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Friday, 20 April 2012

Glac mé ar ais go hÉirinn

Ireland is probably the only country outside of my own that I have visited and immediately felt like I was at home. The people, the landscape and the atmosphere are all so warm and welcoming. Being in Ireland is much like being in the Canadian Maritimes. With having a mother from PEI and a father from Newfoundland, and also having spent eight years myself living in Nova Scotia, my time driving around Ireland reminded me so much of my childhood on the East Coast. 
The second you land in the country, you are greeted with great pubs, beer, and music that makes you want to dance. In fact, basically any corner you turn you can find a place that offers all of this! I remember someone telling me that James Joyce once said "A good puzzle would be to cross Dublin without passing a pub". I think this could be said for all of Ireland!! It seemed that no matter where we ended up driving in the country - even in very rural areas that had more sheep than people, you could still easily find a pub to sit and have a pint!
My journey to Ireland began with an overnight flight from Toronto to Dublin. The second we landed, the rain started (as I had expected it would!). However, the weather Gods were good to us during our time there. We only had one day of rain, and the sun shined the rest of the trip!!

Dublin was a great place to start the trip off! We did much sightseeing and pub stops. We toured the Guinness Brewery, drank beer on the 360 degree rooftop bar that overlooks the city, visited St. Stephen's Green (a beautiful park in the heart of the city), attended Riverdance at the Gaiety Theatre (amazing!!), and shopped on Grafton Street and also watched Street Performers perform magic tricks. We did a lot of walking throughout the city and also got lost a few times in our rent a car due to a broken GPS! We eventually had to resort to using maps (like the olden days haha). 
We stopped at some pretty neat pubs in Dublin. One was an old bank that was transformed into a bar ( It still has the vault and the screen displaying stock information. We took a cab back to the hotel that evening with a cab driver that had the thickest Irish accent I have ever heard.. and he actually said to me that my accent sounded so strange! ha!
360 Degree Rooftop bar

In front of the Gaiety Theatre
Dublin is a great city with lots to do and see. However, I don't think it tops the list for favourite places in Ireland (even though it does have a Tim Hortons!!!).
Our next stop was the village of Slane. Slane is a really quiet quaint little area in County Meath. It is a village that looks like it should be on a postcard. Slane was a quick stop to stretch our legs, and grab some lunch. We ate at a cute little restaurant with one of the best lunches I have EVER had. I ordered a lasagna and it came with a side of... fries!!? I've never seen this combination anywhere else, but I'm not complaining!! Lasagna + Fries = happy lunch time! After lunch we stopped at the Slane Castle and did some walking around (to burn off some of that hearty lunch). Slane Castle dates back to the 1700s. While it isn't one of the older castles in the country, it certainly has some interesting history.
"Slane is steeped in history and with the river Boyne flowing below the Castle, it has a mystical quality. The Hill of Slane, which overlooks the Castle, is where St. Patrick lit his paschal fire, following which he was summoned by the High King to Tara, and Ireland was subsequently converted to Christianity." (
Slane Village

Slane Castle
Next, we drove up the coast to visit Monaghan which is near Northern Ireland. Monaghan is where my Mother's Grandparents came from, so it was really neat to visit this area. My family that came from this area are Murphys. The first Murphy sign I saw I became really excited and wondered if maybe we were somehow related!! I soon realized that pretty much every second person in Ireland is a Murphy!
While in Monaghan, we stopped for a bite to eat and had a visit to the church in town. 
From Monoghan we continued on driving across the country. Our next destination was Galway! Galway was my favourite city visited in Ireland. There are lots of cozy little pubs and restaurants right along the bay. Something about Galway just felt so much like what you expect Ireland to be like.
Galway Bay

After spending a night in Galway, we made our way down the coast and along the beautiful green countryside. We visited the Burren in County Clare and after a long drive up some pretty narrow steep roads, we eventually came to the National Park. Here we walked through some ancient burial grounds. Much of the land here is limestone, it almost looks as if the whole area has been paved.
Poulnabrone Portal Tomb

Cliffs of Moher
Next on the list was the Cliffs of Moher (another favourite). Quite a few movies have had scenes shot here and after seeing the cliff's beauty in person, it is no wonder it is such a famous and popular spot in Ireland. There are some great trails on top of the cliffs, however there are signs warning tourists not to get too close to the edge as the wind has blown people over the edge throughout the years. Being somewhat afraid of heights, this wasn't an issue for me as I wasn't getting anywhere near that edge!!

Cliffs of Moher
Connor's Pass
Before heading South, the final area visited was a beautiful drive along Connor's Pass in County Kerry. This had to have been my all time favourite part of the country (despite the somewhat scary winding roads on the cliffs edge with no guard rail - annnnd some crazy drivers). The view was spectacular. There were cliffs on one side and small lakes dotting the land. On the side of the cliffs were sheep climbing around and the odd waterfall here and there. Driving around such a beautiful area of the country while listening to Irish music felt like a big tick off of my bucketlist! 

Connor's Pass

Killarney and Cork
A short time later we were in Killarney! After some more sightseeing and a night spent in the town, we made our way on to Cork. While here I stayed with the wonderful Barrys in their village called Grenagh. This was truly a village straight from a scene in a movie like Ps. I Love You. Everything was so green and beautiful. Cows and sheep dotted the farm lands. Everyone seemed to know one another and were so friendly! A few nights out at the local pub (The Village Inn) and my time in Ireland was soon coming to an end. Before leaving Cork we spent a day at the Blarney Castle (with the famous Blarney Stone) and also spent some time touring Cork City. 
Blarney Castle Grounds



Before I knew it, it was time to make our way back to Dublin. One last night in Dublin and a stay at a really beautiful castle turned hotel and it was time to say Goodbye to Ireland (and hopefully see you again someday!). 
Radisson Blu St. Helen's Hotel - Dublin

Westwood House Hotel - Galway

Killarney Plaza and Spa Hotel - Killarney

Clontarf Castle Hotel - Dublin
These are the hotels stayed at during my time in Ireland. The Radisson Blu was absolutely my favourite hotel that I have ever stayed in. I would definitely recommend it for anyone who is ever in Dublin!

Coming soon ... my third choice for my top three countries!

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