If there's one country that feels most like a home-away-from-home it's Ireland. My first visit was when I was six months old for my Mom's first Mother's Day. I've returned several times since, primarily because my Dad's side of the family lives here. Today, I am fortunate enough to be attending Trinity College Dublin for the semester. I've had several trips to Ireland to figure out my favorite places. I'm feeling more and more like a native everyday.
Through my courses at Trinity College, I'm learning an immense amount of history about my Irish heritage. I always knew that the Irish were under British rule, but had no idea that it was for a total of eight hundred years. Ireland is a much smaller island than you would think which is why it's so hard to believe the country was in such political and social disarray for centuries. I was shocked to hear lectures from professors about how oppressed the Irish culture was during the British rule. The 1916 Easter Rising was and continues to be the most significant Irish historical event. It was just 101 years ago that a group of Irish nationals decided enough was enough. They would eventually win freedom from Britain and have 26 of the 32 counties in the Republic of Ireland. I have an interesting perspective because I studied in England last year and now I'm on the other side in Ireland. This cultural war between Ireland and Britain has existed for eight hundred years and continues to be a sore spot regardless of the immense progress that has been made. Today, as I walk through the Trinity College campus (which used to be Protestant! Catholics were not allowed on campus!), I am reminded of how much progress has been made. Now more than ever, I'm so so proud to be Irish.
Dublin in a Day
Believe it or not, you can see all the major sights in Dublin in just one, well-planned day! If you only have a weekend to visit Ireland, here's my point-by-point itinerary. I've used this for a few visitors this Fall and it's worked so well.
Trinity College Dublin, Book of Kells & the Long Room Library: Entrance to the College is free, but you can opt for a campus tour. As you walk through the front gates, you'll see a stand with tour guides ready to take you around. I've personally never taken a tour, but it definitely gives you a great deal of history about the College. The Book of Kells and the Long Room Library are in the same building and are included in one ticket. If you're visiting Dublin from now until December, I can get you in for free! (Shoot me an email) Every time I walk through the Long Room Library my jaw drops and I'm secretly so jealous that it's not mine.
Grafton Street: Located just outside the front gates of Trinity College, Grafton Street is always bustling with shoppers and street performers. Ed Sheeran famously sings about meeting his love on Grafton Street. He is even known to pick up street performers that he likes to help them get famous! The shops on Grafton Street are pretty generic stores that you'd find anywhere in the world, but just take a quick walk through and watch some of the musicians. They're pretty amazing.
Kilmainham Gaol: This has to be my favorite Dublin attraction. Many of the Irishmen who fought for independence from Britain were jailed here. As a student, you can get a tour for only four euros and let me tell you, that just might be the best four euros you'll spend in Dublin! Be sure to book your ticket in advance, because they do sell out! The stories are absolutely incredible and it puts the entire Irish Revolution in perspective. The tour lasts one hour, just in time to visit...
The Guinness Store House: This is a total tourist trap, but I know people just feel obliged to go. There's an excellent view from the Gravity Bar at the top of the factory and a pint is included in your admission ticket! Book in advance!
Temple Bar: The area has tons of fun pubs and vintage shops. Beware, because this is quite possibly the biggest tourist trap in the city, but it's just one of those things you have to do. Be sure to take a photo of the outside of The Temple Bar. It's gorgeous! But if you really want to know where to go for dinner, drinks, and live music...I recommend The Old Storehouse. I take all my friends there that visit. It has the most talented musicians, a cozy atmosphere, and great food!
So that's the grand tour of Dublin. Do you have an extra day? Here's what you have to do!
There are several tour companies that have day trips from Dublin to the West Coast. In just one day you can visit the Cliffs of Moher and Galway. I've done the trip twice and could do it a million more times. You can't come to Ireland without seeing either of those places.
I've used Wild Rover Tours and had a great experience! Students can usually get a day ticket for around 30 euros which includes transportation, guided information, and admission into the Cliffs. I fall more and more in love with the Cliffs each time I see it.
Here's my first picture at the Cliffs with my Dad!
I feel super grateful to be spending the semester here in Ireland. Each weekend since I planted my feet in August someone special has visited. My Grammy who was born in Ireland and has family here visited with my Uncle Breandán and cousin Marisa. It was so so special to visit my Grammy's childhood home and spend quality family time for two and a half weeks. I have special memories with them that will last a lifetime. Other visitors include Andrew (duh), my best friend from high school Julianna, and my college friend Olivia. I'm always happy to show people around this incredible city, so please don't hesitate to reach out if you're in the neighborhood. Irish people are some of the friendliest in the world, so I can't wait for you to experience the culture. Cheers!