“May you always be blessed with walls for the wind, a roof for the rain, a warm cup of tea by the fire, laughter to cheer you, those you love to cheer you, and all that your heart might desire.” -An Irish Blessing
Ireland, The Emerald Isle.
Our adventure to Ireland almost didn’t happen and what a shame that would have been!
Before we went to Ireland, I honestly couldn’t tell you what Ireland was known for other than St. Patrick’s Day. However, we found that there is an endless list of reasons why you should plan an Irish adventure and why we would love to return. If you only need a few, these are the top reasons to add Ireland to your bucket list and plan a trip.
The Irish People
While the people of other countries we’ve visited seem to tolerate or sometimes openly disdain visitors, we did not find that to be the case at all in Ireland! We found the people of Ireland to be delightfully warm, friendly and welcoming in every way. The people we encountered were happy to host us, show us where to go–if not TAKE us themselves, and actually made us feel like a native son. Our curiosity was encouraged and the wonderful people we encountered shared their songs, stories, music, and food with us.
During our trip, we had several opportunities to experience the lives of the Irish people but one of the most memorable stops was at Rathbaun Farm. An 80-acre sheep farm, Rathbaun is located in the heart of County Galway that offers visitors the opportunity to experience the hospitality and workings of an Irish farm. With its 250-year-old thatched cottages and rolling green pastures, we experienced feeding time with the lambs, a sheep shearing, sheepdog herding, and a delightful Irish lunch with warm, fresh-baked soda bread, and steaming cups of tea to soothe our chill on a cold, overcast day. It was a splendid way to be immersed in the wonderful traditions of Ireland’s rich agricultural history and see first-hand the hard work that takes place there. If you’re interested in visiting Rathbaun, find them at www.rathbaunfarm.com.
It certainly makes travel a joy and the places you visit come to life when you have the chance to interact with locals and share their lives. For anyone who hasn’t been to England, Scotland, or Ireland, a Pub, or Public House, is essentially, a bar. But we’ve learned in our travels that a pub is so much more! While the bar piece means that you’ll find local and international draught beer, cider, spirits, wine, coffee, and soft drinks, pubs are, more importantly, gathering places and provide a place for the community to come together for fellowship, food, and pub games! There is an abundance of pubs in every town and our pub experiences have included great food and music to enhance our experience. In fact, our visit to Ireland appropriately started and ended in a pub!
We started our trip with a proper Irish breakfast, savored lunch in a pub, and ended our Irish travels with dinner and traditional Irish music and dancing before we left for home. For the novice traveler, you should know that if you just want to grab a drink, you grab it at the bar and if you’d like a bite to eat, most pubs have seating available. Be adventurous and try fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, or steak and ale pie. Just be sure to try the local food and drink. Remember that you’re traveling and try things that are new to you and native to wherever you might be. It’s part of the adventure!
The Stunning Landscapes and bustling cities of Ireland
Ireland has a very long and rich history making its people terrific storytellers and its legends magical. The history and the landscape of Ireland certainly go hand in hand and throughout our visit, our guides told us the stories and struggles of the Irish people so that we could almost imagine the experiences ourselves. We visited the bustling cities and towns of Dublin, Killarney, Belfast, and Westport. We also explored the countryside around the Rock of Cashel, crossed the Shannon River, kissed the Blarney Stone, toured the Ring of Kerry, visited the Cliffs of Moher, Kylemore Abbey, Doolough Valley, Giant’s Causeway, and visited The Titanic Museum.
The history and the landscapes of Ireland go hand in hand and we were fortunate to have a guide that told us the folklore and history of Ireland that made a memorable visit. If you are considering a trip to The Emerald Isle, these are our top four spots that we think will turn you into a storyteller.
Nestled on 1,000 acres, Kylemore Abbey is a peaceful and stunningly beautiful Connemara, Benedictine monastery founded in 1920 on the grounds of Kylemore Castle (built in 1868). The Abbey was founded for Benedictine Nuns who fled Belgium during World War I.
The estate includes a large walled Victorian garden, offers tours, nature walks, dining in the café or Garden Tea House, and a gift shop with treasures such as pottery made on the Estate and handmade chocolates made by the Nuns of the Abbey.
This hidden gem was not on our original itinerary. Thankfully, our wonderful guide took us there, and what a spectacular place!
As you plan your trip, be sure to add Kylemore Abbey to your list and find them at www.kylemoreabbey.com.
Located in County Antrim in Northern Ireland, you will find The Giant’s Causeway. The Causeway is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and rightly so! The coastline is composed of hexagonal columns that disappear into the sea and range as high as 39 feet tall and are believed to be a result of a volcanic eruption.
When visiting the Giant’s Causeway, be sure to have your camera and good shoes. The ground is very uneven but certainly worth exploring. It is a fascinating phenomenon not to be missed. Find more information at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/giants-causeway.
Cliffs of Moher
We had a “wee bit of a squib” when we visited the Cliffs of Moher. In other words, it sprinkled but we wouldn’t have wanted to miss seeing the beautiful Irish coastline.
Located in County Clare, the cliffs face the Atlantic Ocean and rise 702 feet at their highest, and range over 5 miles long.
The Cliffs are among the most visited tourist sites in Ireland from which you can see the Aran Islands in Galway Bay on a clear day.
To help you plan your visit, you can find more information about the Cliffs at www.cliffsofmoher.ie/.
Everyone knows the story of the Titanic. Right? But, do you know the story of the people who built the storied ship? In Belfast, we visited the Titanic Belfast Museum and experienced the story of the hard-working Irishmen who built her in the very space she was built.
Opened in 2012, Titanic Belfast is on the site of the former Harland & Wolff shipyard where the Titanic and its sister ship, the Olympic, were built simultaneously. Learn about the Titanic from its blueprints to the men who drove her rivets and her launch into the water. Experience the interior of the famed ship and understand what it was like to sail on her, no matter the class of your accommodations up to the terror of the sinking itself.
Museums are not always our cup of tea but even so, it would be a spot we would recommend as part of your visit to Belfast. Find more information at www.titanicbelfast.com.
Hints for Ireland
We traveled to Ireland in mid-August and the weather was often sunny and pleasant. However, we did have cool, rainy days as well. Don’t let the rain deter you! Pack a raincoat, comfortable shoes, and layer what you wear so you’re comfortable for any weather condition.
See as much of Ireland and Northern Ireland as you can. Listen to the stories, drink, and watch soccer with the locals. Learn about the history and listen to the stories. And finally, have some great Craic (great fun)! You won’t regret adding Ireland to your bucket list.