Ireland, the Emerald Isle. What a spectacular place to see. It was the end of summer 2022 when a friend and I decided to go to Ireland for no other reason except for it was the cheapest place we could go during the bank holiday weekend. Our original plan had been to visit her sister in Bordeaux, but the prices to get there during that time were outrageous. So instead, we chose to snatch up those cheap tickets to Dublin. My friend had been to parts of the country before and suggested we spend a couple of nights in Dublin and then rent a car and drive to the west coast, which would only take about three hours. I agreed that was a great plan, with the caveat that she would have to handle being the only one to drive. In Ireland, like in England, driving is on the left side of the road and my feeble American self would not agree to put us in danger by attempting to drive.
I had never been to Ireland, but it was always on my bucket list. Despite that, I had no idea what I’d experience once I got there. In my head, it would be a beautiful picturesque escape with castles, cows, and views straight out of movies like P.S. I Love You and Pride & Prejudice. I had heard from many Black people that the “Irish love Black people.” In fact, a few weeks before this trip, I heard tv host Loni Love say just that on E!’s Daily Pop. Even at the airport on my way to Dublin, the Black stewardess at the restaurant where I had dinner said she and her husband wanted to go and that she had heard there were a lot of Black people in Dublin (something I don’t think I can say is true from my experience there).
We arrived in Dublin late on Thursday. The Uber ride was easy – about 35 mins to the city center where we were staying. It was after midnight, but the streets were still alive. We decided to venture out, walking along the river, passing groups of drunk happy people roaming the street and popping into a pub for a beer. While I’m not a regular beer drinker and would never drink a stout, I discovered the baby Guinness, a cheeky little cocktail shooter made with coffee liqueur and Irish Cream, so it looks like a tiny glass of Guinness. And I must say I prefer that to the original.
We spent the next day exploring the city on foot: wandering Dublin Castle, frequenting more than one charity shop, and stopping in the famous Hairy Lemon Pub for lunch (we would later go back during our drunken night out). As we roamed, I noticed tons of people in Nebraska and Northwestern paraphilia. Of course, we unknowingly had decided to be in Dublin the weekend the two American university football teams were playing there. The city was swarming with Americans, which I hear is typical for Dublin, but it felt excessive with the football fans. Every bar we went to that night was full of nothing but my drunken white fellow citizens, overserved and overexcited to “connect with their Irish roots.” It was obnoxious, but we still had a great time and connected with quite a few people from various parts of the world who now lived and worked in Dublin.
While the city was a good time, the best parts of the trip were yet to come. The next morning we grabbed our rental car, popped on our ‘90s playlist, and headed west. I have to admit I was a bit disappointed at first. We were driving through farmland and trees with no real views. It was extremely underwhelming for about the first two hours of our drive. However, as we approached the coastline, things began to shift. The roads became more narrow and windy and the terrain a bit more rugged. We got lost, having accidentally put the wrong address in the GPS, and ended up driving through Mulranny, up along the Wild Atlantic Way in Dooghill. And what a vision that was; a gorgeous scene of mountains and valleys, and tons of sheep wandering all along the road.
When we finally course-corrected ourselves, we began to drive back down to Westport, where we spent the night in a quant little Airbnb, detached from the larger property. We had dinner at a great spot in town called The West Bar and Restaurant and returned to the Airbnb to sip our store bought wine and talk all night under the stars. The next day we made our way down to Galway, stopping along the way at Aasleagh Falls, Kylemore Castle & Abbey, Lough Inagh Valley, and Killary Fjord. All spectacular visions of nature, beautiful and tranquil. We kept driving and came across the modest Dunguaire Castle and the steep and windy Corkscrew Hill. Our final destination for the day was the Cliffs of Moher. The cliffs were grand and gorgeous along the water. We arrived at a time when the sun was peaking perfectly through the clouds creating the most angelic spotlight on the water below. I was speechless.
On our last day, after staying overnight in Conway’s Cottage (a lovely little family-owned bed & breakfast near the cliffs), we ventured down to Lahinch Beach, just a short drive from the Cliffs of Moher. We enjoyed our morning coffees walking barefoot along the sandy shore with the locals, and taking in the fresh salty air before heading back to Dublin to catch our evening flights. As a bonus, my friend surprised me with a stop at the Barak Obama Plaza, a gas station and food stop in Moneygall, Ireland. Moneygall is apparently the ancestral home of the former president and this plaza named in his honor was filled with photos, cardboard cutouts, and even a sculpted statue of him and Michelle. It was the most random, hysterical moment of the trip and gave us a good laugh on the ride back.
During our time in Ireland, we drove through every type of terrain: farmland, forest, coast, valley, mountains, etc. We stopped at hilltops, loughs, waterfalls, fjords, beaches, and more. It was majestic. Passing crowded tour buses, we often commented on the freedom driving gave us to do our own thing and see so much more. Our Apple Music Playlist: ‘90s Hits Essentials was the ideal playlist for our road trip, playing classic hits from Irish groups like The Cranberries and B*Witched, and perfectly timing TLC’s waterfall as we pulled up to Aasleagh Falls.
My time in Ireland was the most peaceful experience. I felt so relaxed and at ease while there. Sitting in the quiet, chatting with the friendliest locals I’ve ever met, and taking in the beauty of nature. Our entire journey was only 4.5 days, but it felt longer with all we did. I could have stayed another week and been happy. To be fair, we were blessed with beautiful fall-like weather that was mostly dry apart from one morning. Despite that, I’d highly recommend a trip there to anyone considering it. If you can, opt to drive and give yourself the freedom to enjoy the beauty of the land at your own pace. I promise you won’t regret it.