Erika’s Dream Vacation to Ireland
Monday, January 21st, 2013 | By Hilary
Ireland has a lot of interesting history, old and new. The castles, both restored and ruined, add to what I consider an amazing landscape and make everyone want to be a photographer. Then there’s the part of Ireland’s history that’s more current. In the last 100-years, so many major things have happened on this tiny island. So on my next trip to Ireland, here is my attempt to see it all. Learn as much of the history – the new and the old, and take in as much of culture from the gorgeous natural scenery and to the traditional craic of the Irish Pub scene.
Day 1: I’d like to begin in the north, in Belfast, a town that has reinvented itself and has a lot to offer. If it’s a nice day, I love the open top of the Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus. The newly opened Titanic Museum seems to be the big draw these days as the boat was originally built in Belfast and changed the vibe of the city in the early 1900’s. If I had enough time, I’d also want to go visit the Ulster Museum or maybe take a Black Taxi Tour around the city. So much to do, so little time!
Day 2: Once I’ve had my fill of Belfast, (I could spend a week here.) I’d hit the road and head north to Bushmills. Heading along the Antrim Coast, I expect to run into a few herds of sheep crossing the road. The car trapped on the road surrounded by a bunch of sheep is perhaps considered a cliché picture from every trip in Ireland, but that’s because it actually happens! Before getting to Bushmills, I need to stop and cross the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge and stop again to take in the amazing natural phenomenon of the Giants Causeway. If there’s still time when I get to Bushmills a trip to the Distillery is in order before dinner!
Day 3: Back to learning about the old history and touring Ireland with a visit to the ruins of Dunluce Castle in the morning and then it’s time for a treasure hunt of sorts. The Dark Hedges, located in Ballymoney, are apparently tricky to find. I saw a friend’s photograph and knew this was on my list of places to travel to in Ireland. Probably the most photographed avenue of trees in Ireland (If you can find it.), it is said to be haunted by the Grey Lady. I’d like to meet her too.
Once I’ve had my fill of haunting and mystery, I’m headed west to Derry, the location of the infamous Bloody Sunday incident in the early 1970’s. This history is almost more like current events, and the Free Derry murals, the first of which “Welcome to Free Derry” was painted in 1969 welcome tourists as they enter town. What I consider most interesting about this city is not only is there so much current history here, but Derry is the only walled city of Ireland and so much of the wall is still preserved and you can walk on it, around it, and even through some of the old corner towers.
Day 4: Today I hope for the best weather of the trip to Ireland, (Who knows on the Emerald Isle?) as I leave Derry and head west towards Donegal and the wild North Atlantic. The famous Slieve League Cliffs of Donegal totally intrigue me. Less famous than the Cliffs of Moher to the south, the cliffs of Slieve League reach almost three times higher and are even more extraordinary (And less crowded.) to hike. I plan on spending as much time outside breathing in the sea air, going for a hike and channeling my inner photographer to snap as many picture-perfect scenes as possible.
And of course, no visit to Ireland is complete without a stay at a castle. Donegal plays home to one of my favorite castles in Ireland, the luxurious Solis Lough Eske Castle. Perhaps even a date with the spa tonight or tomorrow morning!
Day 5: Driving along the northwest coast of Ireland, the first stop of the day will be Sligo. From the bay you can see Knocknarea, a large mound of loose limestone resembling a tomb of some sorts. If it’s a nice day, I’ll head up for a brisk walk and a great view of the area. I like the idea of another picture-perfect moment! My final destination today is Westport. This city has gotten a lot of buzz lately, and I just have to decide for myself. It’s always been on the radar as Matt Malloy’s Pub is said to be one of the top pubs in Ireland to catch an evening music session.
Day 6: Time to explore Westport and the County Mayo to see what it’s all about. A day of nice weather might cause me to be ambitious and rent a bike to cycle the coast along the 42-km Great Western Greenway. But as I’m always looking for the next great picture, likely I’ll head just outside town and make the climb up Croagh Patrick, a holy mountain where believers make pilgrimages every year. In the afternoon, take a drive to Achill Island and the Deserted Village, a haunting reminder of times past with 80-100 stone cottages along a miles stretch of road, completely deserted with a stop on main Street Newport, Ireland, just north of Westport, boasting a beautiful Romanesque church housing a magnificent and unique stained glass window.
Day 7: After a day of adventure, I need to do one last drive back towards Dublin. I’m really fascinated by the countryside of the midlands in Ireland as they were most affected by the famous Irish Potato Famine in the mid and late 1800’s. Thus a stop at the Strokestown Park and Irish National Famine Museum is in order to stretch the legs and learn a little more of the more recent history of Ireland. And lastly, arriving back in Dublin, no trip to Ireland is complete without a stop at the Guinness Storehouse to learn how to pull the perfect pint, which of course I’ve perfected over the year, but practice makes perfect and I can never get enough practice.
Day 8: Alas, all good things must come to an end. But in reality, this only means I can start dreaming up my next vacation to Ireland. Aran Islands, anyone?