My spring break trip to Ireland was almost two months ago, but the excitement that I felt going to the different cities and getting to know my heritage still has not gone away. I had wanted to go to Ireland for the longest time and I knew when my roommates were talking about going their for spring break WAY BACK in January that I needed to take this opportunity to visit the land of my ancestors.
My trip, however, involved something that I usually enjoy: traveling. Seems like a no-brainer, right? Of course a trip from Rome to Ireland would involve traveling. But not like any traveling I had ever done. My spring break involved two flights and seven bus trips. Any visitor to Ireland knows that one of the only ways to get around Ireland is by bus or car. And seeing as how I lacked a car, it was the bus for me. The two different bus companies I used were Go Bus and Bus Eirrann. But the hundreds of mile spent traversing Ireland by bus were not spent staring out the window into a lonely abyss of nothingness. Rather, the countryside completely unfolds around you as you spend hours driving down the motorway that connects Dublin to Galway, or Cork to Waterford. I made seven different bus trips in Ireland, each a few hours in length, and got to see more of the country than I ever thought I would.
The natural beauty is why I initially wanted to go to Ireland. Anybody who wishes to go to Ireland with the hopes of seeing spectacular examples of Gothic architecture or any other types of extremely impressive architecture, with the exception of some of the beautiful castles that dot the country, will not find it on this island country blanketed with emerald green grass that stretches for as far as the eye can see.
The highlights of my trip were seeing the Cliffs of Mohar, kissing the Blarney Stone, and having a family reunion of sorts with family from Ireland. The cliffs are by far the most beautiful natural thing that I have ever seen in my life. Anyone who is lucky enough to experience them is left in awe at how nature could have given us something so majestic. The cliffs are often referred to as “Europe’s grandest stretch of coastline,” and also a dangerous stretch. When I visited in March, five people had already died this year from getting to close to the edge and falling off. There is no surviving a fall from the Cliffs of Mohar as the cliffs rise several hundred feet above the water. Following the walking paths which are a comfortable distance from the edge ensures a safe experience, but beware, the wind at the cliffs is brutal, so hats and other loose objects may not make it even if you do!
Kissing the Blarney Stone was nothing special but the history behind the stone makes kissing it more significant. You can read a brief history of the stone here. Kissing the stone is supposed to bring you the gifts of eloquent speech, persuasiveness, and good luck (which I know I can use). I came to Blarney Castle and the Blarney estate to kiss the stone, but discovered the beautiful gardens of the estate that are much more engaging than a centuries-old rock. Located about seven miles outside of Cork City in County Cork, the village of Blarney, which was once called “the biggest little village in the world” is most famous for its stone and castle which is a short walk from the town square. Rather than describe the gardens, I feel that the pictures below I took can better describe and bring to life their charm.
The last leg of my trip took me to Dungarvan in County Waterford on the south-eastern coast of Ireland. My family lives in a village just outside of the center of Dungarvan called Helvick. I was able to go back to the very heart of where for centuries my family has lived and still lives, see where they worked and where they still live and the town and landscape that they have called home for so many years. It was a very special experience for me and a trip that you simply cannot put a price on. Again, I feel that the pictures I now have of Helvick are the only way that comes close to doing it justice, so I have included those below as well.
In a way, Ireland is everything and nothing like I expected. I did not expect for so many people to be speaking Irish, which by the way is not simply an accent of the English language. It is an official language, almost Germanic sounding, and is a recognized language of the European Union. There are villages in Ireland that only speak Irish, and Helvick is one where Irish is widely spoken but where English is also spoken. But there is also such thing as an Irish accent a part from the language which most people are familiar with. The accents vary greatly across the country, with Dublin (Ireland’s capital located on the east coast) sounding more like Britain and Galway (on the west coast) sounding so thickly Irish that you might have to tell someone to slow down or repeat themselves to you.
I also didn’t expect it to be as beautiful as it was. I went there with the mindset that it would be beautiful and ended up being floored by how much it exceeded my expectations. I was also surprised at how dull Dublin seemed to me. There are some attractions to see, such as Trinity College, the Book of Kells, and the Guinness Factory and Jameson Distillery (which is where I found out that whiskey is not my drink of choice) but nothing sticks out remarkably. It is not one of the great capitals of Europe like London, Paris, or Rome are. My advice to anyone thinking about traveling to Ireland is to give Dublin at most one day in your itinerary; you’ll thank yourself for doing so.
Look for a second post of pictures from the Cliffs of Mohar!