photo by Henrique Cravei
photo by Henrique Cravei

Adventures in Ireland

by Elizabeth Jones
Stripes Europe

Ireland had been on my list of countries to visit for quite some time. When one of my best friends from college said she would fly from the States to travel with me, I knew Ireland was the place we should explore together. To make things really exciting, we decided to land in Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day for a total bucket-list experience. Beyond the crazy celebrations of this day, we were eager to see the beautiful, green landscapes and tour the quaint Irish towns the Emerald Isle had to offer.

Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day

We landed in the small airport in Kerry, Ireland and were greeted by cold, rainy weather. From the airport, we took a city bus to the town of Killarney where we joined in on the St. Patty celebrations. Parades, parties, green beer, traditional Irish music, dancing and an ambience of nothing but pure happiness filled the pubs and narrow streets of Killarney. The Irish have this camaraderie that can be felt even as an outsider. They were all beyond welcoming and kind and loved our American accents.

After a few pints of Guinness and plates of shepherd's pie, we were walking back to our Airbnb for what was supposed to be the end of the night. However, the next thing I know, we are in a pub singing to one of my favorite songs (written about an Irish girl) and dancing the night away with strangers who ended up becoming great friends. Time flew by that night, and we only had a couple of hours to get ready and hop on a bus to continue our adventures through Ireland.

The Cliffs of Moher

A few hours later, we were on a tour bus headed for the Cliffs of Moher. They span eight miles across Ireland’s coast, stand 700 feet tall, and are known for their breathtaking views and vibrant green surroundings. As we drove closer to the cliffs, I noticed grey clouds forming in the sky. Thick fog surrounded us, making it difficult to see anything that wasn’t directly in front of us. Before I knew it, we were in a race against Ireland’s unpredictable weather for a chance to catch a glimpse of the natural wonder.

As soon as I stepped off the bus, the wind was blowing full speed and the rain was coming down like sharp knives. The fog was so thick that I couldn’t see three feet in front of me. Despite our best attempts, my friend and I left the cliffs with a camera roll filled with pictures of us standing in front of what looks like a patch of random grass and a grey backdrop.

Ring of Kerry

We got back on the tour bus and headed for the Ring of Kerry. This circular, unflawed, 110-mile route highlights many charming aspects of Ireland’s green countryside. From roaring waterfalls to sparkling rivers, old monasteries to castle ruins, the Ring of Kerry has plenty of history and scenic landscapes to appreciate. There are 12 villages along the route. Along our journey, we stopped at a few to eat and shop. Of course, being in Ireland, I had my fair share of Bailey’s coffee and indulged in a bit too much of shepherd's pie and Irish stew. The small shops in the different towns provided the most authentic Irish items to include knitwear from Quills Woolen Market, chocolate from Skelligs Chocolate Company, homemade cheeses from Portmagee’s Farmer’s Market, and books and souvenirs from the Friary Book Shop. It’s safe to say that I left with an abundance of local goodies.

As we made our way back towards Killarney, our last stop was Torc Waterfall. The waterfall was streaming with crystal clear water that made its way into a small creek. We climbed up the large rocks at the base of the waterfall to take pictures capturing the end of a great adventure.

Looking back, I can’t help but laugh at those unbelievable moments throughout our trip. As Murphy’s Law goes, “anything that can go wrong will go wrong;” but despite the weather literally raining on our St. Patrick’s Day parade and missing out on spectacular views of the Cliffs of Moher – our adventures in Ireland were unforgettable. I’ll make my way back to the Emerald Isle but a little more prepared next time.

Quick tips

If I had known what I know now, I may have had better luck during my trip. Here are some quick tips for you to consider when planning your visit to Ireland.

Getting around

Paddywagon tours: This was hands down the best tour bus experience I’ve ever had. Their tours include one- to three-day trips featuring the Cliffs of Moher, Ring of Kerry, Dingle Peninsula, various castles and popular cities in Ireland. Paddywagon Tours has various locations throughout the country, so there’s flexibility on where you want to depart from.

Rent a car: While I enjoyed the tour bus, many people rent a car to have the flexibility to go at their own pace.

When to visit

Ireland and its weather is hit and miss throughout the entire year. One day it’s sunshine and rainbows, and the next it’s pouring down rain. I visited in March for St. Patrick’s Day and while that is a neat thing to tell people, I wish I had visited between June and August when clear weather is most likely to make a frequent appearance.

What to bring
Even if the weather seems promising, Ireland is known to have wonderful weather one minute and cold, wet weather the next. It’s best to come prepared with a raincoat, rain boots and an umbrella.

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