Hop on a plane to Dublin, rent a car, and start your scenic journey around Ireland from there. Ireland has definitely got to be one of the most memorable and most beautiful places I have ever traveled to. Driving around the country (notably along the coastline in the west – the Wild Atlantic Way), I experienced nightlife in Dublin, culture in Belfast, traditional small-village pubs in Doolin, landscapes in County Clare and wanted to write Limericks in Limerick. Here are some of the highlights of our trip:
We landed in Dublin from Amsterdam in the late evening of the 1st of January – New Year’s Day. After spending a night at a Bed and Breakfast, we hopped on a bus back at the airport up to Belfast, not knowing much about it at all. The bus journey is just over 2 hours and you can book your tickets in advance at aircoach.ie, or just get them when you board the bus (risky, you might not get a seat depending where you get on and when). The tickets are either €20 for a return, or €10 for a one-way, from both pick-up locations in Dublin to Belfast’s Glengall St.
In Belfast, we stayed at the Travelodge for €50 a night and stayed for 2 nights. Our first night in Belfast, we took an evening walk around the city and then eventually ended up having a drink (then dinner upstairs) at Robinson’s Fibber Magees – a traditional Irish music bar in the corner of Blackstaff Square, literally a 30 second walk from where we were staying. Pints of Guinness are only £3.50 Monday-Thursday! That’s another thing, since Belfast is in Northern Ireland – part of the UK, it might be better to have some £ on you, although in most places they still accept Euros.
On our second day, we ate brunch at the Arthur St. Café at Avoca – an Irish-run business that owns cafés, stores and gardens. If you’re looking for a nicer, slightly more fancy brunch/café type meal then look no further – they offer freshly-squeezed juices, to scones and crumbles and really delicious mains. These photos aren’t from the Arthur St. Cafe, but they are a good example of what kind of food you’d get there!
Photo by Brina Blum
Photo by Carissa Gan
In the afternoon, we decided to book a Black Cab Tour for the two of us – a private tour around iconic spots around the city. If you’re seeking to go to the Giant’s Causeway and neighboring sights further away from the city, you’ll need to start your tour with your tour guide very early, and ensure you have an entire day to spare – here’s where we made our mistake, and we ended up not being able to see them. However, we had a great time learning about the history and culture of the city with our very friendly and knowledgeable tour guide. It was around a 2-hour tour around the Belfast murals, the Peace Wall, and a few other important places to illustrate the century-long political conflict over the rule of the country.
After Belfast, we took the bus back to Dublin as we had booked an Airbnb for the 4th-6th of January. Of course, our first night was spent at the infamous Temple Bar – an area known for its lively nightlife and as a tourist attraction. We spent quite a bit of time in The Temple Bar listening to some live Irish music and downing a few drinks.
Aside from the nightlife, Dublin has a lot of beautiful attractions in the city – the city hall, St. Audeon’s Church, Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin Castle, and a lot more – notably Trinity College Library (often featured as one of the most fascinating libraries in the world). We had a really great time following the trail and checking out all these cool places.
Upon leaving Dublin and moving onto long drives and spontaneous accommodation searching, we drove to the Howth Cliffs. I’d consider the Howth Cliffs very underrated. It has a breathtaking atmosphere over there and I’m pretty sure we spent a couple of hours just taking it all in and walking around on the edge of the cliffs and on the trails.
If you’re seeking artsy and bohemian, head to Galway. Brighty painted pubs, cafes and restaurants dot cobblestone streets, and street performers build up the contemporary vibe. Be sure to wander around the promenade of Salt Hill, and Shop Street.
We arrived in Doolin Village very late in the evening and walked into a warm, dim and inviting pub, where a small group of locals were performing some music on the couches, and others were finishing up their food, or having a casual drink. Dooling is a coastal village known for being close to the Cliffs of Moher, but also as the home of traditional Irish music. We managed to visit three out of four of the pubs in the village as we were trying to search for food – starting at Fitz’s Bar, heading to McGann’s, and ending up eating at O’Connor’s. The bartender at McGann’s that night offered us a room above the pub for €30 (it was off-peak season) and we were more than willing to take it. We woke up to the crisp Atlantic air, and the classic slighty-gloomy, drizzly Irish weather, and headed to the Cliffs of Moher after breakfast.
COUNTY CLARE, THE CLIFFS OF MOHER
An unforgettable day, with unforgettable sights. There’s a good reason why the Cliffs of Moher tops the chart as the most popular tourist attraction in Ireland. I was really happy that the cliffs were protected against any significant intrusive man-made amenities too – in keeping with this, the visitor experience center was built into the hillside approaching the cliffs where my boyfriend and I spent a bit of time checking out the interactive/informative museum and shielding ourselves from the heavy rain at some point. It does cost €6 per adult to visit the cliffs, with free admittance for children under 16 .