Ireland is an enchanting country with picturesque castles, quaint towns, rugged coastline and the lush green hills that give the ‘Emerald Isle’ it’s moniker. This island in the North Atlantic is slightly larger than West Virginia and boasts a rich history and friendly people.
This country is divided into the Republic of Ireland (Ireland) and Northern Ireland (part of the United Kingdom). Both countries are easily accessible to travelers, although there may be a cross border coverage fee charged by your rental car company. Be aware that just like in England and other former English colonies, cars are meant to be driven on the left side of the road. This can be very confusing to Americans, especially when driving through a roundabout. In addition, many rural roads do not have a shoulder of any kind and a concrete wall may be an inch (2.54cm for the rest of the world) from your side view mirror. We were so glad that we spent the extra money for comprehensive insurance coverage. Fortunately, the road signs are bilingual; the two official languages of the country are Gaelic and English. We had no problem getting around. On a side note, if you are given the option to rent a GPS with your rental car, do it.
United States citizens do not need a visa to travel to Ireland but must register with authorities if planning to stay longer than 3 months. This country is a member state of the European Union and the Euro is its currency. American credit cards are widely accepted.
There were no children on this trip. As much as I love to travel with my children, sometimes adult time is needed. A good friend of mine wanted to celebrate a milestone birthday with a trip to Ireland, so that’s exactly what we did.
We spent the majority of our time in Dublin. Our trip was at the end of October which brought rain and a chill in the air. But Dubliners are a hearty bunch and there were always people walking the streets and enjoying the city. This was a great time to be there since it’s the low season for tourists. We easily entered every pub or attraction we went to.
The plan was to run the Dublin Marathon and then spend the rest of our time enjoying Dublin and the countryside. My friend was injured and unable to run but she toasted me with a Guinness after the race. The marathon course was challenging but I was able to get a good feel for the city. I ran past medieval churches and through charming villages, being cheered on by lively locals along the way. I earned a personal record (pr) for my marathon time.
No visit to Dublin would be complete without a visit to the Guinness Storehouse. The tour is a walk through the brewing process and history of this iconic Irish stout. You finish with a complementary pint of Guinness and a beautiful view of the city.
We left Dublin and headed west to an area known as the Burren. This region is renowned for it’s grey rolling hills formed by pre historic sedimentary rocks. Here, moss and orchids grow in the wild rock gardens. The Burren is home to ancient archiological sites such as the Poulnabrone Dolmen, a tomb that is estimated to be 5,500 years old.
The Cliffs of Moher are a short drive from the Burren. These legendary cliffs will get your heart pounding with their jarring heights. Strong winds sweep the soft grasses and the Atlantic pounds the rocky coastline. Most tourists head to the guidebook recommended visitor center, but to really experience the cliffs, it is better to get off the beaten path. We opted to ask a local for the best way to see the cliffs. We weren’t disappointed. We were led through a tiny village and on a scenic hike that followed a dirt path used primarily by local farmers. We were rewarded with spectacular views of The Cliffs of Moher that most people only get to see in pictures. GPS did not help us this time, but this experience is an example of what you can encounter as traveler instead of being just a tourist.
This trip to Ireland was incredible. One week was definitely not enough. I plan to bring the kids back in the future and see more of the island. I have found that the best trips are the ones where only a small part of the country is explored. It’s the only way to really get a taste of the local culture, food, and worthwhile sites.
A little extra: Beautiful crosses
Travel with a group can be challenging. We opted to rent a house through VRBO (vacation rental by owner) and it worked out very well. Each person or couple had their own space but we could get together to see the city or go to dinner. Traveling this way also made the trip more affordable. Fortunately, my friend has a knack for choosing the right personality types to bring along on such an adventure.