputation is well earned; offering a fun and imaginative tour. It finishes off with a pint of the black stuff in the Gravity Bar, one of the best views of the city.

The Science Gallery is an incredible science and information hybrid, with real life experiments like growing cheese out of your armpit or clothes from a pint of Guinness as well as a great lunch. It’s free in, just check their programme to see what’s exhibiting when you arrive.


On your last evening in Dublin, it’s a time honoured tradition in Ireland really: the Pub Crawl. There are too many to choose from, but if you want to keep it city centre, the best and most atmospheric pubs include: Kehoe’s on South Anne Street (get in early), Grogan’s on South William Street (a Dublin institution) the Long Haul on South Great George’s Street (a 40s Dublin favourite), and the Brazen Head on Bridge Street Lower (Ireland’s oldest pub).
Wicklow
Glendalough in Ireland. Photo Credit: Andrew Parnell
Take a day tour to Wicklow and you won’t be disappointed.

The ‘Garden of Ireland’ is packed with gorgeous natural sites. Glendalough is one of the best known. The monastic site in the heart of the Wicklow Mountains was founded by St Kevin in the 6th century and offers rolling hills of purple heather, glass-like lakes and trails that sum up the typical green natural beauty of the country. Ireland’s highest waterfall, Powerscourt is nearby, surrounded by trees and is particularly impressive after a heavy shower, handy since it does rain in Ireland sometimes!

Avondale House, the birthplace of Charles Stewart Parnell - a key figure in the Irish independence movement – is in nearby Rathdrum and features extensive rooms and wooded grounds that are well worth exploring. Stop for a pub lunch at the Meeting of the Waters and you’ll enjoy great food and great views.

Galway
The Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. Photo Credit Jennifer Boyer
The city of the Tribes is a personal favourite (not just because I’m from nearby!).

Galway is a small student city with a big focus on the arts, socializing and craic. The city is packed with traditional pubs where you can listen to live music and maybe join in, if you’re feeling up for it and have your fiddle with you.

Visit Monroes Tavern for Irish music every night. It’s one of the main Irish language pubs in the city. Tigh Choilí is another favourite for traditional music and the famous craic agus ceol of Ireland. For food, you’re in luck in Galway, it has incredible fish restaurants. I highly recommend Mc Donagh’s on Quay Street for, quite possibly the best fish and chips you’ll have in your life.

Just beyond Galway City (a rental car would be convenient) the majestic Cliffs of Moher stand over the rough Atlantic Ocean. The brilliant coastline offers incredible views right over Galway Bay and on a clear day you might even see the US coast!! From the Cliffs it’s just a hop, skip and a jump to the Aran Islands.

Famous as the birthplace of Aran sweaters, the car free islands are a very traditional slice of Ireland life. Small houses dot the coastline but don’t think there’s nothing going on. The islands have a tremendous amount of activities, from Inis Oírr’s arts centre, to seaweed cookery courses to the best in bars that might let you stay past closing. It’s easily worth a couple of days, but certainly a day trip if you can spare it!
Author's Bio      

Kate Power is from Ireland but is based in AthensGreece right now and is happily exploring her adopted country. As community manager and blogger for Purple Travel, she's had a lot of opportunity for writing about film inspired travel, where to eat and the great and good of Greece and Ireland. Connect with her on Google +.