I booked my trip to Ireland about a month before my departure date. How did I decide on Ireland? One, the airfare wasn’t outrageous, and the timing worked out for my schedule. Two, October is “shoulder season” in Ireland, meaning I could skip the insane summer crowds and still take advantage of the mild, turning weather. And three, I was jonesing for a vacation. This girl hadn’t been overseas in 6 months! And never had I heard a bad word about Ireland.
Ireland is about the size of Indiana — totally navigable in one week. Or so I thought…
What I did during my 6 days in Ireland
Below is my DIY tour of Ireland. To browse day trips, tours, and multi-day excursions, I recommend Project Expedition Ireland.
Day #1: Arrival in Dublin
Saturday was my travel day, so I was quite exhausted when my plane landed in Dublin early Sunday morning. But nothing is quite as invigorating as walking out an airport into an unknown place! My plan for day #1, since I knew I would get tired, was just to explore Dublin on foot and take my time exploring the city. I visited Trinity College, St. Stephen’s Green, the Molly Malone statue, the iconic Temple Bar, and the Guinness Storehouse. I took a nap in the late afternoon (after my Guinness, of course) and woke up a few hours later to grab dinner and some live music at Bad Bobs Temple Bar with a new pal I met on Couchsurfing.
Day #2: Dublin to Kilkenny
Kilkenny would be my first destination on my self-directed tour of Ireland. I woke up for a hearty breakfast at the hostel and visited the Dublin Castle, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and Ha’Penny Bridge before hopping on a coach bus bound for Kilkenny: a quiet, tiny town about two hours ride from Dublin.
Once I arrived in Kilkenny, I high-tailed it to the restored 12th century castle for a tour. The building was truly amazing, as well as the grounds. What a special place!
Afterwards I took a leisurely stroll down High Street/Parliament Street to St. Canice’s Cathedral, also swinging by the Dominican Black Abbey and St. Mary’s Cathedral Kilkenny. Later that night, I took in some authentic Irish music at a pub on the main drag, as well as a few draught beers. (Ok, more than a few.)
Day #3: Kilkenny to Cork
Day #3 brought me to Cork, a few hours’ bus ride south of Kilkenny. Cork is a college town in an inlet on the south side of Ireland, not far from Cobh, the Titanic’s last port of call before sailing the Atlantic. From Cork, I caught a city bus to Blarney Castle, one of the main attractions in Ireland. I was worried Blarney might be a tourist trap, but it was one of the highlights of my trip.
The 13th century medieval castle was a trip back in time, and of course, I had to kiss the Blarney Stone. (And I mean, had to, the peer pressure was very intense.) Whether it worked (granted me the gift of gab), you tell me! I spent a few hours exploring the Blarney Castle grounds, which had so much more to offer than I was expecting… like underground caves, walking trails, a “poison” garden, and a horse cemetery. It was well worth the €18 entrance fee.
Unfortunately, by the time I got back to Cork, all the other attractions the city had to offer were closed for the evening, so I had dinner and a quiet night.
Day #4: Cork to Killarney to Dingle to Limerick
Wednesday morning I hopped the Paddywagon Tours bus for the Dingle Peninsula day trip from Cork. The Dingle Peninsula, on the western side of Ireland, is unbelievably green, full of rolling hills, craggy cliffs, and sandy beaches — a destination on the “Wild Atlantic Way” drive. But first, we stopped in Killarney, another sleepy, authentically Irish city.
The tour then stopped at Inch Beach and continued on to Dingle town, a tiny seaside village. A few more hours were spent meandering its streets.
The highlight of the tour was an unplanned stop on the way back right outside of Killarney: the viewpoint at Aghadoe. The view left me breathless — so many shades of green.
Instead of going back to Cork, I negotiated switching buses to take me to Limerick, bringing me closer to my next destination, the Cliffs of Moher.
Day #5: Limerick to Cliffs of Moher to Galway
Not much can be said for my experience at the Cliffs of Moher. It was drizzling and visibility was next to nothing — a true disappointment, as they are the most visited attraction in Ireland. Luckily, the weather redeemed itself for a stop at the “Baby Cliffs,” as they are so deemed, a 15 minute drive from the Cliffs of Moher. Not quite as spectacular, but a sight nonetheless. Again, I negotiated a bus switch, taking me to Galway. (I’m quite the negotiator, it turns out!)
In Galway, I had my best meal yet at The Quay Street Kitchen, then a few pints at Tigh Neachtain (just try pronouncing that one). I loved traipsing through Galway’s streets — there was a wonderful buzzy energy about the city.
Day #6: Galway to Dublin
I woke up in Galway with a mind to take a long, leisurely walk throughout the city — and so I did. I started at Eyre Square (named after Jane Eyre) and wandered the streets to the Galway Cathedral, an imposing Catholic cathedral endowed with dazzling mosaics, including one of John F. Kennedy (can you spot it below?).
I walked along the River Corrib down to the Claddagh neighborhood, out onto the causeway towards Mutton Island, then circled around South Park and back into the city. So many different landscapes to snap pics of in Galway! I stopped for a latte to peruse the Charlie Byrnes bookstore and grabbed some lunch before hopping another coach bus back to Dublin for my last night.
My night in Dublin was like any other Dubliner’s after 5 p.m. — beer, food, and live music, little else! It wasn’t an extremely late night though, as I had a relatively early flight to catch back to the states in the morning.
I’ll miss you Ireland… you were a gem. (Emerald, what else!?) I’ll be back to see more of you later, I promise!
What’s on the agenda for my next time in Ireland:
- Kilmainham Gaol (a historic prison)
- the Leprechaun Museum
- the Book of Kells in Trinity College (I just wandered the grounds)
- the English Market (it closed at 6 p.m., so I didn’t make it)
- the Butter Museum (sounds nifty!)
- Cork City Gaol (I don’t know why but prisons intrigue me)
- Cliffs of Moher re-do!
- the Ring of Kerry, a famous easternly drive
- the Aran Islands (not enough time!)
- Bunratty Castle (a stop I missed due to my bus switchin’)
Northern Ireland — everywhere!!
Any other must-do’s for my return trip to Ireland? Tell me in a comment!