I evidently cannot pass up a good travel deal (but then again, who wouldn’t?) and this time Michelle and Kcee came along with me! Ireland was nothing like I imagined and everything I needed at the same time. I had expectations of busy cities, architecturally rich villages, and bustling coast towns. Instead, if you put Minnesota on an ocean coast and then change out all of our corn fields for fields of cows and sheep, and cut the population by 75%, you’d start to understand what Ireland felt like. We spent most of our time in sleepy coastal villages where the people were kinder than anyone you’ve ever met, you could see the entire city when you stood in the middle of it, and all of their local suggestions you could walk to. I was entirely unimpressed with the “main attractions” like Dark Hedges and Carrick-a-rede, all the while entirely enamored by the simplicity of how people lived and the kindness we came across. So here you have it: a tiny glimpse into what Ireland looked like from my point of view. I’ll be back to soak it in all by my lonesome some day when I can spend hours on the beach reading endless books and enjoying “tea” with strangers I meet on the street.
Day one we spent in Dublin. Kcee and Michelle had their own plans and I walked the city finding nooks and crannies. Dublin wasn’t my first love in Ireland, but the things I loved most were the things that felt families during travel – tiny alleys, public transportation, and all the green things growing absolutely everywhere.
Day two (after a scare that we may not be able to get our car out of the car park due to Bank Holiday) we packed up our hostel room at Backpacker Citi Hostel and hit the road after some pancakes at a local cafe. We had planned on arriving in Portbalintrae in Northern Ireland and seeing Carrick-a-Rede, Dark Hedges, and Giants Causeway. Weather was perfect when we arrived and we made our way to our first item on the list – as did everyone else visiting the area. We made the most of Dark Hedges, but after comparing photos we had seen online to the photos we got while we were there, I think there must be either a better time to go, or lot of people photoshop their photos there because it was rather underwhelming. It made a great location for a mini shoot though! After seeing the number of trourists at the other locations, we decided to head back.
When we met back up at our Airbnb to get the keys from our host, Michael, he suggest Portrush for dinner and said it was a definite “must” to walk the beach between there and the Airbnb. He gave us a lift to Portrush and we found an odd little place to grab burgers before starting the walk home around 8. The walk was 4 miles and we were intimidated at first and not clear on why Michael had been so passionate about persuading us to trek that far. But it quickly became on of my favorite pieces of the trip. The walk spanned ocean beach, beautiful tall grasses (that I could have shot all day in), casual cliffs, friendly cows, and a beautiful all-encompassing view of our sleepy village of Portballintrae. We got incredibly lucky with a beautiful sunset and I am so so glad we didn’t pursue the other sites because the 4 miles walk was worth it. From the photos of Michelle and Kcee walking on the beach through to the end of this section was the walk home. I love how much the photos change with the evening and the drastic shift in scenery as we got closer to Portballintrae.
The goal of this trip was to have a mindset with our plans that was fluid enough that if something didn’t happen, it didn’t matter. We skipped Giants Causeway because of how many people were there and instead made our back to a few places from our walk the previous night so that we could grab a few photos we had a vision for that we could get being pressed for time the night before.
We did end up seeing Carick-a-rede, but were again unimpressed mostly due to the number of tourists that were there and how commercialized it felt. The natural beauty surrounding Carrick-a-rede though was amazing. You could see Scotland from there and that wasn’t something I was anticipating – a nice little surprise!
When we had crossed off all of our to-dos, we made our way to Inver, to our next AirBnb. Our house was located close enough to the beach that we decided to take a walk and on our way we met some friendly neighbors who suggested the local cemetery as a must-see. If you know me, you know how much I despise cemeteries for so many reasons (something I won’t get into here) so I was less than enthusiastic about this, but I begrudgingly went anyways, and I am so so happy that I did. The church and cemetery were from the 6th century and had been completely overgrown. It was magical. Words don’t do it justice so just take a peek at the photos.
After the walk, we hung out with our host’s horses in front of our AirBnb for a bit before making evening plans.
After our walk around the village, we headed into Inver Glebe to McGafferties where we had been promised traditional Irish music, and were not disappointed. Easily my favorite pub during our trip – a tiny little room, enthusiastic singers, and wonderful music.
The entire reason we stayed in Inver was for Slieve League – Michelle found this one and had read that it was a comparable experience to the Cliffs of Moher, but with more dramatic views and higher cliffs. Slieve League was beautiful for so many reasons – it lended itself more to the adventurer than the Cliffs of Moher did with hike-able paths and climb-able hills. Comparing Cliffs of Moher to Slieve League is not comparing apples to apples. They each had such beauty in different ways, but the thing I liked the most about Slieve League was how many areas you could explore off the paths and in fields of sheep no less.
After spending the morning at Slieve League (day four), we started the drive to Doolin, about an hour south of Gallway and within walking distance to the Cliffs of Moher, where we set up camp at the first AirBnb where we would stay more than one night. This was the part of the trip I was most looking forward to because I love settling in and enjoying a city for a few days to really soak it in. Our trips was so short that we could do that in the other cities we visited.
Gallway was all we had on the agenda for the day. We had decided that Gallway was a city that we had different places we wanted to see so we split up and did our own adventuring. I had expected something different for Gallway and I don’t think I went into that piece of the trip with enough research before we got there so I would go back with the intent to stay there and experience it in a different way. It was a cute city though!
After a breakfast at a cute little cafe in Doolin, I prepped for dancer shoot day! Dancer friend Erin arrived in Doolin around 11 – we lunched together while Kcee and Michelle had their own plans and after Erin got a little bit of sleep in, we headed to the Cliffs. Erin had found a different way to get to the cliffs that didn’t involve paying an entrance fee so we hopped a few fences and got in the local way. What was great about this, was that this path took you to the far end of the cliffs where far few people walk to. We had the area mostly to ourselves to snag photos of her dancing! We ended up staying for about an hour and then headed back to the Airbnb to warm up, agreeing that we’d go back at sunset to get more photos at golden hour. Golden hour did not disappoint and we got some of my favorite photos from the trip that evening. The walk back was beautiful, and we again got so lucky with an amazing sunset.
After a quick chat about the plans for the evening, we decided it would be fun to visit the Aran Islands. There was a mix up at the office though and the boat we got on only took us to view the Cliffs of Moher from the water and looped right back around. They offered us tickets the next day though for the mix up and we took them up on the offer.
After a sweet little dinner at Ivy Cottage for a second dinner of fish-n-chips in a row, we headed back to the cliffs for a beautiful golden hour. At the bottom of this blog is a link to view the full dance shoot blog!
On our way to pick up Erin from her Bed and Breakfast, we hopped a fence for the second time on the trip and took a peek around the Doolin Castle. Yet another over-commercialized dreamy little attraction that had a nice view of the surrounding rolling land.
Michelle and Kcee went on with their plans for the day and Erin and I boarded a ferry yet again to really visit the Aran Islands. Inishmore was a teeny little island that we could see the whole of from the highest point. We accidentally caught a ride with a tourist group getting a tour from a local guide and his horse. We caught views of the other two Islands, a shipwreck (only 59 years old!), small little plots of farm land, an Irish flag hoisted up on a fishing pole, church ruins, and I snagged some tasty fudge before jumping on the return boat to the mainland.
What a trip. Nothing what I expected, but everything I needed: a casual trip with pretty views and sleepy villages that provided rest from the business of life and satisfied a small piece of my wandering heart. I’ll be back with a different mindset to be able to dive into Ireland a little deeper with a little more intentionality than I was prepared for this first time.I’ll go back to visit mostly the southern half of Ireland and probably Galway and Cliffs of Moher again! If you have suggestions on places I should visit on my return trip, leave them below so I can add them to my list.
View the full dance blog here:
Leave your Ireland suggestions below!
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