Hey guys! Remember that one time I went to Ireland and Scotland?! I'm sure you all remember following along on my Instagram just like it was yesterday. Well believe it or not, it was just about TWO months ago and it definitely doesn't feel like yesterday. It feels like a lifetime ago! A beautiful lifetime ago nevertheless.
Ireland and Scotland are absolutely beautiful destinations. Sure, we visited during the rainy and cold months but honestly it was intentional. We were visiting places known for their beautiful landscape and greenery and what better time to see green than during the rainy season?
Before we dive in let me apologize for the tardiness of this post. As I mentioned, it has been about two months since we left for our European excursion and far too long since I've posted in general let alone about this epic adventure.
To be honest from the moment we returned to America every single day (during the week and on the weekend) has been jam packed. From work activations to travel, April was an absolute blur and now I find myself sitting in May able to catch my breath. Finally.
As I've done in the past, I'm going to write two separate posts, one for each city. We covered a lot of ground in both Ireland and Scotland and they definitely each deserve their own post.
Being that Ireland was the first destination, I'm going to start there.
We left LA in the afternoon on March 13th. We flew Virgin America to London before getting on another quick Aer Lingus flight to take us to our final destination - Dublin.
During our research for this trip we saw a decent amount of people recommend renting a car so we followed suit. It was also a pleasant surprise how reasonable it was to rent a car for about 10 days.
Somehow we got coaxed into going up a level since the car we originally rented didn't have much trunk space or much space in general so we found ourselves picking up our BMW in the parking lot and heading to the hotel in the city.
In chatting with people since I've been back, plenty have asked about driving over in Ireland and Scotland. Yes, they both drive on the left side of the road and yes it is weird but honestly not as hard as you would think. Adam drove most of the time but when I did find myself on the driver's side of the car, I was pleasantly surprised how quickly I adjusted. The one thing I will say is weird is the amount of roundabouts! It's honestly so crazy. Cue the GPS saying "In one mile take the second exit at the roundabout," then "In five miles take the fourth exit at the round about." I'm not kidding, I've never seen anything like it!
While I'm normally an Air BnB kind of gal, we chose to stay in a Hotel in Ireland for a few reasons. First being, Adam had some Hilton points we were able to use. Second, free breakfast. I mean, duh. Third, it was quite a busy time in the city (St. Patrick's day remember), so cute Air BnB's weren't as plentiful as normal.
After making it to our hotel that first day, we definitely passed out for a bit before waking up and deciding it was probably a good idea to get some food in our stomachs. We walked to a local grocery store, picked up some supplies and came back to the hotel to enjoy an early dinner before falling asleep for the evening.
As you're about to see firsthand, Ireland's itinerary was jam-packed! We definitely took advantage of having a car.
On day one we left the hotel early in the morning and headed toward our first destination, Kilkenny. There we saw our first castle in Ireland, Kilkenny Castle, and experienced one of the most popular Irish gift stores, Carroll's Irish Gifts. Literally every Irish souvenir your heart could desire.
Kilkenny was a quaint little town and not too bustling with tourists which we appreciated.
From there we drove to Waterford to check out the home of Waterford Crystal. While we opted out of the official tour, we walked through the gift shop and were able to admire the beauty of the birthplace of Waterford Crystal just as much.
Waterford was a bit bigger than Kilkenny and being that it's a port town it was certainly a lot busier. We didn't spend too much time here but I would definitely recommend making it a stop in your itinerary simply because of the home of all the beautiful crystal.
We had lots more to see in our day so we kept it moving from Waterford and drove to the Blarney Castle so we could, you guessed it, kiss the Blarney Stone! Two castles in one day! Only in Europe man. It was an overcast and gloomy day which made the scenery at The Blarney Castle picturesque. It's a large property with the castle situated toward the back atop a hill. We wandered the premises, checking out the secret underground caves, flower gardens and poisonous herb gardens (yes, you read that correctly) before visiting the main castle.
I didn't realize that the Blarney Stone is at the top of the Blarney Castle. Makes sense I guess but for some reason I always envisioned it to be on the side of the road somewhere in Ireland. Well, we braved the narrow staircase and made our way to the top of the castle to kiss the stone.
Friends, let me be the one to tell you, kissing the Blarney Stone is not a walk in the park. In fact, I forced Adam to do it first because I was so scared. You have to lean backward over this opening that you could 100% fall through to your untimely death on the ground below. It's not super high up but high up enough to do some damage that's for sure. Also, it was raining on and off that day so the mat that I was perched on did not give me the confidence I was looking for in that moment of bravery. Nevertheless I did it and yes I got the pictures to prove it. Thank God.
After Blarney we made our way to Cork which was probably the most bustling city of the day. We grabbed some fish and chips at the local joint and walked around St. Patrick's Street, a popular shopping destination, before realizing we need to start making the trek back to the hotel. Day one was complete and we were absolutely exhausted, and pretty sick of driving not going to lie.
Day 1 Walking Distance - 5.2 miles (13,878 steps); Driving Distance - 330 miles
Good news was, day two had just as much, if not more driving planned. HAH! Day two was a very special day however because it was the day we were going to visit the world-renowned, Cliffs of Moher. My friend Chelsea told me prior to leaving for Ireland, "be prepared to be colder than you've ever been in your life," referencing the Cliffs, and boy was she right. From the moment we parked and got out of the car, I knew she was right.
The Cliffs were extremely busy. I imagine there's not a day that they aren't busy though. I was just glad that there was visibility that day. No fog, no rain, just a whole lot of wind.
There's this one area that you have to walk through to get from one vantage point to another that has cones around it indicating that it's essentially a "danger zone." Each time we passed through that area I had to mentally prepare to cross through the extreme wind tunnel where you're being pelted by water shooting up from the cliffs below. It was wild.
Honestly I lost feeling in my face pretty early on and while I knew tears were running down my face and my makeup was an absolute mess, I really couldn't feel a thing. Nevertheless, the Cliffs are absolutely beautiful. Talk about a natural wonder. You find yourself standing at the edge, gazing on in absolute awe of their beauty and wonder.
We spent longer at the Cliffs than I would have imagined, given the frigid conditions, but I found myself not wanting to leave. It truly felt like a once in a lifetime opportunity and I wanted to soak up every ounce of it.
The drive to and from the Cliffs is a bit treacherous as the roads are rather narrow and people seem to disregard that fact, still zipping along like they're on a highway. Unfortunately we weren't quite as comfortable on the narrow country roads so the trek took us a bit longer.
The Cliffs were a three hour drive outside of Dublin and we passed through quite a few little towns we decided to stop at on the way back to the city.
Galway was our destination of choice and honestly probably my favorite city we explored. It started raining a bit while we were there but we enjoyed ourselves nevertheless. It was another port town, those are obviously pretty common in Ireland, but also had lots to explore within a short radius.
We dined at Trattoria Magnetti, an Italian place along Quay Street which was quite delicious and allowed us to escape the cold briefly while refueling. Quay Street was so fun and lined with lots of tourist shops including the Aran Sweater Market which featured hundreds of traditional Aran Sweaters and goods.
Quay Street is also home to Thomas Dillon's which claims to be the original makers of the classic Irish Claddagh Ring. The shop was established in 1750 and still stands in all its glory to this very day. It has a back room which houses some old photographs, letters and memorabilia dating back to its early days. While I didn't buy anything, I enjoyed looking at the variety of Irish jewelry and would highly recommend Thomas Dillon's.
We grabbed a cup of coffee at Coffeewerk + Press before deciding to escape the rain and head back to the hotel for the night.
Day 2 Walking and Running Distance: 7.3 miles (15,078 steps) - I did go for a 3 mile run at the gym this day; Driving Miles - 407
The third day was our first day being in Dublin. We didn't have a whole lot planned but were excited to walk around and explore the city. First stop was breakfast which came as a recommendation. We walked to Nut Butter which was less than two miles from the hotel. I am not surprised that the creator was inspired by his travels to Los Angeles as the place was very Instagrammable and had all the acai bowls and avocado toast an LA girl could dream of.
From there we walked to Grafton Street which was a great shopping destination. It's right next to St. Stephen's Green which is a large, public park in Dublin. We walked through the park to get to our tour at the Guinness Storehouse across town. Definitely got plenty of steps in that day.
Unfortunately we arrived too early for our tour and while we were hoping to escape the miserable weather that day, we had to find a cafe to kill some time before our tour officially began at 3pm.
We found ourselves at Legit Coffee Co. which was an awesome little coffee shop with major hipster vibes. I found myself getting very sleepy the second I sat down to enjoy my latte and struggled to stay awake while we patiently awaited time to pass by so we could go back to Guinness for our tour.
Guinness was incredible! First of all it's like 10 floors and has tons of memorabilia, fun facts, advertisements, you name it, of Guinness through the years. It's a self-guided tour which was great because it could be as long or as short as you wanted it to be.
We made our way through all the floors, enjoyed a tasting on one and had a tall cold glass of Guinness at the very top on the glass observation deck called the Gravity Bar. The most beautiful views of the city you could imagine, despite it being overcast and gloomy. Also, I don't know that I would recommend visiting Guinness on St. Patrick's Day weekend. It was crowded like you wouldn't believe.
A couple hours came and went inside the storehouse and we decided it was time to venture back into the cold. We stopped at Temple Bar along the way home which was equally crowded with people, snapped a few photos and braved the cold as we walked back to the hotel.
There was a fun traditional Irish pub across the street from our hotel where we decided to grab some dinner and watch the Rugby Match that evening. I will admit, eating was very difficult for me on this trip. Visiting a meat and potatoes kind of place is no easy task for this health-conscious Pescatarian.
Day 3 Walking Distance - 9.6 miles (22,688 steps)
DAY 4 - St. Patrick's Day!
St. Patrick's Day! The moment we'd all been waiting for. It was nice not having to be out and about early which meant we were able to sleep in and take our time getting ready. Once we left the hotel we followed the crowd to watch the parade. The parade itself wasn't anything special but it was really cool to be able to be in Dublin on St. Patrick's Day with thousands of other people, faces painted and everything. Definitely a bucket list kind of thing.
After the parade, we met up with some of my friends from high school who also happened to be in Dublin at the same time. Talk about small world! We went to Fitzsimons bar which was absolutely PACKED with Americans. They had live music and plenty of underaged Americans to boot. You could tell that that area we were in was just filled with study abroad students and not a single native Irish person. It was quite entertaining.
We bar hopped around the city before calling it a night and heading back to the hotel to prepare for our departure the next morning to...Scotland!
Day 4 Walking Distance - 6.2 miles (13,619 steps)
Overall, Ireland was absolutely beautiful. I without a doubt recommend renting a car as honestly the best parts of the entire trip were the things we saw driving outside of the city. The countryside is so magical, something out of a fairy tale, and you really don't get to experience that if you stay in Dublin the entire time.
Dublin was great to stay in because the walkability from our hotel was really convenient and it felt just like any normal city in the US. It was definitely a very interesting time to be in Dublin as it was particularly touristy, as expected given the fact that it was St. Patrick's week, and I could definitely understand why people think Americans are the most annoying tourists. Let me tell you, we really can be.
Next stop...Edinburgh, Scotland!
(Originally Published May 5, 2019)