Because I am currently on the beach in southern Florida sunning my cheeks and nowhere near a computer (or the bottom of this piña colada for that matter), this week’s post comes from Shannon, my very dear friend and fellow travel blogger at Camera & Carry On. Like I mentioned last week, I wanted to fill the first half of March with all the luck o’ the Irish but, having never had the pleasure of exploring Ireland myself, I’ve taken to outsourcing. Enjoy the post, the gorgeous pictures Shannon is known for taking, and visit Camera & Carry On for more goodness when you’re through!
I’ve never been a fan of the, “What’s your favorite place in the world?” question, because frankly, it’s impossible to answer. Like, “Which kid do you love most?” Wait, don’t answer that. I don’t want to know, and I’d hate to be the reason you now have to put your secondary child(ren) in therapy. Let’s just say I appreciate and admire unique destinations for what they are. That said, there miiiight be a select few I hold dearest, Ireland being one of them. Once the haunt of my dreams, the Emerald Isle has secured a spot on my Go Back Someday list after my grand, three week visit.
I’ve been graciously invited to share my Dos and Don’ts for exploring Ireland with you, so here goes! I’ll preface this by saying that just about everything in Ireland is a DO, so learn how to say, “Cheers!” in Gaelic (it’s, “Sláinte,” by the way) and pack your bags for clover country!
DO VISIT THE BIG STUFF EVERYONE TALKS ABOUT.
Like Blarney Castle, the Cliffs of Moher, Slieve League, the Giant’s Causeway, Ring of Kerry… They’re popular for a reason. Except, drive the Ring of Beara instead of Kerry (less busy and more scenic). And whether you’re more city or country, forgive the cliché, there is something for everyone. Dublin and Belfast check the culture and entertainment boxes, while heart and charm fill picturesque towns from coast to coast.
DON’T WEAR A SKIRT WHEN YOU KISS THE BLARNEY STONE.
Or hey, maybe that’s your thing: making entirely inappropriate wardrobe choices and regretting them. Whatever you do, know that the smoochable rock is tucked in a precarious spot that requires some – ehm – tricky maneuvering and a bit of assistance to reach. On the note of clothes and packing, bring stretchy pants (and an umbrella, sweater, boots…). Your muffining belly, courtesy of Irish breakfasts and pints of Guinness, will thank you for the wiggle room. You can also count on the weather to be as fickle as a pickle. Rain, shine, wind, or calm; unpredictability comes with the territory, as you’ll find weather (arguably) the no. 1 topic of conversation among locals. Feel free to join in the banter!
DO GET A SET OF WHEELS FOR EXPLORING IRELAND.
Dublin and Belfast are a cinch to explore on foot, but you’re going to ditch the city to explore the rolling hills and seaside cliffs on your own. “So I can just arrange to be part of a tour group!?” Wrong. Well, you could, but I highly suggest you put that idea in the can. Tour bus, schmoor bus. Rent a car! The roads are very easy to navigate and I can assure you, you’ll never wish you didn’t rent a vehicle, whether you’re off trailblazing or following suggested routes. Just make sure to pay attention when you cross from the Republic of Ireland into Northern Ireland (right… no left!).
DON’T KEEP TO YOURSELF.
Get your head out of your bum (or cell phone) and actually talk to people. Meet locals. Go to bars! Irish folk are warm, welcoming, and incredible storytellers. Masters of the tale, the list of notable Irish authors is hefty. Ever heard of James Joyce? Irish. Oscar Wilde? Irish. Bram Stoker? Irish. J.M. Barrie? Actually, he’s Scottish. But still! Writerly talents abound among infinite shades of green. A special sauce for good times, mix in a touch of liquid courage to instigate hours of yarn spinning with strangers.
DO LOOK OUT FOR FAIRIES.
Magic is real. Don’t believe? You will once your eyes feast on sights, or after you’ve sucked down three eight proper pints. Magic comes from within! Not really; that’s just you being drunk and thinking you’re awesome. As for the fairies, they are totally a THING here. Remember the bit about the Irish being badass storytellers? Wisps, mythical creatures, figments; just more fodder for folklore. Keep your eyes peeled for the whimsy (like sweet, petite fairy doors) and maybe you’ll find a surprise. As for leprechauns, never mind those shifty buggars.
DON’T GIVE YOUR WIFE A HEART ATTACK DOING CRAZY THINGS.
Like hanging over the edge of the Cliffs of Moher for a kickass photograph. Be adventurous, but don’t be a dope, and certainly don’t take a selfie doing it. Have you read the stats about selfie-related mortality? Serious #facepalm action. If you want to eat blood sausage (Eww!), pet mountain goats, drink Guinness for breakfast… that’s your prerogative! Just try not to make the rest of your traveling party anxious every time you get the twinkle for thrills in your eye.
DO STAY IN B&BS.
Say ta-ta to big name hotels in favor of the little guys. You don’t really want to stay in a Hilton again, do you? Regardless, you’d be hard pressed to find one of those outside a major city, and Ireland is where B&Bs were BORN! I think. Feels like it anyway, with uniquely Irish lodgings a cinch to find. Some are quaint and country, like grams & gramps’ doily-infested abode. Others artfully blend classic Irish touches with a modern aesthetic. Whatever you choose, you can’t go wrong so long as there’s afternoon tea and fluffy pillows.
DON’T CLOSE YOUR EYES.
Keep those peepers open, like, ALL the time, because you won’t want to miss a thing. IMO, one of the most strikingly beautiful destinations, the island is a two-for-one jackpot. Whether you’re sticking to Northern Ireland or venturing ‘round the Republic; eye candy is all around (see: every photo in this post). Soak up every ounce of beauty that pours from the landscapes of dreamers and lovers. Oh, and you may want to stock up on SD cards, because shutter-happy is a common affliction among first time visitors.
DO TAKE A BLACK CAB TOUR IN BELFAST.
Arranged just a day in advance, our personal guide took us to some of Belfast’s most infamous sites associated with The Troubles, a 30+ year period of civil unrest and violence. Take some time to do your research to best understand the content, but know that successful guides will present a fair and (as much as possible) unbiased account of the conflict. Do be a dear by keeping your opinions to yourself; the wound still feels very fresh in a recovering community. I found it one of the most enlightening and heart wrenching experiences we’ve had on our travels, not to be missed. And since we’re on the subject of tours, do the free walking one in Dublin, too!
DON’T EXPECT TO DINE ON CORNED BEEF & CABBAGE.
It’s bacon & cabbage in Ireland, along with savory pies, stews, sausages, and other stick-to-your-ribs delights. I wouldn’t consider it a haven for vegetarians of the world, but there are always the rooty veggies to turn to! Like faithful potatoes (“veg” used loosely, as I consider this more starchy side than vegetable — an almost daily point of contention between the hubby and I). These tubers live up to the stereotype as staple foods of Ireland; boiled, baked, or fried, they’re fair game any time of day. Along coastal areas, seafood takes the show, and a beer rounds out any meal, any time of day (obviously). And as luck would have it, we had some of the best damn ice cream from a food cart at the cliffs of Slieve League. Eat up!
DO FIND YOURSELF IN A NICE PUB OFTEN, PREFERABLY WITH MUSICAL ENTERTAINMENT.
Songs and brew are as much a part of Irish culture as, well… they ARE Irish culture. You’ll never know true joy until you join a lively sing-a-long at a cliffside bar in Donegal. Ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. You probably know all sorts of joy, but I assure you this kind of fun settles in your being. Your mood will improve, you’ll search for excuses to turn life into a musical a-la-Once, and days will slowly shift to center around pub outings.
DON’T PUT IT OFF ANY LONGER.
For goodness sakes, what are you waiting for? Go north! And south, east, and west. But whatever you do, go to Ireland. Get off the beaten path and really explore. What’s the worst that could happen? You get lost then find your way again. Just DON’T try to cram everything in unless you’ve got the time. You’ll find yourself rushed and disappointed. Ireland is a smart and sassy girl but doesn’t want to rush things. Take it slow, have a few drinks, and let the layers peel off one by one. Let Ireland happen. Or if you’re a Game of Thrones fan, just Google filming locations and hit those up. You can’t lose.
There you have it! Rent a car, get lost in the beauty, and drink some beer. Adh mor ort!
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR EXPLORING IRELAND? LET ME KNOW BELOW!
So many thanks and rainbows and Irish jigs to Shannon for covering for me while I’m sunshining myself and drowning in 32oz Rum Runners. Don’t worry, I brought my snorkel.
Shannon and her husband Michael blog over at Camera & Carry On and, I can’t stress this enough, it’s one of my favorites. Check ’em out for more great travel information and drop-dead-gorgeous photography!
⇠ Also, how great is this sheep?!