May the road rise to meet you: exploring Ireland with new eyes
May the road rise to meet you: exploring Ireland with new eyes
To master the road trip fully, it helps to be somewhere that is exotic to you.
To master the road trip fully, it helps to be somewhere that is exotic to you. While on the road in this far-flung destination, the unusual landscape keeps you enthralled and curious. The sights that to you are the fascinating ‘other’ are, for locals, totally normal and nothing to Instagram Story about. I can’t be the only European who’s received super weird looks while getting excited about yellow school buses, real life cowboys and Target in the U.S., surely?
Earlier this year, the tables turned and my husband and I joined American friends on their bucket list trip to Ireland for a transatlantic Coco Couples adventure. Here’s our favourite discoveries from Dublin to County Limerick, uncovered by seeing a familiar place with a new set of eyes…
If you haven’t been to the Guinness Gravity Bar and printed your face on a pint, did you even go to Dublin? Like all good tourist cities, Dublin can be overwhelming on first visit with all the things you have to cross off the list.
Screw up that list and start afresh by wandering the walkable city. If you didn’t bring good trainers / a waterproof jacket, pick up a Hop On / Hop Off bus pass.
If distillery tours are your thing, eschew the whiskey theme park of Jameson for this authentic, family-run enterprise. The first whiskey distillery in Dublin for 125 years, the Teeling’s history with the liquor goes all the way back to 1782 to a distillery located minutes from their modern location in The Liberties. Make time to prop up the bar in their beautiful tasting room for an authentic Irish Coffee.
Killiney Hill & Dalkey Village
Take the DART out to the idyllic coastal village of Dalkey complete with rockstar mansions and vintage seaside feel. Once you’ve gawped at enough stunning houses, take the short hike up to Killiney Hill for stunning views across Dublin, the Irish Sea, Bray Head and the Wicklow Mountains. If you choose a really clear day, it’s even possible to spy the mountains of Wales in the distance. The perfect weekend activity after an evening in one of Dublin’s 700+ pubs – you’ll bump into many others blowing away the hangover cobwebs and plenty of adorable pups.
If you find yourself in Dublin city centre on a Sunday, book a table at dark and sexy, tequila-fuelled contemporary Mexican restaurant 777. On the holy day everything on their menu is 7,77€ – including wickedly moreish house margaritas. Look out for deals on other nights of the week, or trust us and go pay full price.
In between challenging your friends at Pacman or swearing at pinball machines, chow down on TOKEN’s high-end fast food. We love their ‘Cheapskate’ deal of a dirty burger, side and beer/wine with 10 game tokens.
The Fitzwilliam is the ideal luxe hotel – one with a sense of humour and quirk, shown in the Irish Seaweed cookies in-room to enjoy in the standout lime green, free-standing bath. Located in the centre of town, it’s the ideal base for a few nights in Dublin before you head out on the road.
Even on a grey day, Galway’s charm is immediate as you stroll past colourful houses, down cobbled streets with the sound of trad music and the scent of home cooked lunch floating out of cosy pubs. Galway is known as the Cultural Heart of Ireland and the perfect place to pick up that Claddagh ring you’ve coveted since Angel gave one to Buffy. The streets erupt with energy during the summertime Galway Arts Festival (giaf.ie) and next year is set to be an incredible year to visit, with the city wearing the European Capital of Culture crown.
Explore the Latin Quarter
The best way to see Galway city is on foot. The Latin Quarter is the most picturesque with its cobbled streets, tiny boutiques selling Aran wool jumpers and cosy boltholes to jump into if the weather isn’t on your side. Take a lunchtime pitstop for the Ricotta Be Kiddin’ Me! pizza at local success story Dough Bros.
Live trad music, Various Pubs
You won’t have to go far to find live music in town – if in doubt, ask any local and they’ll be happy to help you find the perfect spot on any day of the week. We loved the nooks and crannies of tiny and atmospheric Tigh Neachtain.
America Village Apothecary
Claire Davey sources and picks wild ingredients for her shop, America Village Apothecary, to create unique syrups, bitters and tinctures. Join a tour at the Tasting Room in Galway’s Westend to learn about the folklore behind the products or pop in for a cocktail.
Sure, there’s some great street food-style spots in Galway (google Dough Bros, Crust Bucket, Handsome Burgers) but for a seasonal, local menu book a table at Kai. Styled like a cosy stone-floored kitchen, you’ll at once feel right at home and blown away by the innovative creations from local produce.
Galway to Adare
It’s going to be hard to ignore the draw of the famous Cliffs of Moher, but with the attraction being overcrowded during the summer months (and hilariously misty and wet when we visited in winter) we’d suggest getting your fill of the majestic ruggedness of the Wild Atlantic Way by exploring the The Burren before heading down to the charming Adare in County Limerick.
Hazel Mountain Chocolate
Possibly one of the most remote and special chocolate factories in the world, stop off at this bean-to-bar chocolate haven in an Irish homestead. From the café and shop, marvel at the chocolate making process, enjoy a warming brew and sweet treat. Check out their site for details of their next VIP ‘Lock In’ experience.
Afternoon Tea at Adare Manor
The charming village of Adare is often voted one of Ireland’s most beautiful. For great quality pub fare, pop into any of the town’s traditional spots. For something out of this world, book in for tea and triangle sandwiches at the romantically grand Adare Manor – voted last year by Virtuoso as their Hotel of the Year.
Airbnb, Various Properties
Get Airbnb-happy for some stunning accommodations, we even spied a castle for hire…. We spent the night in a cosy barn conversion on an organic farm and woke at first light to ancient giant pigs wandering around with a gang of 15 farm dogs. They also had the ruins of a Norman Keep on their grounds – as you do.
To discover more about Ireland, check out Ireland.com and visitdublin.com and the links peppered throughout our recommendations. For a reliable hire for our trip, we picked up an Enterprise rental car at Dublin airport.