Our third trip to Ireland
Just like our wedding day, our time in Ireland flew right by. One day we were running around like chickens with our heads cut off, trying to figure out what the hell we were going to do if Air Canada didn't find Thom's bag, then the next we were on a plane to Copenhagen, setting off on the first leg of our (mini) honeymoon. Somewhere in there we managed to squeeze in a wedding. I don't know how, but we did.
If there was ever a trip to end all trips, this was the one. It was filled with an abundance of love and laughter, good friends and family, and so much delicious food and booze - which made thankful I made that last minute decision to swap my original (very restricting) wedding gown with that offbeat ivory ensemble I wound up wearing, instead. The night of our wedding, Thom finally revealed our honeymoon locations (a short trip to Scandinavia followed by a longer trip to South America, later in the summer) and I wasn't even remotely phased. I had been dying to get to Scandinavia from the moment we first started traveling, and when I was finally made aware of the fact that we would be spending ten days between Copenhagen and Stockholm (guides coming soon) in the not-so-distant future, all I could think about was how badly I wanted to stay in Ireland; how I didn't want the trip to end.
But it did and now we're home. And if you care, there's a compilation of my favorite places below. If you're looking for something a bit more in depth (this trip didn't involve nearly as much traveling around the country as trips prior), my ten day guide to Ireland may be of assistance.
MOHILL + ENNISKILLEN
Upon arriving at 5AM, we jumped in a rental car and headed straight to Mohill. We had plans to meet with our wedding officiant (a member of Thom's clan that we met during our first trip to Ireland in 2011) in the nearby town of Carrick-on-Shannon, otherwise I don't think we would have headed that way. But I'm happy we did. Because we kicked off our trip with a dreamy night in Mohill, tucked away in a heavily wooded area, in what used to be the castle gatehouse but has since been restored and converted to the Lough Rynn Gatehouse B&B. Bryan, the owner, started renovating the place over a decade ago and has been running the guesthouse since shortly after he finished. Bonus: He's a kickass chef who offers vegan/gluten free breakfast options.
The next morning we rolled out of bed (much earlier than we would have liked), ate a hearty breakfast, explored Lough Rynn Castle, and then headed to Enniskillen to meet with the owner of the ferry company we hired for our wedding. We decided to grab sustenance from a little cafe called The Happiness Trap, which offers an assortment of vegetarian mains, hearty salads, and vegetable-heavy smoothies. We then took the ferry over to Devenish Island to scout locations for our big day. We had originally planned on getting married on the lawn in front of the tower, but when someone suggested we consider the abbey ruins, we took one look and changed our minds: the ruins it was.
Unfortunately we didn't get to spend much time in Enniskillen, as we had to get to Galway before catching the morning ferry to the Aran Islands. Since Sean's Bar was on the way, we decided to stop and have a beer at the oldest pub in the world (yup, the WORLD) - which has been serving up alcoholic beverages since before the Magna Carta even existed. Once we arrived in Galway, we grabbed dinner from Kashmir then rested our heads in a cozy Airbnb before waking up early the next morning to make our way to Rossaveal, where we caught a ferry to the Arans.
You could get by with just an afternoon on the Aran Islands, but I wouldn't recommend it. We spent two nights (we took the early morning ferry from Rossaveal then took the afternoon ferry back, a couple of days later) but next time we visit we'll spend four or five days and hop around to the other two islands, as well. If your schedule only permits an afternoon to visit the Arans, your time would be best spent on Inishmore.
There are a number of car services that will drive you around on a tour of the island, but that's not nearly as fun or scenic as riding a bike. So I'm going to go ahead and say that renting a bike is a must. Another must? Renting it from Burke. He runs the only independent bike shop on the island AND if you get your bike from him and tell him Ladycakes sent you, he'll let you in on a little secret about one of the local attractions. A secret that landed us the entire place to ourselves, at sunset.
Oh, and while you're there, make sure you grab a sweater from the Aran Sweater Market. They're the coziest thing I own.
Lios Aengus - One of the few places to get a good cup of coffee on the island.
The Bar - Should you tire of Joe Watty's, head to 'The Bar' for an ice cold pint or a really stiff drink.
Dún Aonghasa - The view is spectacular and it's more than worth the long bike ride and climb.
Dún Dúchathair - Not nearly as massive or as popular as Dún Aonghasa, so people tend to skip it. But you shouldn't. We me up with Amy (from Sobremesa) and had a lovely picnic.
The seal colony - The seals are most active during the morning hours, but it's pretty packed during that time. We prefer to visit in the early afternoon, with some good grub in tow.
Na Seacht Teampaill - Sure, the church ruins are cool, but the graveyards take the cake.
Island Loop - Thom woke up early one morning and cycled 55km around the entire island. He said it was awesome. He also got a gnarly sunburn so make sure you slather on some sunscreen.
This was our second time visiting the Arans and we opted to stay on Inshmore, again. We originally booked the Pier House but due to them lying about the internet connectivity (I made it clear that I was planning a wedding and required a connection to be able to communicate with the suppliers and our wedding day coordinator) we switched to the Seacrest B&B and I am so happy we did. Not only was Geraldine warm and inviting, but she went above and beyond, making sure we were as comfortable as possible during our stay. The rooms were clean and spacious, and the breakfast offerings were substantial. The cherry on top? She offers vegan/gluten free options, upon request.
I'm a little regretful that I didn't bring my camera out more often while we were in Dublin. My time there was chaotic due to making the wedding cake and, when I left the apartment, the last thing I wanted to do was have my camera weighing me down. So I left it behind. And as a result, there isn't any high-qualty photographic evidence of the delicious food I ate while we were in town.
So it goes.
I think it's worth mentioning that Dublin is up there on my list of favorite capitol cities. It's highly walkable, the food is out-of-this-world good, the people are fantastic, and there is always - always - something to do. You could get by with just a few jam-packed days in the city, but I recommend trying to spend at least four to five so that you can take it easy and wander without feeling like you need to cram 129834 things into your itinerary.. or eat five meals a day, like we did while we were in Copenhagen and Stockholm.
The Fumbally - Funky atmosphere. Delicious Eats. Don't pass it up.
Cornucopia - The salads leave a bit to be desired (especially after having the salad plate at the Fumbally), but the entrees are always delicious and they have a decent dessert selection.
The Winding Stair - Where we had our wedding reception dinner, which was so phenomenal that our guests are still raving about it. I can't remember exactly what I had (a potato pancake-something with leeks, sautéed mushrooms, beets, etc.), but it was so delicious I nearly ate the entire thing despite the fact I wasn't even remotely hungry. Vegans call ahead.
Fallon & Byrne - They have a vegan friendly menu, but even if you're not vegan, I'm going to suggest the polenta 'cause it's the best polenta you'll ever have.
Elephant & Castle - The big ass salad is always the way to go. Unless you eat meat, then you should be having the wings.
The Woollen Mills - Recently opened sister restaurant to the Winding Stair. The drinks were top notch and the food was outstanding. Next to our wedding reception dinner, it was the best meal I had the entire trip.
Busyfeet & Coco Cafe - Great place to grab brunch with friends. Also, they have a Bitcoin machine (!).
Whitefrair Grill - If you're dining with meat eaters and have already checked the Winding Stair + Woollen Mills off your list, this is definitely the place to go. They made me a delicious and hearty board of assorted salads, confirming my belief that some of the best vegan food comes from establishments that don't specialize in plant-based eats.
Roasted Brown - They roast some seriously delicious coffee and make a mean dairy-free cappuccino.
3FE - If you stay at the Waterloo House, you can walk past this on your way into the City Center. You have to go just a bit out of the way, but it is so worth it.
Brother Hubbard - Didn't get a chance to enjoy the food (my friends say it's good), but the coffee was delicious. Which isn't surprising considering the folks at 3FE are the ones who helped them set up shop.
Brick Alley Cafe - Not the fanciest (or the best), but it'll always be one of my favorite places to get a soy latte in Dublin.
Alchemy Juice - Good quality juices and delicious protein balls.
The Stag's Head - We went here for my bachelorette party and again the night of the wedding. It's always packed and often times overflows into the street. A must visit when in Dublin.
The Brazen Head - Second oldest pub in Ireland. That's reason enough to go have a beer or three.
The Long Hall - Good place for a Guinness but the mixed drinks are weak.
The Central Library - Cozy atmosphere and generous pours.
Rustic Stone - Some of the best mixed drinks I've ever had. Their cocktail list is extensive and many of the drinks are made with freshly-squeezed juices and herbs.
We rented an adorable Airbnb apartment during our first four days in Dublin (so that I could make our wedding cake) but then switched to our favorite B&B: The Waterloo House. It's tucked into a quaint neighborhood that's about a mile from the city center, and the staff serves up a mean breakfast that keeps us coming back, year after year.