Any trip where I get to go to an English-speaking country is an extra special one for me. It makes me feel the closest to home that I can get while still in Europe. That is why I chose to spend my 24th birthday in Dublin.
We were in Ireland four full days and decided it would be easiest if we just spent the whole time in Dublin. Moving from city to city and hotel to hotel can be very exhausting. Luckily, a company called Wild Rover Tours, which I highly recommend, made it possible for us to still be able to see the main two things we wanted to see: Cliffs of Moher and Giant’s Causeway.
In general, I wasn’t a huge fan of Dublin because I found it more congested than most other cities, it was pretty expensive, and aside from the small Temple Bar neighborhood, it wasn’t particularly picturesque. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t love this trip because I really enjoyed everything we did!
This is a must for any beer lover, and even if you’re like me and not into a dark, heavy Guinness, it’s a really great experience from start to finish—and you may even be converted! A self-guided tour takes you through the history of the brewery and the brewing process from start to finish. If you’ve ever been to Hershey Park, consider it like the chocolate world tour but for beer! The scents of hops and barley fill the rooms. After you finish the tour, you have the option to pour your own pint, and there’s actually a specific way to do it that takes nearly two minutes. It was fun to play “bartender” for once and I was very proud of how my pint turned out. Then, I got to drink my pint in a bar on the top floor of the factory where there are 360 degree views of Dublin. Though it was crowded up there, it was a great spot to enjoy my birthday beer. Now I’m inspired to go to America’s first and only Guinness brewery that happens to be right outside of Baltimore!
There’s something really cool about seeing university campuses that were established hundreds of years ago that are still in use today. The architecture is completely different from what I’m used to at University of Maryland. We paid to see the Book of Kells which dates back to the ninth century and contained the gospels of the New Testament. The ticket also got us into the famous library, which I had seen pictures of all over the internet.
This former jail was a perfect indoor activity for a rainy day in Dublin. It was built in 1796, and it was later used to hold and execute the leaders of the Irish uprising of 1916. The one hour tour took us through cells and cold, dark hallways where prisoners used to walk. I felt like I got a good overview of Ireland’s recent history with this tour combined with the Belfast tour that I will talk about below.
Cliffs of Moher
If there was one thing I definitely wanted to see in Ireland, it was these cliffs. And if there was one thing holding me back from going to Ireland, it was the inevitable strong possibility of rain ruining the view. However, we were extremely lucky to only have rain on the days we were in Dublin, and not on our “nature” days, as I like to call them. I would much rather have rain in a city than in a place known for nice views. I didn’t realize how tall and dramatic the cliffs would be. It also didn’t occur to me that turquoise water could exist outside of warmer climates, because that combined with the deep green hues of the cliffs was an incredible sight to see. It was a landscape unlike any other I had seen before, and this alone was enough to make the Ireland trip worth it.
I believe the best way to get a true feel for a country is to experience cities of multiple sizes. We stopped in Galway for lunch after seeing the Cliffs of Moher and it was smaller than I thought it would be, but in a good way. I can see why a lot of people love it for its charming streets lined with pubs and seafront location.
Like our day at the Cliffs of Moher, this day tour was also so worth the trip, as the sun was mostly shining and the Giant’s Causeway is spectacular in its own unique way. Not only are there rolling hills and cliffs that meet the sea, but there are also 40,000 hexagonal stone pillars interlocking to create the most mind-blowing rock formation I’ve ever seen. There are legends about its formation by giants while also a scientific explanation, and as our tour guide said, “It’s up to you if you believe in the giants or the science.” Personally, I’m all about the giants theory.
During our stop in the capital of Northern Ireland, we had the option to visit the Titanic Museum or take a traditional “black cab” tour discussing the political tension that has affected the city. Having seen Titanic exhibitions before, we chose the taxi tour. Our guide was a Northern Irishman who described what it was like growing up with the British troops constantly patrolling the city. While it was a one-sided story, it was still interesting to hear his perspective. He said that just within a 20-minute walk, he could get stopped and searched up to four times, just for identifying with the Irish side of the city rather than the British. Even today, a shockingly tall wall separates the unspokenly “British” side of the city from the “Irish” side of the city. Though they generally live beside each other peacefully, he told us he would never be able to buy a house, for example, on the British side, and the gates to cross the wall are still heavily monitored by cameras and at a certain time at night, the gates close. I honestly didn’t know much about the conflict that has occurred in Belfast, so I was happy I came off this tour feeling more informed. Also side note: I got to see the outside of the studios where Game of Thrones was filmed!
On the topic of Game of Thrones, Dunluce Castle was used as the set for House Greyjoy! I could picture it so well with how it sits on top of some steep cliffs. I’m used to seeing castles in Germany, but this one was totally different because it was all in ruins, and the views from where the windows used to be were breathtaking.
The Boxty House – traditional Irish boxties, or potato pancakes, and other variations of potatoes – Dublin
Brother Hubbard – brunch dishes with Middle Eastern flavors (poached egg on corn cake, right) – Dublin
The Church – bar-style food in a historic church building (apple cobbler, left) – Dublin
Murphy’s Ice Cream – fun ice cream flavors, my favorites being Dingle sea salt and Irish brown bread (center) – Dublin
PHX Bistro – three-course meal for €29,99 with lots of options – Dublin
Umi Falafel – fast-casual style selling falafel and other Middle Eastern dishes perfect for lunch – Dublin
White Moose Cafe – amazing brunch dishes, especially pancakes – Dublin