In the summer of 2013 my girlfriend and I spent three months in Ireland. We wanted to spend a year there, working and taking a look around. Unfortunately Ireland was still in a major economic crisis back then and jobs were scarce. We ended up traveling all around and across the island in search for work, which in the end we did not find. On the plus side though, we got to see a lot of that amazing country. We talked with the friendly people, rented a car, booked our accommodation in Ireland and road tripped through gorgeous countryside and explored wild coastlines. And we drank a lot of Guinness and Bulmers…
I love Ireland and I miss it now. I have fond memories of several places, which I would like to tell you guys about below.
I, personally, had a love-hate relationship with the Irish capital. It’s ridiculously crowded and most of the time I didn’t feel at ease. On the other hand, there’s a great deal of history in this city, several wonderful museums and – obviously – there are the Guinness brewery and Jameson distillery. There’s plenty to do and I really liked the amount of greenery. Phoenix Park is the largest urban park in Europe.
6. Rock of Cashel
St Patrick’s Rock in Cashel should absolutely be on everyone’s list when they go visit the Emerald Isle. It’s a fascinating place. The historic complex consists of gigantic cathedral ruins, Cormac’s Chapel and a round tower. A small museum and a great video teach you all about the royal and mythical history of the place.
5. Galway City
Little Galway on the west coast is a true tourist hub during summer. It’s the gateway to Connemara and the Burren and from here you can get to the Aran Islands by ferry as well. There’s a thriving bar scene, a fantastic waterfront and river, a splendid cathedral and lots of history. Did I mention the bar scene?
4. Ring of Kerry
The Ring of Kerry is the place for a road trip in Ireland. It starts in Killarney – with its awesome national park – and loops around the Kerry peninsula, past unimaginable coastlines, quaint seaside villages, ancient ruins and green fields. It’s nothing less than spectacular and you’re going to need more than one day to do it. Believe me; we thought we could manage driving the loop in one full day, but we ended up having to skip parts because of time pressure. Not recommended, let me tell ya!
3. Cliffs of Moher
Ireland’s tourist attraction number one totally lives up to the hype. Located on the west coast and easily reached from Galway, the Cliffs of Moher are breathtaking. The cliffs rise 120 metres above the Atlantic Ocean and the views – oh man the views – are jaw-dropping. I’m not lying! If we hadn’t gone to the next two destinations this would have been my number one by far.
The Connemara region lies northwest of Galway City. It’s remote, desolate, wild and downright adventurous. Main activities here are hiking, fishing and cycling. The landscape consists of dozens of lakes – do you know the song by Michel Sardou? – grassy fields, bogs and barren hills. Once again, the coastline is phenomenal. We rented a couple of bicycles in our hostel and explored the area at our own pace.
Good things come in small packages. Kilkenny was the last town we visited before we had to leave Ireland. We couldn’t have made a better choice. It has everything you may expect from a medieval Irish town. It’s small and easily walkable, yet there’s an overwhelming amount of things to see and do. The first attraction on the list should always be Kilkenny Castle. St Canice’s Cathedral – which gave the town its name – is massive and gorgeous, as are the other churches and cathedrals in town. There are a few great walking paths alongside the River Nore, great to get some fresh air after too many pints of Kilkenny or Smithwicks in one of the countless pubs.