10 days in Ireland
Aside from our time spent in North Antrim, Dublin is my favorite place in Ireland - the city is full of character and the locals are cheeky and extremely entertaining. We spent four days roaming aimlessly through crowded streets, soaking up the city's history and filling our bellies with delicious Irish food.
EatThe Winding Stair - hands down, one of the best meals I've ever had. If you visit Dublin and miss this place, you're a fool. Cornucopia - hearty, vegetable loaded eats Bewely's Café TheatreKitchen - Thom and I have made it a priority to have a special date night here each time we visit. The atmosphere is super cozy and the chef is willing to accommodate each and every diet. Queen of TartsBrick Alley Café - cozy up to a table in the back and order a coconut hot chocolate
DrinkThe Brazen Head - second oldest pub in the world. Established before the Magna Carta was issued! The Old Jameson DistilleryGuinness Storehouse - I don't care if you don't like Guinness, this place is a must visit. Especially on St. Paddy's. M O'BriensBaggot Street Mile - highly concentrated area of pubs. Thom, my dad, and brother visited a majority of the pubs the night before St. Paddy's and.. had a damn good time.
GoThe Long Hall + Book of Kells at Trinity CollegeGrafton Street - we didn't do much shopping, but the shops are filled with pretty things. Dublin CastleGeorge St. Arcade - market filled with a lot of quirky stuff you don't need.
Sleep We stay at the Waterloo House any time we're in Dublin. The breakfast is filling and the house is located a brisk 15 minute walk from the city centre. The rooms are nicely sized, king beds are comfy, and the house has a very cozy feel. I think it's one of my favorite things about the city.
You need at least two nights up in the Bushmills/Ballycastle area if you want adequate time to see everything North Antrim has to offer. Aside from sightseeing, there isn't much to do - but you'll likely be so worn out that you won't have it in you to rage at a pub all night.
SleepCraig Cottage never lets us down. Rosemary, the head lady, is an absolute gem and goes above and beyond. During our first trip two years ago, Thom got washed over by a wave at Giant's Causeway and she washed/dried all of his clothing. And prepared him tea and warm biscuits. She's the kind of person you want taking care of you while you're in the North.
Galway is a coastal city situated on the Western side of the Republic. There isn't a lot to do as far as sightseeing is concerned, but it's a great stopover before heading to the Aran Islands. Many of the pubs have live Irish music, and there are a handful of quaint restaurants scattered throughout the city centre.
Sleep We stayed at a terrible place during our first visit two years ago, but this time we stayed at the Park House per recommendation of a friend. It was enjoyable, but I think I'll put a bit more effort into searching for a B&B next time around.
I wouldn't necessarily say Limerick is a must-see, but we stopped over due to the weather being not so great for visiting the Aran Islands. It was nice to have a day with nothing to do, so we wandered the streets and I spent too much money on candy and baking powder and pretty sprinkles.
Go Bunratty Castle and Folk ParkKing John's Castle to open summer 2013 Dunnes Grocery Store - I spent a good hour just staring at the pretty packaging and loading up on candies not available in America (crispy M&Ms, dark chocolate KitKat, real Haribo bears, etc).
Sleep The George Boutique Hotel is a favorite. I'm not usually a hotel person but I love the central location of the place, as well as the chic style. There's a restaurant in the lobby and they have outstanding service. Like, deliver balsamic vinaigrette to your door two minutes after calling reception and asking for it, good service.
We didn't make it to the Aran Islands this time because of the weather, but it's an absolute must if you plan on visiting Ireland. We went during our first trip and fell in love. Be sure to grab a knit sweater from the Aran Sweater Market and hire bikes to see the Island. We stayed on Inishmore, but if you have four or five days free, hop around to see each of the Islands. Accommodations (on Inishmore) aren't the greatest, but what do you expect on an island of only 400 people?
The Cliffs of Moher should also be on your list, but like the Aran Islands, we didn't head that way due to weather. Doolin is a nearby village and you can take the ferry from there to the Aran Islands - but only if weather permits.
If you're looking to stay in a castle, I highly recommend Kilronan Castle (pictured above). It's a great place to stop when breaking up the part of your trip from Northern Ireland back to the Republic. Enjoy breakfast and dinner in the restaurant (although dinner costs a pretty penny), and go for a morning run around the grounds - you won't be disappointed.
We did the Ring of Kerry and the Southern part of the Republic our first go around and weren't impressed - which likely has something to do with the fact that we were visiting in March, before anything had bloomed. We weren't fans of Cork so I don't recommend going there for anything besides kissing (or licking, if you're Thom) the Blarney Stone.
Random tips: - Hire a car to get around the country. Tour busses are for sissies. - Tipping in crispy M&Ms is acceptable when you have no Euros. - Not tipping at all is also acceptable. - You will not find soy milk (soya) at a coffee shop in Bushmills. - Speaking of coffee, Irish coffee is not good. Think of briny truck stop coffee, but worse. - You'll be hard pressed to find a B&B/hotel for less than $100 a night. - You're looking for the toilet, not the restroom. - Fuck is word you'll hear often. Embrace it. - Meat and potato restaurants are more than willing to accommodate special diets.
More photos can be found here.