Visiting Ireland’s Countryside
Ireland is such an incredibly historic and beautiful nation. For such a small country, it is jam-packed with activities and sites to visit, which makes it hard to decide how to spend your time when you’re only visiting for a few days.
The past of the great country is of the utmost importance to the Irish people and knowing some of the history will make your experience that much better. Susan Kolwicz, an avid traveler, shared that, “it would help any traveler to read a quick history of Ireland first, even Wikipedia or the front of a tour book, as the sites are all steeped in history and the Irish people are very focused on their tragic history. It pervades everything, and to not know something about it is to miss what’s important about visiting Ireland.”
There is never enough time to visit everything you’re going to want to see, so here is a quick list of some of the most interesting sites to see while in Ireland.
One of the most captivating aspects of Ireland’s countryside is — in my opinion, easily — the Giant’s Causeway. The area in Northern Ireland contains about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns as a result of an ancient volcanic eruption. The rock formations are utterly surreal as the almost perfect hexagon-shaped rocks fade into the ocean.
The immense beauty of the stone against Ireland’s frigid coast stirs a connection to Ireland’s ancient past in everyone, and you can’t help but fall more in love with each step along the columns. The ever-present rain falls softly, soaking the earth and staining the stones the deep, dark color of the soil. It sums up everything that is beautiful about the nature and climate in Ireland.
Irish folklore can explain a great deal of the extraordinary features of the island, and the Giant’s Causeway is no exception. The story starts with a giant named Finn McCool (or “Fionn mac Cumhaill” in Gaelic).
Finn lives on the Northern coast of Ireland and starts having some trouble with the Scottish giant, Benadonner, who is threatening Ireland from across the sea. As Finn becomes more enraged, he begins throwing chunks of the coast into the sea until the rock eventually forms a path for Finn to follow and to show Benandonner what’s what.
This turns out to be a very poor decision. As Finn approaches Scotland, he begins to realize that Benandonner is massive. Finn quickly turns tail home, with the other giant following him. Finn’s wife, the real hero of the story, has the brilliant idea to slip her husband a sleeping potion before swaddling him like a baby.
Once Benandonner finally arrives, he finds a very big baby sleeping soundly. He quickly comes to the realization that if the child is that big, the father must be huge. Benandonner heads back to Scotland, destroying the extraordinary stone bridge behind him so that the father can’t hunt him down later.
Tour guides pose the question to visitors to decide if they believe that the causeway was created by the giants or by the natural reaction of a volcanic eruption to meeting the ocean. There’s just something a little more magical about the idea of giants racing across the captivating stones.
You can visit the Giant’s Causeway on a one-day trip with Wild Rover Tours and you can also visit the Titanic Museum or the Black Taxi Tour while in Belfast. You will also visit the Carrick A Rede Bridge, which according to the Wild Rover website, “traverses a 30 meter deep and 20 meter wide chasm — that is, if you’re brave enough.”
The trip costs about $75 each for adults, $60 for children and about $70 for students.
The Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher are located in the opposite side of the country, on the southwestern edge of the Burren region. It is easy to see why the cliffs are Ireland’s most visited natural attraction with the breathtaking views of the coast and the ocean. At their highest point, the cliffs reach 702 feet above the Atlantic Ocean.
An acrophobic’s nightmare, The Cliffs of Moher have appeared in numerous films including The Princess Bride as the Cliffs of Insanity, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and Leap Year.
You can walk to O’Briens Tower on the midpoint of the cliffs to get the most breath-taking views of the coastline.
If you take the tour to The Cliffs of Moher with Wild Rover Tours, you also get the chance to visit the Wild Atlantic Way and The Burren. The Burren National Park is an extensive area littered with limestone deposits with criss-crossing cracks. The area supports arctic, Mediterranean and alpine plants due to its unusual environment. The landscape and nature is so bizarre, you feel like you’re walking on an entirely different planet.
You may also recognize the Burren from another Harry Potter movie: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One.
The final stage of the Wild Rover Tours’ trip is to visit Galway City, Ireland’s cultural capital, in West Ireland. You can visit any number of shops, enjoy the lively music or taste some of the local cuisine.
According to a Lonely Planet article by Catherine Le Nevez, “What Galway lacks in sightseeing it more than makes up for in atmosphere (eg, pubs). Soak up the timeless charm of The Crane and Taaffes, catch up-and-coming bands at Roisin Dubh or hang out with hip Galwegians at The Blue Note.”
For the trip, adults will need to pay around $55, children cost $30 and students cost $50.
Dublin is teeming with activities and sights for tourists to visit. But no matter where you go, the most important part for any of the citizens is that you learn about their history. Ireland is filled with people who immensely value and appreciate their history and culture. There are so many things to do just in Dublin to see that it’s best to decide what is most important for you to visit and prioritize your activities around that.
One excellent opportunity to do so is to get a ticket for Dublin’s “Hop-On Hop-Off” bus. According to Kolwicz, the bus is, “very economical and drivers are informative and very humorous. It’s a great way to tour the city and get oriented, especially the first jet-lagged day… A good way to use it is to plan your stops along one loop for the day, based on opening hours, then do a loop again on day 2 with different stops.”
You will learn about all kinds of important Dublin landmarks on the tour such as: Trinity College, the National Gallery, Temple Bar, Dublin Castle and City Hall, Christ Church, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Teeling’s Whiskey Distillery, the Guinness Storehouse, the Dublin Zoo, the National Museum of History, Kilmainham Gaol and the General Post Office. Each stop provides you with limitless possibilities to explore and learn more about Irish history and culture.
The tour guides provide continuous commentary about each of the 25 stops around Dublin. There are buses running every 15 minutes from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. so you won’t have to wait long when you choose to stop.
The 2-day tickets only cost $20 or so per person and in addition to the excellent tour of the city, you also get a much-needed break from walking around the city.
But above all, remember not to stick simply to exploring Dublin. According to Sloane Emerson in her article “13 Things Not To Do in Ireland,” “Yes, Ireland’s capital city is fun to visit. There’s the Guinness factory, Temple Bar and some beautiful shops and churches to discover. But the lush green countryside is surely Ireland’s prized possession. You’ll definitely want to explore rural areas, other cities and landmarks such as Galway, Belfast, Killarney National Park, Doolin and the Cliffs of Moher.”