Accommodation | Doubletree by Hilton Dublin, Killarney Towers Hotel, Bunratty Castle Hotel
Must Do | Trinity College Library, Cliffs of Moher, See a live Irish band at a local pub
Worthy to Note | A tour can be totally worthwhile, though driving yourself would be feasible
We landed in Ireland and caught the aircoach literally to the doorstep of our first hotel – Doubletree by Hilton, Burlington Road. Months prior, I had scored an incredible accommodation sale – equivalent to AUD $75/night – which was made only sweeter by the fact that it was the same hotel we would be staying in for the first leg of our Irish tour.
Ireland is the one location in our Eureidvision trip that we thought would be best shared with others. I mean, who really wants to go to pubs by themselves, right? Plus we knew Ireland was small and that it would be quite feasible to make our way around a majority of the country in a short amount of time. So we booked to join CIE Tours 5 Day Taste of Ireland, flying in the day before.
In the morning we headed off excitedly to Trinity College to see the Old Library. This experience I owe to Pinterest. I am a lover of books, and the Long Room not only houses over 200,000 of the oldest books, but is home to the Book of Kells (deserving of its own exhibition). The familiar musty aroma was present, and I was in awe at the sheer scale and history of this place. It was beautiful.
That afternoon we joined our tour group (thankfully several of us were Gen Y) and had a quick coach around the city stopping at Dublin Castle, which was more house than stereotypical castle, but grandiose nonetheless. In the evening we experienced our first Irish dinner at The Merry Ploughboys pub, owned and managed by traditional musicians. These lads were fun and entertaining, and with the addition of Irish dancers, had the whole room loving life!
We departed in the morning with a photo stop at the Rock of Cashel (good Christian conversion story) and then continued past Cork to Blarney Castle. Yes, I had heard that locals pee on this rock and then laugh at tourists who kiss it… but when in
Rome Ireland hey? Blarney Castle was quite picturesque, but it was time to move on so we ate lunch at the Blarney Woollen Mills, and made our way to Killarney for a buffet dinner onsite and more live music at The Grand.
An Irish coffee started the day off with a bang, as we travelled the Ring of Kerry. Between patches of cloud and drizzle, this beautiful landscape emerged casting its spell across the group. We stopped at Kells to meet a local farmer and watch his sheepdog demonstration… I won’t lie, it was freezing with icy raindrops finding their way between your scarf and coat collar. I think the sheep and dogs were even more unimpressed to be out in this weather, but alas, they put on a great show as we learnt about different whistle types and responses. We crossed to the Skellig Experience and were educated on the monks who made a tiny and steep rocky island their home.
The next day was one of extremes. We visited the Cliffs of Moher which were ridiculously majestic and I tried my hardest to appreciate the moment, although I felt that I had never been so cold in my entire life. The blustering wind carrying sea spray would push against you as you made your way higher up the trail for a better vantage point. Was it worth bone-rattling-and-teeth-chattering? Absolutely! The cliffs were remarkable and I would highly recommend adding them to the must-do list for anyone visiting Ireland.
That afternoon, we ventured to Bunratty and explored the folk village which was set up to imitate old times. The homes were colourful and pretty on the outside, but claustrophobic and primitive on the inside. We rugged up for dinner at the Bunratty Castle where we were crowned Earl & Lady in front of 100+ people (seriously, one of the moments I wished the ground would open up and swallow me whole). James was seated on a throne and before each course was served, he had to taste it in front of the banquet and declare ‘it is good!’. We drank soup from bowls and had only a dagger (read: steak knife) and fingers to eat our ribs and main course with. The staff sang and entertained well, and the Earl consumed a little too much mead, before our Gen Y cohort continued on at Durty Nelly’s.
On our final day, we were treated to tea and scones at the Coonawarra Marble factory (for those who made it off the coach). We purchased a marble-handled cheese knife to add to our growing collection of cheese knives from our travels. The tour wound down and we dropped members of the group off in Dublin before heading to the airport to the last leg of our journey, home of the Queen. Ireland was fun and I’m glad we went whilst young and free!