One Week in Ireland: Dublin, Galway, Dingle, and More
Just in case my hair isn't a dead giveaway, you should know that I am very, very Irish. Some of my ancestors made the move to America early on, sometime in the 1700s, but my great grandpa held out until the 20th century, staying on his little farm by the sea through his youth until boarding the boat to Massachusetts.
My dad recently got his Irish citizenship (which I am very bitter about, but more on that later) so my family decided it was high time we finally visited the motherland, dear Ireland.
Ireland is surprisingly exactly half way between Korea and California (if I travel west and my parents, east) so we booked our flights and headed to Dublin for a little over a week of exploring the country in March. My parents stayed a bit longer than I did, so they had already explored Dublin for a few days before I arrived.
It should be noted that upon boarding my tiny plane from Heathrow to Dublin, I was not only the only woman on the plane, but apparently the only person that didn't know anything about rugby. The pilot was constantly on the intercom for the 40 minute flight giving the passengers updates on whatever game was happening, with each announcement causing the entire plane (sans myself) to cheer, groan, and cackle. Welcome to Ireland, I thought.
My flight delay got me into Dublin quite late (also, why is the immigration stamp so large for such a small country?!) So my parents and I took a cab to our hotel next to Trinity College, and fell asleep.
The next morning we wandered the college grounds, took in all the colorful doors in Merrion Square (with a hello to Oscar Wilde of course) and stopped at Fumbally Cafe. To be honest, my two days in Dublin were quite a blur and I don't have many pictures to help me remember our exact schedule. Our tour of Kilmainham Gaol was fantastic, as was our adventure into Phoenix Park to see the deer (of course, after seeing the deer, we realized we were in the middle of a massive park with no taxi in sight, we trudged nearly a mile before hailing a cab)
After too short a time in the city, we rented a car (yes, with the wheel on the wrong side) and made our way to our first destination: Cashel. I wish I took photos of our B&B, especially the owner, because it gave off the strangest, eerie feeling. With the ruins of the Rock of Cashel looming overhead and the deserted streets of the town, I felt the hair on the back of my neck prickling nearly the entire stay. As it is Ireland, we were able to find a pub and get some fish and chips and fish chowder. The next morning we hiked up to the Rock and took a great guided tour!
Just a tip: be sure to bring some kind of hat or ear muffs because the wind on the top of the hill was absolutely insane! Our guide had a great sense of humor and the grounds were stunning. After the tour we headed down to a field we saw from the Rock and wandered through the ruins of Hore Abbey (unfortunate name) This was just sitting unattended in a field, no tour guides, no fences, just crumbling stones!
I, of course, was most interested in the friendly horses occupying the plot of land next to the ruins though.
The next stop on our journey was a long ride to Dingle, which turned out to be one of my favorite memories of the entire trip!
We arrived at the coastal town just as the storm clouds started to form. We found our B&B on a tiny cobblestone street (why is every Irish town so quiet?!) and dropped our bags in our new room. The view of the ocean from our third floor bedroom was incredible! We then hopped back in the car and headed to the Dingle Peninsula to take in the cliffs.
The storm hit us about halfway through the drive, with winds knocking our tiny car all over the road and rain coming down in sheets. I jumped out a few times to snap some pictures, and there were plenty of sheep sitting cliffside staring at me as I struggled against the wind. It was definitely worth it, as Irish cliffs tend to be stunning.
We turned back eventually and warmed up with more fish chowder at the local pub. A bit later we had the most delicious sea food dinner I can remember. We slept soundly that night and packed up again, this time for Galway.
When asked about where my ancestors were from in Ireland, it's easiest to say Galway, as that is the largest city near my great grandpa's farm, but to be honest, it's over an hour away! We used Galway as our last home base and traveled the surrounding area for the final part of our stay.
We rested for a moment at our new B&B (with an adorable dog and the most amazing breakfast!) then headed out. Unfortunately I don't have a photo, but our first meal in Galway was a modern take on Irish cuisine. Whatever I ordered came with a skinny asparagus-looking vegetable that was absolutely delicious. I asked the waitress what it was and she replied that it was firecracker seaweed! Apparently the Irish aren't afraid to eat sea vegetables either, I hope they're proud that I eat seaweed nearly every day now :)
We wandered the main shopping district of Galway where my mom purchased a proper silver claddagh ring at Thomas Dillon's, a famous jeweler, whereas I bought a 5 euro version at the farmers market (it might not be real silver, but it holds just as much memory!)
The next day we got in our car again went on an adventure that could surely only happen in Ireland.
With directions given to us from our very Irish relatives in Boston, we drove to a small town (whose name escapes me) with a grand total of one pub, one cafe, and enough boats for everyone living there. It was here that I found my first and only four leaf clover ever!
Our instructions were to go to this pub and at the end of the bar there would be an old man sitting there. He would point us in the right direction apparently. See what I mean? What kind of directions are these!?
Turns out, he must have done a good job because after what seemed like hours driving through empty bog, we saw a boulder with a red X spray painted on it, which is where we were meant to turn left. A bit later and we had arrived! The land my great grandpa left before crossing the Atlantic is now the home to three vacation rentals, but since no one seemed home, we wandered the lots.
The farm had reached all the way to the water and I spent some time climbing the rocks, realizing that living on western coasts is in my blood! We took plenty of photos for my family back home, and made the long trek back to Galway.
On one of our final days, we drove to the Cliffs of Moher, which is an absolute must-see. We grabbed an ice cream (with a flake bar stuck into it, yum!) and headed out to the windy cliffs. While I didn't see a single puffin, the view was incredible. It might be a hot tourist spot but it is certainly for a good reason (also there is wifi on the cliffs? yet i still cant get wifi to work in newark airport...)
From here I headed home, while my parents stayed a few days longer in Dublin. I wish I had more time to explore, and I certainly will be back! Thank you Ireland for treating me so kindly, I'll see you again soon!