Summer by Rail 2 Conquers Ireland in 17 Days
-by Cate Boyle
Taking in the entire breadth of country in a single go is a daunting task, and it's a challenge I've been thinking about as Vic and I prepare for our August journey across the U.S.
Fortunately, this month I was able to get a bit of practice bout in ahead of the main event. I traveled extensively around Ireland -- and what the island lacks in size it makes up in variety, with breathtaking countryside views, famous oceanside cliffs, and picturesque small towns. (Not that I'm completely unbiased, what with it being my family's homeland.) They do say good things come in pairs, and if I get a chance to conquer two breathtaking countries from coast to coast in a matter of weeks, you're not going to have to ask me twice!
There is so much to see and experience in Ireland, and it certainly cannot all be done in just a few weeks. However, if you plan it out right, you can see more than you ever imagined! During my 17 days in Ireland, I visited twenty-two of the total thirty-two counties in the country. Therefore, I’ve been able to compile a list of the five must-see attractions that I was able to take away from my trip.
1.) Ashford Castle Cong, County Mayo, Ireland
Ashford Castle is just a town over from where my Grandmother was born and therefore when visiting her home place we were able to make a visit. Not only is it a beautiful castle but the newly renovated gardens are breathtaking. The Castle is located on a famous lake that makes for incredible pictures and boating excursions. Don’t forget to stop for a cup of tea at Mrs. Tea’s Boutique and Bakery on your way out!
2.) Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge Ballintoy in County Antrim, Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is home to the Causeway Coastal Route which runs along the northern tip of the country and passes the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. It is precisely what it sounds like, a rope bridge, but that does not even begin to do it justice. This was by far the most incredible activity I was able to do on this trip. The bridge connects the mainland to Carrick-a-Rede Island which was built hundreds of years ago by fisherman who were using the Island to safely lower their boats into the water away from the mainland cliffs. As we stood on the Island covered in green, we were able to watch the beautiful blue water crash up against the mainland making it the most incredible view!
3.) Titanic Museum Belfast, Northern Ireland
If you like symbolism and history, The Titanic Museum is just the place for you. I was truly amazed by the incredible detail and meaning behind every corner of the museum building itself. As recommended, we bought The White Star Premium Pass which granted us access to all the features of the museum including the Titanic Experience, Discovery Tour, and S.S. Nomadic. The pass grants you access to wander the S.S. Nomadic and to experience the last remaining White Star vessel that was used to transport passengers of the Titanic from the docks to the ship. The Discovery tour was a truly incredible experience as well. As an engineer, I admired and appreciated all the thought and effort that went into the symbolism both inside and out of the building.
4.) Granny’s Bottom Drawer Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland
Kinsale was a highly recommended stop on my trip and for a good reason. It was magical, between the charm of the small fishing town to the bustle of the shops and pubs. While I was wondering around the town, I came across a beautiful little shop which, caught my eye with its bright colors and name ‘Granny’s Bottom Drawer.' Upon entering I found that it was a gold mine, some of the most beautiful and authentic knit clothing were inside calling my name. My experience here was one of a kind; I was given a detailed explanation of the different knit patterns and their meanings that represented this small fishing town. Kinsale took my breath away and made for an amazing experience not to mention the amazing local seafood is a MUST!
5.) The Promenade Salthill, County Galway, Ireland
Galway is known for its busy city center, live music, dancing, and always having a great time. However, there are also some more hidden gems throughout the city. Located in Salthill, which means ‘the road by the sea’ in Irish, the Promenade is a walking path that runs along the coast of the Galway Bay. During this three mile stroll, you can look out onto the Galway Bay and see the Aran Islands, the Burren in County Clare, and the mountains of Connemara. As you finish the Promenade walk or the ‘Prom’ as locals call it, heading from Galway City towards Salthill, you complete the journey as all good things do in Ireland with an old local tradition. There is a stone wall at the end of the 3-mile journey, and you must kick the wall for good luck. Locals say “You haven't walked the Prom unless you've kicked the wall at the end."
Ireland’s Bike Sharing system seems to be popping up all over the country in many of the major cities as well. I visited one bike station in Galway city that has a very similar system to what we use in America. In Galway city, there are many small streets, cute alleyways and The Promenade made for a beautiful scenic bike ride!
Traveling across the Atlantic Ocean for an adventure seems to be the trend right now. But we seem to be forgetting all the incredible things we can do and see in our own backyard! The Summer By Rail 2 journey will kick off on July 30th and Victoria and I will be able to highlight all the amazing experiences that can be made in America! This trip to Ireland has prepared me for not only time away from home, but lengthy travel days and exciting adventures!