A Wee Drive Through Ireland

A few weeks ago, I decided it had been too long since I accomplished the terrifying feat of driving on the wrong side of the road/car, so I booked a trip to drive around Ireland with my mom. I’m not sure why I do this, I get anxiety driving my own car on the side of the road I’m used to when I go back to the States, but sometimes you have to live on the edge (literally, just driving right on the edge of the road, because its narrow and scary).

We flew to Dublin, where I did NOT find it necessary to drive at all, so we took a taxi and some verbal abuse about all of our luggage (my bad) and went to our hotel. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to Dublin, and my mom has never been, so we did the touristy thing and stayed in the Temple Bar area. This area is great for proximity to things and if you want to stay out all night drinking, not so great if you are jet lagged and want to sleep and not hear the people doing said all night drinking. Either way, it was good for a couple days.

Day one we needed an activity to keep us awake and get us to the time we could actually check into our hotel, so we booked a tour at Kilmainham Gaol (Jail). This tour was FULL of fun facts, mostly about a guy named Joseph Plunkett. Joseph Plunkett. Joseph Plunkett. Joseph Plunkett. <– That’s basically all my brain absorbed from this tour. This was a good tour, but I was COLD and tired and I was over Joseph Plunkett after a while (sorry, Ireland), so I wasn’t overly sad when it ended, to be honest. Cool jail though.

The tour got us through to check in time, so we added some layers and found lunch and did some more exploring. The rest of the time in Dublin, we did the classic tourist things. We hit the Trinity College Library to breathe in the smell of old books and channel Belle from Beauty and the Beast. Seriously, that B would go nuts for this library. It is B-E-A-UTIFUL.

If you go to Dublin and don’t go to Guinness and Jameson, are you even in Dublin? Everyone hates on the Guinness Storehouse, but I’m a sucker for the Gravity bar at the top. Also, I’m sorry, but if you can print MY FACE on the foam of my beer, TAKE ALL MY MONEY. I’m still trying to figure out how this works.

Be sure to find the stuffed cat that used to live in the Jameson distillery. I had a vague memory of this from the first time I did the tour in 2010, (they have renovated since then) and luckily the bartender did not look at me like I was a crazy person when I asked him about said cat, and he kindly told me where to look for him. #catladyproblems

For the perfect lunch pit stop between Jameson and Guinness we had to stop at my favorite pub in Dublin, the Brazen Head. Yeah, Yeah, I’m sure everyone thinks there are better pubs but this is my favorite so BACK OFF! It just love OLD pubs with old pub fireplaces and a lovely Smithwicks on tap.

The rest of Dublin was basically just wandering and trying to decide where to eat – this is not an easy task on a Saturday when the Six Nations tournament is on every tv in every bar/restaurant in Dublin – so I can tell you that the mac and cheese at the Hard Rock Cafe is still a solid life choice. Sorry not sorry.

Well, thats a wrap on Dublin… time to hit the road! We piled all of our stuff into another taxi to the rental car facility and picked up our wheels. I only hit ONE curb within the first few minutes of driving, so I’d say this road trip was a success (you can contact my mom to find out if she feared for her life or not. If she did, she hides it well).

We made a quick stop through Howth for the views and some Starbucks (classic Americans), got on some questionably tiny roads, and got out of there to hit the motorway. FYI – Howth has a cliff walk that looks beautiful… but like… if you go in NOT February, it’s cold as hell and I wasn’t about to go frolicking on any cliffs.

From Howth, we drove about 3 hours south to Cobh, our next destination. Not gonna lie, I wanted to go here because I saw it on Instagram, but who wouldn’t? Our hotel had an amazing view of the cathedral and was an easy walk to everything we wanted to do.

Hotel Views.

Here’s a couple of fun facts about Cobh:

  1. It was the last stop the Titanic made before she met that iceberg. There’s a fun little museum about it at the dock where the passengers departed from.
  2. There is about 4 open restaurants in this town in February. Two of them are Chinese food, and one is Papa Johns. There’s plenty of others, but since this is still a cruise ship port, and no ships come in during the winter, its a bit of a ghost town. Great for exploring, not so great for being hungry. We survived though.

Here’s some of those views that sold me on Instagram.

This view can only be fully achieved by reaching your camera over a stone wall on the street above this. Thank goodness I’m tall. There’s a closer view in that garden though.

After a couple days in Cobh, it was up ALL the way north to Northern Ireland. Yes, I realize that on the map this was not the most efficient itinerary, but we had our reasons. It was about 5 hours up to our hotel in Northern Ireland and so worth it. Northern Ireland really brings the heat when it comes to scenery. My main motivation for going up here was the Dark Hedges – AKA The King’s Road in Game of Thrones. Theres a lot of tour buses that go up there, and in case you hadn’t noticed by now, I don’t like tour groups, so I booked a hotel across the street from the hedges so I could avoid said buses/groups. Well, my plan worked beautifully, The Hedges Hotel was perfect. We were able to get up early and get out to the hedges before any other humans arrived and my dreams came true. Look. At. This. Road.

With that checked off the list, we headed out to Giant’s Causeway – the next stop on all the tour buses’ lists. Luckily we also go there before the majority of the other people, and managed NOT to get blown over by the wind. I did get smacked directly in the eyeball by blowing sea foam, so watch out for that, I’m still shook.

In this photo I have PTSD from the sea foam incident of 2019, but I tried to stay strong. (HOW DID IT GET UNDER MY GLASSES?)

After winning a literal uphill battle with the wind to get back to the visitors center, we grabbed some lunch and got out of there just as a TON of people got out of a bunch of tour buses. WINNING. Now off to Belfast.

Belfast was the final stop on this trip, and honestly, other than a hotel, we planned NOTHING. Given the cold weather and how tired we were, we opted for a hop on, hop off tour bus. That way we got a general tour of the city, and could figure out what we actually wanted to go see. Belfast is a beautiful city. It’s also a hotbed of Titanic facts and attractions (we skipped those, I’m not sorry) so if you want to go learn about the Titanic, this is the place to be.

After the bus tour, we wandered into the city center for some lunch and exploring. We didn’t really do anything in particular, but we checked out city hall, found a super cute street full of pubs, and hit one of the oldest buildings/pubs in Belfast. There’s like 100 places that claim to be the oldest, so we really aren’t sure. The building was cool though.

Belfast is known for its murals all over the city. We did see these on the tour, but decided not to go back to find them all. So if you were in this post for the political murals in Belfast… sorry you just wasted all that time.

The last morning we were there, we walked over to St. George’s Market for some breakfast and to browse the market stalls. After that I thought it would be a good idea to walk over to Titanic Studios because there’s still a HUGE Game of Thrones set that is visible from the road over there. I thought it would be more visible than it was… sooo we just blew around in the aggressive wind for one tiny peep. There’s also HUGE signs everyone informing everyone that the airspace is restricted, there’s no photos, videos, drones, breathing, etc… allowed near this set. So yeah, bad call on my part. But hey, at least we got to get a sandwich at the Titanic visitor center for lunch LOL.

What followed that day was probably one of the top 5 most stressful 30 minutes of my life… returning the rental car. There’s a rental care facility at Belfast City airport… but not for our rental car company! So we had to get out of the airport parking lot and get into rush hour traffic! Then I missed the turn and had to drive for an eternity before I could turn around. So that was fun. If you rent from Sixt… IT’S NOT AT THE RENTAL CAR FACILITY. I’m still salty.

Anywho, that’s it for Ireland and Northern Ireland. PEACE.

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