When you only have five days in Ireland (and Northern Ireland), there’s no possible way to see everything. But my friend and I rented a car and put the pedal to the metal, and managed an exhausting, whirlwind tour of the Irish isle, seeing everything on our “must see” list, in under a week. Here’s how:
Part One (Days One and Two), Dublin and Northern Ireland (Belfast and the Giant’s Causeway):
My friend Miranda and I flew into Dublin at 8:00 in the morning. It was a Sunday, we were jetlagged, and the weather was not ideal. While most travelers would have taken a “light day” to relax and acclimate, I was determined to get as much seen and done as possible!
The hostel we were staying at was mere steps from Christ Church Cathedral, so that was our first stop. We were a bit early to go inside the church, because of Sunday morning services, but we did get to walk around and see the gorgeous architecture.
We kept walking through Dublin central, heading towards Must See Stop #1: the Book of Kells at Trinity College. I have a degree in Medieval Literature, so I’ve always dreamed of seeing the famous Book of Kells, with its stunning illuminations. And despite a long line in the chilly, rainy weather, I was most definitely impressed by what I saw!
(No photography of the Book of Kells is allowed, so here’s an example I found online:)
However, photography was allowed in the rest of the Trinity College Library, which is good because it was one of the most beautiful libraries I’ve ever visited! Lined with old books, and with displays of ancient texts running down the middle, it was definitely a Lit major’s dream come true!
The rain really started to come down after our tour of Trinity College, so we grabbed a bite to eat and then headed back to the hostel. Alas, between the rain and the fact that it was Sunday, we weren’t able to see as much in Dublin as I would have liked. Still, the first item was checked off my list!
Day Two dawned with no rain, but low gray clouds hovering above us. We hopped in our car and drove north to Belfast, Northern Ireland.
(A quick fact: despite sharing an island and part of a name, Ireland (aka the Republic of Ireland) and Northern Ireland are two different countries! The latter is actually a part of the United Kingdom.)
We arrived in Belfast early in the morning and tracked down some breakfast at Nero’s (like Starbucks, only tastier) before heading to the Titanic Exhibit. I had no idea that the Titanic was actually built in Belfast, and the exhibit is a fantastic in-depth look at the ship from blue-prints to iceberg. It’s largely interactive, but in a way that’s captivating for both adults and children, and has eye-witness accounts from construction workers, engineers, and passengers alike.
Before we knew it, the entire morning was gone. We walked around Belfast’s Donegall Square (home to the lovely City Hall building) while eating lunch, and then it was back into the car.
Our next stop on Day 2 was my most anticipated for the entire trip: the Giant’s Causeway! Not only is this a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it also has a fascinating myth behind it: the legendary Finn MacCool supposedly built the causeway to battle a giant in Scotland! Maybe the legend is true… after all, the Giant’s Causeway definitely looks like something straight out of a fairy tale!
We spent hours here, climbing the stones and wandering around. There’s honestly something supernatural about the Giant’s Causeway; if you block out the tourists, you can easily imagine yourself in a world of giants battling giants, and of legends come to life.
Finally, though, the weather started to turn chilly, and it was time to leave. Now came the hard part of our whirlwind Five Day Irish Tour: the long drive from the Causeway to our resting point for the night in Donegal, Ireland. After a long day of driving already, another two hours on the road wasn’t thrilling, especially with the rain.
(And oh, how it rained. I know, I know, we were in Ireland, what can you expect? But my goodness, it rained the entire trip!)
And that was Day One and Day Two.
Day One: 0 miles/0 kilometers (Dublin)
Day Two: 257 miles/413 kilometers (Dublin–Belfast–Giant’s Causeway–Donegal)
Coming up, Day 3 and Day 4, featuring The Burren, the Blarney Stone, and more!