What to Do: Ireland

We’re about one month out from the start of a three week visit to the U.K. and I’m very excited to have gotten into the nitty gritty of planning all the details. Although this blog is not exclusively about travel, I do love to feature our exploits as often as I can. I learn as much about life (or maybe even more) from venturing into other cultures as I do from running or yoga, so I’m always inspired to share where we’ve been–whether it’s near or far.

This time, instead of solely filling you all in when we get back in the summer, I wanted to try something different. I’d like to create a bit of a forum–one that I hope will not only aid me in planning the rest of our activities while abroad, but that will also be available for you all to reference in case you decide to make a similar journey. I cannot even begin to express how grateful I am to everyone who contributed to What to Do: London and What to Do:Scotland. I got so many great ideas from both those posts that I am almost completely done planning that part of the trip–all that’s left is a restaurant reservation or two!

From Scotland, we are moving on to Ireland, starting first in Belfast. While this post is really a solicitation of advice, I’ve got a bit of my own to offer as well: check the calendar for holidays when you are traveling internationally! Since I didn’t for this trip, we are actually landing in Belfast right in middle of one of their more historically controversial holidays, The Twelfth–a Protestant celebration where many take to the streets for parades. We’ve been assured by many locals that it’s no longer a danger to be in Belfast at this time–and that it will actually be an interesting couple of days to experience the city. I’m glad of that, but am bummed that some of the most highly recommended restaurants will be closed the entire three days we are there. There’s also a food tour (our fav thing to do when traveling) that’s gone dark for those three days. So basically, check for holidays or your tummy will pay for it!

We booked Belfast as the first city we’d visit in Ireland because it seemed obvious–just a quick puddle jumper over from Glasgow. I think if we did it over again, we’d fly into Galway, then head to Dublin, then end in Belfast and fly out of there. Another road block we’ve encountered is that you can’t really get to Galway without going through Dublin. Since we’ve done a good bit of traveling through Europe already, I assumed trains would be easy breezy. In planning though we’ve actually found that traveling through the UK and the rest of Ireland is a bit bumpier than other places around the continent. Unfortunately we scheduled our flights and AirBnBs before we got into all these logistics. It’s alright, but it does mean our time in Galway will be quite limited as the first day will be mostly spent on busses and the second will be spent in the car traveling to the smaller towns of our respective families.

With all that said–I’d love love love all your tips and expertise on what to see and do in Ireland. We’ve got a bit planned so far (Belfast is mostly planned because options were a bit more limited with the holiday), but your advice will certainly pull everything together. Please feel free to chime in with any and all thoughts. I’d especially appreciate your help with…

Which Black Cab tour company to use in Belfast? So we’ve heard from many that this is a must do while we are there. The number one rated company on Tripadvisor is Paddy Campbell’s  but unfortunately, they have not responded to my inquiries. Should I try reaching out to them again? Is there another company you used and had good experiences with?

Any great breakfast places in Belfast? We snapped up our dinner resys pretty quickly as I mentioned that quite a few things are closed at the time we will be there. This had me pretty bummed because of all the places we are visiting, I have heard that Belfast by far has the best food. Anyway, I think we’ll still eat very well. To help us, won’t you suggest some delicious brekkie/brunch options?

Where should we run in Belfast? I think Belfast is the only place where we aren’t conveniently located near a Bikram studio so we will miss that there. But we’d love to get any tips on great parks or places to run in the area.

Transportation from Belfast to Galway. Through much research, I think I have concluded that the easiest way to get to Galway from Belfast is to take a bus from Belfast to Dublin Airport, and then on to Galway. Would you agree? When I tried looking at trains there seemed to be a lot of transferring (and not the roomiest schedule to make those transfers, which worried me a bit), so it seemed like the bus was the most direct and stress free way to go. Would love if anyone can cast a vote for or against my plan!

What shouldn’t we miss in Galway? Our time here will be very short as the full day we have here will be spent in the car to Westport (where my family is from) and Ballydesmond (the teeny tiny place my husband’s family is from!). If there’s one thing we have to see here–or one dish we have to try, please let me know! (And if anyone knows anything about the two places our families are from, please do tell!)

What are some of your favorite sites or things to do in Dublin? We don’t drink alcohol so although we appreciate pub recommendations if they’ve got great food, we’ll be skipping the famous Guinness tour! We are hoping there’s much more to do in Dublin besides drink–although those seem to be the main type or pointers we’ve gotten so far. We are staying in a neighborhood outside the city center so I am looking forward to checking out some less touristy areas. Locals: any thoughts on where to eat? Travelers: any tours or museums or neighborhoods that really stuck out to you when you visited?

Where should we run in Dublin? Always a question on the list! (P.S. Bikram studio less than a mile from our AirBnB so super siked about that!)

Should we take a day trip from Dublin? Where to? We’ve got four full days to explore, should one of those be spent outside the city? We’ve seen a lot of suggestions for a place called Howth, would you recommend going there? If not, where else might you suggest we wander?

 

I hope a lot of you jump in here with your suggestions as Ireland is the last (and seemingly more difficult) place we have to plan for. (By difficult I just mean with the travel, I am not complaining here, I am going to Ireland, life is good!) Thank you for helping us make this an incredible trip–can’t wait to share it all with you when we return later this summer! x

 

header: vincent guth

36 thoughts on “What to Do: Ireland

  1. Laura H

    How timely! I’m headed over the first week in August! Flying into Dublin and then driving to Galway and back. Going to hang in Galway for a few days, one of which will be taking a day trip to Connemara to see the beautiful sights as well as Kylemore Abbey. Wish I had more time in the country but I’m winding the trip up with a weekend in the Glasgow
    area seeing friends.

    One of the things I LOVE to do when traveling abroad is to get a free walking tour – they’re usually a few hours, cover LOTS of key sights in a town, and then I can go back and spend more time at the places I really liked or things I noticed along the way. Tip well for the tour and they always give great recommendations on food, what the locals like, etc.

    Can’t wait to see how your trip goes! Mine is in just a few short weeks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laura! So amazing to hear from you!! And how exciting, we are headed to some of the same places, I love it!! W are actually spending a few days in Glasgow as well. We are actually starting in London (been there before but exploring more and hitting up some towns around it), and then Edinburgh, Glasgow, then jumping over to Belfast, then Galway, and ending in Dublin. We are so excited. Just a few days away now.
      You are Irish right? I feel like I remember that for some reason, I am not sure why?! Do you know where your family is from? Mine is from Westport. I am pretty excited to go check it out–it looks like this cute little port town. My mom went there and she said it was really lovely. My hubs family is from this much smaller town (we were laughing cause I think like 400 people live there or something, and we live in a high rise and have more people living in our building than that town!). It doesn’t look like much online but we are going to go check it out. I’m definitely excited about that. I keep hoping I have some sort of feeling when I get to Ireland. There’s something about being where your blood/people are from I think!

      Anyway, SO glad you chimed in on here, it’s so good to hear from you! Will be anxious to hear how your trip goes. Hope you enjoy! x

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  3. Finally! A trip I can chime in on! I’ve been to your other destinations as well, but I’ve visited Ireland numerous times so maybe can help a tiny bit.

    Galway is GREAT and I’m so sad that you won’t have much time there! The pace is so laid back and it’s gorgeous. The city itself is nice to walk around in and poke in/out of shops and churches. We also enjoyed seeing the colorful homes and admiring the views along “The Long Walk”. So pretty! And also along the river – plenty of bridges and gardens and walking paths. We did take a couple of day trips from Galway when we were there 3 years ago – we visited the Cliffs of Moher (highly recommend but it does take up nearly and entire day if you do the public bus trip) and also took a guided bus tour to see Kylemore Abbey along with numerous other castles/ruins. It was a great trip. We also took the ferry over to the Aran Islands and spent a day exploring there – the hikes/walks there are phenomenal with ocean and cliffs as far as you can see! If you do that, I also recommend packing your own picnic (or at the least your own snacks) as the main places to eat are super touristy and busy.

    As for Dublin, you’re right that so much of it can seem to geared towards alcohol! I don’t drink either so also had to find things that didn’t involve pint after pint! Kind of random, but I really enjoyed walking around the libraries at Trinity College as well as the Reading Room at the National Library – the ceiling there is gorgeous. When B and I were there together we did go to see the mummies at St Michens. It was weird but memorable!! haha. I’ve also visited far too many museums, churches, and parks there. The Little Museum of Dublin is kind of odd but also fun. Worth a stop. St Patricks is pretty.

    I also have done a couple of short train trips around Dublin including Howth (which was great – the walking path there is wonderful and the village is quaint with a few shops/places to eat). My favorite though was to take the train to Killiney (its on the coast south of Dublin) and then hike/walk/bus back. They compare the views in Killiney to those in Naples, Italy (which I tended to agree with when I was there!). There’s a fun walk up to a Obelisk in the Hill Park and then over to the extravagant homes of celebrities in Dalkey. I hopped on a bus and then walked around Dun Longhaire for a while before taking the train back to Dublin.

    I wish I had food recommendations for you – I’m not a foodie at all and tend to pick up food at the grocery and make my own meals when travelling if I can. But I hope those ideas help some! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is an INSANE wealth of information lady, thank you! Checking out Killiney now–looks so gorgeous. I think we will definitely either go there or Howth. Will be coming back to this several times for reference, thank you thank you! x

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Julie

    Yes it’s ok to drive here – there will be main roads from Belfast to Galway. Will give you much more independence and distances are small. The Phoenix Park in Dublin is a beautiful place for a run. Glendalough outside Dublin good too.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Julie–SO much! Your comment actually pushed me over my nervous edge and we booked a rental car–so will be driving from Belfast down to Galway–to some other little towns and then eventually to Dublin. This was so helpful, thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Well, it’s in your photograph. Don’t miss out on the Cliffs of Moher when you are in Galway. To get from Galway to the cliffs you will past through a tiny village, if you stay on the coast road, called Doolin. It’s charming and I recommend at least stopping for lunch. However, at night, starting at 8, in all four of the pubs in the village, the best live music in the whole country takes place. McDermotts is my favorite pub, and is seated right by the River Aille. Enjoy your travels. Ireland is one of my favorites. Of course, I love most of Europe.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Hey love, myself and Dec will mail you. I’ve not been on WordPress much… have been through a lot of changes recently ( all good) and working with a newcomer. I can’t wait to meet up with you guys. Very quickly though , even though it’s very touristy, Glendalough is just outside Dublin, in County Wicklow Well worth checking out. S Xxx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. hey lady! Yes haven’t heard from you in a bit but so glad to know that all is well! I saw that you and Dec had quite an epic journey a bit ago–on my list of reads! I also can’t wait to meet up–let’s definitely email about that! Maybe we could go to a meeting? I am sure my hubs especially would be really into that–(and by that time him and i will have spent so much time alone together I am sure we will be in desperate need of one ;))

      I was going over Dec’s email from a while ago and I couldn’t tell if his recommendation was NOT to drive from Belfast to Galway or if it was just that the trip was boring? I don’t mind boring roads at all, I just worry about tiny roads or being near cliffs while we are trying to drive on the other side! Anyway, trying to figure that out cause the busses/trains don’t seem so great (just thinking the car might give us more freedom in when we leave, where we stop, etc). So would love to get your opinion on that!
      Googling Glendalough now. Thanks love! x

      Ooh, also, not sure if you will have an opinion on this or not–but we are going to this old prison in Belfast (Crumlin Road)–we are SUPER into old prisons, lol. We noticed there is one in Dublin as well (Kilmainham)- is it worth going to both or is it like, once you’ve seen one Irish prison, you’ve seen them all?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We have a special connection to Kilmainham as both of our Grandfathers were involved in the Rising , it’s probably different to Crumlin as it covers a different period of Irish history. If the weather is good I’d make the most of it🙂Howth is beautiful, there’s a gorgeous walk there. I do know you have to book though for Kilmainham btw. DO not go to the wax museum or the a Leprechaun museum… The great news is the museums and galleries are all free, and I would LOVE to go to my home group meeting with you, it’s in the center of Dublin. I’ll get Dec to mail you later. I finally got a blog up, albeit a short one ❤️

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  7. I took my mum over to Belfast last month as we are both intrigued with the Titanic. We didn’t do the black cab tour but we did the hop on and off bus which was excellent. I would recommend running up and down River Lagan – go as far as the Titanic museum and behind, you will get a good few miles that way. Very safe, very well lit, very gorgeous run! I’m not a foodie so afraid no pointers on food. We booked an apartment and made our meals. Belfast castle has fantastic grounds if you are around there too.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hey Ella! We booked the Titanic museum as it was one of the few things open when we are gonna be there and the reviews of it were pretty great. Did you enjoy it?
      You’ve also made me excited to have a run there now as well, thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks lady! I normally love the planning too. This is the first time I am tiring or it a little. Good reminder for me to be grateful though–planning a trip is definitely a nice “task” to have!
      Looking forward to sharing with you!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. ecdamico

    Can’t speak to the restaurants and tours since I haven’t made it to Ireland yet, but have you considered self-driving from Belfast to Galway? I realize that not everyone loves driving like I do so it’s not always a go-to. However, I did a quick google and it’s about 4 hours driving between the 2 and you don’t have to double back through Dublin, and about 5 hours by train/bus, so not to much difference with the travel times. One of the great things about driving is that you can make your own schedule, take a more scenic (adventurous?) route or stop in a small village that you might not have seen on the main highways. You can also drive directly to Westport (also just over 4hrs) and then on to Galway (1.5hrs) and knock out 2 birds with one stone, but not sure how set in stone your schedule is for those day trips. Are you self-driving to those other day trips or hiring a driver/tour?? I have also found that car rentals and dropping off at a different location from the pick up is pretty easy in Europe, so you don’t have to hang on to the car for too long and should be able to pickup in Belfast/drop in Galway no problem. I know I love a road trip, especially in somewhere wild and new, so maybe it’s a thought?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hey! So since you wrote this I have been considering the driving–I’m just afraid! I can’t tell from forums whether people don’t love the drive because the roads are crazy or if it’s just a boring drive. I don’t care if it’s boring! I just don’t want to be driving on the wrong side on some crazy narrow road off a freakin’ cliff or something, lol. But yes–I am considering it now that you mention it cause it would be nice to leave when we want to and it would be kind of great to go to one of the small towns on that first day, instead of packing them into the next day. Always thinking Em!
      So are you saying that the drop off in a different location doesn’t cost a crazy amount there? You know that shit is a crazy fee here!

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      1. ecdamico

        haha! you crack me up! not sure about Ireland specifically, but we have rented in Italy and returned in Germany and I don’t remember there being a crazy fee. Definitely not like the fees in NY, rentals seemed less in general. Automatic as opposed to manual might be a bit higher (I would def spring for automatic), but you’re only talkin’ a day or two so I wouldn’t think it would be too bad and you would be paying for the train/bus for 2pp anyway. I didn’t think driving on the left was too weird, got used to it pretty quick. The roads in London and outer areas were pretty narrow, I learned to be an expert at using my side mirrors 🙂 but I feel like there might not be that much traffic once you’re out in the countryside so you can take it slow if you need to? Would have to research that more, but glad you’re considering…driving adventures always make for interesting stories!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Cat, I am eager to learn more about your trip to the U.K! We only have 2 weeks planned for September, but I am looking forward to my first time there with eager anticipation. I am not sure if we will make it to Ireland this time, since I want to see Cornwall in the Southwestern corner of England, which is apparently where my grandfather is from. Hope you get great advice and have a wonderful journey.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ahh, lady, so excited you are headed there as well! That is so crazy you mention Cornwall–was totally just binging on Poldark (series from the BBC) and I think that’s where it is filmed. So cool that your grandfather is from there!
      We have been to England before but not Scotland or Ireland so definitely looking forward to it! Hope I get a few more people to chime in here ;).

      Liked by 1 person

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