If you are going to go to Ireland, land in Dublin, grab a pint of Guinness and then leave. There is so much more to Ireland than Dublin.
I spent a week exploring Ireland with my sister in 2013. Hitting the likes of the Blarney castle, ring of Kerry and the Cliffs of Mohr, there is no contest for what is better in Ireland. Small, local pubs paired with an Irish fiddle and a burning fireplace are by far the best thing to find and experience.
Kissing the Blarney Stone was a great check off the bucket list. Renting our own car, we missed the usual touristy buses and crowds of people (recommended). The castle that the stone is located in is in relative ruin, but well sign posted, which makes for a fun exploring, self-guided experience.
As legend has it, kissing the stone will give the smoocher the gift of ‘gab’ – being able to talk their way out of it. To do so does not come without some risk though, as the kisser has to hang backwards off the castle to reach the stone. Luckily, there is a willing local to assist you in this feat, for a small price (€1) – he will even clean the rock for those generally adverse to other smooching germs.
According to the castle walls, the legend comes from Cormac Teige McCarthy, The Lord of Blarney, who talked his way out of England’s requirement to have land ownership formally granted by the Queen of England. Upon receiving requests to title his land under Queen Elizabeth I, he replied with well written, subtle, complimentary messages that she soon realised he was flattering his way out of actually completing the request. As legend has it, at one point, after receiving another of his charming messages, she flung down his letter and said, “Oh! He’s just giving me a lot more blarney!”
And so we have our name.
Using Cork as our sleeping quarters, we left the castle the following day and rented bikes from the small town of Killarney. Cycling the famous ‘ring of Kerry’ we were able to experience the Killarney national park with all of its hills cemeteries and greenery through the top of a bicycle.
Leaving the southern part of the country and heading west, we traveled to the small, unknown town of Doolin.
Doolin is my favorite. A town with a population of only 300 – it is best known for the closest town to the Cliffs of Mohr. A natural wonder, the cliffs and surrounding areas are truly a thing to behold.
We stayed in a little B&B just outside of the town centre (if you can call it that). Equipped with a cosy fireplace and a view of the seaside, I was sad we only planned 1 night in the place. Mendering around, we found 1 of only 2 local pubs in the town. Walking inside, I was bombarded with thousands of bumper stickers, bills from around the world and a burning fire place that was one of the most comforting sites I had witnessed.
Collected along the walls where my friends in army airborne units, state stickers and others that indicated a lot of my fellow Americans had also frequented this particular bar. As it was the middle of winter and it was off season, the pub was mainly filled with locals and it was obvious we were not recognised by the townsmen.
Then the fiddles started.
Heads turned from the newest arrivals to the reason everyone was here, to have a pint and listen to the local music. This was what I went to Ireland for. To sit in a little town and listen to the pub music. I was in heaven.
The only thing that could eclipse the sound of the fiddle and a fire were the cliffs themselves. Covered in a cloud of mist, the cliffs were a stunning example of Mother Nature. Home to the puffin as well as other aquatic life, my sister, a PhD candidate in Ecology, was in pure heaven examining the different artifacts found. Meanwhile, I was still daydreaming of fiddles.
A gorgeous country, Ireland, it renforces my believe that the best parts of a country are on the roads less traveled.