I really don’t know where to begin with this post! We were only in Ireland for 3 weeks but our time there was so full of adventure, birthday surprises, family, pints of Guinness, exploration, sickness, beautiful drives, little villages, live music, and incredible beauty. I think we need a new hard-drive with just photos from Ireland!
Our idea of The Emerald Isle was solely based on the awful wonderful movie “P.S. I Love You” …so lets just say that we had high expectations! we wanted to see the rolling hills, the music filled pubs, and tons of sheep dotting the side of the road. Well, I am pleased to report that we definitely saw all of that, plus so much more. Because pictures are worth a thousand words, I am going to tell our Ireland story from the video we made and the endless photos that we took:
Belfast: We had less than 24 hrs. in Belfast but from those 24 hrs., we gathered that it is still nestled at the front door of the conflicts between Northern Ireland and The Republic of Ireland. Despite the turmoil that the 2 countries are facing, we found “peace” at the Peace Wall in the city. Not only was the wall covered in peace signs, hearts, symbols of friendship and love for the war against the 2 countries, but now it also boasts images of all forms of peace and the desire for a harmonious world free from terrorists, racism, and hate. We didn’t have a spray can, but we did have a few Olive Juice Letters that we scattered around!
Portstewart: I am not sure if it was the cold weather, or just the act of traveling that got to me but unfortunately, I got extremely sick the moment we touched down in Ireland. One of our first stops was Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland and it was a place we could only dream of seeing. A place so beautiful, so unique and so surreal…definitely not a place to see through bloodshot eyes and a stuffy nose! But I was determined to just suck it up, throw on my rain-coat (and a million layers) and make the trek down to the water! It was breathtaking and I made it out alive but it may not have been the best for trying to get better…oh well!
Sligo: We had a bit of an issue trying to rent a car in Ireland (PS: did you know that most credit card companies do not cover insurance for rental cars in Ireland? Well, now ya do!) but honestly, it was the only way to go. There is so much to see just from the car window and we didn’t want to miss any of it. With that being said and despite the hassle, we rented a car and took Ruby (the car) everywhere! We went on beautiful drives through national parks, random roads, country highways, and occasionally on a one-way street (Sean’s nightmare!). On our drives is where I felt like we were discovering our Ireland and found some of our most favorite and unforgettable places. Sligo just so happened to be a launching pad for many of our day drives!
Once I began to feel a bit better, we decided to take a day trip to Kylemore Abbey just outside of Sligo. It was an incredibly beautiful abbey that is nestles into a cliff of a mountain and surrounded by wilderness and a gorgeous lake. The story tells the tale of a man who loved to see his wife smile and devoted his life to making her happy. He built this amazing home for them to live in only for her to pass away just a few short years letter. After that, it was turned into a prestigious all girls school and now it is strictly a museum for people (like us!) to enjoy. The grounds were gorgeous and even though we got rained on, we still enjoyed the step back in time.
Donore/Drogheda: When we were looking for places to stay in Ireland, we had no idea which cities to visit, what to do, how to get there, etc. We searched on AirBnb and one of the number one rentals in Ireland came up in this random town called Donore and the home was nestled on a river in the midst of rolling hills. It just looked too beautiful to pass up! So, as time neared for us to arrive to the “Lock House” we began looking into what there was to see and do in this little city. Turns out, there was a bunch of stuff to do! Our day of exploring took us to the site of the “Battle of the Boyne” which is the largest battle that has ever been fought on Irish soil. It’s weird to say that it was beautiful, but the grounds definitely were. However, the story itself and the lives that were lost are a part of history that is not beautiful. This is a kind of random fact but it made me want to step into our own history and make a point to visit certain battle sites that were fought on US soil when we get home.
The second place we explored and totally fell in love with was the Newgrange Monument. I won’t go into full detail but basically, it is a tomb that has been around longer than the pyramids in Egypt! It has been restored, but the most amazing thing about it is that it is still in impeccable condition – the Neolithic people really knew what they were doin’ when it came to building! We had the privilege to go inside and being in a structure that old truly took our breath away. However, despite how large it looks, it was super tiny inside so we had to exit quickly before I went into a full blown claustrophobic panic attack! To this day, it is still one of our favorite places we have seen on our trip so if you go to Ireland, please make it a point to visit.
Wicklow National Park: Ok, who has seen “P.S. I Love You?” Pretty much every woman I am sure and I bet you ladies have dragged your men into watching it as well. I know I did! Anywho, that movie paints such a beautiful picture of Ireland so naturally, I looked up where they filmed most of their scenes and low and behold – most of their scenes were filmed in the Wicklow National Park. I’d like to say it was more beautiful in person than it was in the movie but it wasn’t. IT WAS BETTER! We hiked, we ate lunch, we admired the scenery and we took in as much fresh air as we possibly could fill our lungs with! It was an absolutely wonderful day.
Dublin: Months before we left on our trip, I knew Sean’s family wanted to find a place in the world to meet us. I knew that Sean wanted to spend his birthday in Ireland so I figured I give it a shot and ask them if they would be interested in meeting us there! Well, not to my surprise, they said they would love to (I mean, who wouldn’t want to go to Ireland?!) so we had a little fun with it and decided to make it a big surprise for Sean! I had to somehow keep this little secret from him, which was so hard to do since we were spending every waking moment together but by the grace of God, it worked! We totally surprised him and it was amazing! We were able to spend the whole weekend together in the incredible city of Dublin by drinking pints of Guinness, cheers-ing to our birthday boy, eating loads of meat and potatoes and enjoying each others company! It was such a great weekend and we were so sad to see it end.
Nothing said “Happy Valentine’s Day” more than pouring our own fresh pint of Guinness, touring the brewery, kissing with foam mustaches and enjoying uninterrupted views of Dublin city from their sky view bar! We tried to visit the brewery on Sean’s birthday, but the line was out the door and wrapped around the building…so we opted for the next day, which just so happened to fall on love day so we weren’t complaining!
Our week of exploration: I have a new found love for guidebooks. Why, you ask? Because while we traveled with Sean’s dad and step-mom, we used the Rick Steve’s Ireland book as our guide! In just a few short days, I feel like I learned more about Ireland’s history, the beautiful monuments, the even more beautiful coastline and rolling hills, and the history of this amazing country while getting to see it all first hand. We visited a new city each day, but as we drove from point A to point B, we made stops a long the way for unforgettable photo-ops, a quick cup of coffee, to kiss the infamous Blarney Stone or to read about a castle we could see in the distance. One of the highlights was stopping at the Cliffs of Moher. I don’t think I have ever felt so itty-bitty in my life! The cliffs were massive, terrifying and absolutely stunning beyond words. The best part? We got there “too-late” so we didn’t have to pay the entrance fee AND we were able to witness the beautiful sunset over the rough ocean.
I'd like to say that 3.5 weeks in Ireland is enough but I feel like we just scratched the surface of this beautiful country. I know we will return one day to do our best to take in the vast green beauty and to drink more Guinness, but for now I will just have to be reminded by these photos.