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!