I spent the Easter long weekend on the blustery and gorgeous coast of Northern Ireland. I lucked out with the perfect weather during my time in Northern Ireland - one I rightfully consider its own place to visit because if you take a peek at my list of how many countries there are in the world, you'll see I've included about 80 territories that aren't countries, and I've also broken down the UK into Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England, each worthy of their own travels and their own spots on my list. I finished my time in Northern Ireland with a few days in Belfast, visiting the Titanic Museum exactly 111 years to the day after she departed on maiden voyage and going out salsa dancing with some people from my hostel.
I then caught a bus on a rainy Wednesday afternoon from Belfast back south to Dublin to spend two nights wandering the city, meeting up with Janina, a longtime close friend of my best friend Janna, and preparing for my next adventure: a five-day roadie all around Ireland.
I first met Christophe last August during a walking tour of Quito and spent maybe two hours with him and his friends (and my parents and a bunch of other people on the tour). I ran into him and his friends again at the refugio on Cotopaxi Volcano. So, eight months later, when I'd decided to stop over for a week or so in Ireland and knowing he's currently living in Dublin, I reached out to him on Instagram and lo and behold, somehow we've rented a car and are heading on a five-day roadtrip around his current home country.
We both took the Friday and the Monday off of work, and tried to squeeze in as much as possible, lucking out with sunshine and dry weather nearly everywhere. Ireland is truly a delightful country - gorgeous countrysides, fairytale-like roads and villages, peaceful surrounds... it's got it all. And pleeeenty of sheep. Here's everything we did on our five-day Irish roadie:
How to Travel Around Ireland
The public transport system in Ireland is actually really good and reaches many of the most touristy spots around the country, and you can also arrange tours from your accommodations in Dublin, but to really enjoy the freedom of the lush open road, stopping where and when you want, renting a car is the best way to get around.
You can rent a car from the typical rental agencies at the airport, however when Christophe priced it out, it turned out to be cheaper to use the car-sharing app GoCar, which came with a daily €70 fuel voucher and no additional rental paperworks or deposits to sign and pay. We simply pre-booked the car (the night before!) for four days, Friday-Monday, and just had to make sure we dropped it off in the same place we'd picked it up in Dublin before the end of our timeslot.
Day 1: Dublin
ARRIVE: I flew into Dublin from Madrid a week earlier, and took a bus up to Northern Ireland for a few gorgeous days of wandering around the coast and visiting Belfast, before taking the same bus back down to Dublin. Dublin's really accessible by bus and, as the only English-speaking country left in the EU, very easy to navigate with plenty of flights arriving direct from across the continent.
DO: walk along the River Liffey. Grab a drink at Temple Bar. Visit Trinity College (and the Book of Kells, if you want to spend the money!).
EAT: Cornucopia is an absolutely mouthwatering vegan spot in the heart of Dublin offering all sorts of comforting, daily-changing delights.
STAY: I stayed at two hostels, both were great. Abbey Court Hostel offered free breakfast and a central location right on the river. Jacob's Inn was much larger with reliable wifi, an in-house cafe/bar, breakfast for an additional fee, and right next to the bus station.
Day 2: Dublin to Connemara National Park to Galway
ARRIVE: We picked up our Go Car in the morning in Dublin and drove the four hours west all the way across the country to Connemara National Park, then doubled back for the 1.5 hour drive back to Galway where we spent the night.
DO: Roadtrip through the stunning Connemara National Park. Drive the Wild Atlantic Way to get there. Spot the iconic Kylemore Abbey. Find live music in an Irish pub in Galway and drink a Guinness with locals.
EAT: A colleague of mine started The Dough Bros way back when and I kid you not it's the best pizza in all of Ireland.
STAY: I cannot speak highly enough about The Stop, a bright and delightful b&b just ten minutes walk from downtown, offering pretty little rooms and a delicious breakfast spread.
Day 3: Galway to Cliffs of Moher to Valentia Island
ARRIVE: We left Galway early on day 3 to drive all the way down the west coast of this exquisite and lush country. We had a place booked on Valentia Island which made for just over five hours of driving.
DO: take in the morning air on the coast in Galway. Spot the ruins of Dunguaire Castle. Take in the epic views of the incredible Cliffs of Moher. Drive half of the Ring of Kerry towards Valentia Island.
EAT: I grabbed a vegan burger from the adorable Hungry Veggie food truck near the Cliffs, then we stopped for scones and drinks at Danny Mac's pub in town. For dinner, we almost were unlucky as we were searching for food in a tiny village with a population of 123 people at 10:00pm but the local pub (where the entire population seemed to be gathered for Saturday night dancing) took pity on us and whipped us up soups and sandwhiches. A roadie highlight.
STAY: We ended up having booked the Boss' Farmhouse on AirBnB on Valentia Island which, aside from being an entire house with three bedrooms, was absolutely adorable and I wish I could have stayed for a month. However, if I did this trip again, I'd recommend staying in Dingle and then heading from there towards the Ring of Kerry and Killarney - you can happily skip Valentia Island.
Day 4: Valentia Island to Ring of Kerry to Killarney
ARRIVE: We left Valentia Island to complete the second half of the Ring of Kerry which was absolutely breathtaking. Then we drove to Killarney, and spent the night near the coast in Lissyclearig, making day 4 a much shorter day, with just over two hours of driving.
DO: roadtrip the world famous Ring of Kerry. Hike the Gap of Dunloe (park at Kate Kearney's Cottage, and then walk up to road to the Head of Dunloe). Explore the ruins of Ross Castle and Muckross Abbey in Killarney.
EAT: We went out for a meal at a pub in Kenmare, the town nearest to our b&b in Lissyclearig.
STAY: We booked a night at the quaint little Lissyclearig Thatched Cottage, providing a wonderful breakfast spread in a cosy cottage just off the Ring of Kerry, a perfect base for exploring Killarney National Park.
Day 5: Lissyclearig to Rock of Cashel to Kilkenny to Dublin
ARRIVE: On our last day on the road, we headed back towards Dublin, stopping at the Rock of Cashel and Kilkenny along the way east, making for a day of just under five hours of driving.
DO: take a guided tour at the most famous religion site in Ireland at the Rock of Cashel and learn the fascinating history behind this beautiful restored monument. Wander the bustling streets of Kilkenny.
EAT: We stopped in for yummy Asian fusion food in Kilkenny at Aroi.