Ireland, a fairytale land of myth, beauty and music! It had been a dream of mine to visit Ireland ever since childhood, since some of my favourite bands & artists were Irish! I grew up idolizing these people and wanted to get a glimpse into their life, their home and their world which they spoke so much about.
It took me a while to make this dream come true, but doing a road trip across Ireland for my 30th birthday was the best gift I could ever give myself. Ireland was so much more than I had hoped for and I got to have some very interesting experiences that were completely unexpected!
I did a 2 week road trip across the Republic of Ireland as well as Northern Ireland. I’m highlighting all the main towns & cities I visited along with a short description of some of the places I visited/experienced along the way.
We entered Ireland by sea from England. The ferry docked at Dublin and we stayed there overnight out of convenience. The next day we started our road trip and set out to Waterford.
The distance from Dublin to Waterford is roughly 180km but a lot also depends on the route you take. We wanted to do all the sightseeing we could enroute – so we took the scenic coastal route and went through the pretty Wicklow Mountains. Some of the stops along the way were Powerscourt House & Gardens, Glendalough and Avoca Village. All worth it!
We spent 1 night at Waterford and explored the town on the second day. You should definitely check out the House of Waterford Crystals as that is what this town is famous for – it’s lovely crystals! It’s worth going even if you don’t want to spend too much – I picked up a gorgeous crystal vase for about 50 euros.
Kinsale, Cork County
After spending the morning checking out some local spots at Waterford, we set off for Kinsale, at a distance of around 160 km. Once again we took the coastal route (known as the Wild Atlantic Way) and passed by some spectacular scenes!
Enroute we stopped at Cobh, a very pretty small town! It is great for lunching and a spot of shopping. Interestingly, Cobh was the Titanic’s last port of call.
We reached Kinsale by evening and explored the town on foot. This was one of my favourite towns! It had a beautiful harbor thriving with tourists, cafes, boats and birds! I got some really picture perfect clicks! I wouldn’t have minded spending another day just relaxing by its beautiful views, but we had a set itinerary and it was time to move to greener pastures the next day!
Killarney, County Kerry
We started the day visiting Charles Fort which was quite fun as it gave us time to go a little crazy with pictures! The best part about it was that it was virtually empty and we could take long shots with no one peeping into the frame!
But the highlight of the day was Blarney Castle! We spent a long time in the queue (I think about 2 hours) to finally reach the top of the castle, all just to kiss a damn stone for a few seconds! But I got a childish kick doing it and loved the experience! The grounds are also quite pretty and you can easily spend half a day here.
We also saw some other castles and sightseeing places along the way. We reached Killarney by late evening – just in time to freshen up and have a quick walk around the town. We caught some live music acts at a local pub, ate to our hearts content.
We spent 2 nights at Kerry and the second day was mostly going around the Ring of Kerry and soaking in all its amazing scenery!! We also visited other local sightseeing places we had missed the previous day.
All around Ireland’s countryside you will see plenty of sheep and farm animals just wandering about freely. That’s because there are no wild animals here! Also, the rounding of the sheep by the sheepdog is something you must see! I’ll shamelessly admit that we got a free show when we were going around the Ring of Kerry and managed to sight 3 dogs rounding up the sheep. We had a slightly far off view – but it was still pretty cool!
We were now almost half-way through our trip and had travelled from the east of Ireland (Dublin) towards the west (Galway), having finished a lot of the destinations down south.
The most important stop you HAVE to make while doing this trip is the Cliffs of Moher. What a fascinating sight! The cliffs are really gorgeous! It’s also quite a walk all the way to a little house/castle at one end of the cliffs – which is supposedly a view point.
Here’s a tip for you – We went in the month of August and we paid the entrance fee to get the ‘view’ from the top of the view point — but it was a huge disappointment. Mainly because when we went up to the top of the tower, it was full of insects that all our pictures came out unclear! Not sure if it was something to do with the weather in August or the cliffs in general, but we experienced a storm of bugs only here! But apart from this one hitch, the view was beautiful!
Galway is a University town and we didn’t explore it too much (missed out on it!). We stayed at Salthill which is in the outskirts and just visited the beautiful beach nearby the next morning.
Connemara, County Galway
One of the most beautiful days in our entire trip – Connemara National Park had such gorgeous landscapes and the weather was simply perfect that day that everything instantly looked 10x better! Guess we were just lucky, because most of the other days were cloudy and dull (though I prefer this any day over harsh sunny weather!)
Another top notch experience we got to have in Ireland was staying at a castle! We stayed at Ballynahinch Castle in Connemara and it was such a wonderful experience! We ensured we reached by late afternoon, giving us ample time to explore the castle and its huge grounds!
Another 160km north of Connemara is Sligo. Not part of most itineraries but was part of mine for one simple reason – One of my favourite singers was from here! So it was a total fan moment for me to visit his hometown. But Sligo does have some pretty sights and to make the experience more wholesome, we decided to live in a farmhouse! They were a milk-producing farm and had so many cows!! The cows came into the shed twice a day for the milking and we got to see the entire process. It was interesting, but the smell of cow dung and cows in general was too strong for me personally. There were calves in another shed nearby and it was cute to see them run around and eat the hay.
A sight that must not be missed near Sligo is the Benbulbin which is a rock formation. We did not get to visit it up close, but saw it enroute to Northern Ireland.
Derry, Northern Ireland
From the Republic of Ireland we crossed borders into UK and reached Derry (or Londonderry as it is also known) which is 150km from Sligo. Derry was a big part of the republic movement and visiting the site of Free Derry is a must to learn more about its history. You will also get to see some very cool murals here.
We walked along the walls surrounding the old town and got to see some colourful doors, beautiful architecture and there were many amazing restaurants and shopping areas. We stayed only for one night and were off in the morning towards Belfast.
We took the coastal route and stopped by places like Mussenden Temple, Dunluce Castle, Giants Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede Ropeway Bridge and also went through The Dark Hedges, a location that became famous because of Game of Thrones.
All of the places were incredible and though pictures speak a thousand words, they still aren’t enough and don’t do justice to the places!
Our road trip across Ireland and country-side experience ended here as our next stop was Belfast, a commercial and thriving city. Once we entered it, we had to say good bye to the smell of sweet grass and the Atlantic Ocean. We spent the next 5 days exploring the cities of Belfast and Dublin. We loved every minute of that too, but the countryside had a special something that will always remain with me.
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Read more: My First Solo Travel Experience In Dublin
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