October 12, 2015 | By Ali Moffitt
If your favorite color is green, or if you enjoy beer and comfort food, I highly recommend you go to Ireland. I had been wanting to go to Ireland for several years, as my family heritage links me back to the country. The landscape, the friendliness of the people, and the overall good times had by all, enhanced my trip to be one of the best vacations I have ever taken.
When thinking about traveling within Ireland you can explore three ways — in a group on a motor coach, independently and renting a car, or hiring a private driver and guide to take you all over Ireland. We decided on the group tour for our first trip to Ireland. We wanted to have our minds on autopilot and be able to relax, and we definitely did relax although we were busy seeing the sights! We flew in the day the tour started. I highly recommend you fly in a day before the tour starts due to the unpredictability of the airlines these days.
We had to fly in the day of due to my husband’s schedule. We flew into Dublin on a Sunday and arrived around 6:45 am. It was a short flight from Charlotte, NC airport, around 6.5 hours. The streets of Dublin are very quiet on a Sunday morning as the city is a lively place on Saturday night. We had the city to ourselves. We dropped our bags off at the hotel and proceeded to the Guinness factory where we had made reservations prior to arriving in Dublin. The factory is beyond amazing and covers a vast amount of square footage. There are around 7 floors to the museum and the top floor was the most special floor with a Guinness bar and pouring class and the spectacular panoramic views of the city of Dublin. After the Guinness factory and our tasting of the wonderful Guinness beer, we proceeded to the Jameson whiskey factory by a horse and buggy. While the Jameson factory was impressive, I enjoyed the Guinness tour over the Jameson tour. This might be due to the fact that I would rather have a beer than a shot of Irish whiskey. Although the Irish whiskey was so much more smooth than the American whiskey or Scotch whiskey. After our libations, we headed back to the hotel to check in and get ready for dinner.
The first day we started our southern tour of Ireland with a visit to the Irish National Stud farm in Kildare where we could see the magnificent thoroughbreds. There were also mini horses and ponies for us to see. The grounds were lovely and the weather was great. Our dates of travel were June 27 to July 4th so we had outstanding weather the whole time. All of the natives thought it to be hot outside and it was a mild 80 degrees Farenheit, which is definitely a lot cooler than the 95 degree summers we are used to in Alabama. After the Irish National Stud farm we moved on to the Rock of Cashel where we viewed our first Irish castle. The views were panoramic and it is definitely worth the walk up to view the Irish countryside. We also had our first Irish lunch at a pub in Cashel. We were treated like family and felt like we were at home with the hospitality. I enjoyed the fish and chips while my husband enjoyed a turkey and dressing sandwich with chips. Our first Irish pub meal. Of course, accompanied with a Guinness. The evening was sort of a gamble on our activities. We decided the town of Ennis did not have much going on so we went with the tour to the Bunratty Castle. I am not much of a touristy type, so it was not my cup of tea. We did, however, discover Meade, which is a drink in Ireland which tasted like apple cider and beer together. The Bunratty Castle had the Meade flowing and we had dinner and a show. The dinner did require you eat with your hands which was definitely fun to do!
I knew day three was going to be my favorite. I had been dying to see the Cliffs of Moher for years and June 30th was the day! The Cliffs of Moher drop 668 feet to the Clare Coast. The weather was perfect and the views were stunning. You could hear the waves crashing against the rocks. As you walk to the top you should continue to look at the views. At the top, it is quite windy so hold onto your hats! I took some of my favorite pictures ever on top of the Cliffs of Moher. We passed through the busy city of Galway on our way to Rathbaun Farm. The sheep loved me and we had a lot of fun getting them to bahhhhh. The farmer showed us how to maneuver a flock with the help of a sheep dog, and he also sheered a sheep. If you are lucky, he will let you feed a lamb, which I did get to do! After visiting with the sheep, we continued onto the 150-year old thatched farmhouse for some tea and a scone. The scones were to die for and it was my first time to have a scone with jam! Delicious!
Day four included a lot of riding in the motor coach. We were mentally prepared to sit all day. The day consisted of a ferry ride to see the Ring of Kerry. It was an overcast day with some light drizzle rain. The views were outstanding especially as the sun was peaking out through the clouds. After the Ring of Kerry we toured the Muckross House and the Gardens. It was like stepping back in time. The Gardens are lovely as well and are not too overwhelming. Our hotel that night was in Killarney where I would have liked to stay longer. We went to the oldest pub in Killarney called Courtney’s. The Irish coffee was scrumptious.
On the return trip we were headed back to Dublin. We drove from Killarney to Blarney where there is the Blarney Castle with the Kissing Stone. The line was too long for us to kiss the stone so we toured the gardens and of course, grabbed a pint! Onto the city of Waterford which is where Waterford Crystal was found. The crystal is mesmerizing, and the prices are reasonable. If you would like any crystal you should buy it there, and they will ship it home for you. On this evening we went to an Irish pub which had a local musician who sang us traditional Irish songs. This was one of the unexpected highlights of the trip.
On our final day of the tour we went to Avoca, the hand-weaving mill. They had an amazing store where you could buy local scarfs, sweaters, etc for gifts or for yourself! We then arrived back in Dublin where we went to the Marker to their rooftop bar for drinks and appetizers. The view was again panoramic and the service was exceptional. On our way out there was a movie being filmed with Pierce Brosnan in it so that was exciting as well!
All in all, Ireland is a great destination to vacation. It opens your eyes up to life on a farm as well as how far the world has come from the old world. The Irish people have extreme hospitality to the visitors and want you to come back! We are definitely going to go back, and next time we will play golf and self-drive to castles and golf courses! I highly recommend Ireland as a top ten destination to visit in the world.