We have just come back from an awesome trip travelling around Ireland. During our holiday, we managed to travel right across both countries (Northern and Republic) from Dublin to Galway, Sligo to Belfast and more, all such amazing locations in their own way. We really did have such a fantastic time, therefore I thought I would share my recommendations on what to do whilst there.
About 30 minutes from the airport, Dublin is a very busy and exciting city. Make sure your first port of call on arrival is the vibrant Temple Bar area – perfect for those looking for a good night out in one of the many pubs and bars. As the rugby was on during our first afternoon, we decided to head to one of the biggest tourist attractions in Dublin to watch it. Located in the St James Gate Brewery, the Guinness Storehouse has been the base for the creation of Guinness for over 200 years and is a fantastic place to visit.
There are so many floors to explore – it is an immense building – where you can learn all about the making of Guinness and its history, from the founder to the marketing of the world-renowned drink. What is great is that the whole tour is self-guided with literature, memorabilia and photos to guide you through the long history of Guinness. Make sure to check out the restaurants and bars inside, plus you can learn how to pour your very own pint of Guinness too (the best part is, you get to drink it after). For the final part of your visit, head up to the Gravity Bar for some epic views of the city, while nursing a smooth pint of Guinness!
If you have another day in Dublin, I would suggest heading to Kilmainham Gaol Museum. Opened in 1796, the jail not only held thousands of criminals involved in a variety of crimes including murders, but also leaders of rebellions were detained and executed here during Dublin’s prolific political history. Although the jail officially closed in 1924, the people of Dublin volunteered to restore the jail and open it as a museum and for guided tours. During the tour, you are taken around the whole building, learning about the infamous inmates the jail once held. It is fascinating and well worth visiting.
Before leaving Dublin, make sure you pay a quick visit to the grounds of The Honorable Society of King’s Inns, Ireland’s oldest school of law. Here, you will find a very unusual and amusing sight… The Hungry Tree. As the 80 year old London Plane Tree has grown over the years, it has begun devouring a cast iron bench. The bark of the tree is so gnarled, that the bench is slowly disappearing.
We love Galway. The city has such a quaint, Irish charm, with its winding, cobbled streets, independent shops and loads of awesome pubs. Whilst visiting, spend the daytime shopping on the main street or in the shopping centre (there is an original section of the city wall to check out inside). Then, during the evening, try the best fish chips in the town at McDonagh’s – great service and massive portions, it definitely will set up you for the rest of the evening. The best part of Galway has to be the music scene.
Nearly every pub in the city has a live band, on both weekdays and weekends, playing a variety of styles/genres to suit any taste. We ended up in the coolest of pubs, serving local ales and hosting an amazing band, which entertained us through the evening.
As Ed Shearan’s song suggests, walk out of the city centre across the bridge and head to the Salthill Promenade for a scenic stroll, where you can look across Galway Bay to the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher in Co. Clare. Plus if you want to stop for a coffee or fancy a bite to eat, pop into the Coco Café along the way and continue enjoying the amazing views.
As Northern Ireland’s first UNESCO heritage site, the Giant’s Causeway is such a wonder to see. Made by volcanic eruptions over 60 million years ago, the basalt stone columns (there are 40, 000 of them) are a true spectacle.
There is a long drive from the main visitor centre, which you walk along to get to the Giant’s Causeway (or catch the shuttle bus). The dramatic cliffs ahead create such amazing views as you wonder down. Once you get to the bottom of the cliff, you cannot miss the hexagonal stones.
The tops of the stones create natural stepping stones, great for clambering over and make for great photo opportunities, with the rough see crashing in the backdrop.
Carrick-a-Rede – Rope Bridge
The Carrick-A-Rede (pronounced Carrick-a –reedy) is an exciting rope bridge near Ballintoy, Northern Ireland. Not for the feint-hearted, the bridge is 20m long and situated 30m above the jagged rocks below.
Originally built by fisherman, the bridge joins the mainland to the tiny island of Carrickarede. Although it is not used for fishing today, in the 60’s, 300 salmon were caught each day off this island.
It was about half a mile down from the main car park to the start of the bridge. The walk down is great with fantastic views of the beautiful Northern Irish coastline.
Thankfully, the wind wasn’t too strong (the bridge is closed during very bad weather) so we were able to cross it and even managed to get some great pictures along the bridge. Make sure to hold the camera tightly – it’s a long way down!
Belfast is an awesome city. Despite most people talking about Dublin as the city to visit in Ireland, I actually found Belfast even better and even more fun. Belfast had a really nice feel to it; it was very modern, clean and safe but also had a lot of history to it. Probably one of the things that Belfast is renowned world wide for is the place where the Titanic was built.
Belfast have been developing the Titanic Quarter on the site of the docks where the vast, infamous ship was created. On this site stands a towering museum to the ship. We loved the museum as it not only takes you through the design and build of the ship but also what Belfast was like at this time. I’d thoroughly recommend this museum as it teaches you about the already fascinating subject matter in a really fun and interactive way.
Next to the Titanic museum is the SS Nomadic which is the last remaining ship of the White Star Line. This ship was launched on 25 April 1911 in Belfast and was built to transfer passengers and supplies to and from RMS Olympic and RMS Titanic. Walking around on board this boat is really great and is like stepping back in time.
Also in the Titanic Quarter is the SSE Arena. This is the biggest venue to see gigs and shows in Belfast but also the place to come and watch Belfast’s own Ice Hockey team – The Giants.
We had heard that it was a great evening out and booked some very affordable front row seats to go and watch the Belfast Giants Vs The Dundee Stars game. My friend was right and it was a fantastic night and one of my most memorable sporting spectacles.
The action came thick and fast. The perspex screen in front of us proved its worth throughout the evening as ice hockey players smashed into it at full pelt. I really enjoyed the spectacle of the event and how Americanised it was (in a good way). Flame bursts, huge entrances, announcements, competitions, giveaways and even people firing Subway sandwiches with canons. Vicky even won a whole ham and pineapple pizza from Pizza Hut for being Fan of the Match!
Across Ireland, we had visited many incredibly beautiful and old pubs. I especially liked: The Quays Bar, Galway; Hargadon Bros, Sligo; The Fullerton Arms, Ballintoy, but my favourite pub in Ireland and easily in my top five world wide has to be The Crown Liquor Saloon in Belfast.
This is a wonderfully atmospheric pub with an ornate period interior of brightly coloured tiles, carvings and glass. The Crown Liquor Saloon is so stylish it has elaborate mosaics, an incredible red granite topped bar with a heated footrest underneath and is lit by gas lamps on the highly decorative carved ceilings.
What I loved about the place was that it was built to host the Victorian period’s more reserved customers. They did this with awesome snugs made from carved wood. Each one features the original metal plates for striking matches and an antique bell system for alerting staff. Extra privacy is created with etched and stained glass windows. Even though we drank at other pubs that had snugs, these were by far the most detailed – The Crown Liquor Saloon is a drinking experience like no other.
Newcastle and the Mourne Mountains
Throughout our trip around Ireland we had seen some amazing scenery. Across the North of Ireland, we had passed through snowy mountains and as we journeyed south from Belfast, the Mourne Mountains came into view. We had maintained a really nice balance between cities and culture and rugged Irish countryside on our trip but we really wanted to get back out into the wild on our final stay.
The last place we stayed before our return to Dublin and our flight back to Newquay was the coastal/mountain town of Newcastle. This little town with promenade, beaches and numerous cafes was an awesome place to explore the Mourne mountains and the surrounding area. From here, you can have some really awesome walks like up Slieve Donard or to places such as Tollymore Forest.
One final thing that we couldn’t leave Ireland without doing was having a full Irish breakfast. This we had from the incredible Niki’s Kitchen Cafe in Newcastle. We had got a real taste for Irish Soda bread during our trip after being served it at several B&Bs and cafes, so it was awesome to have this included as well as a potato farl!