"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?