Between the 15th and the 23rd of July 2017 five of us went on a road trip around Ireland! This was my favourite trip up to that point. Get ready to know the travel buddies, how we planned for the road trip, and the amazing places we visited.
It is important to consider the people you are going to travel with beforehand. If each person adds value to the team in a specific way, several problems may be avoided when you are travelling.
Our team was composed by Alexandra (me), Diogo, Hector (our friend who lives in Ireland), Camille (our friend who lives in the USA) and Betty Marsha (Mil’s mom).
I was the initial organizer of the trip, and Hector helped me a lot later on. We made a great partnership when it came to leading our trip and deciding what to do. That being said, it is not fair to exclude Betty Marsha, since she would be the deciding element whenever no one else was willing to do it.
Hector was also the driver and I must admit he is the best driver I have ever met. We would always feel safe and comfortable in his car.
Betty Marsha was the link that would ask everyone questions about themselves. That trait helped in the development of relationships between the five of us. We ended up knowing a lot about each other.
Mil and Betty Marsha were the peaceful people in the car. They were never upset, which helped to keep the general good mood.
I am not going to lie and tell you that everything went according to plan. Unfortunately the final days were ruined by my break-up. Nevertheless, I think the group was great in several aspects. There was a driver, two leaders, a third decider, a moderate chatter and two peacekeepers. Those are ingredients I find essential within a road trip team (because that is what you end up being – a team).
We booked all the places we would be staying in prior to the trip. We found that comforting since we did not always know where we would go the next day but we always knew we had somewhere to sleep later on.
I am plant-based and Mil is ovo-lacto vegetarian. Due to our dietary choices, we would always need to plan where we would eat in advance. Some days we would plan what to do based on where we were eating. I researched possible places to eat the next day using Happy Cow. The biggest problem we faced was that there were places that were not open for business anymore and others whose opening hours differed from the ones shared online. It was very important to have several possibilities in several different locations along our planned route. We were never forced to skip a meal but there were times where we would have to eat far too late.
What to visit
Most times, we ended up discovering what to visit the day before actually doing it. Everyone was quite open to suggestions (most of them mine). I would find some places we could visit the previous day and the group would give their thoughts on them while we were already in the car. That proved to be an effective system since we did not feel restricted to a previous plan while still visiting interesting places we would not have seen otherwise.
I always carried a notebook in which I wrote down where we were going to sleep, where we could be eating, and some attractions near our route (including some facts about those). That turned out to be important since it allowed us to have a quick overview of all possibilities and figure out which would better suit our schedule.
Time should be left time for pleasant surprises and to relax. However, planning ahead may save you from unpleasant moments of uncertainty and may help you go to places you would not discover just by traveling around aimlessly. This is specially important if you have dietary needs that differ from the norm in the country you are traveling to, since most places you will find along the road may not sell the food you want to eat.
The five of us got together for the first time on the 14th of July 2017. We had dinner at Veginity, a plant-based street food restaurant in Dublin! This was my first time there and I will return in the future.
On the 15th of July 2017 we hit the road and spent the day in the Wicklow Mountains. We visited The Great Military Road, Glencree, Lough Tay, and Glendalough Monastic Site.
Wicklow Mountains National Park was established in 1991. Originally covered with forests, it was cleared by neolithic farmers. The Great Military Road (R115) was constructed between 1800 and 1809 to open up the mountains for the British Army, helping them put down insurgents from the 1798 rebellion.
Glencree includes the barracks (used by the British Army from 1800 to 1815, then as a reformatory school, then to house german prisoners during the WWI, then to house german pilots and agents who planned anti-British activities who crashed in Ireland, and finally to care for german and polish war orphans), the German War Cemetery (which includes 134 graves of mostly German personnel and civillians from WWI) and Glencree River.
We only saw Lough Tay (a lake shaped like a guinness pint) from up above because it was a long way down to see it and it was freezing (not literally)!
Lastly we went to the Glendalough Monastic Site, a christian monastic settlement founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century. We saw the gateway, the round tower and the cathedral, but my favourite part was the lake we explored afterwards.
On our way back to Dublin we passed through Blessington but we did not stop there. Back in Dublin, we had a snack in a place called Yogism. We consumed delicious pancakes and crepes, since we were too hungry to settle for a frozen yogurt.
Dublin to Waterford
After a good night’s sleep in Dublin, we left for Waterford, driving along the East Irish Coast. Here are the places we visited both on the 16th and on the 17th of July 2017.
Even though it was not as hot as when I usually go to the beach, we still found people bathing at this beautiful beach. This was a quick stop and I shall go back to Bray in the future. I may even join those people in the water!
I mostly remember having lunch at the Bridgewater Shopping Centre. I do not recommend Abra Kebabra as an option for someone looking for plant-based food.
We had dinner at an indian restaurant called Eastenders, which we all loved and I highly recommend. Between the 16th and the 17th of July 2017, we stayed in a cute double-store cottage surrounded by panoramic views of green fields and horses near Waterford.
On the 17th we visited Waterford, one of the oldest cities in Ireland. It has history to tell, having been raided by vikings and invaded by both them and the anglo-normans. It is also known for its former glass-making industry. We had lunch at Obrien’s, which sells great plant-based options, and visited several beautiful places:
- Reginald’s Tower – This is the oldest urban civic building in Ireland. We could have entered it but we decided to stay by the exciting viking ship set near the tower instead.
- Bishop’s Palace – An interesting 18th century townhouse that did not live up to our expectations.
- Medieval Museum – Of these three, this is the place you should pay to enter. You will uncover Waterford's history as you visit this museum through a guided tour. Unfortunately it is not as focused on the vikings occupation as I would want it to be, but it covers a lot of information about other periods.
Waterford to Cork
We travelled from Waterford to Cork on the 17th of July 2017. Even though we had other places we were hoping to visit between the two cities, the surprises we found along the way made our day.
This was a quick stop. We did not even experience the attractions set up nearby! We just stood there watching people enjoying their beautiful sunny day. After picturing such a rainy country, it was refreshing to realise there are indeed bright days!
A hidden beach that has a lot to offer. We found it by mere chance and we spent about half an hour there. If I ever go to the beach in Ireland, this will probably be my first choice!
Unfortunately this castle was closed when we were there and we could not visit the inside of the castle. This is an anglo-norman fortification founded in 1185. I will return in the future as the inside looks promising.
We stayed near Cork for two nights, between the 17th and the 19th of July 2017, in a beautiful house a few miles away from the city. We met the amazing family that lives there and I got to be near cows for the first time in my life! This was the best place I ever stayed and I will definitely stay there again.
My favourite place in Cork was the English Market, a crowded gathering of food lovers, with tons of plant-based options! We also visited most of Cork’s main attractions but I was not as impressed as I thought I would be.
We had dinner at Liberty Grill on the 17th and at Umi Falafel on the 18th, and breakfast at Griffins Garden Centre on the 19th. Griffins Garden Centre is a place quite far from the city but near the place we stayed in. It sells garden items and serves delicious food! I recommend all three of those restaurants.
After the road trip, while we were choosing our favourite places from it, Cobh was my immediate answer. This is a small coastal town where everyone seemed to be outside. The streets were filled with joyful people and friendly dogs.
Even though I am not a fan of religious buildings in general, St. Colman’s Cathedral was a surprise. It is a special place with all its art and panoramic views and I would recommend it for most people to visit.
There are also other places to visit in Cobh, including several monuments on the streets and an experience based on the passage of the Titanic through the city that we did not get to visit due to our circumstances. We were also intending to visit Spike Island but it would take too much of our time.
Blarney Castle and Gardens
I did not kiss the Blarney stone but Mil and Betty Marsha did. We all enjoyed the view from the top of Blarney Castle and the gardens are beautiful as well. I wish we could have spent some time inside the Blarney House!
Cork to Galway
We had lots of plans to get to after leaving Cork on the 19th of July. We did not get to do most of those as we spent so much time in Blarney Castle and Gardens. We drove to Killarney National Park and, even though it was too windy to fully appreciate it, we found the beautiful Lough Leane lake and Ross Castle. We then had lunch at True Natural Goodness, in Killarney. On our way to the little cottage in the middle of nowhere where we stayed for the night, we passed through Tralee. We then had dinner at Subway in Newcastle West, which I do not recommend!
On the 20th of July we left for Galway, passing through Limerick, Ennis, Lahinch, and Liscannor on our way there.
Corofin is a small town with little to offer but a great restaurant you should visit. We had lunch at Bofey Quinns, a typical pub with friendly staff and delicious food, including plant-based options! I highly recommend this place since it made it to everyone's favourites list.
Cliffs of Moher
It is easy to study rain while living in Ireland. As we were visiting the Cliffs, rain was approaching. The sight of the clouds and rain getting closer was overwhelming. I do recommend visiting this site. I only have one small tip for you: let everyone out of your car before parking since you will buy additional tickets for each passenger!
The Burren National Park
We merely drove by The Burren. It is beautiful but, exactly as the name suggests, only a bunch of rocks! Beautiful rocks.
Galway to Dublin
Galway was our final big stop. Even though we stayed there from the 20th to the 23rd of July, we did not get to visit Galway as thoroughly as I would want to since we had some personal issues there. I enjoyed everything about Galway, including the street performances and Galway Cathedral.
We stayed in an awful hotel I will not recommend and cooked most of our meals there. We had three meals out: a lunch at The Light House and a snack at Café Temple, both amazing places I will definitely visit again, and a dinner at Péarla na Mara, a place I do not recommend!
On our way back to Dublin, Hector decided it would be fun to visit almost every town on the way! Here is the list of the places we drove through:
- Athlone (we had lunch in Harvest Cafe, a great restaurant with plant-based options)
There is not much to add about what happened after we got back to Dublin. A couple days later Mil and Betty-Marsha left and a day later Diogo and I did the same.
A final note: visit Ireland!