Day 1 - Travel
Friday was our day of flights.
We knew we were taking three flights in total that day — Des Moines to D.C., then from D.C. to Newark, NJ and finally to Dublin! When we arrived in Des Moines and printed off our boarding passes, we were surprised with another flight!
So, we went from Des Moines to Chicago to Washington D.C. to Newark, New Jersey to Dublin! We felt very American that day — saw our nation’s capitol, NYC skyline, Chicago skyline.
Our flight from Newark to Dublin was an overnight flight (approx. 7 hours, 20 minutes), so we awoke in Ireland Saturday morning to fresh, crisp air!
Day 2 - Dublin
We met our group as they arrived to the airport Saturday morning, and rode our bus in to town to explore the city for a bit before our first organized tour.
Our first stop was to the Guinness Storehouse for a self-guided tour through the building’s levels to learn the history, advertising, brewery process, how to pour a perfect Guinness, and finally to hang out at the top floor Gravity Bar. There we enjoyed a Guinness while looking out the glass-enclosed space at the views of the city.
During a bit of free time, we strolled through Trinity College campus and gathered at Cafe en Seine for drinks and appetizers with the rest of the group. It was an early night for us to catch up on sleep.
Day 3 - Dublin
Our bus tour of Dublin took us past the River Liffey, the Georgian era buildings, the Oscar Wilde house, Phoenix Park, and to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
At St. Patrick’s, thanks to some coincidental timing, the choir was practicing while we walked around and we took some time to sit in the pews and listen.
Phoenix Park is 15 acres of land with beautiful landscapes and many walking/running paths. There is also a giant cross statue that was erected in honor of Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1979. An amazing ice cream truck is parked there.
We spent some of our free time at The Old Jameson Distillery. This was a very well put together and informative tour and Megan and Caitlin became whiskey-certified here. You are given a complimentary Jameson and ginger or Jameson on the rocks during the tour. Plus, the Jameson coffee and hot chocolate is divine.
The oldest pub in Ireland is located in Dublin: The Brazen Head. We stopped here for a drink before heading to dinner at O’Neils.
Later that night, we explored Temple Bar and socialized with the locals. We also learned some Irish folk songs, such as this one: Bog Down in the Valley
Day 4 - Travel to Cork
The Megans and our friend Paul woke up early to take some photos of the colorful Georgian doors of Dublin before we left the city for Cork.
We made a stop at Rock of Chashel and soaked in the beautiful views among the ruins.
Cork claims itself to be “the real capital of Ireland” and we spent time exploring the city and resting in the park before arriving at our final destination of the day: Midleton.
St. Finn Barre’s Cathedral in Cork, located in the city, is incredibly beautiful. We describe it as a cross between The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Beauty and the Beast It costs to enter and so we walked around the building and admired it from outside.
We stayed at a hostel in Midleton, which is a town just outside of Cork. We split up for dinner and met out at the pubs later. The Megans had the best fish and chips at a small takeaway shop on one of the main streets of Midleton and then stumbled upon a cathedral and graveyard as the sun went down.
Note: Pubs in Midleton close early. The further South you go, the thicker the accents get.
Day 5 - Blarney Castle and Kerry
En route to Killarney, we stopped to kiss the Blarney stone to gain the gift of gab.
Graced with our newfound eloquent speaking, we rode in horse-drawn carts through Killarney National Park and then on a ferry around the interior lakes.
Megan B. was offered a place in a band due to her superior air guitar skills.
Day 6 - Ring of Kerry
There is an authentic shepherd who demonstrates sheep herding with his loyal border collies along the Ring of Kerry. It is worth a visit to see how well trained the dogs are and to get up close and personal to some exotic breeds of sheep.
The Ring of Kerry is a scenic circular route in County Kerry (south west Ireland - approx. 111 miles). One of the many highlights on this route is the Burren, an area of land that is entirely limestone and other soluble rock.
We also stopped at Bog Village (a tourist trap) and learned that it’s a boggy-bog world out there.
We took Wednesday night to rest, and read Harry Potter.
Day 7 - Cliffs of Moher and Galway
The Cliffs of Moher. Need we say moher? Hahaha we’re punny.
We then traveled to Galway, home of “Galway Girl,” Claddagh rings, and Galway Bay. This was one of our most favorite cities on the trip.
After settling in to our hostel we left to find dinner in the city and came across Trip Advisor’s No. 1 rated restaurant in Galway: The Quay Street Kitchen. Dinner was lovely and the restaurant has certainly earned its spot at the top.
From there we ventured to Taaffes pub and scored a table up close to the band for live music. We made friends from North Dakota, and shared some dances with some locals. Also, we were taught the proper way to order a Smithwicks. “SMITHIKS!” *puff out chest*
Day 8 - Galway
On our final day in Ireland, we immersed ourselves in the city of Galway. We shopped along the city streets for a Claddagh ring, stumbled upon a side street market, and walked along Galway Bay and beaches.
We finished in true fashion with dinner out and a visit to the pubs.
Day 9 - Travel
We flew out of Shannon and landed in Chicago. Unfortunately for others on our trip, flights were delayed out of Chicago because of storms. Fortunately for us, we got to enjoy their company longer as they awaited departure.
Peace, Love, TRAVEL!
Extra! Ireland Travel tips
We traveled through Education First, who arranged the trip for us. If you’re traveling to Ireland on your own, here are some of our highlights and tips that might help you plan:
- It will be sunny for hours, sprinkle for five minutes, sunny for hours, sprinkle for five minutes. You get the picture. We were there during mid-August which allowed us to enjoy weather in the low 60s!
- Amount of tourists/tourism
- Mid-August is a great time to go because students and families are focused on back-to-school. We saw a lot of tour groups and tourists around that were much older.
- Things you can’t miss
- If you miss the Cliffs, you need to re-think your trip!
- Go to Galway to explore the city and the Bay. It is a beautiful coastal town. And of course, find a pub with live music and listen for “Galway Girl.”
- Things you should bypass
- The exchange rate is around $1.40 for one Euro - be sure to check the rate at the time you go. Do not tip bartenders in the pubs, but tip waiters in restaurants if they take your order and bring your meal/coffee to you. Meals were very reasonable. If you get euros from your bank before, there might be a shipping fee to that bank, or you can pay a small fee at an ATM in Europe.
- We mainly stayed in hostels and they were all safe, clean, and in great locations - if you’d like to know which ones, just ask!