Wearing matching Irish caps on the Tarbert ferry.
We spent a few weeks in Ireland in the summer of 2014. Here are a few highlights, to give you some ideas of places you might like to visit. Here is a map. I have colour-coded the markers as:
- GREEN — we highly recommended you visit
- YELLOW — if interested and you have the time
- RED — we went there but in your limited time, don’t bother
To give a sense of scale, Ireland is about the length of Vancouver Island, but 3x the width. It takes about 6 hours to drive from the North coast to the South coast (Derry to Cork), and about 2-1/2 hours to drive from East to West (Dublin to Galway). The motorways are fast, and easy driving, once you get used to driving on the left side, and the roundabouts.
Rebel walking tour — background of the Easter Rising of 1916. Details (including excellent reviews) are here. The tour guide takes you round to sites of significance in this historic but series of events, eventually resulting in the formation of the Irish Republic in 1921.
The Post Office was a key building in the Easter Rising of 1916.
National Museum of Ireland: Archaeology. Link is here. I wanted to spend more time here, learning about Irish prehistory.
Kilmainham Gaol. Website is here. Diane visited with Jared.
Newgrange — a 5000-year old megalithic monument — older than Stonehenge. Day trips are available by bus from Dublin — see here. It is one of the most significant prehistoric sites in Europe, and is designated as a World Heritage site. There is a museum on the site. Each year there is a lottery, which thousands enter, to return on Winter solstice and wait in the central chamber in darkness before dawn to see the first rays of the sun. Actually the sun’s rays pierce the central chamber from a couple of days before to a couple of days after the solstice, so the lottery involves 5 days, and about 20 lucky visitors each day. Jared won in 2014, but did not attend.
Take train from Dublin to Howth — 30-minute train trip to a lovely coastal area with nice walks and good restaurants. We enjoyed taking a long coastal walk here and having a good meal.
Queen’s University, and Belfast Botanic Gardens.
Black taxi tour of the murals — called the “Political and Mural Tour”. Our own personal guided tour, in an old black taxi, with the driver as tourguide. There were many stops where he got out with us for a short walk to view murals and sites. Our driver had a degree in history, as well as a bullet wound gained during the troubles — he knew what he was talking about! In the picture Jared is holding several plastic bullets, one of which hit our guide’s grandpa.
See travel site here. Walls were built in 1600’s — finest example of a walled city in Ireland. We visited during a period of very wet weather, and did not have much time as we needed to press on — but we did walk part of the wall. In good weather this would be a fascinating city to spend some time in.
The north and west coast
Giant’s Causeway. As geologists, I think you have to go here! The Led Zeppelin cover was taken here; Jared is referencing it in the picture.
Jared reprising the Led Zeppelin cover…
The Rope Bridge at Carrick-a-Rede
This was fun, but I would not call it a “must-see”. The small island is connected to the mainland by a swinging footbridge, much like the Lynn Canyon suspension bridge in North Vancouver. Traditionally, the bridge was used by fishermen to access the island to check their salmon nets. The coastal birdlife on the island is impressive. It was windy!
This was the first place we realized that Ireland is a surfing destination. Jared took a couple of days of surfing lessons. Not nearly the variety of activities here as at Lahinch.
A great place to visit, even if you don’t want to surf. The beach is beautiful, the shops and cafes are nice, and there are many pubs where you can enjoy a pint and dinner while listening to live Irish traditional music. There’s a golf course too.
Ciffs of Moher
We did not access the cliffs via the “official” entrance, but on a recommendation we found a southern access point which involved parking in someone’s yard (for a small fee) and walking to the cliffs.
We stayed in a hostel at the end of the peninsula — Dun Chaoin Hostel near Dunquin — but there are also B&Bs available. Lots of nice opportunities for beach and cliff walking, and site seeing.
After a long day of hiking — the Sleeping Giant is in the distance.
Great Blasket Island
Birr Castle and Ireland’s Historic Science Centre.
I had read about the giant telescope, built by the 3rd Earl of Rosse in the 1840’s. He discovered the spiral nature of the galaxies (though not until Hubble in the 1900’s were these “nebulae” understood to be galaxies). This was the largest telescope in the world until 1917, when the Hooker telescope was installed on Mt. Wilson in California. The gardens at Birr Castle have some spiral galaxy-shaped plantings to commemorate the discoveries made with this telescope.
Visiting Gary — County Cavan