Ireland is absolutely breathtaking. From its rolling countryside, numerous castles, historic churches, and charming pubs, there is something for everyone to appreciate. Together, these make the rich history come to life as one travels from town to town. Read on for Kristen’s take on this mesmerizing country.
My first stop was Dublin and what better place to kick off an Irish vacation than with a tour of the Guinness factory? After grabbing a pint of stout, we ventured to Trinity College. From the moment I walked onto the campus, I was in awe. Trinity College is home to the largest library in Ireland, now known as the Old Library. The Georgian style library, which was completed in 1732, is considered to be the masterpiece of Thomas Burgh, an Irish architect known for the design of many large, public buildings in Dublin. This is a must see in my books (no pun intended) as it compares to nothing that you would see on a typical college campus. It towers above Nassau Street, beckoning one to come inside. Hundreds of thousands of people visit the library each year as it carries over 6 million books, with about 200,000 being older printed volumes, including the Book of Kells. With rows upon rows of stacked books set among beautiful, wooden arches highlighted by the glowing natural light from large windows, the Long Room reminded me of something right out of Harry Potter.
The next stop on the trip was Galway, located in west Ireland. It was once a trading port but now is host to many festivals and celebrations. Even though Galway does have its fair share of Cathedrals and beautiful buildings, what caught my eye the most was the costal scenery. It’s a very walkable city with cobblestone pathways, cozy cafes, lively pubs, a wide array of restaurants, and fantastic coastline views. “The Long Walk,” pictured here, is a path that follows the river right outside the city center with colorful row houses, picturesque landscaping, and many places to stop and take in the peace and quiet.
I would definitely consider myself a medieval nerd, one of the many reasons why I decided to visit Ireland. My travel buddy and I decided to rent a car so that we could drive around the country and make as many pit stops as possible. While we had a few excursions planned before the trip started, we quickly fell into taking detours with each passing sign marked with a castle symbol. I just couldn’t contain myself! Whether it was well preserved or in ruins, there is something to appreciate about how and why these structures were built. It is so captivating to be able to not only see up-close, but walk around a stone built castle and reminisce about the life these grounds have witnessed. It amazes me that many of these structures are still standing and have turned into world landmarks.
As one of the most intact castles in the country, the Blarney Castle in Cork was one of my top medieval places to visit. Built around the 1200s, Blarney Castle has an extensive history of how it came to be with various structures being built and demolished. The current state of the structure, as we see it today, was built in the 1400s. It is also very famous for the Blarney Stone, located at the top of the castle. With over 100 steps to climb to reach the top, it is said those who kiss the stone will be granted the gift of eloquence. Not only is the history behind the stone an interesting one, the view is also stunning. Blarney Castle has over 60 acres of parkland and gardens, including Ireland’s only Poison Garden.
With magnificent views, the range of notable architecture, and the historical significance, I could go on and on about how much I loved this trip. There is something to be taken from both the quaint cities to the sprawling countryside. I will leave you lusting over this view of the Irish countryside in hopes that you too may one day be inspired to visit this part of the world.