Y’all, I just got home from an epic girl trip to Ireland with my two best friends. We were there for five days, and it was heaven. We had a few hiccups, but when you are with your girlfriends and don’t have to worry about screaming kids or mountains of laundry, it doesn’t matter! We did quite a bit in that amount of time. I’ll try to be brief and let the pictures speak for themselves, but we learned so much, so I just have to share some of the details!
This was my second trip to Ireland, although last time I was in Dublin for the half-marathon and only had one full day to explore the city. This time we took two day trips out into the country and explored the city a bit more than I did last time. It was the perfect amount of time with the perfect company!
Here’s the nitty gritty.
We all flew in around the same time, so we got our bags and headed to our apartment. We stayed in Dublin 8 in a residential neighborhood. It was more like a townhouse, as it was two stories with two bedrooms and a full kitchen. It was in a great location and every major attraction was within walking distance. Of course, I forgot to take pictures of it, so I will move on!
We got settled and headed to The Brazen Head pub for a pint and our first meal. The Brazen Head is the oldest pub in Dublin and a very popular attraction. The atmosphere was lovely, save for the drunk American behind us at the bar who kept hitting on everyone.
My friends who flew in from the states were so tired, so we just caused some mischief at the a local Spar and headed back to the apartment to hang out for the rest of the night. We’re a lively bunch.
The next morning my friend wasn’t feeling well (I swear, the forces were working against us on this trip, but we were determined to have the best time because we needed it, y’all), so we found a walk-in clinic (there are tons in Dublin), and she was able to be seen quickly and get antibiotics. We got some breakfast at the adorable Peacock Café and headed over to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells.
All smiles, man. Ain’t nothing going to keep us from having a good time on this trip!!!
There was a long line to get in to see the Book of Kells, but it moved fairly quickly. I had seen it the last time I was in Dublin, but I insisted we go again because it is just one of those things you must see when you are in the city. The book itself is exquisite and over 2,000 years old. It is in pristine condition and just incredibly impressive to see. You can’t take pictures, so just google it.
The book is located in the Old Library at Trinity College, which is a work of art itself. It is one of my favorite buildings. The smell alone will make any book lover fall in love, but the architecture and mere sight of all of those books lined up so perfectly is enough to make you want to stay there all day. The library also houses the oldest harp in Ireland, which is pretty cool.
This is my happy place.
The oldest harp in Ireland. Also, world’s worst tourist face.
Afterward we looked for something to eat and came upon an Indian restaurant. My friends weren’t too sure, but I convinced them to try it out and they are now big fans! The food was so delicious.
We took a stroll through St. Stephen’s Green, which is kind of like the Central Park of Dublin. It has a little river running through it and is very well shaded.
Afterward we walked to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which I had only seen from the outside the first time I visited. We did a tour of the inside this time, and I must say, it is one of the most interesting cathedrals I’ve ever visited.
From the tombs to massive memorial stones, to the stained glass, a Discovery Space that includes brass rubbings, iPads with history about the church, a large jigsaw puzzle of one of the stained glass windows and even a modern steel memorial to those that have been affected by war….it is unique, to say the least. There is even a gift shop inside, which I still don’t know how I feel about. They definitely have tourism in mind.
Isn’t this staircase stunning???
That metal tree in the middle is a memorial to all those affected by war. They have little leaf papers you can fill out about someone and then hang it on the tree.
These are cushions for the seats. They hang on the backs of the chairs until they need to be used.
The gift shop. Still weird seeing it in a working church sanctuary.
That night we headed to Temple Bar to hang out for a bit. We went to the Norseman, which used to be Farrington’s when I was there last time. We had a couple drinks at the bar before heading upstairs to eat at their restaurant. We laughed harder than we have in a long time that night. Good times, my friends.
We left at 8am with Paddywagon Tours to explore the Cliffs of Moher, Kinvarra and the little town of Doolin. I think they had more people than they were planning, because we did not end up on the official Paddywagon bus, but an older one with no wifi. I’m sure the normal bus was better, and this was fine (I mean, what do we really have to complain about???), but I just want people to be aware that they will outsource other busses to accommodate larger groups, which is different from what the website shows.
My, what a trip! There just are never words to describe how magnificent places like this are in person, but I will try my best to give you an idea.
The first stop on our tour was Dunguaire Castle in Kinvarra along Galway Bay, which was so picturesque. Apparently, if you walk around the castle counterclockwise, you will get your virginity back. But I can’t tell you if that is true because my brilliant friends and I happened to go the other way. All three of us started walking clockwise and didn’t even think twice. ALL THREE OF US. We were passing all kinds of people thinking how stupid they were for not going the right way, while I’m sure they were thinking the same about us because we were the only ones doing it. We finally got back on the bus and then it was like the lightbulb went off at the same time in all of our fried mom-brains. We died laughing, but it was more of one of those laugh-cries out of complete pity for ourselves because y’all, that is just sad. We are idiots. And I can tell you that if you DO go the wrong way around that dang castle the thorny bushes will mock you and you will fall into them and cut your hands open and bleed onto the earth.
Thorny bush attack.
Now, isn’t this the cutest thatched-roof house you ever did see??
Our guide then dropped us off at what is called the “Mini Cliffs”, which was an exciting build up to the mother cliffs. These smaller cliffs are so impressive, though. We had fun getting creative with the camera. Obvs we are total professionals.
Erin “holding down the coffee”, aka refusing to go near the cliff edge. She was yelling at us like a mom telling us to get back. And gotta love that Paddywagon bus…doesn’t get more tourist than that!
We then got onto the Wild Atlantic Way and made our way to the fishing village of Doolin to eat lunch. We had this insanely good salmon with potatoes and gravy at a local pub, and it was DELICIOUS-O. Some of the best salmon I’ve had, and it was in a cafeteria-style setting. There are tons of unique “craft” shops nearby that sell handmade items from local artisans. I could live here EASY. I mean, is this real?!
We then headed up the mountain to the mama cliffs. Now, no matter what I write here it won’t do this view justice. You just have to go see it for yourself. There are two pathways that run along the cliffs’ edge: the safe walking path and the “at your own risk” path. But who likes to play by the rules?
The road leading up to the main trail along the cliffs’ edge:
Don’t worry, this was totally edited to look more risky than it actually was. Or was it?? My mom about had a conniption when she saw this photo.
Our final destination was Bunratty Castle in County Clare. The castle dates back to the 15th century, and its name means “river basin of the Ratty river” in Irish. We didn’t get to go inside because we only had about half an hour at this stop before heading home, but we did get to explore the shopping village right next to the castle, which is adorable and full of souvenirs, home décor items and lots of handmade crafts.
Now, it had been a long day. We looked a tad disheveled when we stepped off that tour bus at 8:15 with our tourist gear and bags of souvenirs. But we were hungry, and so we decided to stop to get dinner on the way back to the apartment. So we are walking down the road, passing all the youngsters heading out to Temple Bar for Saturday night shenanigans, minding our own middle-aged business, when this dude walks by with some of his friends and says, “Whoa, looks like a shopping spree gone wrong!” Okay. I know we looked like we got hit by a bus, but did ya really have to go there?!?
We have reached that time in life, my friends.
Here is proof:
There is a total filter on this photo, and we still looked like this. Our husbands are lucky fellas.
Sunday we hung out in Dublin again. The only thing we had going on was high tea around lunch time and a dinner/show that evening. We reserved a table at the Atrium Lounge in the Westin for high tea, and they did not disappoint! It was a lovely atmosphere with some of the most delicious coffee and tea I’ve ever had. The food was delectable and in abundance. Seriously, one serving included finger sandwiches and salmon, scones with jam and cream, carrot cake, chocolate mousse, macarons, cream with jam, apple tart and mini red velvet cupcakes. I didn’t even touch part of it because I was so full.
It was so nice to just sit and be a little pampered for a bit. We talked for almost three hours, and it was exactly what these tired mamas needed, let me tell you.
That evening we headed over to the Irish House Party Pub for dinner and a show featuring Irish music and dancing. This was so much fun! The dinner was okay, but then we headed downstairs to their theater and listened to a band play some traditional Irish music. They had a guitar, flute, accordion and, my very favorite, the uilleann pipes. The uilleann pipes have been one of my favorites for a long time. The song I walked down the isle to featured them, and it was so fascinating to learn how they are played. The word “uilleann” refers to the elbow, which is used in playing the pipes. In fact, the elbow, wrists and fingers are all used at the same time, which is totally fascinating to me. A set of pipes can cost up to $10,000 too! That’s commitment right there. The girl who played the accordion also did traditional Irish dancing, so she taught us about some of the different moves and types that they do in Ireland.
I didn’t get any pictures, but I did get a video!
Monday we headed out for another day trip, this time with Wild Rover Tours, which I can’t say enough good things about. We started out with some yummy breakfast at BitterSweet Café and then got on the bus to Kilkenny. Y’all. I am in LOVE with this town! Our tour guide was amazing and took us through the town before giving us awhile to roam on our own. He told us first about Kilkenny Castle and how the Butler family wedged their way in to take over in the 1300s for the next 600 years. We didn’t get to go inside, but it was interesting to learn about how it originated. And it is just stunning to look at!
We even found a restaurant called PARIS TEXAS, of all things. My friend lives in Paris, Texas, so we just know it was a sign of some kind. The mothership calling her home? We’ll never know, but it was awesome! I mean, how crazy is that???
We visited the Black Abbey, which dates back to 1225. Since we had a lot of sun (our tour guide said it was the warmest day of the year…a whopping 71 degrees!), the stained glass was just radiant.
The town of Kilkenny is just adorable. I mean, really.
This place has an interesting history. Apparently there was a woman who had poisoned all of her husbands (there had been 5 of them!). The family of the 5th husband did an investigation and found the lady had poisoned him. She, along with her maid, were tried as witches and sentenced to be burned at the stake. They stayed in this building the night before the execution, and somehow the lady escaped and fled to London, but the maid did not. The maid was burned at the stake the next day in front of the castle (first of that kind of execution there). It is said that if you take your picture inside, you may see the lady in your photographs!
The door where the lady supposedly escaped from:
We grabbed a bite to eat and headed to the Wicklow Mountains. I am a sucker for green hills. The Scottish Highlands will forever be a favorite place of mine, and although the Wicklow Mountains are not nearly as tall, they are still beautiful to behold. We even had some blue sky! Parts of Braveheart and P.S. I Love You were filmed in this area.
See that Hollywood sign up on the hill in the picture below? This is the town of Hollywood, and it is said that an Irishman immigrated to California and began Hollywood there. Meryl Streep and Liam Neeson have both visited this tiny town. You can read more about it here.
The beautiful Wicklow Mountains:
There was so much heather growing in the valley, and it smelled lovely!
We made it to the magical town of Glendalough (pronounced Glen-dah-lock) in the afternoon. We could not stop looking all around us the entire time we were walking. There is a historic monastic site there along with some amazing hiking trails that lead to two different lakes. The hotel there is nestled in the forest. I could sit there all day long.
The picture below shows the entry gates to the monastery. The lady on the left was playing the uilleann pipes and singing, and our tour guide said she was very good and always there. Inside the gates is a celtic stone that has a cross carved into it. When Christianity came to the area, they put Christian symbols on the stones of the Celts to help gradually convert them. Everyone who ever entered the monastery had to rub the stone, so as they did so with the cross, over time it helped to change their thinking. I didn’t get a picture of the stone because there was a tour group in front of it, but it was pretty neat to see. You can see the indentation in the rock because of how much it has been rubbed.
Our tour guide gave us some fascinating information about the monastery. The tall tower seen here was used for a few purposes: to be seen easily by those seeking it out, as a watchtower, and a place to hold the Holy Book they were working on to keep it free from moisture.
The monastic site was founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century. Inside you can visit the cathedral ruins and the rebuilt Priest’s House, along with the graveyard full of ancient headstones.
Btw, did you ever wonder why there is a circle with a cross in the typical Celtic cross symbol?? The Celts worshiped the sun as a god. So when the Christians came, they incorporated the “sun” into the cross as another way of slowly converting them to the Christian religion. Isn’t that fascinating?! I had no idea.
Inside the cathedral, also known as Kevin’s Kitchen. This used to hold stained glass.
Another celtic rubbing stone can be seen below. It, alone with many others, were incorporated into the church to help convert the people.
This large cross looks like a headstone, but it was actually used for the priest to draw pictures on when teaching the monks. Fascinating!
In the carved archway on the bottom of the picture below used to sit a pagan goddess of fertility because this was the “women’s church”. The statue was of a women with large breasts squatting and holding open her lady parts. When the Roman Catholics came later they sealed it up and shut the entire monastery down! I thought that was funny.
After the tour we were left on our own to explore the trails to the lakes. We were told it was an easy hike to see them, so Jamie and I headed down one while Erin went to explore on her own. Well, we hiked and hiked and wound up lost! Another guy on our tour saw us and we decided to just head back to the bus with us because we didn’t have much time left, and our bus drive said they wait 5 minutes TOPS and then leave even if people aren’t back yet. We were literally running to get back on time. I had worn a sweatshirt that day and it literally lived up to its name because I was dripping with sweat! We did end up seeing a lake, but we had so little time at that point that we were only able to snap one picture. The forest is absolutely gorgeous, and I wish we had had more time to truly take it all in. Instead we were just trying to make it back to the bus on time, and we made it, but only with about 5 minutes to spare!
Look how huge these trees are!
The lake is just through the trees, although it is hard to tell:
That night we had a final dinner at some weird chicken restaurant and headed back to pack up to leave the next morning. And then it was back to reality and responsibilities.
We truly had an amazing time and made so many memories, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to be here with two of my favorite people in the world. It was much needed, and I look forward to doing another one with them in the future. I think we have our sights set on Napa…
Slainte and Happy Traveling!