David’s Pick – The Emerald Isle
5.5 milliontravellers in 2015
75+years of rail travel experience
The Emerald Isle had always been on my bucket list. When the time came to finally plan my trip, I heard suggestions from so many friends who had already visited I thought to myself, “Am I the only person I know who hasn’t been to Ireland!?” Turns out, I was pretty close. Eventually, the day finally came, and we were off. A full week, 3 cities, maybe a few pints, and one unforgettable trip.
Ireland’s capital and biggest city, though you’ll be surprised just how compact it really feels. After flying overnight, stretch out your legs for a few minutes and board the bus for a mere 6 Euros to head to the city, less than 30 minutes away. When my wife and I arrived we made our way to the apartment we had rented, meeting up with our host for a little while. Who better to welcome you to Ireland than an Irishman? After chatting for a while, we made our way out into the city for some sightseeing. First up on my list was to see the life-size statue of Phil Lynott, legendary front man of the Irish rock band Thin Lizzy. Bonus – the statue is outside of a pub called Bruxelles, so pop in for a drink and some bangers & mash. Speaking of drinks, the Guinness Storehouse is an absolute must. Spring for the Connoisseur Experience, it’s only a bit pricier than regular entry and completely worth it, entertaining and educational! Funny story, we happened to come back to Dublin for the very last night of our trip, which fell on Good Friday. All pubs in Ireland are closed, but if you are “registered” (yes, they will check) at your hotel, you’re welcome at the bar!
From Dublin Heuston train station, it’s a 2.5 hour ride across the midlands to Galway. While the landscape is relatively flat (aside from looking to the south, which is mountainous), all the stories you’ve ever heard about how green Ireland is will be validated. It was like travelling through a post card. Like Dublin, once you arrive you can easily walk to wherever you’ll be shacking up for a few nights. Along the way, take a selfie with Oscar Wilde’s statue. Can you tell we like statues? For all the charming, college-town type charm Galway has to offer, the highlight of our stay, oddly enough, was getting out of town to see the Cliffs of Moher. The world’s most entertaining bus driver, Gary (we’re naming our next cat after him), took us outside the city through the Burren region (where the terrain looks like the surface of the moon) to one of the most breathtaking sights I have ever seen. Remember the cliffs in “The Princess Bride”? Yes, the very same, though seeing it in person is a lot better than seeing it for a few minutes in a movie. By the way, when they say don’t cross the barrier, don’t cross the barrier. The winds are pretty intimidating, and it’s a long way down.
Everyone knows the Blarney Castle, right? While we were tempted (it is only about a 15-minute bus ride outside of town), we elected to skip this famous tourist spot in favor of…wait for it…the Cork Butter Museum! Yes, seriously. C’mon, everyone loves Irish butter, and the history of the Irish dairy industry is more interesting than you may think. OK, if you need something more exciting, Cork has plenty to offer. It has a bit of an “Ireland’s 2nd City” vibe to it. Big, busy, modern, fast-paced, open late. Interestingly, this seems to be the only place in Ireland where they don’t really care for Guinness, they prefer Murphy’s (not bad either).
Overall impression of a week in Ireland? We wish we’d have spent another week. Train travel is easy and efficient (unless you want to try driving on the left side of the road, good luck), prices are reasonable and the scenery is unmatched. Until we meet again ... Sláinte!