It’s that time of year again, green beer, leprechauns and whiskey. That’s right, it’s bloody St. Paddy’s day and there’s still feckin’ snow on the ground. Well worry not, this post is sure to warm your heart and make you dream of Ireland.
No matter who I’ve talked to–history buff, wildlife enthusiast, or just travelling for the craic–no matter where they’ve been, they say Ireland is one of the most beguiling, life changing places they’ve ever seen. From the Cliffs of Moher to the unchanged cobblestone streets of Dublin. From wild Connemara to kitschy Cobh, Ireland has seen great tragedy and overcome it.
Ireland has some of the most enchanting landscapes you would only read about in fairytales. A land so ridden with sadness it can only cultivate beauty. It is so picturesque and untouched that it is the prime shooting location for Game of Thrones, Vikings and pretty much every other period-piece. This mighty little nation is full of history, superstitions and folklore from coast to coast . . . and some of the best humans you will ever meet.
Ireland is not known for her Cities
The best part of Ireland is not found in a pint of Guinness or on a crowded street in Dublin. The heart of Ireland lies in her landscapes. Greens, and golds woven into an immaculate quilt of mountains, forests, waterfalls and wildflowers. It is a land even England could not conquer. So to stay in a city and miss all her wonders would be a true tragedy. The best advice I can give you is go to Galway and head south . . . the journey is half the fun.
The capital, Dublin, is the most populated city . . . and it’s full of Brazilians. While the diversity is nice, it kind of takes away from the Irish Experience. It’s almost too expensive to do anything and it’s really just another city. Dublin is good for a day, you can see a lot of historical sites like, the General Post Office, Kilmainham Gaol, Grafton Street, St Stephen’s Green, Trinity College and Molly Malone.
It might be older than the pyramids but it’s still one of the most anti-climactic exhibits I’ve ever seen.
Skip the Titanic Museum and go to Cobh
Pronounced “Cove”, Cobh is in fact the last place the Titanic docked before she set off to her water grave just off the coast of Nova Scotia. This beautiful little town saw many of its’ inhabitants leave and never come back. Whether they were carted off as slaves or left of their own volition, there are sculptures to commemorate them. The port that docked Titanic is still standing today . . . which is a lot more interesting than reading about it in a museum.
Do NOT miss Killarney
There is green and then there is Killarney. If you have the time do the full Ring of Kerry, which includes Killarney National Park, Mukross House and Gap of Dunloe, it’s like walking through God’s backyard. There are mountains covered in moss so ancient it’s fossilized. The land is so untouched that the Gap of Dunloe didn’t receive electricity until 1985. Forests you could only imagine in fairytales are thick with dew, moss and the smell of turf. It’s virtually impossible not to believe in unicorns after seeing a place like this. The mist can be so thick sometimes you can’t even see the tops of the McGillicuddy Reeks (the tallest mountains in Ireland) but, if you’re blessed with even a glimmer of sunshine, you will feel so connected to this planet, you will have even just a moment of the most immense divinity and you will never be the same.
Try the Sushi
Ireland is not known for its’ cuisine, nor should it be. Where the Irish succeed is their food quality. Boiled bacon, cabbage and potatoes are really not that exciting but, when it comes to fish, they know what they’re doing. Fish literally melts in your mouth it’s so fresh, not to mention you know who caught it in most cases. It just so happens that there is a reason for it being so green, and that’s not because it rains everyday. The island is on such an angle that the agriculture is borderline perfect–there are no toxic pesticides or GMO’s. There’s almost no factory farming and the practice ethical fishing. You might not be able to find Greek or Moroccan food but you’ll find no better ingredients in the world.
Transit sucks on this little rock, so your options are walk, drive, cycle or hitch-hike. You would be surprised how easy it can be to get from one side of the country to the other, simply by hitch-hiking. It’s a little harder in the midlands and the east coast but once you get to the west, whether you’re going from Galway to Dingle or Kinsale to Belfast, you can find someone to give you a lift.
Put a Cork in It
Cork is one of my favourite counties. Not only does it maintain the same rich, dirty history as Dublin, it kept its’ sense of humour. Cork has a much more relaxed vibe to it than Dublin and even though it’s a city, it retains its Irish integrity. The streets are rich with colour as each building is a different shade of the rainbow. Memorials are erected throughout the town to inform everyone just how important their heritage is to them.
If there is one thing you do in this life, visit Ireland. You will see a side of this planet you didn’t know existed. Where people are real and honest, people who know what it’s like to suffer. People who might be a little tentative at first but will floor you with their loyalty. You will hear music like you’ve never heard and you will understand that there is so much beauty in sadness. This is a land founded upon it. Open your heart to Ireland, you will see that beauty is eternal when you’re passionate. This a country that has endured slavery, severe oppression, famine and war. Fighting for what you know is right will always be worth it and you must never accept anything less than your worth.
And when Irish eyes are smiling…
she’ll steal your heart away.