The first European country I went to, which ultimately made me fall in love with traveling, was Ireland. Not only was it my first time traveling alone, it was my first time leaving the America’s. I had the life altering opportunity to live in Cork, Ireland for five months during my time studying abroad and it became a second home for me. Within five months, I had successfully traveled to every part of the Emerald Isle- from Dublin, to The Cliffs of Moher, to the Dingle peninsula, and back to the Southern tip of Cork. During my stay I visited numerous towns and cities that each had their own unique feel and they all deserve their own individual blog. I decided to reign myself in and start out with *one* Ireland blog to point out some of my favorite places as well as highlight a few great experiences I had in each city.
Dublin was an amazing city with a lot to do and see. Being Ireland’s biggest city and capital, Dublin is always a good idea to visit when planning a trip to Ireland. One of my favorite highlights from Dublin was exploring Trinity College. This historical campus was free to tour and had a lot to see. When exploring some of the historic buildings, we ran into the Trinity College Irish football team and got to watch a free game on campus! This campus is also home to the famous and beautiful Trinity College Library and the Book of Kells. I highly recommend paying a little extra and getting into this extraordinary experience. I also suggest visiting the Dublin Art Museum and the National Gallery of Ireland. These educational and richly historic experiences are also free to the public and house loads of beautiful art and information to teach yourself about the country of Ireland. For my fellow beer enthusiasts, you should check out the Guinness storehouse and book a Guinness tour. This tour is an interactive experience in an extremely modern and artistic space. Also- at the end of the tour you get to enjoy a free Guinness you poured yourself (who doesn’t love free beer?) Lastly, you cannot visit Dublin, Ireland without getting a drink (or two). The Temple Bar is always the place to go. One of the oldest bars in the city, decorated beautifully, and always full of people, this pub never disappoints with live music, lots of alcohol, and a true Irish experience.
A quick stop on the Ring of Kerry- Killarney is a lesser known gem in Ireland I wouldn’t dare miss. Killarney is a smaller rural town that is home to a lot of history and beautiful natural scenery. Most of the excursions and excitement in this town can all be experienced in Killarney National Park. The Lakes of Killarney, The Ross Castle, and The Muckross House are all day excursions that can be done within Killarney (some for free, some for an extra cost). In the National Park, you can go on horse drawn carriage rides, take multiple hiking routes, or go on a tour of the museum grounds to learn about the public land and heritage of the region. Since this quaint town is located on the Ring of Kerry, it is easily accessible and makes for a quick trip on your way to enjoy the scenic coastal route of Kerry.
Kinsale, Ireland may be my favorite town in Ireland. This absolutely gorgeous small town is located on the southern coast of Ireland, in County Cork. Only a 20 minute bus ride from Cork, this historic town is home to two 17th-century fortresses that overlook the River Bandon. Fort Charles is a hike up the Northern end of the city and if you have the ability to hike (although it is a long walk) the views are well worth it. The beautiful countryside overlooks the River as well as the town of Kinsale and allows you to take a look at the unique architecture of the local houses along the way. The 17th-century buildings in the Fort house the Kinsale Regional Museum and a variety of displays on local history. Other than it’s scenic harbor and rich history, Kinsale is known as the most colorful town in Ireland with it’s vibrant cafe’s, book stores, and flower shops. If you are more of a shopper or a foodie than a history nerd, you will enjoy the cobblestone streets of Kinsale that are lined with amazing fresh seafood options, bakeries, and local boutiques. My food recommendations for you foodies out there are: Fishy Fishy, The Milk Market Cafe, and the Lemon Leaf Cafe.
Obviously I am biased due to the fact that I lived in Cork, Ireland for five months- but Cork, Ireland is definitely my favorite city in Ireland, and possibly even in Europe. The second largest city in Ireland- Cork is home to University College Cork (where I attended my study abroad program), the amazing Gothic architecture of St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral, The River Lee, Oliver Plunkett Street, The English Market, and much much more. If you spend a day in Cork, I suggest starting the day off at Alchemy Coffee- my favorite small hipster coffee shop on the way from downtown to the university. On your to- do list should definitely be to tour the Hogwarts of Ireland (UCC). This university is home to lots of history, beautiful galleries, and picturesquely located right next to the river with lots of beautiful old classrooms that look like castles. Luckily Cork is a smaller city with lots of walking ability to get from place to place. If transportation is an issue, it is easy to hop on the bus at the local station to get from town to town but most every attraction is Cork is located in close proximity.
If you’re a fan of fish & chips and beer, than you’ve come to the right place. You can’t miss stopping by a local Cork legend in between the university and the downtown area. Jackie Lennox is a local delicacy where you can get a huge, fried pile of fish & chips for cheap. Some other “must do’s” in Cork include visiting St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral, The English Market, and Oliver Plunkett Street. Oliver Plunkett Street is full of local shops, bars and pubs, and amazing places to eat- located in the heart of downtown you have walking access to the rest of the city and other day excursions from this point. If you want to visit Cork for an extra day (which I highly suggest) then a few other attractions I’d like to mention are taking a stroll around Fitzgerald park and heading up the hill to book a tour at the old Cork jail to learn about some of the cities history and ghost stories.
Some additional shops I recommend visiting in Cork are Vibes & Scribes bookstore, Records & Relics, and Caroll’s Irish gifts for your typical tourist Irish gear. Additional food recommendations are the English Market, Milano, Quinlin’s Seafood Bar, and of course the infamous Oliver Plunkett Bar. If you’re looking for live Irish music, dancing, and great food and drinks, you’ll have to finish the night on Oliver Plunkett Street. Oliver Plunkett accommodates everyone by being considered both a family restaurant and a more hip pub for live music and dancing at night. Regardless, this is a must-go spot and a local legend in Cork. Other local pubs I recommend checking out if you’re interested in a night on the town include An Brog, Washington’s, SoHo, and Edison’s. In this lively and culture driven city- there is never a lack of things to do, see, or eat. You cannot visit Ireland without seeing the unique city of Cork, Ireland.