University of Wisconsin–Madison

I Left My Heart in Ireland

Ah Ireland, what can I say about the country besides, I loved it! We spent the first 4 days of our Winter Vacation in Ireland, and it was a great experience. Since it was the first country on our stop, it was beyond refreshing to hear English being spoken everywhere. That set the stage for a fun trip.

I would sum up Ireland with, “Pride in being Irish.” That may seem like a more obvious statement, but it is what denotes their culture, history, and actions. Every tour we went on dwelt on the tiniest aspects of their culture which made them Irish, whether it was the dry stone walls lining country-side fields, to how their ancestors made bread, to their combative socialist history. The country seems to wear its heart on its sleeve and welcomes you to accept it as is. The Irish are not oblivious to the outside world, nor do they think Ireland is the alpha country of all countries—they simply know who they are, what they like, and one can choose to accept them or not. People’s personalities were welcoming and very similar to the Midwest attitude (maybe that’s why I liked it so much). People will happily walk up and start a conversation, and the Irish accent only makes the interaction better.

We started our Ireland trip in the capitol city of Dublin. We took a walking tour and learned of the good and bad of Dublin from the island’s struggle for freedom to its influential writers and politicians. We saw sights such as Trinity College, Dublin Castle, Temple Bar Area, Christ Church Cathedral, and all the pubs one could wish for. The top beer in Ireland is Guinness—the country’s proud home brew—and it is the norm to have a pint for every meal—dinner, lunch, and breakfast. There are many other stouts, ales, and IPAs to try, but nothing says Ireland quite like, “I’ll have a pint of Guinness, please.” Dublin is a very walk-able city, as long as you have an umbrella, so I would highly recommend a walking tour to appreciate the people and stories behind the city.

We traveled by bus from Dublin to Galway (east to west coast), and it’s amazing how one can drive the same amount of time to cross a country in Europe as you can to cross a state in the U.S. In those 2 ½ hours, we went through 2 snow storms, 4 thunderstorms, and got some sunshine in between. The Irish are serious when they say they get all 4 seasons in one day.
Once reaching Galway, we took a guided bus tour around the Burren Region of Ireland which ended at the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland’s most visited tourist site. On the way to the cliffs, we heard about Irish music, fairy tree tales, and the best places for an oyster festival (Clarenbridge if you are curious). We saw castles, coasts, and country. Everything was classic and exactly what you think of when you imagine Ireland: green fields, sheep, and even collies running around the hills. When finally getting to the Cliffs of Moher, we happened to arrive as a storm was coming in, producing up to 80 m/hr winds. It was an…adventure to fight the wind, take a couple “daring pictures” and run back down the stairs before the wind could do any more damage. Galway itself is a smaller town that one could cover in a day, but the quaint qualities make it a charming and worth-while place to visit.

For any interested, I would say to make Ireland a priority on your list of places to visit. It’s little, but it offers a lot. Until next time!

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Photos from top to bottom:
*Temple Bar Area in Dublin*Dublin Castle*Burren countryside*Claddagh Ring manufacturer in Galway*streets of Dublin*Galway house*Spanish Arch look-out in Galway*Private Castle in Burren country*Cliffs of Moher