Wanderlust: Ireland (Killarney & Ring of Kerry)

The next stop on my tour of Ireland back in March 2017 was the town of Killarney. This was somewhere between a small town and a big city, so, suburb. Strolling through the square at night with my new friends felt like I’d been doing that my whole life.

In the morning, our tour director arranged for horse carriage rides through a nearby park. We bumped along the gravel road right next to the cars driving on the street, locals on their way to their daily lives.

By now, our group was accustomed to the cool grey skies with flurries of drizzles. The cold no longer digs into our bones, at least, for us Floridians. Instead, the sting of the cold air refreshes and wakes us up.

Even out in the suburbs, Ireland proves to never lack any green. The carriage ride took us through a park forest covered in moss and mud, following the gravel path created by modern-day citizens.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Ireland without a visit to another crumbling castle. Fortress remains are scattered throughout the country, making it a land perfect for those who love the fairytale aesthetic.

Even the lake nearby with swans feels like a picture straight out of a Disney movie. There are tourists walking all along the grounds, but I imagine at night it would be emptier, making it prime real estate for a story about a haunting.

The next stop in Killarney is the Red Fox Inn, famous for its Irish coffee. This was probably one of my favorite moments of the entire trip. At 7 a.m., I was served black coffee poured over whiskey, and topped with frothy cream. From the first sip I found myself thinking, “Now this is how you should wake up every morning.” There’s something to be said about sharing an early morning coffee and liquor with a group of strangers who are for the time being your best friends.

As we continued our trek around the Ring of Kerry, we encountered the brightest, bluest, and sunniest day in Ireland, stopping by the beach. It’s not what this Florida girl expected when I was told the beach, but it was beautiful nonetheless. I also took a rock and snuck it through airport security on the trip back (shhh!).

The bus ride around the Ring of Kerry took us through rolling hills of green, well, mountains really. The Macgillycuddy’s Reeks mixed with the brisk Irish weather and gray skies was a sight to behold. The country has so much beautiful scenery to offer, each day in the Emerald Isles made it harder to look forward to my trip back home.

One of the last stops before leaving County Kerry was the Killarney National Park. We only got to spend a couple of hours in the magical forest, but it is a hiker’s dream. Just a few minutes viewing the spectacular Torc Waterfall was enough to inspire a spirit of adventure that leaves me longing for more.

You can get lost along the many roads and countrysides that Ireland has to offer, and never feel aimless. It’s the kind of place that gives new life to the cliche, “It’s about the journey, not the destination.”

For more posts about my trip to Ireland, see the following links: 1, 2, and 3.

If any of you have ever traveled Ireland, let me know in the comments. What were your favorite highlights? If you haven’t gone, which of these sights do you want to see?

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Wanderlust: Ireland (Blarney Castle)

The next stop from my trip to Ireland over a year ago was the famous Blarney Castle. No one warned me that kissing the Blarney Stone required some gymnastics. I wasn’t expecting to be held as I bent backwards into a space between walls with no net to catch me if I slipped through. So here’s a fair warning for fellow travelers who might have a bit of a fear of falling from high places.

 

195I’m also bad at climbing steep, narrow stairs of old, which are prevalent in Europe I’m finding. It takes a bit of leg muscle to make the trek up the stairs, but it’s well worth it, if nothing else than just to say you climbed up to the top of a castle. But I thought the views were pretty stellar from so high up.

I felt a great deal of fear, especially since the steps were so slippery with rain and moss. All that kept passing through my mind were images of falling to my death, thinking, This is where they’ll find my body. In an old castle, in Ireland. There were moments I thought of giving up and turning around, but I hadn’t made it that far just to give up before kissing the damn stone.

Besides that, there’s something about fighting against your own pounding heart and gasping breaths in damp, cold stone walls that makes you feel like a heroine out of a novel.

It wasn’t just the castle though that was beautiful. The surrounding grounds with gardens filled with deadly plants made for quite the sight as well. It felt like walking through magic. 225

With nothing but green and brown as far as the eye could see any which way I turned, I half expected fairies to come greet me at any moment, and wisk me away to a revel I’d never return from.

Or perhaps I just felt the call of the Emerald Isles inviting me to stay a bit longer. I admit, the thought had crossed my mind several times throughout this journey.

See more of my Ireland 2017 travels here:

Part 1. Part 2

Stay tuned for the remaining segments from this trip. Let me know in the comments if you’ve visited Blarney Castle or other Irish stops. What did you think?

Wanderlust: Ireland (Dublin)

Dublin
Day 1 in Dublin

Over a year and a half ago I finally got to visit Ireland, a country I’d been dying to see for as long as I can remember. There’s always been something about the Emerald Isles that called out to me. Maybe it was the myths and folklore. Maybe it was the haunting Celtic music. Maybe it was just the origins of my name. Whatever it may be, I wanted to see it, and so I did.

I went on a 5-day trip through EF College Break (technically 7, but 2 days were travel). We hit the ground running, as we immediately set off to explore Dublin soon after getting off the plane and leaving our luggage at the hotel (we couldn’t check in yet). Our tour guide Fab, who was amazing, helped us get our bearings so that we could wander off solo but still find our way back to our accommodations.

That first day we stuck together, a group of strangers who had just met but needed one another to make sure we didn’t get lost and left behind. Walking the brick alleys and making our way into Temple Bar to warm up with a pint, I soon felt clicking submit on that online trip application was the best decision I’d ever made.

By the next day, we all felt pretty confident in our abilities to navigate this foreign city, and all went our separate ways or in smaller groups. I started out the day with a roommate to explore Dublin Castle, and from there wandered the Irish city on my own, looking for the Writer’s Museum. I got lost along the way a few times, but I felt so sure of myself that I had no problem consulting the map and asking complete strangers which way to go. I definitely wandered into a suspect neighborhood and was quickly told to get out immediately, but no harm came to me.

I finally found the museum and spent a couple of hours there before making my way back to see a popular library as well. Yes, I’m that nerd who goes abroad to look at other countries book spaces. Truthfully though, none of it was about the destinations. Though I had a great time seeing castles, museums, and libraries, I felt more excited by the walking. It was just a city after all, not much different from New York in fact. Dublin also had construction sites blocking the walkways and smelly alleyways.

That’s really my favorite thing about traveling. It’s just walking among the locals, observing the natives of the land, listening to their voices and stories as they walk around me, ignoring my existence. I bask in the normalcy of life when I’m in a completely different country.

During one of my many bouts of getting lost, I realized it was time for lunch and stopped in at the first cafe I found. I didn’t try to act like a local, because I knew how obvious it was that I was American (the accent kind of gives it away). Instead I asked, “What do you recommend?” The woman behind the register named the soup of the day (leek and potato, which I’d never had and thought only existed in Neopets) with brown bread (again, something new to me). It sounded good though, and it was cold outside, so soup wasn’t a bad choice. She served me and I sat down to charge my phone and get Wi-Fi while I ate.

For the record, leek and potato soup is delicious. And with a side of brown bread with Irish butter, absolutely divine. Such simple fare, but so damn good. I took my time with my lunch and happily ate while looking around the restaurant and out the window. Everyone was so normal, and I was enthralled.

I finally started making my way back at the time I figured the sun would be going down. I couldn’t really tell, as it’s always grey in Ireland. But as confident as I was in my newfound ability to travel a foreign country on my own, and as friendly as the people had been thus far, I didn’t want to get stuck on my own at night in the city. When I finally arrived back at the hotel, my feet aching and sore, and my body on the verge of collapse, I consulted my phone to see how much I’d walked that day. Five miles to and five miles from (not including the rerouting that took place from getting lost). So approximately 10 miles total. I’d never walked so much in my life. I was exhausted but it was well worth it.

I’ve decided to break this post up into multiple parts, as I feel I can talk for days about the trip I had over a year ago. Stay tuned for more! In the meantime, have you been to Dublin, Ireland? If so, what was your favorite thing? Let me know in the comments!

For more wanderlust posts, click here.