inconstantcoeur asked: Hi there! I'm just writing because I'm going to be studying in Dublin for 6 months at the end of the year and was wondering if you could give me any pointers, any do's or don'ts, maybe some of your favorite places to go/things to see. Thankyou! x
Hello there! You’ve come to the right person about this, my finace always tells me I should be working for our local tourist board I like to wax on about the place so much :) Though I am a bit biased so bear with me…
My first advice would be to get out of the Dublin area as much as possible - Ireland is a very small country, but there’s loads to see. Close to Dublin is Glendalough in Wicklow, which is beautiful, and then there’s Newgrange in Meath (if you don’t know it Google it). They’re both pretty handy to get to from Dublin. A bit further afield and you have Kerry, which is lovely but a bit of a tourist trap; the Burren in Co Clare; and Connemara and the Aran Islands in Co Galway. Then there’s Galway city itself, which I’d thoroughly recommend visiting – multiple times! It’s called a city, but it’s more like a big town, and it has a great atmosphere and the best pub music around. I went to uni there and it really is a young person’s town – in the summer it has a great arts festival and fills up with backpackers from all around the world, and during the academic term it’s packed with students. Galway’s definitely the place to go for a good night out.
That’s basically my round up of the ‘south’, which is mostly just from a visitor’s point of view to be honest. I’m actually from the very top of the island, right on the border of Northern Ireland, and I could write you a book on what to see and do up ‘round these parts (quite literally – I’m a local reporter and I’ve been talking about doing just that for ages!). Now that I feel I have to fit it all into an already-far-too-long Tumblr reply, though, I don’t know where to start…Ok, so if I was based in Dublin this is what I’d do if I had some time to spare:
I’d get the train from Dublin to Belfast and have myself a boozy night or two there – it’s not as great as Galway, but Belfast has some fantastic pubs and venues too (I lived in Belfast for a while too, but I was working not studying then so maybe that has a bearing on my assessment of its nightlife). From there I’d make my way down along the Antrim/Causeway Coast, which is seriously stunning – it has the Giant’s Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede ropebridge, Dunluce Castle, and Bushmills Brewery all within a very small radius, you could easily visit them all in the one day. It also has one of the most spectacular beaches at Downhill, which is lined with sheer cliffs, vertical waterfalls and little tin cottages, and has a centuries-old architectural folly called Mussenden Temple overlooking it. It’s where they film a lot of Game of Thrones, too, if you’re interested. That stretch of coastline was very popular with posh tourists during the Victorian era, as was the whole area where I’m from which I’ll get to now…
Just down the road from the Causeway Coast is the city of Derry/Londonderry (again, more of a big town than a city), and the super-fantastically-amazing peninsula of Inishowen (yup, that’s where I’m from). Derry is the UK City of Culture this year and there is so much – so much! – stuff happening all the time right now. Every single weekend there’s something on. If you’re here at the end of the year I’d suggest visiting at Halloween – Derry always has the best Halloween party, and something tells me this year will be even better.
As for Inishowen, we’re right on the border with Derry, but we’re on the ‘southern’ side (even though we’re further north than around 95% of Northern Ireland!) and as the city’s hinterland we were actually cited as one of the reasons they were successful with their bid to get the City of Culture. I’d say Inishowen is probably one of Ireland’s least tourist-y areas, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to see here – we’ve ancient rock art, celestially aligned iron age ring forts to rival Newgrange or Stonehenge, loads of castles, beautiful beaches, amazing marine life, and pretty little fishing villages. (I could go on all night about what we have here, but this is already far too long!). It’s simply because we’re almost entirely cut off from the rest of the Republic of Ireland by our border with the North, and for years people didn’t want to visit because of The Troubles. Even now, people from the South don’t like to come up here, either to Inishowen or to Northern Ireland. They are two very different places, the North and the Republic (literally two different countries) but here in Inishowen you get the best of both worlds :)
After your wee tour of Inishowen, I’d then move on over to the west of Donegal, which is wild and very beautiful, and would try and take in a visit to Glenveagh National Park and Sliabh League (highest sea cliffs in Europe). Just down the road from there is Yeats Country, which is nice but not as amazing as he made it out to be! ;) And from there you could make your way back to Dublin via Galway.
That’s my wee suggested itinerary for you, if you had the time to spare. Be warned, though, public transport in Ireland is pretty shitty. Book your trains online, and try and take privately-run coaches over Bus Eireann – they tend to be both cheaper and faster. Just ask about and people will tell you the best way to get from a-b.
Remember too that from Dublin you can get a very short flight (usually around half an hour) to London or any of the main cities in Britain. I think it’s about 25mins from Dublin to Bristol. From there you could head into Wales (Cardiff is ideal for a great night out) or in the other direction head to Wiltshire and Somerset for Stonehenge and Glastonbury. Or! Or you could get the ferry from Cork to Britanny in France – it’d be a bit of a lengthy trip, but bring a tent and you’ll have the best cheap holiday ever.
This is already so, so long – sorry about that – so I’m going to stop now. It’s a bad habit of mine, writing far too much on any given topic! Anything more you want to know don’t hesitate to ask, I promise you won’t get an essay in return! Enjoy your visit when you get here and best of luck in your studies x