Belfast/The Giant’s Causeway

When we started planning our Ireland vacation I told my wife that Giant’s Causeway was the number one tourist spot I wanted to see in Ireland. The majority of our trip was to be spent in Ireland but we knew we’d spend at least a day in Northern Ireland. We originally were going to fly into Belfast and then out of Dublin but we purchased plane tickets in and out of Dublin for around 500 dollars cheaper. My wife slept on the plane and we drove from Dublin to Belfast after an overnight flight. That wasn’t my first choice and I was nervous the entire flight over. I did not sleep. We got our luggage and went to the Dan Dooley counter. We booked with them because they have such a good reputation on travel sites and I was able to get a few personal recommendations from former high school classmates who had also traveled to Ireland. They aren’t expensive in comparison to other companies and I liked that it was an Irish company. We upgraded the car to a Diesel, it was a Volkswagen. A little bigger than we had planned on but it worked out well.

We made it to Belfast without too much trouble. There were a few moments that I wanted to scream. The streets are very narrow in the city. Luckily there weren’t a lot of people out and about (it was a Sunday) so that was a relief. I’m sure had we flown in Monday-Friday it would have been worse. We checked into Tara Lodge on Cromwell Street and allow me to gush about this hotel. There is a small parking lot (and by small I do mean small) plus street parking. We were able to snag a spot in the lot. We arrived at the hotel around 2pm so we were able to check in. Our room was lovely. It overlooked the street but even with the windows open we didn’t hear much noise. It was small but not too small and very clean. We took showers and then went for a walk. We had a taxi tour booked to see the political murals. That was basically the entire reason for staying 1 night in Belfast. We stood outside in the rain for almost 40 minutes and the tour guide never showed up. We were incredibly disappointed. They have a great rating on Trip Advisor so it must have been a fluke. Disappointed we went and got some food, came back to the hotel and went to bed. We had stayed up all day to make sure we were awake for the tour so we were exhausted. We both woke around midnight and were wide awake. We decided to each take a melatonin because we could not deal with jet lag when we knew we would be doing a lot of driving in the morning. That helped and we both fell asleep again and slept until the alarm went off.

The next morning we woke up fairly early, took showers, got ready, and went down for breakfast. The Irish can throw down some breakfast! There was a small spread on the bar but also a menu. We both ordered pancakes and bacon and, well, let me just say that I wish I could have that bacon every day. It was so yummy. The hotel isn’t very big and it was so quiet so we were surprised at how busy the breakfast room was. Oh, and breakfast was included in the price of our room. So a double score!

We went back to the room, grabbed our luggage and checked out by 8am. Our first stop was the Dark Hedges (Game of Thrones fans know all about this). Boy, were we lucky when we got there. We made it before any tour buses were there to block the view. There were 3 women leaving as we pulled up and we the hedges all to ourselves.

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There is nothing quite like the Dark Hedges. They are mystifying. I only wished for some fog to really get the feel of them.

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We didn’t stay very long because we still had an hours drive to Giant’s Causeway  We made it in good time, paid for parking, paid the entrance fee and took the hike down. We arrived semi-early so not many tour buses were there yet and the parking lot wasn’t even half full. Giant’s Causeway is everything I hoped it would be.

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It really felt out of this world. Landscapes have never been a favorite subject for me to photograph but I think it is damn near impossible to take a bad picture in Ireland.

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I knew ahead of time to wear sensible shoes because I thought it went without saying but please, wear good sturdy shoes. I didn’t trip once (which is a surprise) but it would be easy to do. I get a little shaky when I get too high up with nothing to hold onto so I didn’t do anything crazy on the causeway. There are workers stationed throughout to help you if you trip and fall. They will also yell at you if you try to climb onto rocks that are off limits. I saw it happen, please listen to them when they tell you to stop.

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We stayed at the causeway for around an hour and a half to two hours. As we were hiking back up more and more people were walking down. We stopped in the gift shop and bought a few postcards, souvenirs, and a small piece of art that we are going to hang up somewhere in the house. As we were leaving we asked a street worker named Sammy where to eat nearby. He gave us a good recommendation right in Bushmills. A cute little cafe called Copper Kettle. We were not disappointed. It’s not a fancy restaurant by any means but it hit the spot. I had the vegetable soup with some wonderful soda bread. I liked the bread so much I wanted to ask for an entire loaf! My wife had (randomly) a baked potato with cole slaw and she said it was the best cole slaw she’s ever had. She liked it so much she found a recipe for it online and made it when we got home!

We left Bushmills to head to County Sligo. It was a long majestic drive. There were times I felt like we were on top of the world…

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Somewhere in County Sligo

 

To be continued…

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Dingle Peninsula, Ireland

My friends.

We survived Ireland.

For 2 years we planned, changed plans, revised plans, and we made it. We finally made it to Ireland. We spent a fabulous 2 weeks, driving around the Irish countryside. Ireland is as majestic as you would imagine it to be. Driving along the narrow roads, feeling like we were soaring through the mountains, waving to passerby, praying for fog just to capture a brilliant picture. You see Ireland in movies, in photographs but until you are there and breathing it all in you have no idea. Before our trip, I had so many people tell me that Ireland gets in your bones, that you’ll want to go back again and again and what do you know? They were right. I will be breaking our trip up into parts. None of which will be in order. I had to start with my favorite area, an area we only spent 1 day in, but an area I can see myself retiring in.

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On our way to Slea Head

The Dingle Peninsula.

It is the nothermost of the major peninsulas in County Kerry. Our way to Dingle was, of course, on Slea Head Drive. We woke early to drive from Killarney to Dingle. The first order of business though was to see Slea Head before the tour buses arrived. So we were on the road by 7am. We were staying in Killarney. It took us roughly 2 hours, mainly because we kept stopping to take pictures of the area. For future reference, when Google maps says it will take you 30 minutes to get anywhere in Ireland, I recommend you add another 30 minutes to that, you will stop for pictures-frequently.

I will admit to all of my readers that I did not drive in Ireland, my wife did. I can’t drive a manual, she can and it was cheaper than an automatic. So I had it good, I helped navigate (which wasn’t hard with a GPS) and oohed and aahed at the scenery while she tried to avoid driving off of a cliff while taking in the views.

While driving in Slea Head I was so amazed at the rough beauty of it. It was cold and windy the day we were there. Living there probably isn’t easy but it has its perks. There were times I felt like we were on the edge of the world. I was in awe.

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On the edge of the world-Slea Head

There were parts of the drive where we would stop to take it all in and we literally couldn’t get our doors open because of the wind. I’d roll down the window, hoping that I could keep my camera steady. I so badly wanted to take beautiful pictures of this awe-inspiring place. If you want to feel inspired, go to Slea Head. You won’t be disappointed.

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Photo from the car-Slea Head

After driving along Slea Head for what felt like hours, we made our way to the town of Dingle. What an adorable little town. Packed to the gills with tourists but we paid no mind. We had lunch at a little hole in the wall restaurant. I asked for vegetable soup, that is not what I got but I just ate some of my wife’s food and then we were on our way.

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Dingle Ireland

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Dingle, Ireland

We booked a boat tour to spot Fungie, the dolphin that meets the boats in the harbor. We went with the Dingle Dolphin Boat Tours, we booked them through the tourist office right near the pier. We were ‘guaranteed’ we’d see Fungie. We were not disappointed. Our boat only had about 8 people on it and I think that made it even more fun. Yes, we did see Fungie. A lot. He seemed to be teasing us. Other than Fungie, the views from the boat are outstanding. Incredible. Beautiful. Amazing. The boat ride lasted an hour, Fungie spottings throughout and incredible views. It was rainy and windy and cold but we had a blast. I think every single tourist on that boat was thrilled with the experience.

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Blurry picture of Fungie-Dingle

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The incredible view from the boat-Dingle

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The view from the boat-Dingle 

I was sad to leave Dingle. I was sad to drive on Slea Head again, knowing we were leaving and wouldn’t return during the trip. I know that the next time we go to Ireland, Dingle will be a spot we stay in for a few days. One day wasn’t enough. I don’t think I’ll ever get enough of that beautiful area of Ireland.

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Slea Head

 

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I made a friend on Slea Head