This trip to Ireland came about as I was having coffee with a good friend from college around Christmas time. We both mentioned that it was one of our goals for the new year to travel internationally. About 5 minutes later, we decided we were going to Ireland in 2017 (I love that about us!) :)
Ireland is such a lovely and stress-free trip. Airfare and expenses are relatively cheap and of course the fact that they speak English helps eliminate some of the stress of international travel.
Our itinerary, which was pretty loose, was as follows:
Dublin (2 nights) –> Dingle (2 nights) –> Doolin (1 night) –> Galway (2 nights) –> Dublin –> fly back to Minneapolis.
We flew in and out of Dublin for this trip and rented a car to drive to our other destinations. It’s the best way to really see the country. And driving on the wrong side of the road wasn’t so bad! :)
Dublin was our first impression of Ireland. We stayed in an Airbnb in the city. I’ve had awesome experiences with Airbnb, I would highly recommend. The streets are charming, full of pubs, music and of course plenty of Guinness!
The Trinity college library is a must-see. It’s also the home of the Book of Kells, which you can see in a glass display on your way to the long room with all the old books and staircases. Super cool! Visiting the library takes under an hour.
Visiting the Guinness Storehouse is of course, very touristy. I’d recommend skipping any of the tours on the lower levels and going straight up to the 360 bar for a pint of the freshest guinness in the world and awesome views of Dublin!
On the other hand, the Jameson Distillery tour was awesome! It’s been recently remodeled and the tour is actually really good! You’ll learn about the history of the Jameson family, see how it’s made and at the end of the tour you’ll do a tasting comparing Jameson with American whisky and scotch.
Quick Stop: Rock of Cashel
The drive from Dublin to Dingle was the longest we did (about 5 hours). A local recommended we stop at the Rock of Cashel along the way. The town, Cashel is tiny. We had lunch at one of the few restaurants and walked through the castle ruins. There are lots of castles in Ireland, but this is one of the more impressive ones where you can walk through the inside. It was an awesome stop and doesn’t take too long.
Dingle is a town on the Dingle Peninsula, which is almost the most western point of Ireland, jetting out into the Atlantic Ocean. I wouldn’t quite call them mountains, but the hilly landscape along the coast is stunning. Looking out in the not-too-far distance, you can see the Blasket islands.
From the town of Dingle, we took the Slea Head drive one morning, a 1/2 hour long loop drive with beautiful views. We stopped along the way to hike and just sit by the water. Part of this drive, along the coast is called the “Wild Atlantic Way” which you see signs for all along the coast. It goes along the entire west coast of Ireland and has the most amazing views.
The town of Dingle is charming and one of our favorites! It’s a relatively small town, but has a good amount of Bed & Breakfasts (the way to go!), pubs with traditional Irish music and great seafood! Don’t skip Dingle!
Doolin & The Cliffs of Moher
It’s so hard to convey the depth and size of the cliffs in photos. They never do it justice. But to give you an idea, see that “little” rock at the bottom of the cliffs in the photo above? Here’s how big it actually is, below!
Taking a cruise along the cliffs was absolutely amazing and inexpensive. Besides seeing the cliffs from a new perspective, you can see some of the 40 different species of birds that live on the cliffs!
Doolin is a small town only a few miles from the Cliffs of Moher, making it a convenient place to stay if you want to spend a little more time than just a couple hours at the cliffs. Stay in a B&B and don’t worry about where you’ll go for dinner and drinks – there are only 3 choices! :) In the morning, we took the 12 mile coastal hike from our bed & breakfast in Doolin up to the cliffs and back. This hike was amazing! A couple tips: wear good shoes or hiking boots (it can be rainy and wet) and it’s very windy! Just like everywhere else in Ireland, wear layers!
The town of Galway stole my heart! This adorable town along the coast has more trendy restaurants and pubs in comparison to the smaller towns, but plenty of Irish charm. We had, oddly enough, some of my favorite pizza in Galway. Above, was probably my favorite meal at an adorable little European restaurant called Kai in Galway (you’ll need a reservation on a Friday or Saturday).
From Galway, you can take a drive to Kylemore Abbey, in the Connemara region, which is absolutely beautiful! The drive takes about an hour and is so worth it! I highly recommend this!
Kylemore Abbey is like a fairytale. This castle sits in the mountainous region of Connemara, surrounded by water and greenery. The grounds are gorgeous – make sure to take a walk through the gardens!
After another fun night in Galway, we headed back to Dublin to fly back home.
Food in Ireland
I have to say that I had very low expectations of food in Ireland and I was pleasantly surprised! Of course Dublin and Galway have more options and diversity in their restaurants, but even in the smaller towns, we had some great food! Definitely try an Irish classic like shepherds pie, stew or a classic Irish breakfast.
Have plenty of that fresh Guinness while you can and Irish whisky that you can’t get in the U.S. Ask the locals what they recommend; they are super friendly and offer great recommendations.
What to Pack for Ireland
Layers, layers layers! Ireland is not known for amazing weather. The temperature is typically around the 50s year-round with rain and mist often. I found myself comfortable in a T-shirt sometimes and at other times I needed a scarf, hat and coat. You’ll want a pair of boots to wear, year-round. I brought a puffy vest to layer over shirts and sweatshirts and it was the best thing I brought.
If you get motion sickness at all, bring dramamine. Those winding narrow roads will get you, especially after a night of guinness and whisky!
Tip: Ireland has different outlets than the rest of Europe so make sure your adapter is specific to Ireland.
I’d love to hear about your experience! Comment below!