Dreaming of the Emerald Isle

What better day than St. Patrick’s Day to reminisce on one of my favorite trips I’ve ever taken: My road trip through Ireland.

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To be perfectly honest, I never had a deep longing to visit Ireland like I had for Thailand or Morocco before my sister and I spent four days discovering this beautiful country. I think I’d written Ireland off as un-exotic, but now I can admit I was completely wrong.

I’d argue that Ireland is the perfect destination for an American traveler who’s itching to visit Europe. Flights from the U.S. to Ireland are inexpensive and fast. A flight from New York to Dublin runs about six hours and can cost anywhere from $200 to $800 depending on when you book the tickets. The time difference is just five hours, making jet lag easier to overcome if you only have a long weekend. Once you arrive, you can choose from a variety of different vacations, depending on what you desire:

  • Shopping and bar-hopping in Dublin;
  • Relaxing on the beach in County Kerry;
  • Road-tripping through the Irish Highlands;
  • Exploring castles in southern Ireland;
  • Soaking up music and culture in Galway; and
  • Enjoying a country cottage in central Ireland.

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My sister and I tried to soak up as much of Ireland as we could on a short timeline:

Day one. We met at Dublin Airport (she flying from the U.S., me from Switzerland) and immediately hit the road in our tiny rental car–headed west. We spent our first evening in Limerick, checking out the local art scene and having a proper fish and chips in a pub.

Day two. We drove northwest to see the Cliffs of Moher and the breathtakingly beautiful coast, picking up some wool goods on the way. By late afternoon, we arrived in charming Galway. We spent the evening strolling through town and eating our weight in their world famous oysters (try Oscar’s Seafood Bistro if you’re in Galway).

Day three. We drove from Galway to Dublin Airport and returned our rental car, and then headed into downtown Dublin. We paid a little more to stay in a Temple Bar area hotel so we could walk to everything we wanted to see. That night we found a raucous pub in our neighborhood with live music and made friends with the locals.

Day four. We visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral and then the Guinness Factory, taking in two sides of Ireland’s history. We strolled through St. Stephen’s park and shopped Grafton Street, enjoying the fantastic weather and local conviviality everywhere we went. We ended our trip at a decidedly non-Irish spot–an Indian restaurant–but man, that lamb curry was delicious!

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I was bowled over by Ireland’s natural beauty and charmed by her people’s friendliness. Our itinerary was a great introduction to Ireland, but if I’m lucky enough to return to Ireland I’d head to the coast or the Highlands. I’d be happy holing up in a little cottage for a few days. A fireplace, copper tea kettle and bicycles are non-negotiables. Meanwhile, Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Here are a few links to tempt you to book that Ireland vacation:

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One thought on “Dreaming of the Emerald Isle

  1. The TravelBug says:

    I always felt the same way about Ireland, it not being exciting and all. South Africans can visit visa-free so I have been considering it but been weary! Sounds like you had a great time will definitely take your advice 🙂

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