So last month we went to Ireland! (March 2017)
It was amazing. It was beautiful. It was peaceful and romantic.
We had been wanting to take a big trip for a while now and we thought that this year was the best time. We don’t yet have any kids and the Euro and Pound exchange rate are relatively low. For months we talked and talked about it – but it was not until January that we booked our flights and set everything up with the touring company.
I honestly don’t know where to begin. There was so much planning and preparation. This was a hiking trip but I’m not going to focus on the hiking part for this blog post. Later, I’ll follow up with all the hiking details.
Summary: We hiked Northern Ireland. We were only gone for a week. 4 of the days were hiking days the rest were travel, shopping or rest days.
Shout Outs: HillWalk Tours – Seriously a great company! They set up your daily itinerary including the hiking notes and your bed and breakfasts accommodations. They also arrange for your luggage to be transferred from one town to the next while you hike during the day. They even give you recommendations for where to eat each evening along with public transportation notes from the airport. I would so use their services again.
Budgets: I have not added up all the costs but we were able to pay everything off before we left. Paul and I hate debt – so we were very conscious about how much we spent and what we could actually afford. We got our plane tickets fairly low ($500 round trip) by flying out of Canada. That saved us a bunch. I originally wanted to go on a longer trip but I’m think we chose wisely. We were very tired the last day -4 days of hiking was quite enough. We already had a lot of the correct gear for hiking so that also saved us some money. We did purchase rain gear and new luggage.
Weather: 50-65 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. It was nice and sunny. I wore my sunglasses for most of the trip. We were constantly adding and removing layers of clothing. When we were moving we were warm and if we stopped we quickly got chilly. It did not rain the entire trip. I repeat… It did not rain the entire trip. April is Ireland’s driest month but I still feel like we got lucky.
Packing: We only took a carry on and a small backpack each. Our tickets would have included a free checked-in item each – but we did not want to worry about loosing luggage and dragging big heavy suitcases around while we were trying to catch flights, buses and trains on the travel days. The only downside was that since we were flying different airlines they each have their own rules and size limitations. So we had to get luggage that would fit the smallest standards.
Transportation: This was probably the hardest part the the trip. It gave me the most stress even though we ended up not having any problems. I am so glad that they speak English in Ireland, I have no idea what I would do if there was a language barrier.
So we took lots of different modes of transportation on our trip:
- Car – check
- Plane- check
- Bus- check
- Train- check
- Ferry- check
- Taxi- check
HillWalk tour gives you a sample plan for getting from the airport to your first nights accommodation. This was helpful but more research is needed to make everything run smoothly. When we arrived at the airport in Dublin we took a 2 hour bus ride to Belfast in Northern Ireland. Then we had 20 minuets to get on a train. The train ride was 1.5 hours an then we had an hour wait at a train station to get on another bus for 1 more hour. That bus took us to our first bed and breakfast. For the next few days we walked everywhere (except for a ferry ride to an island for hiking). The way back to Dublin at the end of our trip was similar. We just needed to take a taxi from the bus stations to our hotel in downtown Dublin.
Eating: My first real meal in Ireland was a hamburger! I did try some traditional foods like shepherd pie and black pudding. The food was alright but nothing amazing. I don’t think Ireland is really known for culinary.
Breakfasts were served in each Bed and breakfast. We were served a traditional ‘Irish Breakfast’ almost each day. Sausage, eggs, toast, and bacon along with a buffet of fresh fruits, cereal and coffee. They all were lovely and filling. The bacon was Canadian style.
For lunch each day we ate while on the trail. We either purchased lunch from a deli before we started our hike or we had our bed an breakfast host pack us something.
For dinner we ate at local restaurants or pubs. Sometimes we would ask the B&B host what they recommended.
Souvenirs: There was not a lot of time for shopping so we did all our shopping on the last day in Dublin. Our hotel was located in the heart of downtown Dublin and it was perfect for shopping. I ended up purchasing a claddagh ring. It is rose gold, pretty and dainty. We spend hours looking for the perfect ring. The ring was made right in the jewelry store, Carol Clarke Jewellers. I also bought a t-shirt and an Aran brand wool hat along with coffee, tea and small gives for our family.
Accommodations: The first 5 nights were at different Bed and Breakfasts and the last night was in a hotel in Dublin. HillWalk booked our bed and breakfasts. Each bed and breakfast has it’s own en-suite.
|Itinerary and Attraction||Evening Accommodations|
|Thursday, March 23||Leave Toronto, CA 7:00PM|
|Friday, March 24||Arrive in Dublin 9:10AM
Travel to Ballycastle
|Corratavey B&B in Ballycastle
Location: 5 of 5 stars. Close to downtown area and shopping.
Room: 4 of 5 stars – A tiny bit dated but clean.
|Saturday, March 25||Hike Rathlin Island||Corratavey B&B in Ballycastle
|Sunday, March 26||Hike Ballycastle to Ballintoy||The Castle B&B in Ballintoy
Location: 4 of 5 stars – the town itself is small and there is not much to do.
Room: 5 of 5 stars – Amazing! Newly renovated!
|Monday, March 27||Hike Ballintoy to Giant’s Causeway||Carnside Guest House in Giant’s Causeway
Location: 3 of 5 stars – a little far from restaurants.
Room: 4 of 5 stars – kind of dated, very antique but clean. The view was amazing from the window.
|Tuesday, March 28||Hike Giant’s Causeway to Portstewart||Cul-Erg B&B in Portstewart
Location: 5 of 5 stars – very close to restaurants, bus transfer station and the promenade.
Room: 5 of 5 stars –clean and nice!
|Wednesday, March 29||Travel to Dublin
|The Parliament Hotel in Dublin
Location: 4 of 5 stars – so close to shopping and restaurants but too close to noisy bars that keep you up all night.
Room: 2 of 5 stars – I don’t even know where to begin.
|Thursday, March 30||Leave Dublin, 10:50AM
Arrive in Toronto, 6:24PM
|Friday, March 31||12 AM arrive in back in Michigan!|
What I would do differently: If I were to to on another big trip I would rather go somewhere I have never been before, but If I were to do this trip again I would spend the extra money and fly directly from Detroit to Belfast. The car ride, plane trip and almost 6 hours of bus, train bus was wearisome.
Enjoy some video and pictures from the trip!
Comment with questions.