Heading South From Dublin

When we talked about what to do in Ireland, we decided we definitely wanted to leave Dublin and see some other parts of the beautiful landscapes around the country. We looked at tons of day trip options that leave from Dublin to go all directions throughout the country and we found one that just sounded like such a perfect day.

We picked a fantastic tour through Railtours Ireland First Class. We met our guide Paddy at Connolly Station, which was super easy to get to from our hotel. I loved this tour’s options better than some others because it gave us a chance to take a train along the coast. We had a lot of time on buses throughout the trip, so it was nice to do something different.

From the train we could see the beautiful Dublin Bay and then the spectacular Killiney Bay, which is home to many celebrities such as Bono, Van Morrison, and Enya. We were so lucky with the weather because we were really able to see clearly and enjoy gorgeous skies. Looking out the window during this train ride was so enjoyable because the views were pretty epic.

P1050304 2P1050290P1050338

 

The train went through the town of Bray, which was once designed to be a huge spot for tourism as a seaside resort. We could see the Irish Sea, where there were amazing cliffs by the water.

P1050318

 

The train then headed inland into the county of Wicklow. We stopped at tiny Arklow station, about an hour and twenty minutes after stepping onto the train. After arriving, our guide showed us to our coach, which would be our ride for most of the day.

P1050341.jpg

 

We then headed to Avoca, which is a small village where the oldest hand weaving mill in Ireland is located. The mill has existed since 1723. We were given a personal tour of the mill and had an opportunity to watch how they make their famous woolen products, a truly fascinating experience. They showed us around different sections of the mill and explained various steps of the weaving process. We were also given plenty of time to shop in their impressive store.

IMG_3171IMG_3173IMG_3174IMG_3176IMG_3175IMG_3179

 

We walked through the town and had lunch in a little pub called Fitzgerald’s Bar, which has been featured in the BBC television series BallyKissangel. We had a yummy lunch and were able to get to know our guide and the other travelers. We met some really nice people and were lucky to have an awesome group! The group was mainly made up of Americans, which made it kind of fun after traveling abroad for a few weeks.

IMG_3183 2

 

We continued our drive and stopped at the Meeting of the Waters for a really nice photo stop. The guide was very patient and let everyone explore and have fun, even though we were on a tight schedule. I really appreciate that in a tour because that’s what we’re there for.

IMG_3187

P1050350 2IMG_3196P1050362

 

We drove for a little while longer, passing through small villages and able to see spectacular views of mountains and other impressive landscapes.

P1050344 2

If you’re prone to getting car sick, there’s definitely potential on this part of the ride, especially after eating lunch – but it’s totally worth it. When we got to Glendalough, it was absolutely stunning! I really didn’t know what to expect with this day trip, but this was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. It is a National Park, famous for its scenery. We visited both the lower and upper lakes.

 

We waked through the park along paths and arrived at an ancient monastery. There has been a settlement here since the 7th century, which is when the monastery was founded by St. Kevin. We were able to walk around the ruins and see the cemetery. It is amazing to be surrounded by ruins from that long ago. The round tower once served as a bell tower and is 100 feet tall.

P1050438P1050446P1050452

 

After taking in so much beauty, we headed back to our car and drove back to Bray station. Here we were able to hop right on a train that headed straight back to Dublin. Again, the views from the train were incredible.

P1050481.jpg

If you’re looking to do a day trip out of Dublin, this one is exceptional. It showed us so much of the natural parts of Ireland and gave us a real look into the age of some of these places. The guide, Paddy, was phenomenal and everything on the tour was exactly how it should be. Another bonus to this trip is that this one was only 7 or so hours while many other day trips into Ireland are more like 13-15 hours. Overall this day was perfect and gave us so many worthwhile memories!

Discovering Dublin

Dublin is an incredible city, full of history and great energy. We’re so glad we were able to go spend some time there. Originally when we talked about traveling this summer, we weren’t sure of the best place to go. We talked about various ideas, but we decided based on our schedules and interest that Ireland was the perfect country to visit.

Dublin is located on the Eastern Coast of Ireland. People settled in Dublin as early as the 9th and 10th century, which is absolutely amazing to think about. Coming from America, things from the 18th century seem very old, so imagining people living in this country over a thousand years ago is astounding.

450.gif

I came to Dublin straight from Copenhagen, which was a quick easy two hour flight. Flying in, the beautiful views from the plane foreshadowed what was to come on the trip.

P1050106.jpg

I arrived in the evening, so by the time I made it through a lot of questions at passport control and got out of the airport, the sun was beginning to set. Dublin has great transportation available for tourists and travelers. They have an Aircoach bus that just goes to and from the airport and a few key spots in the city. It only cost me ‎€8 to get from the airport to my stop the city, which would have been more like €30 by taxi. The bus even had free wifi which is always a bonus while traveling.

I stayed at the Grand Canal Hotel, which is located close to many worthwhile sites in the city. The hotel was comfortable, had great food, and had excellent staff that helped me so much during my travels with tons of advice and suggestions.

The next morning, we were eager to get up, have some breakfast, and start seeing Dublin.

P1050158

We decided we wanted to start at Trinity College, so we began walking. On our way, we found the National Library of Ireland and thought it could be interesting to see. When we walked in, the older man at the front desk asked why we were there. I guess it’s not as common for tourists to visit this library as other sites in the city. We asked if we could look around and he responded like “uhh ok?” But it was beautiful inside. We weren’t allowed to take photos in the main room, but take my word for it. The library has existed since 1890. It was classic and elegant, the kind of library you want to sit in and do research even if you have nothing to research.

 

Then we headed to Trinity College, which was founded by Queen Elizabeth I in 1592. It has a beautiful campus. Just take a look at some of these photos:

P1050122P1050123

P1050120P1050128P1050125P1050129

 

If you go to Dublin, I highly suggest stopping at Trinity College and seeing the Book of Kells. Just being in that room surrounded by history and these books dating back hundreds of years, is completely worth the visit. The library contains a long, beautiful room with books on two stories with ladders and stairs reaching each shelf. It’s the kind of room that you could just sit and look around for hour upon hour and not notice the time pass.

 

We then headed to St. Stephen’s Green Park, which is centrally located in the city. It was created in 1664 and opened to the public in 1880. We found it refreshing to stop for a break from the urban hustle and enjoy some nature. The green of the park and beauty of the ponds was lovely to see. And if you like hanging out with birds, this is definitely the place for you because there were plenty!

P1050163.JPG

 

P1050169.jpg

P1050166.JPG

 

P1050176.jpg

 

Right across from the park’s entrance, is the Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre. I don’t only recommend this place for those who want to buy something, it is a nice stop for anyone. The building has a beautiful interior full of light and windows. It’s one of the nicest shopping centers I’ve ever seen, just take a look:

 

We had a quick lunch there upstairs overlooking the busy streets full of performers and tourists below us.

We stopped at The Rolling Donut, which was definitely a good idea!

IMG_3130.jpg

When I travel, I love to see palaces and castles, I guess it’s just cool to see the wealth displayed with furnishings and decorations. I’m all about interior decorating and making my home look special, so seeing these places is always inspiring and exciting to me. I always love all the attention to detail.

So of course I was eager to visit the Dublin Castle. It originally opened in 1204 and since the 1930’s the Irish Presidents have been inaugurated there.

 

P1050186

P1050193.JPG

P1050204P1050211

 

We really enjoyed visiting the Castle and looking around all the rooms. Afterward, we headed to the Christ Church Cathedral, which was founded in 1030. The exterior was breathtaking and beautiful to look at.

P1050246.jpgP1050242.jpg

 

We continued walking and found this super cool art shop called Jam Art Factory. If you’re looking for something unique to take home as a souvenir from Ireland or a special gift that’s not all “Kiss Me I’m Irish,” then this store is perfect. It has all kinds of artwork that was fun, thought-provoking, and exciting to look at.

IMG_3147

P1050256.JPG

 

After taking a break looking at the unique art, we continued our journey walking around. We stopped to look at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, which opened in 1878. It has a lovely park area outside it, which was relaxing to visit.

P1050258

 

We decided to walk throughout this entire day so we could really see everything and take in the city in ways you can’t from a bus or tour. We walked about 40,000 steps and spent the entire day morning until dinner walking every place we could. The city is full of life and excitement, history, and beauty. Here’s just a few more photos I took while walking around taking everything in.

P1050288

P1050287

P1050284

P1050254.JPG

 

Ireland – 10 Reasons It’s Perfect for New Travelers

If you’re new to traveling or looking for a first adventure to embark on abroad, I highly recommend visiting Ireland – this especially goes for my American friends! I like to think I’m pretty well travelled (even though there’s so much more to see!) and yet I have so many friends back home who have never been on an airplane, never left the country (or have only made a quick 30 minute hop over the border to Niagara Falls). I completely understand that traveling is not part of everyone’s upbringing and that financially it is not in everyone’s budget. But if you are someone who is dying to go abroad and start adventuring into new countries, then Ireland is a perfect place to begin! I was amazed and overwhelmed at how easy it was to travel around, I’ve gotten used to some more complicated places so it was wonderful to kick back and relax and just take everything in.

So here are my reasons for why Ireland is perfect for someone new to traveling:

P1050107.jpg

1. Everyone speaks English

When people ask me about my travels, one of their biggest concerns is communicating with locals. I get asked all the time things like: How do you order food? How do you find where the bathroom is? How do you ask where you’re going? Sure, this can be tricky in small villages in non-English speaking countries.  (But even then, you can always point and use hand gestures to figure things out!) But in Ireland this is hardly a problem and every major tourist area is full of English speakers as well as people from all over the world. Signs, traffic symbols, maps, etc. are all readable and recognizable, making it incredibly easy.

P1050638.JPG

2. Tourists are so Welcome

I have definitely been to some parts of the world where I’ve felt less than welcomed by locals, although most people in the world are proud of their culture and country and are happy people want to visit their home. Ireland is full of such friendly people and there are tons of tourists everywhere, making them used to travelers of all kinds and prepared to handle them. For example, in Dublin, there are reminders on every major corner of which direction to look when crossing the street so pedestrians don’t forget that drivers are coming from opposite directions than most people are used to. People are very willing to help, answer questions, and tell you about the country. They have maps everywhere. Cities and large towns have signs pointing in directions of tourist attractions and sites so even if you get lost it’s easy to get back on track.

3. Awesome Transportation Options

Ireland has all kinds of transportation options for any kind of tourist. I’m not sure I would recommend driving yourself around Ireland if you are not used to manual cars, small European roads, or driving on the left. But if you’re up for a challenge then you can rent a car and drive all over the country (you may be left with white knuckles though). I know I am not equipped to drive there, but it was no problem because we still went to many parts of the country during our short trip. If you like to walk, Dublin and many of the smaller towns are completely walkable and it’s definitely excellent exercise. If you’re more of a car person but don’t want to drive, then there are taxis all over the cities. The buses in Dublin are incredible because they are everywhere, totally accessible for tourists, and are quick and easy. They have options to hop on and off certain buses throughout a day if you want to get quickly around many parts of the city, buses going straight to and from the airport for much less cost than a taxi, buses to sightsee if walking isn’t your thing. And they have trains that are super comfortable, pretty timely, and easy to figure out how to get tickets and where to go (unlike some other European cities).

P1050280.JPG

4. Fantastic Tour Options

If you’re like us and you want to see outside of Dublin, but have no idea where to start, check out a tour! We realized we weren’t up for driving, but we wanted to see more of the country and get a better sense for other parts of this beautiful country. We did a lot of research of tours that leave right from Dublin and take you all over the country. Many of these tours take up the entire day, but are completely worth it! Every tourist I talked to who had tried a day tour absolutely loved it. They are also very affordable for how much you can do and see.

5. Beautiful Nature

Ireland is famous for being full of green landscapes, but actually going there and seeing the beauty of this country is just breathtaking. The Cliffs of Moher, the Wicklow Mountains, Burren National Park, all of the vast coasts, and the green rolling hills and farmland around the country are spectacular. There are fewer and fewer places left in the world where you can see nothing but nature for miles, but in Ireland there is more than enough of that. It’s hard to describe in words how phenomenal the views are. It is perfect for hikers! If you love to get awesome photos, this is definitely the country to visit.

P1050401.jpg

6. The History

For those of you who are history buffs, Ireland is full of historical places to visit. Just driving around, you will see old stone buildings all over. Ireland was discovered thousands of years ago and you can see that for yourself just from driving around looking at different places. Walking around Dublin, there are monuments, statues, castles, and old buildings to visit on every corner. I highly recommend stopping and looking at signs to read about what happened on that corner a hundred years ago, or how old that church you’re passing by is. The stories this land holds of people who had suffered and fought for liberties for generations and of people who made their own success out of small resources around them, and how the environment has changed or remained protected over hundreds of years. There are endless amounts of things to learn and even if you know nothing about Irish history, you’ll discover so much just from being there.

P1050446.jpg

7. The Weather

Someone may laugh when I say the weather makes it worth the visit since Ireland isn’t known for the best weather. If you’re all about the beach and catching rays, then maybe this isn’t the place to go. But I found it very refreshing to get away from the heat and direct sun and just relax in regular clothes. I’ve travelled other parts of Europe in the Summer and the heat can be exhausting and even painful at times. In Ireland there’s no concern for sunburn or heat exhaustion. Its cool, breezy, and yeah sometimes there’s some rain. If you pack a raincoat, it’s no problem. And like some locals told us, the weather changes every five minutes, so even if it starts pouring, it may be sunny within minutes. If you are someone who likes a cooler temperature, then Ireland should be high on your list!

P1050304.jpg

8. Delicious Food and Excellent Shopping

Ireland has some great restaurants and shops! If you love fish and chips, you’ll be happy to find some in pretty much every restaurant or pub around. They have excellent dinner options with tons of meat dishes. The seafood around the coast is amazing and fresh. In Dublin, you can find any kind of cuisine you feel like. Walking by restaurants, everywhere smelled so good it was hard to decide where to choose to go. And they have yummy desserts, bakeries, and ice cream places all over the place. And there are so many stores around that there’s plenty to buy everywhere!

IMG_3183.jpg

9. The Beer and Whiskey

For anyone who loves to try new beers, explore a brewery or distillery, or just hang out in a pub for the night, then I think there are few places better than Ireland. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many pubs and bars in one city like I did in Dublin. You can check out the Guinness Storehouse, it’s definitely a popular attraction for tourists and the Jameson Distillery is definitely a common choice. There are even museums dedicated to these gems. Many tourists love to go to a pub, listen to live music, and have a good time. It’s a great way to end the evening.

P1050285.jpg

10. Endless Attractions

Whatever kind of traveller you are, I guarantee there is something in Ireland for you. There are all kinds of museums, zoos, parks, excellent hiking locations, historical sites, castles, libraries, big cities and small towns, and plenty to do or see. There are tons of stores so shopping is awesome. After heading back to the airport, I left only wishing for more time. There is enough to do or see to make a trip for two weeks filled, but you can also easily see plenty and enjoy just a few days. You can travel in style or find cheap options to get around. So any kind of traveler will find something in this wonderful country!

P1050249.JPG