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Railtours Ireland

Author: Jessica C. (More Trip Reviews by Jessica C.)
Date of Trip: September 2015

Day 1: USA to Dublin

I arrived around dinner time. Took the bus to Central hotel and walked to the the bar called Brazen Head. This is supposedly the oldest bar in Ireland which dates back to 1198. I met a mother-daughter couple and hung out with them. We listened to the band play Irish songs and the locals even pulled us up to dance with them!

Day 2: Day trip to Belfast, Giants Causeway, and Carrick-A-Rede Rope bridge

The day began early at 7am. We drove from Dublin to Belfast, which is the capital of Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is actually part of the United Kingdom. I don’t know much about the political history and conflict between Ireland and Northern Ireland, but from what I learned there is still tension among the two countries.

In Belfast, I went to the Titanic exhibit. The exhibit had 8 sections of history. You started with the H&W company drawing board conception of the titanic and you go all the way thru the timeline to present day titanic wreckage digging up. It was sadly disappointing. The exhibit was only okay. I love history and the Titanic is something I find fascinating, but the exhibit was just “meh”. Maybe if they had artifacts or something? I’m not sure. The displays, interactive exhibits and mini-ride were all new and modern but it didn’t distract from the dry material. I don’t think the exhibit presented the history well. The exhibit was boring and it didn’t come alive.

From here it was an hour drive to Giants Causeway. Giants Causeway is caused by an ancient volcanic eruption resulting in interlocking basalt columns.

I followed an online blog that told me to take the red trail (only red or blue) and I ended up going the wrong way…oops! The red trail goes above the cliffs while the blue goes onto the actual hexagons and along the coast.

The view from the red trail were breathtaking but I wish I did the blue first. The blue showed what I came to see. The red had landscapes and a good overview look of the area.

Once I finally got to the blue trail the causeway wasn’t that impressive. Once I got closer to the hexagons, that’s when I was in awe. I still can’t believe these aren’t man made. There were people but luckily since it was Monday it wasn’t too crowded. I got a lot of beautiful pictures

From here we climbed a bridge 100 feet above the ocean. It connected the mainland to an island where fisherman used to set nets for salmon. From this area, we could see other islands that belong to the UK and Scotland.

Day 3: day in Dublin

Today I went to see the Book of Kells. It was interesting to see but the show stealer was the old library. It had so much character and history. It reminded me of a Harry Potter novel. After the Book of Kells, I did a walking tour. We stopped along some famous landmarks and historical buildings around Dublin. From here I got on a hop on hop off tour. I’m surprised I never did one of these earlier! They are so convenient for going to the major sites, especially for cities where the metro isn’t dominant. I definitely may try to do these in my future travels. I rode the bus for a few stops until I arrived at the Guinness brewery. This place was so commercialized and cheesy. They had fake digital reenactments of the actual brewing process. From fake barely being “roasted” to fake hops plants. I wish the brewery was more real instead of just simulations. In the tour, I learned how to properly taste Guinness and got my free pint at the rooftop bar overlooking the city. The view of the city was gorgeous, but the hoards of people were not. After my pint I was too tipsy to continue to the Jameson distillery. I rode the bus back towards the city center. I grabbed a quick dinner and went back to my hotel

Day 4: Cork/Blarney castle/Killarney

I arrived at the Heuston train station in Dublin bright and early at 7am. We took the train into Cork and drove thru the city. We drove to Blarney village to kiss the famous Blarney Stone. At first I didn’t want to kiss the stone…so many tourists have kissed it. So many germs! However, once I got to the stone I figured I might as well just kiss it. I’ve traveled thousands of miles and I’ll probably never have the chance to kiss it anyway. After kissing the stone, I walked around the area. I stumbled upon blarney house/mansion where some sort of exotic car display or race was occurring. There were porches and old classic cars. It was a pretty site to see. I felt like I was in a James Bond movie. Beautiful cars set against a ginormous mansion.

I had lunch and ordered a seafood chowder. It was delicious! Probably one of the best I’ve had since Seattle.

After Blarney Castle, we headed to the city of Cobh (pronounced Cove). We stopped outside the city at the main cemetery to pay respect. Victims of the Lusitania and Titanic are buried here. This city is called Cobh or Queenstown, after the queens visit. In Cobh, We stopped St Colmans
Cathedral and passed the former white star line offices (of the titanic). We arrived at the Cobh Heritage center, which was the former transatlantic terminal. Most people who left Ireland left from this point. This was also
Titanic’s last port of call. She never saw land again.

This building is also the train station. We boarded a train and changed trains enroute to Killarney. I stayed at the Killarney Plaza Hotel, it was beautiful. Very old elegance, reminded me of being on board the Titanic in first class (or at least the movie set up of what I imagined it to be)

I had 45 mins to walk around the town. It’s a small city but very cute and quaint. In a 4 block radius there was at least 6 pharmacies. All mom and pop type pharmacies but I found that very interesting. Even in Dublin I only saw a pharmacy or two. Does one really need all those pharmacies? Maybe there are doing something else…

I had dinner at a restaurant called the porterhouse. After I went with the tour group to the Killarney Grand pub for a Guinness and to watch the locals do traditional dancing. Some of the dancers were elderly but moved like they were in their 20s! The dancing was so intricate and you had to know exactly what step to take or else you would ruin the whole thing or step on someone’s foot. They danced in groups of 4 couples each (8 people total).

I think being jet lagged finally caught up to me so I left the bar by 10-1030pm and went to bed.

Day 5: Ring of Kerry

Today we headed out for the Ring of Kerry. It’s not an exact spot per se, but a ring road along the Atlantic coast with spectacular views. We stopped to see a traditional Shepard with his sheep. The Shepard explained different types of sheep to us and showed us how he herded sheep with the help of his sheep dogs. I was surprised how much I enjoyed this. The dogs were so well trained. Different whistle commands instructed the dogs to go forward,left, right and to stop. They were amazingly disciplined and accurate.

We drove thru the towns of killorglin, cahersiveen, and Waterville.

In Killorglin, they have a annual Puck Faire and there is a king elected every year. The king is tied up in the middle of the fair, and this king puck is a goat.

We stopped at Scarriff Inn for lunch. The restaurant claimed to have the “Best views” of ring of Kerry, which it did not disappoint. It was very busy with tourists but we got there right as all the other tourists were leaving.

We stopped at a small city called Sneem. The city’s claim to fame is a river with a whirlpool. It also supposedly has the best ice cream. I tried the baileys Irish creme ice cream, which was very strong and flavorful.

After this we stopped at a viewpoint called the Ladies view. The view had a lake view with mountains in the background. From here we went back into the town of Killarney. I decided to watch a show called the Celtic Steps which showcased traditional Irish singing, music, and dancing. All of the dances had intricate steps and lots of tap dance style dancing. There were different styles of Irish dancing with all male, one female and couples set dancing. One male dancer did a traditional dance with a broom, called brush dancing.

Day 6: Cliffs of Moher/Galway
This morning took long because we picked up passengers at the hotel, B&Bs, and from the train station at Limerick.

We drove briefly through the City and drove over the Shannon river. This is the longest river in Ireland. We passed by King Johns castle, which is one of the 16 castles we will be passing today.

It took us about 20 mins from Limerick to arrive at the Bunratty castle (Castle Watch 2015, no. 4). There was a bar outside the castle which was built in 1620. I though this was fascinating…but found out the castle was built in 1425, almost 200 years before this bar.

The castle had a folk park which disassembled buildings from around the city and built a mini “village” depicting what life was like. There was a school, doctors house, church, and everything a typical Medieval village would have. Even the 18th century church was relocated brick by brick to its current location.

From Bunratty castle, we drove thru Kilshanny. It’s the smallest village in Ireland. We drove to Doolin, which to me was also pretty small village, to have lunch. The Main Street was only 10 shops long. We drove thru Galway bay to OConnors pub in Doolin. The pub was traditional Irish and I had a seafood chowder with a ham sandwich. All of the seafood chowders I’ve had have all been really tasty. Probably because Ireland is an island, they have fresh seafood no matter where.

One thing I learned is that all food in Ireland is organic. No GMO is allowed in any of the foods. That is something I really like about this country.

We arrived at the Cliffs of Moher. This landscape was breathtaking. I think it is my favorite place in all of Ireland. The cliffs looked majestic with the lush greenery framing it. I wish we had more time to explore but we only had about 1.5-2 hours. I didn’t have time to hike the entire trail along the cliffs.

After the cliffs of Moher, we drove towards the Burren (meaning “great rocky place”). It’s a very unique and wild landscape. No soil, no rivers, and nothing but some green grows between the cracks in the stone slabs. The stones are flat and easy to walk on.

From here we continued on towards Galway city. We passed thru Fanore city, which is the Longest city in Ireland. It also has one of the few beaches in Ireland. We passed thru Kinvara and lots of other miscellaneous villages and saw more castles.

Once in Galway we had about an hour to wander around before catching the train. The train station was right across from Eyre square, which is the main area and from center of Galway. I wandered around but didn’t find much to do or shop. I ended up getting food at a convenience store where the cashier was super friendly to me. He told me Galway was voted number 1 for the friendliest city in the world by Time magazine. We took a train from Galway back to Dublin. Since we arrived so late in the evening and my flight was very early the next day, I decided to go straight to the airport and just sleep at the gate for a few hours to save on hotel costs.

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