About a year ago, I made the decision to spend a week backpacking through Ireland. I'd never backpacked, stayed in a hostel, or been to Ireland before. So, I threw all of those little challenges into one trip in the spring. A flight attendant friend of mine ended up joining me and we had the BEST time! Backpacking was a new challenge because it really made me think about how much I packed. Because instead of rolling the weight behind me in a rollaboard, I was carrying it all on my back.
Backpack: Osprey Porter 46. This pack was great because of its many compartments, its ability to convert to a carryon with a side handle, and its hip straps to help evenly distribute weight. Packed out, it's about the same size as my rollaboard for work (22" Travelpro), so I had no trouble fitting it into the overhead bin.
Camera: Nikon D3100. Entry-level DSLR.
We got in early in the morning and were welcomed with a bus drivers' strike. So we paid €20 for a 15-minute taxi ride to our hostel. We stayed at Jacob's Inn, a large hostel just a few minutes' walk from the heart of Dublin. It's a great hostel with the quintessential hostel experience. After getting settled in our room, we asked the front desk about activities to do, since we didn't want to succumb to jet lag and lose a day. We ended up at the Guinness Storehouse, which was a lot bigger and more involved than I thought it would be. To be honest, we speed walked through a lot of the history parts. They were interesting, but we really wanted to pour our own pint and drink in the Gravity Bar. So, we did that. And it was amazing. The first pint of the dark stuff in Dublin ruined me for life. I can't drink Guinness in the States anymore. It doesn't import well, no matter what they do to the cans, bottles, or kegs.
We ended up on a backpacker pub crawl that night. There must've been 50 people there. We did four pubs and ended at Whelan's, the bar from P.S I Love You. At this point, we'd been up since whatever time our flight took off from the States - we didn't sleep on the plane. And it was about 0100 in Dublin. After having a rousing conversation with the two pub crawl leaders, we made our way back to the hostel.
There we were, standing at a bus stop in the rain, waiting for our coach bus to take us to Galway. This was our mode of transport for most of the trip - the buses have a more extensive network than the rail system. 2.5 hours later, we made it to Galway.
Now. We didn't get a hostel in Galway proper because they were all booked up when we'd planned the trip, so we booked the Oughterard Holiday Hostel and Angling Center in Oughterard, a town about 30 mins outside of Galway. At first, I was kinda disappointed that we were staying so far outside of Galway, but I ended up falling in love with Oughterard. It is everything you would think an Irish country village would be. We explored a little bit, got a little lost, and enjoyed every moment of it. We went to dinner at Breathnach's, a local pub in the village centre. This was my introduction to Irish vegetable soup. OMG. SO FREAKING GOOD. I had Irish stew too, along with a Guinness (duh). The atmosphere was perfect - comfortable, warm, and inviting.
The next day, we left Oughterard and stayed at Snoozles in Galway. We took a day bus trip to the Aliwee Caves, the Cliffs of Moher, and various other sites in County Clare.
The Cliffs of Moher are GORGEOUS. Breathtaking. It was lovely to stand at the top of the cliffs and contemplate life.
That night, we ended up on another backpacker pub crawl. My friend and I actually met another flight attendant from a different airline on this pub crawl. We became fast friends and spent the whole night having fun. I'm sure at one point, I paired up with an Aussie and my friend and the other flight attendant played beer pong against us. Note: I am terrible at beer pong. And so was the Aussie. We met a bunch of fun people on this pub crawl, which was considerably smaller than the Dublin crawl.
Killarney is probably my favourite part of this trip. Killarney is absolutely gorgeous. We stayed at Neptune's Hostel in the city centre. The hostel itself is nothing to write home about, but the staff are really nice and the location is perfect. We rented bikes and cycled to Killarney National Park.
You guys. Killarney National Park. It was my favourite place we visited in Ireland. 26,000 acres of mountains, green grass, lakes, and waterfalls. One of my favourite parts of the park was Muckross Abbey - a Franciscan abbey dating back to the 1400s. And it's completely open to the public. Fully walkable.
I have no idea how much we cycled that day, but it was A LOT. We also visited Ross Castle, which we almost got in trouble for going into a part of the castle that was supposed to be off limits to visitors. Oops. Had a lovely lunch at the Riverside Hotel on a suggestion from Twitter.
We only spent one day in Cork. And most of the day was really spent in Cobh, a seaside town a 30-minute train ride away. We stayed in Oscar's, a newer hostel close to the bus and train station. Cobh, formerly Queenstown, was the last port of call for the Titanic on her fateful maiden voyage. We did the Titanic Experience, an interactive experience into the Titanic and the lives of the 123 passengers who boarded the Titanic from Cobh. The building is the original White Star Line ticket offices and the original White Star Line pier is still standing (though in great disrepair). You go through the tour as a passenger who actually boarded the Titanic from Cobh. And at the end of the tour, you find out if your passenger survived. I'm not big on touristy experiences, but this one was an exception because of its historical significance.
We visited Cobh Cathedral, which is beautiful. And quite a huge church for a small seaside town. And I will say that we had the best weather in Cobh. Didn't rain at all. It rained at every other city except for Cobh. I wish we'd spent more time in Cork itself, but I guess I'll just have to go back!
I had a blast in Ireland! Can't wait to go back and explore some more cities :)