I really loved my time in Ireland with my family, but I feel like there were a lot of lessons learned with what to do and with not what to do… to the point where I know I’ll go back to Ireland to really experience the best of it!
Antrim Coast Highway. A MUST DO. It really is the jewel of Ireland. And its so much fun to roadtrip! Do not try to go up to big sights, like Giant’s Causeway, without taking the longer seaside route. The waves crashing on the craggy cliffs, the tiny seaside getaways, the frothy blue water… its so gorgeous! From there, you can also drive through the hilly 7 glens that make up iconic Irish landscape, including the purple heather, the grassy hills, the mossy rocks, and the overcast sky. All the big sites are fairly close together, and these are a few of the best ones:
- Giant’s Causeway. An obvious one. But what makes it even more special than the science behind the basalt pillars is its legend. What I feel like no one talks about when they visit Giant’s Causeway is that you have to walk downhill along a road to get there! So make sure to dedicate a chunk of time to get the full experience.
- Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. This also is about a 30 minute hike to get down there so make sure you have enough time to really enjoy it! The waves crashing against the tiny island that connects the bridge is breathtaking. From the lookout, to the right, there is the headland Fairhead. It also gets its name from an old legend. Our guide told it something like this:
A beautiful fair-headed girl once lived in a castle on Rathlin Island. She had many suitors, leading to a fight between two of them, who were brothers. When one of the brothers figured that she wouldn’t have him, he didn’t want anyone to have her. At a feast his father set up for his sons and the girl, he whispered to his servant to dance with the girl on the cliffs below the castle. The faithful servant obeyed, and danced nearer and nearer the edge of the cliff. The servant pushed her over, but she grabbed him as she was falling and they both fell to their deaths. The frothy water were the waves crash against the headland is said to be her beautiful blonde hair, hence ‘Fairhead’.
- Dunlunce Castle. A crumbling ruins of a castle that has an incredible view out towards the sea. Seems like a very romantic spot (*cough cough* Leap Year moment).
- Dark Hedges. Beautiful beech trees that are 400 years old. They used to line a lane that led to a mansion that’s been long gone since. They intertwine, forming a tunnel, and make a stunning walk down the road.
I would really recommend this type of trip as a couple’s trip in your 20s. It seems very tailored to energetic hikers and brave people who are willing to try driving on the left side of small, windy roads. Next time I go, I would like to rent a car and drive myself to keep it more private and can stop whenever I’d like. For those of you who prefer to not drive, Paddy Campbell’s Belfast Famous Black Cab Tours is PERFECT. They tailor the tour to what you’d like to see, have very knowledge cab drivers who give the tours and tell legends, and you can fully enjoy the ride when you don’t have to worry about driving.
Belfast. A don’t. I wouldn’t recommend spending much time here. Pretty much all there is to do is take a tour of the wall murals, a tour of learning about the Troubles, and the Titanic Museum. Belfast has a very scary and violent past with the 30 year conflict between the Protestants and Catholics that ended in 1998.
Dublin. A do, if you do it right! We did a wonderful self-guided walking tour from JetSetting Fools. I did some research outside of walk, and it really does have all the best spots to see in Dublin. Make sure to download their link to Google Maps so you can get from place to place. A few notes to add about the walk:
- The library that houses the Book of Kells at Trinity College is a very grand and elegant library (think Belle in Beauty and the Beast!).
- The best of Temple Bar is NOT along the River. Explore the cobblestone streets in the back of that area to see the cutest pubs! This area is easily the best of Dublin.
Hope this helps to anyone who plans on going to Ireland!