In February 2016 John and I embarked on our first European vacation to Ireland! We booked through Great Value Vacations totally on a whim (fully explained in the Day 1 post) and it ended up being one of the best trips we’ve ever been on. We’d spent the last nine years seeing as much of the US as possible (38/50 states!) but it was finally time to go abroad. Éirinn go Brách!
Day 4 was the day of vacation where I woke up with a cold. Go figure. Maybe it was from kissing the Blarney Stone (doubtful) or maybe the circulated plane and bus germs (likely) – either way, feeling sick when you want to feel awesome sucks. I wasn’t alone though, I’d say half of our tour group was coughing that morning. Something certainly caught up with us.
Since I felt so crappy I wanted to sleep in but knew we were on a schedule. I showered and packed up. John went down to have breakfast (again, included in the cost of our trip) with the group but I didn’t feel like having the buffet. We headed downstairs at 8:30AM to get on the bus. I ran next door to the convenience store to get some tea. Just before 9AM we left Killarney to make the last leg of our trip back to Dublin.
At 10:30AM we arrived in a small town of Adare. Adare is a small village in County Limerick, settled around 1200, and is designated as a Heritage Town by the Irish government.
We only had about 30 minute for this stop so we checked out the Visitor’s Center and walked through the local park. We picked up some postcards and tea at the heritage center gift shop.
Before we left Adare, we stopped in to Holy Trinity Abbey Church (Roman Catholic) where John lit a candle and I explored.
The abbey is the only recorded Trinitarian monastery in Ireland. It was originally built by the Fitzgerald clan for the Trinitarian order of monks in the early 13th century.
The monastery was abolished and badly damaged during the reign of King Henry VIII. However, it was repaired and expanded in the mid 19th century and is now stunningly beautiful.
We piled back in the bus and were back on the road at 11AM.
It was a quiet ride, definitely a low energy kind of morning. Tony put on some traditional Irish music and we all quietly relaxed. John fell asleep, I admired the scenery.
The ride was beautiful and there was a pale fog over everything. The sun was just barely out and we could see blue skies coming through.
We drove through Newcastle West, along the River Maigue. We passed several castles – Fuller’s Folly (above) and Desmond Castle (below right) – and a 13th century Anglican church (below left).
At 12:30PM we stopped at Midway Food Court for lunch – it was basically a highway rest top but more inviting, and less transactional, than the ones we have in the States. Plus it had a swimming pool and a gym! We became obsessed with these Keogh’s potato chips on our trip. Super delicious and it happens to be my maiden name (Irish pride!).
After our lunch we got back on the road at about 1:15PM, for the final drive northeast to Dublin.
We got to Dublin around 2:30PM. For our final activity together with our guide, Tony, we took an hour-long panoramic tour of Dublin in the bus.
Dublin is the capital of Ireland and its largest city. The city has a current population of roughly 1.8 million people. The area of Dublin Bay has been inhabited since prehistoric times, however the writings of Ptolemy around 140 AD provide the earliest reference to civilization there. In the 10th century Vikings claimed the area as their own; the Irish government formally recognizes 988 AD as the year in which the city was settled. The Kingdom of Dublin became Ireland’s main city following the Norman invasion (around 1500). The city expanded rapidly from the 17th century and, following the partition of Ireland in 1922, Dublin became the capital of the Irish Free State, later renamed Ireland.
We passed the following landmarks and got a brief history of each:
The Criminal Courts of Justice and the Guinness Brewery (more on that in a moment).
We drove over the River Liffey, which flows through the center of Dublin, and passed several municipal buildings.
The Brazen Head (the oldest pub in Ireland, est. 1198) and Trinity College, a research university founded in Dublin in 1592 (Ireland’s oldest university).
At 3:30PM our bus tour ended, we said our goodbyes to Tony, and we checked into the hotel (the O’Callahan Davenport Hotel). We were quickly back out the door at 4PM – we didn’t want to waste any time in Dublin! There was so much to do in Dublin and we had less than 24 hours. There were a half dozen things on our must-do list but we quickly narrowed it down because it was late afternoon on a Sunday and things were beginning to close. In the end we decided to go to the Guinness Brewery, the last admission being at 5PM.
We decided to walk, which took about 45 minutes. It was nice to get some exercise and fresh air, and it was beautiful out! We walked directly through St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin’s largest public park at 22 acres, situated in the heart of Dublin and its Georgian squares.
At the edge of St. Stephen’s Green we caught a glimpse of a familiar flag – it was a Boston College satellite campus in Dublin! You know John loves his alma mater so we got some pictures and met some folks inside. What a fun surprise! Let’s Go Eagles!
Just around the corner from St. Stephen’s Green was St. Patrick’s Cathedral, so pretty in this evening light and the gardens were beautiful.
We walked the winding back roads of Dublin, which was an awesome way to see the city. The weather was perfect and I love snapping pictures of Dublin’s famous colorful doors.
We arrived at the Guinness Brewery 4:45 PM and got in right before they closed.
The first thing you notice at the Guinness Brewery is simply how massive it is. We’ve been to breweries all over the US and have seen some huge ones (Anheuser-Busch, Sierra Nevada), and this ranked among one of the biggest and most impressive.
Arthur Guinness started brewing ales in 1759 at the St. James’s Gate Brewery in Dublin. On December 31, 1759 he signed a 9,000 year lease, which is built into the floor at the Guinness Brewery:
The tour is self-guided, and goes through one of two brew houses on site. One is the actual brew house and the other is this one, re-purposed for the self-guided tour. I think it’s a totally genius use of the old brew house; the ambiance is perfect and the building has retained so much of its original charm even though it’s been modernized.
The tour spans 7 state of the arts floors, all connected by escalators and glass floors/walls. The aesthetic is really cool, sleek, and visually stunning.
The actual brew house:
The tour was educational and really cool, nothing super new to us since we’ve been to many breweries and know quite a bit about the brewing and distribution process.
The gift shop fills the entire bottom floor of the brew house:
You can totally see the massive fermentation tanks still built into the ceiling of the old brew house (below, right).
There are five bars/restaurants throughout the brewery, with the Brewer’s Dining Hall being the hippest, in my opinion.
When we were done with the self-guided tour we made our way up to the Gravity Bar. The Gravity Bar is the highest floor of the brewery and is one huge circular room with floor to ceiling windows.
The Gravity Bar offers 360 degree views of Dublin – and the weather was so clear and gorgeous so we could see the whole city. What a sight!. We watched the sunset and sipped our pints of Guinness. I could see how this place would get absolutely mobbed, it’s really awesome. We definitely lucked out by going at the last time slot on a Sunday night.
We left the brewery at 6PM in search of dinner. We walked around for about an hour, including a stroll through the Temple Bar area (not really my scene, it was crazy with tourists and loud music).
We eventually had dinner at a burger joint, The Counter, which was tasty.
After dinner we walked back to the hotel. It took about 15 minutes and we got back around 8:15PM. We headed upstairs, packed up for our last day in Ireland, and were asleep by 10PM.
I decided to leave figuring the hotel hair dryer until the morning (seriously, what IS this thing!?!).
Stay tuned for Day 5 where we continue exploring Dublin and conclude our trip!
i’m going to be going this summer for my first time and i’m so excited!~ thanks for this great post –
Awesome! You will LOVE it! I have one Dublin post left to go that will be posted next week too. Stay tuned!