It’s known as the Emerald Isle. Green, lush, and beautiful, Ireland has a little something for just about everyone, whether your vacation scene is the big city, the great outdoors, or somewhere inbetween. My mother and I spent 10 days exploring the island and its many attractions. We first visited the capital city of Dublin where we burned off our jetlag with a long walk around St Stephen’s Green.
This popular city park is extremely well-manicured with a serene lake, acres upon acres of soft grass, paved walking trails, colorful flower beds, and over 750 trees.
The park spans approximately 22 acres and is a popular place for picnicking and people-watching on a sunny day.
The park features many statues and memorials, including the one pictured above dedicated to the Potato Famine. Between 1845 and 1849 Ireland experienced a dramatic drop in its population due to a devastating potato blight that led to what is known as the Great Famine or Potato Famine. During the Famine approximately one million people died and another million left their homes on the island to escape disease and starvation. There are several other Famine memorials located throughout Ireland, including the one pictured below on the banks of the River Liffey in Dublin.
If you enjoy statues, memorials, and monuments- Dublin has plenty to offer!
We also visited the prestigious Trinity College, founded by Queen Elizabeth I in 1592. Initially women were not allowed to attend and former Provost of the university, George Salmon, infamously declared, “over my dead body will women enter this college.” He died in 1904 and later in that same year women were allowed admission and could earn degrees. Nowadays, women make up approximately half of the student population.
Trinity’s impressive library is home to over 200,000 books, including the famed Book of Kells, a 9th-century illuminated manuscript containing the four Gospels of the New Testament.
The stunning Long Room is a library-lovers dream with a beautiful curved ceiling, marble sculptures, and shelves upon shelves of old books.
The Long Room truly has a magical feel and was evidently the inspiration behind the Hogwarts Library from the Harry Potter series. The Jedi Temple archives from Star Wars also bear an uncanny resemblance, though filmmakers deny any association.
We lucked out with beautiful clear skies while we were in Dublin and enjoyed strolling around town until the sun went down after 10:30 p.m.. With the warm, breezy weather and the sun shining brightly, it was easy to find an excuse for some gelato. We also made a trip to the quirky Little Museum of Dublin, where an enthusiastic and theatrical guide shared some the the city’s history.
We also walked the grounds of St Patrick’s Cathedral admiring its beautiful garden and iconic 141-foot spire.
And of course we saw the 7-story Guinness Storehouse where we had lunch and took a self-guided tour that included a tasting and free pint.
If you’re interested in the history of beer and specifically the Guinness brand, the Storehouse is definitely a must-see. I was really impressed with the eye-catching exhibits and bright displays.
Just south of Dublin is one of my favorite places we visited. Glendalough, or Gleann Dá Loch, translates to “valley of two lakes” and turned out to be a beautiful place for a hike.
This enchanting glacial valley has a trail for everyone, whether you prefer a steady paved path along the creek, a meandering boardwalk into the trees, a steep switchback up into the mountains, or even a granite cliff side to climb.
The valley is also the site of a Medieval monastic settlement with structures dating back to the 10th century.
Exploring big cities is always fun but I definitely prefer spending time in nature, away from the noise and the crowds. For me, visiting Glendalough was the perfect way to see the beauty of Ireland.
Next we visited our first castle of the trip. Kilkenny Castle was built in 1195 and sits on the River Nore.
The castle has a beautiful courtyard and garden. From the upper balcony we were treated to a spectacular view of the green city.
Next we left the Leinster province and headed off to the Munster province for more castles and amazing scenery. Stay tuned!