By Tatiana Morand
Visiting Student Blogger
One of the best parts of being on exchange in a country I’d never visited before was the chance to explore all of it! Ireland is a beautiful country with a lot of history and atmosphere to absorb (and best of all, a lot of castles). Here are the spots I was lucky enough to visit over my time here, to provide you with a little bit of inspiration.
Malahide is a small seaside town that’s a quick ride on the DART train away from Dublin. There’s a castle, so of course I was interested!
It makes a nice spot to visit if you want to get away from the bustle of Dublin for a day and walk around a slightly more relaxing atmosphere.
Cork and the Blarney Castle
Although I unfortunately didn’t have much time to explore Cork, it looked like a nice city that was smaller, but quite similar to Dublin. (Anyone who has actually spent more time there, feel free to disagree!)
However, the Blarney Castle, as one of Ireland’s top tourist destinations, is not to be missed!
There was (as with almost every other major tourist destination I visited over this exchange…) construction being done while I visited, but the grounds were also gorgeous.
I also kissed the Blarney Stone- I haven’t noticed any change in my eloquence yet, but I’ll keep you posted!
Howth is another lovely seaside town (sans castle, for once). If you hike up the hill, you can get splendid views of the Irish coast!
There are also a ton of seafood restaurants, if that’s your style. (And, more to my taste, a lot of beautiful photo opportunities!)
Galway’s main claim to fame comes from the song “Galway Girl”, which every tour bus that I took in Ireland played.
The town isn’t much of a tourist destination itself- when my friend and I asked the tourist office what we should do for the day, all their recommendations were day trips outside the city- but it is definitely cute, and makes a great departure point for…
The Cliffs of Moher
This is Ireland’s top tourist destination. I think it also featured in a book I read once. (Maybe? I read a lot of books…) Either way, of course I had to go!
Honestly, photos can’t do it justice. (Just don’t fall off the cliffs- there aren’t many fences!) It’s a bit far from Dublin (about a four-hour bus ride, ouch), so if you’re planning to visit I would definitely suggest combining a visit there with a visit to Galway.
Kilkenny’s main highlight was, for me, its castle (what else?). It only cost two euros, so if you’re only planning on visiting one castle, I would recommend this one! (But why would you only visit one castle? That’s just blasphemy…)
It also had a lovely graveyard (something I’m almost as passionate about as I am about castles), as well as the tiniest tower that I’ve ever climbed.
The Wicklow mountains is one of the more famous regions in Dublin, because so many movies have been shot there (think PS I Love You and Braveheart). There are beautiful views all around the area, and one of my favourites was the Guinness Lake (which really does look like a pint of Guinness).
You should also take a few hours to hike around the beautiful Glendalough Park- you won’t be disappointed!
Dalkey is yet another small, coastal town that’s close to Dublin on the DART. (You might be starting to see a trend in my travel preferences…)
It also has a castle. (Preference confirmed.) This castle has the distinction of having the weirdest guided tour I’ve ever experienced. (I’ll leave you to decide whether that’s a selling point or not.)
On a less equivocal note, there are some beautiful hiking trails, which also featured a lot of beautiful dogs. (A lot of people in Dalkey have dogs, apparently.)
I also got the chance to see some of Northern Ireland, distinguishable from Ireland mainly in that everything is in pounds rather than in euros (and people have even stronger accents).
Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland. It’s a smaller city than Dublin, and has a completely different ambience. Although I didn’t see many of the political undercurrents that underlie its history, I did see a lot of art.
(I also didn’t see the Titanic museum. At this point, you might be questioning whether or not I even went to Belfast…)
But… I did see a castle! (I’m sure this surprises no one.)
This castle, tiny as it was, was one of my favourites because its garden had so many cat statues and decorations. (I am a confirmed crazy cat lady.)
The grounds were also lovely- my friend and I, in my sole athletic activity of this entire trip, climbed into a cave!
Giants Causeway & Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge
The unique rock formations at Giant’s Causeway were caused by a fleeing giant.
Or they were caused by hardened lava. You decide, but I think the first explanation is cooler. Another nearby attraction is the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge, which connects the mainland to a tiny, tiny island.
It’s really not as scary as it looks!
And… that’s all! I hope you enjoyed seeing all of these beautiful Irish destinations as much as I enjoyed visiting them, and plan to see at least a few of them over your time in Ireland.