Here it is! A recap of our trip to Ireland last month!
I thought I’d come back all gung-ho to write this, but to be honest I’ve been dragging my feet. I blame sickness and technical issues, but it’s still overdue.
The first leg of the journey took me from Boise to San Diego, with my sister-in-law. The flight was short and uneventful. We spent the next few hours at my father-in-law’s house in Vista just lounging around. I tried to figure out a few basics on my new camera, but had a migraine so wasn’t feeling super motivated. We then drove up to LAX to catch our flight to Dublin. I took a melatonin as we were boarding the flight and ended up sleeping for most of the 10 hours in the air. I purposefully didn’t sleep during the day so I would be extra tired and more likely to sleep. It wasn’t a deep, solid sleep, but we were landing in Dublin before I knew it.
We arrived in Dublin at around 2pm local time on Thursday, and it took us a few hours to get our bags, and navigate from the airport to our airbnb. We showered and then went in search of Guinness and food. I don’t know if I was just that hungry or what, but the beef and Guinness stew I had the first night was one of the best things I ate while I was there. So yummy! Beef and root veggies in a savory Guinness gravy, topped with mashed potatoes and a puff pastry biscuit.
**For the record, I did not adhere to my vegan diet while in Ireland. I tried as best I could, but between fish & chips and their amazing stews and pies, I couldn’t resist.**
We did a bit of pub hopping the first night, and I think I got 4 Guinness in before crashing. The bed wasn’t super comfortable but I slept well the first night. We made it to the Temple Bar area and the live music at Oliver St. John Gogarty’s was amazing. We went back to that pub multiple times.
We got off to a slow start on Friday, which was fine because Pat didn’t arrive until lunch time (he’d spent the last week in Dubai taking a certification class). We grabbed some lunch and then decided to get a 2-day pass to the Hop-On, Hop-Off tour bus. These buses run a route around Dublin, stopping at 30+ points of interest. The driver talks you through the history of the city and points out important places. You can get on or off at any of the stops, including Trinity College, the Guinness Storehouse, and the Jameson Distillery. We stopped at the Dublin Castle the first day. Not much of the castle is left, so we didn’t elect to pay for the tour. But it’s a pretty little square, and the attached church is pretty.
We also stopped to look around Christ Church Cathedral. We just missed the last tour, but the grounds were lovely.
And then we went to the Guinness Storehouse. I was so excited about this experience, and it was probably one of the top things on my to-do list. However, I don’t know how I feel about it now. The building is pretty impressive, and the tour is extensive. But it’s very novel; It’s meant to be very impressive and touristy. The tour isn’t guided, though they have someone at the start to explain the progression, so you basically walk yourself through the multiple-floor galleries. They have a lot of information presented, but I think I would have preferred a guided tour. The gift shop is massive, and the Gravity Bar at the top, while impressive, was overly crowded, so it was hard to find a spot to enjoy the view. I’m glad I went through it once, but I don’t know that I’d ever shell out the €25 again. They did decorate for Christmas though, so it was pretty with all of the lights up. And you do get a pint at the end included in the tour price.
On Saturday we continued the Bus Tour. A few of us elected to stop at Trinity College and tour the Book of Kells and the Long Library. This turned into a highlight for me. The college itself is so gorgeous. The buildings at the center are beautiful, with statues and monuments everywhere. I’d hoped to just see the library, but you do have to pay for the tour which includes the Book of Kells. The first area is a gallery of information and large photos of the manuscript and accompanying works. Then you proceed into a room with the book itself encased in glass. The case includes 3 other old manuscripts, some of which are so deteriorated you can’t make out the writing. You can definitely get a sense of their age as the paper looks so old and fragile. I didn’t get pictures because it is prohibited. You then proceed up a flight of stairs and through the doors to the old library.
You guys, entering that room took my breath away. Literally. The grandeur of the site combined with the smell were overwhelming. I didn’t want to leave. I just wanted to curl up in a corner with a book (or 5) and get lost for hours. I wouldn’t disturb anything or anyone, I just wanted to hide out there and soak it all in. Oh! I fell in love with that room. The busts are of famous authors. It’s 2 stories with a cool old wrought iron spiral staircase in one alcove. They have the second half of the hall blocked off, so you end up being able to get great photos without the crowds in them.
If you didn’t know, this is the library that inspired the one in the Harry Potter movies, among others. I’ve never seen anything like it and I want to go back. It’s a memory that will stay with me forever. I literally almost cried as I walked in. It was magic.
We spent the rest of the afternoon with an Irish friend of my father-in-law. We walked around quite a bit looking for food, but eventually found a nice pub. Their fish and chips was amazing. Then the girls and guys split ways. We girls headed back to the apartment to grab extra layers while the guys went in search of tickets to the rugby game.
My father-in-law is from New Zealand, so we are NZ All Blacks fans. They were in Dublin to play Ireland (IRFU) at Aviva Stadium. The All Blacks are considered the best team in the world, and have been for a hundred years. The last time they played Ireland (Chicago, 2016), Ireland won for the first time in 111 years. Yes, you read that right, one hundred and eleven. So this game was a big deal. Unfortunately Aviva Stadium is not that big, holding only 51,700 spectators. Croke Park in Dublin holds over 82K, which seems like the better option for such a high profile game, but no one seemed to know why they didn’t book that venue instead. The seating limitation at Aviva meant there weren’t really any additional tickets available (online or via scalpers). So we ended up at the hotel across the street from the stadium with many other fans who were unable to get tickets. The game was really good, but sadly New Zealand lost again.
On Sunday Pat and I got up and went to see Oscar. No one else wanted to stop and see the Oscar Wilde memorial, and I wasn’t able to get good pictures from the bus. I’m a fan of Oscar so wanted to go see the memorial and his home. We didn’t do the tour of the house (I think it was closed anyway), but it was fun to see it from the outside. There’s actually a few literary tours you can take of Dublin, but we didn’t have time for that.
We then regrouped and hoped on a train south to Bray. It’s a pretty little coastal town, though there wasn’t much going on in November on a Sunday. We took a bus out of town to an estate home I had wanted to see. If you’ve seen the movie The Count of Monte Cristo, you might recognize Powerscourt Estate. We missed the last garden tour by a few minutes sadly, so I wasn’t able to get a photo from a recognizable vantage point, but it was still cool to see. The walk in to the grounds is long but beautiful. The countryside is quintessential Ireland. There is a full golf course there, and they built a massive hotel and spa that I mistook for the house at first.
After that it was a cold walk back to the small village, and a pint while we waited for the bus back to the train back to Dublin.
On Monday we got up bright and early to catch a bus to Galway. Pat’s stepmom wanted to go see Kylemore Abbey in Connemara. It was a day tour from Galway Tour Company. You can start in Galway or bus over from Dublin. The first stop was Ross Errily Friary, a church of sorts from the 14th or 15th century (it’s debated) that is one of the best preserved medieval structures in the country. I loved it there and didn’t have as much time as I wanted to look around. Pat had to come find me when the bus was ready to leave. It’s considered the best preserved because the bell tower is still intact, unlike most other comparable sites.
We traveled from there to the village of Cong, know primarily as the filming location of the 1952 movie The Quiet Man. In fact the town has become quite a tourist destination in memorial of this movie. It’s a cute little town. I spent most of my time exploring the ruined church. The town is in close proximity to Ashford Castle, which is now a 5 star hotel. Unfortunately the tour buses are not allowed to loop through the entrance to the castle, so we weren’t able to see it. If you’ve seen the show Reign, you might recognize it. It’s also a celebrity favorite.
After Cong was a bunch of time driving through the beautiful landscape of Co. Galway and Connemara. We made a few scenic stops, before moving on to Kylemore Abbey.
Kylemore Abbey was built by Mitchell Henry for his wife Margaret. Four years after it was completed she died in Africa, of dysentery I believe. Mitchell was heartbroken and constructed a small cathedral and accompanying mausoleum in her honor. The house was decorated for Christmas, and you can tour several of the common rooms.
Eventually Mitchell sold it to the Duke of Manchester, who took care of it for some of the 30 years he owned it. At some point during his ownership (1920) a community of Benedictine nuns took up residence there, opening a girls boarding school. Eventually the nuns came into ownership of the property, and ran the school up until 2010. They have since opened the house for tours. In recent years the University of Notre Dame invested some $35 million in the property, including the building of a new wing. They have since set up their Global Center hosting students and staff for a variety of academic pursuits.
The cathedral is small, but stunning. Though the most impressive part of the estate is hands-down the 6 acre walled garden created by Margaret Henry. Even in the freezing November weather, the gardens were stunning and expansive. According to the head gardener, the gardens cost $1,500+ per week to upkeep. That should give you an idea of how expensive Estate homes are to run these days.
After Kylemore Abbey, it was back on the bus and 4 hours back to Dublin. It was a full 7am-8pm day, but it was wonderful to get out of the city and into the historic countryside. It made us wish we had planned another day trip out of the city during our week-long stay.
On Tuesday we were pretty worn out, so didn’t do much. We did go to the Jameson Distillery, which was awesome. The guided tour was exceptional and we loved how they set it up. They used video projectors to enhance their displays, it’s a full sensory experience, and you get to do a comparative whisky tasting at the end: Jameson, Johnny, and Jack. You also get a free basic drink with the tour. I think the options were a shot straight, on the rocks, or with ginger ale and lime. You can upgrade to one of their many other drink options for a discounted price. I didn’t take many pictures because I was enjoying the experience so much.
I think I picked up a cold on the way to Ireland, so by the time we were headed back state-side I was feeling pretty miserable. I watched a bunch of movies on the flight back to LA, and tried to sleep on our shorter flights back to Boise, but the change in altitude combined with my congestion made things awful. By the time all was said and done, we didn’t get home and to bed until 4am on Thanksgiving. I made it to Thanksgiving dinner and an eerily quiet work day on Friday, but was in bed for the rest of the weekend.
It was an awesome trip and I enjoyed it so much. If we make it back to Ireland, I will definitely get us out of Dublin, now that we’ve seen most of the city. Next up for us, though, is Italy! We are planning to go in April and I can’t wait!
Currently drinking: Not Guinness. I need something else for a while.
Hello! I’m Whitney and this is my home for all things food and life.