Emerald Ireland and Northern Ireland

The Temple Bar in Temple Bar, Dublin

The Temple Bar in Temple Bar, Dublin

Recently, I had the opportunity to accompany my friend, Whitney, on a trip to Dublin, Ireland.   With only three days, we wanted to get a sample of the best that Ireland and Northern Ireland had to offer.  After arriving in Dublin and catching a quick nap, we decided to explore the Temple Bar area of downtown Dublin to kick off our Irish adventure.  First, we stumbled upon a small pub frequented mostly by locals, and decided to get a traditional dinner of Guinness pie with veg, and mash, and of course, a pint of Guinness.  Following dinner we explored a few of the many pubs in this area, and enjoyed the live, Irish music.  This was a great area to mingle with locals and tourists alike.  I was impressed that every pub seemed to have talented, live musicians, and it was an entertaining welcome to Ireland.

Traci at Dublin Castle

Traci at Dublin Castle.

St. Patrick's Cathedral

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

The following day, Whitney and I wanted to explore Dublin and opted to join a hop-on hop-off bus tour.  I would highly recommend this for those wanting to explore the city at their own leisure, with convenient stops only steps away from each attraction.  We were able to get on and off the bus as we pleased and enjoy some of Dublin’s numerous attractions at our own pace.  Our first stop was Trinity College, which is a beautiful campus, and also home to the historical library which houses the Book of Kells.  Only a short walk away, we then strolled along Grafton Street, which is a shopping area with a wide array of shops open only to pedestrian traffic.  After we had our fill of shopping, we continued on and made stops to see the iconic Dublin Castle, Christchurch Cathedral, and St. Patricks Cathedral.  All were beautiful landmarks.  Although we were set on an accelerated tour so we could cover as much ground as possible, these attractions each offer tours for various entrance fees for those interested.  We then hopped on the bus to our final stop of our Dublin tour, which brought us to the infamous Guinness Storehouse.

At the Guinness Storehouse, Dublin Ireland.

At the Guinness Storehouse, Dublin Ireland.

Guinness Storehouse was a personal highlight of our day tour.  As a self proclaimed, “Guinness girl,” I was especially excited for this tour.  The entrance fee is a bit pricey at €18 for an adult, but includes a complimentary pint at the end of your tour.  The storehouse is a massive facility shaped like a giant pint glass, and is surrounded by the brewery itself.  As you take the self guided tour, you can read about the ingredients and process of making Guinness, learn proper technique for smelling and tasting each flavor, see past and modern

Traci and Whitney having a Guinness.

Traci and Whitney having a Guinness.

advertising for Guinness, pick up a few Guinness recipes, and even sample some Guinness pie or mousse at their cafe.  The storehouse has seven floors to explore, and although you do not actually witnessthe brewing process, I was still very pleased and impressed.  Our tour concluded with a pint of Guinness in the Gravity Bar, which offers an impressive 360 degree view of Dublin.  Those who choose can even learn how to properly pour a Guinness themselves from the draft.  However, we opted to watch the professionals pour our pints.  It was almost an art the way they poured it, filling it, then letting it settle before topping it off. It was a couple minute process, but the result was by far the best Guinness I have tasted,with a beautiful view of Dublin in the background.

Beautiful views form Carrick-A-Rede, Northern Ireland.

Beautiful views form Carrick-A-Rede, Northern Ireland.

The final day of our trip, Whitney and I crossed the border as we embarked on a tour of Northern Ireland.  Several tour companies offer day trips to various locations from Dublin, including the Cliffs of Moher and the Blarney Castle, but we were intrigued by the opportunity to spend our day in the UK.  It was several hours of driving, but well worth it when we arrived at our first stop at Carrick-a-Rede.  This offers a beautiful view of the coast, with green, dramatic rock cliffs, islands, and even a glimpse of Scotland.  Those who wish, can also cross the rope bridge connected to a little island for a small fee.  After taking in the scenery while wondering along the coastal path, and having a lovely conversation with a local, we continued on our journey.

Our next stop was the Giant’s Causeway, which I personally found to be the most impressive attraction.  This part of the coast is comprised of numerous hexagonal rocks, and the same can be found on the coast of Scotland.  They are almost perfectly shaped and are of various heights.  Although the cause of their formation has not been officially confirmed, geologists speculate that they are the result of volcanic activity.  However, according to legend, these were created as stepping stones to connect Northern Ireland to Scotland when a man named Finn went to Scotland to confront his rival, Benandonner.  Regardless of how the Causeway was formed, the result is stunning.  I enjoyed not only admiring these rock formations, but also climbing these pillars to gain a beautiful perspective.   I admired the allure of such a unique piece of nature.

Traci at the Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland.

Traci at the Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland.

Town Hall, Belfast, Northern Ireland

Town Hall, Belfast, Northern Ireland

Our final stop was Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland.  Unfortunately, our time here was limited, but Whitney and I were able to get a sample of what this city has to offer.  I found this city to be an eclectic mix of old and new architecture.  Despite Northern Ireland’s difficult history, it was evident there was effort to revitalize the city and boost morale.  However, I was surprised to learn that to this day, the gates that separate the Catholic community and the Protestant community are closed on a nightly basis.  We strolled past Belfast

The Streets of Belfast, Northern Ireland.

The Streets of Belfast, Northern Ireland.

City Hall and wondered around Victoria Square, a modern shopping structure.  At the top is a viewing tower with a full surround view of the city.  After taking in the view, we wondered a few blocks.  I am eager to return and explore more of this city, especially to see attractions related to the Titanic.  Our tour had come to an end, and as we made the drive back to Dublin, I admired the countryside that passed by and reflected on our short, but fun-filled adventure in these beautiful countries.