Hello darlings and welcome back!! This week I’m bringing you the second installment of my Autour du Monde series all about Ireland!
Several years ago, I made the discovery that the country of Ireland grants citizenship to people whose grandparents and/or parents were born in Ireland. This news was a dream come true for me, because I knew having citizenship in a country that is a member of the EU would grant all kinds of benefits to me throughout the entirety of the European Union, including France.
Once I discovered this opportunity, I approached my mom to talk to her about it. My grandmother was born in Ireland, so I had the right to claim citizenship, but couldn’t do so until she had acquired it for herself first. Luckily, this was something that had been on her bucket list for a long time, so it was a no-brainer for the both of us. The entire process took about two years, and there was a lot involved. If any of you are interested in the process, let me know, and I’ll write an entire post on it.
Once we’d obtained our citizenship, we both applied for an Irish passport as well, as it makes traveling through the EU a breeze.
I was so excited, I told my mom we needed to go to Ireland to celebrate! My mom had also promised my sister that she would take her there as her college graduation gift, et bref (French slang that essentially means “long story short”), we booked tickets for the entire family to go over Christmas of last year.
Throughout the planning stages, we ended up settling on the idea that this should be a heritage trip of sorts: we’d stop in Dublin, of course, but after that the goal was to see where both my grandpa and my grandma’s families had lived for so long. (We do still have some family that lives there, but most have long since moved on.) This meant we needed to span long distances across the country, which also enabled us to plan for other sites along the way. But our first stop was Dublin.
We opted for an AirBnB, as hotel prices were outrageous. We didn’t know much about the layout of the city and ended up staying in a weird spot–kind of far away from everything, but it was fine. Next time, however, I’d like to be more centralized.
Dublin has a decent public transportation system. There is a train that you can catch from the airport into the city, as well as buses, and of course, taxis. We spent the first few days taking taxis everywhere, but we did rent a car due to our plans to go all over. (Driving in Ireland was an experience, let me tell you.)
Every year at Christmas time, our family goes to high tea at the Brown Palace here in Denver. But since we were going to be in Dublin this time, we wanted to find an alternative and wound up at the Shelbourne, pictured above.
The Shelbourne is an upscale hotel from the 1840s and just beautiful inside, especially since all of the Christmas decorations were up. Booking afternoon tea in advance is 100% necessary, as the hotel is very popular!
The afternoon tea service consists of tea (of course) and a serving of scones, tea sandwiches, and pastries. Our waitress was a young French woman, so I ended up getting to practice my French, which was fun, and everything was delicious.
Immediately next to the Shelbourne is Grafton street, a very famous and popular spot for shopping. Since we were there right before Christmas, the entire city was crawling with people, especially in this area. We had several people tell us it usually isn’t as crowded, so that’s something to keep in mind if you aren’t big on crowds.
Directly across from the hotel is St. Stephen’s Green, a large public park that is both beautiful and rooted in history. During the Easter Rising in 1916, a group from the Irish army engaged in a standoff with the British army who had stationed themselves at the Shelbourne. The park is full of statues and plaques that outline the details of the battle.
The next day we went to Trinity College, which is where the Book of Kells is housed. Unlike at the Shelbourne, going to see the exhibit is on a first come, first served basis. The tickets are really affordable, and they offer discounts for students and children. Pro-tip: show up early, as the line ends up going out the door pretty quickly!
The exhibit also houses other illuminated manuscripts, such as the Book of Dimma, pictured above. (Photography isn’t allowed, however, which I found out by taking this photo, haha!) The exhibit is also full of examples of the tools and processes used to create these incredible texts, as well as plenty of linguistic information, which I found particularly interesting.
At the end of the exhibit is the actual Book of Kells. It sits in a large glass case, in order to preserve it. Every day, the next page is turned, so it’s kind of a gamble on what you’ll be seeing. We lucked out and were able to see the beautiful and intricate artwork, not just text. Either way, though, the exhibit is worth it.
At the end of the exhibit, visitors are then ushered into the famous Long Room: a library that dreams are made of. It was also used in a scene of one of the Star Wars movies–but that scene was filmed without permission!
The room is lined with the busts of many great writers and philosophers: Shakespeare, Aristotle, Plato, Wilde, take your pick. Dublin is a city of literature UNESCO site, so you’ll find plenty of Irish writers heads in here. Each aisle and corner of the Long Room is filled to the brim with countless books!! A bibliophile’s fantasy, to be sure.
Outside of Trinity College is one of the main drags of the city. The boulevard is lined with shops, cafes, and restaurants. It’s also easy to access several museums from there, and it eventually bleeds back into Grafton street.
Personally, I would recommend taking public transportation and/or taxis around Dublin. Driving there was a challenge. The streets are poorly marked, and they change names about every mile, not to mention the one ways that are also poorly marked. On top of that, the traffic was HORRID. This might’ve been thanks to the holiday season, though. Regardless, I wouldn’t recommend renting a car unless absolutely necessary. Another thing we learned once we got there is renting a car is very expensive. In Ireland, it’s required to purchase insurance for your rental car, which we didn’t realize. This detail ended up doubling the price of our rental car. Not a nice surprise!
The one thing I would recommend doing, however, is booking a tour to see Newgrange. For those who don’t know, Newgrange is an ancient monument that is dated about 1000 years older than the pyramids in Egypt. It is one of three mounds that have been excavated in Ireland, and they’re in the process of excavating a couple more.
The structure is completely freestanding. The process used to build Newgrange involved absolutely no mortar, as you can see in the picture above. It’s really impressive to behold, especially considering how advanced this process was at the time it was built. Due to its archaeological and cultural significance, it’s also a UNESCO site.
We lucked out and were able to book our tour on the winter solstice. This is the best day of the year to go, as this is the day the light from the sun completely illuminates the inside of the structure.
Access to Newgrange is available solely through one of the tours, as Ireland is making an effort to preserve these incredible architectural feats. We booked our tour through here, and it was worth every penny. Plan to spend all day on the tour, as you’ll also stop at the Hill of Tara on the way.
Pro-tip: if you’re planning on going in the winter, it’s wet, windy, and can be cold out in the country! Wear water/mud proof shoes, as well as a jacket and hat. You’ll thank me later!
The next day, we departed from Dublin and headed about two and a half hours west towards a small town called Roscommon. This is where my grandfather’s family lived on a small farm outside of town.
Again, we opted for an AirBnB, and ended up staying on a farm in an even tinier town called Strokestown. After all the hustling insanity of Dublin, staying in the middle of nowhere on this charming farm was a welcomed change. We even had a peat fire going at night–the genuine Irish experience!
Roscommon was about twenty minutes from where we were staying, and we only spent two days in the area. The town was cute, and we had the most delicious Irish breakfast there. (Think scones, sausage, ham, eggs, and tea–yum! Easily the best sausage I’ve ever had.) However, there isn’t a ton going on there.
After Roscommon we drove all the way over to the west side of the country to stop at the Our lady of Knock shrine for Mom and Moira, who are devout Catholics. And then it was onward to Dungarvan in the south.
What was supposed to be a three hour drive from Knock turned into more of a five or six hour drive. Another thing to know about driving in Ireland is that the time the GPS says it takes to get anywhere is a lie. The majority of Ireland is rural, and essentially every road is a winding, two lane road. Due to this, the drive time is significantly increased. If the roads were straight… yeah it’d definitely be a lot faster.
Dungarvan is a larger city that sits in the southeast of Ireland, on the coast. It is here, and in a small town just outside of Dungarvan called Kilmacthomas, that my grandma’s side of the family has lived for a long while.
We stayed in an adorable AirBnB directly across the street from the church my grandmother was baptized in, and about ten minutes from the ocean. (Which, if I haven’t mentioned this before, I recommend staying in AirBnBs ran by women. In my experience, they are better stocked and maintained. No offense, men.)
Personally, Dungarvan was my favorite part of the trip. I’m completely in love with the ocean, but don’t get to see her very often due to living in a landlocked state, so any time I have the opportunity to go to the water, I’m stoked. The city is also very cute, and large enough that everything you could need is accessible.
We spent a lot of time at the beach via a trail called the Connigar, in English, or AnCoinigéar, in Irish. The coastline in this region is stunning: it’s incredibly rugged and moody, unlike any other beach I’ve been to.
This beach is also located right next to the Irish speaking part of the country, which I thought was awesome. I learned while I was there that the term “Gaelic” is a very American thing; the Irish just refer to their language/culture as well, Irish.
The water was absolutely freezing, of course, but it was an excellent beach to comb for seashells. And there must’ve been some ceramics/glass facility that used to be around because we found an abundance of sea glass and broken ceramics!
We ended up returning to this place each day we were in Dungarvan, and walking pretty far up and down the coastline. I definitely recommend this beautiful spot if you’re planning on going to the southern region of Ireland!
If/when I make it back, I’d like to spend more time here, as well as in the Conne Mara mountains in the northwest of the country. I’d also like to see the Cliffs of Moher, which is the one thing we didn’t get to do that was on our list.
Overall, it was a lovely trip! The people in Ireland are so kind and friendly, and their broughs are stupidly charming. Even in the winter time, the country was so green! Next time I’d like to go during a different season, so hopefully it won’t be as wet, though we were graced with pretty good weather most of the time.
So, what do you think? Have you guys ever been to Ireland? Again, I tried to cover everything pertinent, but if you have any questions, please let me know in the comments below! As always, I appreciate your feedback.
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Until next time my loves! Xoxo