As we prepared for our ~four months living in Connecticut, my natural instinct was to identify any and all possible weekend trips we could take. CT sits in an ideal location to access all of New England, but why stop there? Being at the east coast, an international trip became a very real possibility - so when a flight deal presented itself, we took advantage of it! *Shout out to Aer Lingus ILY*
We left from Hartford's BDL airport on a nonstop Wednesday night flight to Dublin, Ireland. From the moment our feet touched the ground on Thursday morning, we didn't stop wandering and exploring throughout Ireland and Northern Ireland. Here's our fast travel itinerary:
Day 1: Cross-Country Road Trip: Dublin > Limerick > Cliffs of Moher > Galway > Dublin
Upon arriving to Dublin, we hopped into a rental car and started on a road trip traveling west across the country of Ireland. Our first stop was Limerick, Ireland. A cozy town full of rich history, we found Limerick to be quiet and quaint. We walked along the outskirts of King John's Castle, St. Mary's Cathedral, and the Bishop's Palace. Next, we crossed the Thomond Bridge to see the Treaty Stone, and wandered along the River Shannon to circle back across the Sarsfield Bridge. After a mini stroll through downtown we ended at the Locke Bar for brunch - a fun spot for us because it's my married name!
After our morning in Limerick, we continued to the west coast to visit the Cliffs of Moher, a historic landmark and one of the most famous sites in Ireland. Stretching five miles long, the cliffs are majestic and such a grand example of the beauty of Ireland. We spent time admiring the cliffs from a variety of viewpoints, and got lucky with such a beautiful (albeit freezing), clear day!
Starting our loop back east, we headed just slightly north to visit the famous city of Galway, Ireland. *cue Ed Sheeran's Galway Girl*
Slightly pressed for time, we grabbed a quick lunch and took a walk through downtown Galway, taking in the hustle and bustle of the shops, the holiday lights, and the Irish folk preparing for a weekend of merriment. Galway was lively and loud, and I'd love to go back to spend more time in the city - but was happy to experience it, even if only for a few hours!
From Galway we drove eastward all the way back to Dublin to return our rental car and check into our Airbnb. Exhausted, but accomplished, we called it a night!
Day 2: Dublin Day
After such a busy first day traveling all over Ireland, we spent our Friday enjoying the city of Dublin. Some of the main sights to see we had already experienced on a previous weekend trip to Ireland, so this day was a bit more relaxed and also involved getting some souvenirs in the form of tattoos (!).
We did repeat one activity from our last time in Dublin - a visit to the Guinness Storehouse. While we're not really stout drinkers, visiting Guinness provides you with a cultural connection to a proud local yet global organization, and panoramic view of Dublin from the Gravity Bar. This time I also partook in the Guinness Academy to learn how to craft the perfect pour - and it was a success!
A new add-on option to our Guinness ticket was a visit to Roe and Co - a whiskey distillery housed in the old Guinness Power House just across the street. We weren't sure what to expect, but were greeted by such friendly staff right away and led through the gift shop to the bar area for drinks. Roe and Co is absolutely gorgeous inside, with an old school slightly tropic vibe that is a stark difference to that of Guinness. Although the only spirit of choice was Roe and Co whiskey, the menu offered a variety of cocktails based on the five basic tastes: sweet, bitter, sour, salty, and umami. The menu is designed like a manual and the cocktails are named after job roles from when the facility was a power house. A 10/10 experience that I highly recommend!
Later in the evening, we met up with friends from college for dinner, then drinks in Dublin's Grafton Quarter.
Day 3: Day Trip from Dublin to Belfast
Though the majority of us traveling together had been to Ireland before, something new we experienced on this trip was a day trip to Belfast in Northern Ireland. If you're not familiar, Northern Ireland is indeed north of Ireland, but it's more than that - it's a completely different country, governed differently, uses different money, etc. though its history is intertwined. The entire island used to be one, but decades of political, religious, and territorial differences led to the separation. Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom, just like Wales, Scotland, and England. Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland and Dublin is the capital of the Republic of Ireland. In the last decade, Belfast has seen an increase in tourism, and we were eager to be a part of it!
It was easy to take a train from Dublin to Belfast, and the journey only took about two hours. Upon arriving to Belfast, we explored St. George's Market, busy on the weekends and full of vendors selling food, handmade crafts, and touristy goods. Continuing on to City Hall, we found ourselves at the very first day of the Belfast Christmas market. Our willpower was strong as we meandered through the vendor booths without buying anything - to be honest, I loved the flowers, plants, wreaths, and decorative greenery, but they wouldn't have traveled well!
A few of the other spots we visited in the city were Victoria Square, Pottinger's Entry, the Albert Memorial Clock, and the Salmon of Knowledge (also known as the Big Fish).
We crossed the Lagan Weir and walked along the River Lagan to one of the highlights of our day - the Titanic Museum. Did you know that the Titanic was built in Belfast? We noticed some sassy signage in town touching on the quality build of the ship ("She was fine when she left here.") but the museum offered an inside look at the life of people in Belfast at the time, the various steps of design, production, and promotion of the ship, and the infamous journey that took place after she departed from the Harland and Wolff shipyard.
While it was a somber experience visiting the museum, we were glad to understand more of the history behind the construction of the ship, and the museum itself was incredibly beautiful. Each exhibit was thorough and interactive in some way - it was easy to spend a few hours there!
After a smooth 2-hour ride back to Dublin, we dined at Sova Vegan Butcher and had drinks in the Temple Bar area.
Day 4 - Morning walk in Dublin + fly home
Our flight back to the US was in the late afternoon, so we had just enough time to take another walk around Dublin and through the Grafton Quarter to grab a breakfast snack, check out the street art/murals, and visit a few shops.
Though our trip was short, it was so sweet! I will ALWAYS say - if you have the opportunity to visit a place even just for a few days, it's always better than not at all.
- - - Thanks to Steven Dalton Photography for some of the photos included in this post!
"May the road rise to meet you. May the wind always be at your back... "
Is it better to visit a faraway place for only a day or two, or not visit at all? In my opinion, every trip is worthwhile. Sometimes you can’t stay for long, but at least you went to stay.
A few weeks ago I spent a weekend in Ireland, and it was so lovely. I had never been to the Emerald Isle, and it did not disappoint. My fiancé and I had to be in Barcelona, Spain on a Monday, so we decided to leave the U.S. on Friday night and make a short stop in Dublin.
Here I’m sharing notes about my trip and all of the things that we managed to do in just two days. I hope this will give you a perspective of Ireland if you don’t already have one, and some inspiration to visit, even if just for a few days.
Saturday // We arrived to Dublin around 10:30 AM local time on Saturday. Upon arrival we took the 747 bus, which is convenient for most hotel or hostel locations around the city. We stayed at the Trinity City Hotel, near Trinity College. The eccentric décor was charming and the location was perfect.
Knowing that we didn’t have too much time, we dropped our bags and headed to lunch with friends who were also in Dublin. Our pub of choice was Slattery’s Bar and I went straight for the fish and chips with a pint of Guinness. After lunch, a quick stop at an Insomnia Coffee fueled the rest of our afternoon. We opted to take the Dublin Bus Hop-On Hop-Off Tour (the green buses). A hop-on, hop-off bus tour might seem touristy (because it is), but it’s also a great way to see any city in a limited amount of time. You’ll hit all of the main attractions with the option to check them out from the bus, or get out and explore further. Most of these types of tours play a recording, which explains historical events and shares fun facts about what you’re seeing along the way. We got lucky on our Dublin tour – the bus driver offered a live commentary the entire way. He was hilarious, and he really made the tour so much fun.
On the tour we learned that O’Connell Bridge is more wide than it is long, we saw where Oscar Wilde was born, and we learned that the original "Leo the Lion" who roars before MGM films was born in the Dublin Zoo, one of the oldest zoos. But it wasn’t just about the textbook facts or even the fun facts – we also got a cultural lesson during the tour. Our guide explained that in Dublin there are Northsiders and Southsiders – local terminology for people who are born on either side of the River Liffey, and who have jokes and rivalries with one another. During the tour we also drove past a concert at the Museum of Modern Art and saw a lot of police officers outside. Here we learned that most of the police force in Dublin is unarmed.
We only made a few stops along the way, sticking on the route because the tour guide was so amazing, and because we had limited time. We did decide to get off the bus at the Guinness Storehouse. An incredible 7-level facility, it was 100% worth it to spend the ~$20 to go inside. We opted for a self-guided tour through the levels, up to the Gravity Bar at the top, which boasted an incredible view of Dublin through glass walls all the way around. Our entry fee included a pint of Guinness from the Gravity Bar, and it was probably the best Guinness I’ll ever have.
Later that night we took a walk through the Temple Bar area before going to the Oval Bar, where we ate Irish stew and beef and Guinness pie.
Sunday // For our second day in Ireland, we decided to see more than just Dublin. We signed up for a day trip to the Cliffs of Moher through Extreme Ireland / Irish Day Tours. (Tip: We signed up ahead of time, and our tour ended up being very full. Sign up online a few weeks before, if you can.)
We met early in the morning in Dublin and drove until we made a quick stop in Moneygall. We continued on, passing the River Shannon, which divides the west and the east, while getting a lesson in Irish history from our guide, Jennifer. She explained Celtic passage graves, the Iron Age, trade with the Romans, and the way Irish words are structured and what certain prefixes mean. I loved being able to take everything in while admiring the beautiful green and fertile Irish countryside. Shout out to our bus driver, Larry, too!
When we arrived to the Cliffs of Moher we were given an hour and a half to explore, which sounds like a lot of time, but we could have stayed forever. You can choose to pursue the left or right side walking path, but the right side leads to an area where you can walk beyond the fence and continue to explore. So that’s what we did! We were fortunate that the weather was in our favor that day – not too cold, and no rain. The cliffs are incredible to see in photos but even more breathtaking in real life. The way they drop off into the ocean is dramatic and demanding. To be on the edge is a thrill but not one to be taken lightly. If you are visiting Ireland, even just for a few days, a trip to the Cliffs of Moher should be on your list!
Next we traveled to nearby Doolin for lunch at McGann’s Pub. The pub was charming and the company was delightful. We sat with a woman from Sweden, sharing travel tales and thoughts about our favorite places. Continuing on our journey back to Dublin, we made another pit stop in the Burren, a barren area consisting of limestone rock, also overlooking the water. It was incredible to see so much limestone rock in one place. Back on the bus, we drove along Galway Bay, making another stop at the Corcomroe Abbey, and a final major stop in Kinvara. Kinvara was a sweet sea port town with colorful buildings, cute shops, and hidden treasures.
I really liked that this tour took us to so many places and exposed us to so much, even in just one day. We arrived back to Dublin around 7 pm – a 12-hour day well spent.
Back in Dublin, we ate dinner at The Porterhouse Central. We tried a flight of beer – Chiller, Temple Brau, and Dublin Pale Ale. The food was delicious and we enjoyed getting a taste of some craft beers in Ireland. After a long day, it was back to the hotel bar for a drink before packing up for our early flight to Barcelona in the morning.
Our trip to Dublin was jam-packed with history, great food, good beer, and memories that I will never forget. The people were so friendly and helpful, and the landscape was awe-inspiring. I look forward to visiting Dublin and Ireland again someday, even if just for day.
Where will you explore this weekend?