My favorite travel moments are often the ones that are literally breathtaking: riding the steepest cogwheel train in the world in Lucern, taking a boat through mangrove trees in a bioluminescent bay, or wading through cold water toward Punchbowl Falls in the Oneonta Gorge. These are the ones I’m most likely to remember and that make the whole trip worth it. Fortunately when I went on my first solo trip abroad to Ireland and Northern Ireland, there was no shortage of these moments. Here were some of my favorites:
Getting a bit too close to the Cliffs
When hiking the Cliffs of Moher, every angle looked increasingly beautiful. I was lucky to have bumped into a fellow vegan traveler from Australia who took in the experience with me and split an order of chips. Also, don’t underestimate the nearby Baby Cliffs, where there are far fewer tourists but you get just as many goosebumps.
Walking across the Carrick-a-Rede bridge
I sent a WhatsApp message to my mom with a picture of this rope bridge, to which she responded, “You didn’t walk across that, did you?” Of course I did. For an added bonus, go when it’s a little windy out.
Hiking the coastal Cliffs in Howth
Yep, more Cliffs, this time on the eastern side of the country. Many of the hikes are long (up to 6 miles) but they’re well worth the energy, as evidenced by this shot of the green landscape and Baily Lighthouse. While you’re in Howth, also make sure to check out Ireland’s Eye, which is accessible by boat. Learn more about how to spend a day in Howth here.
Picnicking at Guinness Lake in the Wicklow Mountains
They call it Guinness Lake because it obviously looks just like a pint of Guinness with those frothy edges. Take a Wicklow Mountain tour to see this gem, or better yet, rent a car and spend an afternoon there. While in the area, check out the bridge from P.S. I Love You. I’ve never actually seen the movie, but trust me when I say that the filming location is a gorgeous spot for a photo opt.
Kissing the Blarney Stone
It’s cheesy, touristy, and an absolute must because you may never be back. Brave the awkwardness of removing your personal belongings, having some guy who works there tilt you back, and kissing a stone wall while others watch. Am I not selling it? What if you get the gift of gab? In all seriousness, Blarney Castle and its gardens are stunningly beautiful, especially from the top. Though I did kiss the Blarney Stone, some of my favorite moments were spent wandering through winding staircases to find hidden nooks and crannies.
Following in the footsteps of giants
Giant’s Causeway is the crown jewel of Northern Ireland. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site featuring about 40,000 hexagonal basalt columns situated on the coast. Walk on the columns themselves, then take a hike along the rim to see the view from afar. Were the formations caused by science or giants? Learn about the legend here: https://vimeo.com/45569144
Photographing the Rock of Cashel
I had no expectations heading to the Rock of Cashel, so I was stunned by the lush green hills, Celtic crosses, and medieval architecture. Situated between Dublin, Cork, and Limerick, the Rock of Cashel is reasonable to do in a day trip and just takes about an hour.
What moments have you experienced in Ireland that took your breath away? Post in the comments below 💚
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