(photo by: Chris)
The Giant’s Causeway reminds just how astounding nature can be!
Dublin and Beyond, Experiencing Ireland
Even though we just celebrated St. Patrick’s Day, I’m not done being Irish! Ireland isn’t called the “Emerald Isle” for nothing. This astoundingly beautiful – and green – country has a ton to offer its visitors. From breathtaking natural beauty to friendly people serving wonderful food and drink, you can’t go wrong visiting Ireland. And don’t limit your visit to Dublin. Go beyond this great city’s limits to experience as much of Ireland as possible.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
In fact, let’s begin outside of Dublin with the three Irish sites that have been dubbed must-sees by UNESCO. As I’ve said in previous blog posts, UNESCO travels the world in search of wonders that hold special or cultural significance to their home country and the world around them. The three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Ireland are:
- Brú na Bóinne (Boyne Palace): Located in County Meath, the Brú na Bóinne is home to ancient tombs older than Egypt’s Giza Pyramids and England’s Stonehenge. The tomb site is called Newgrange, and it’s 5,000 years old. Enter the lottery to visit Newgrange on Dec. 21. Why, you ask? Because on this day, the sunlight shines through the tomb’s roof box for a once-in-a-lifetime visual experience. While in County Meath, you must also visit the Battle of the Boyne site, the Fort of the Kings, the Mound of the Hostages, and the Stone of Destiny.
- Giant’s Causeway: The earth’s volcanoes built Giant’s Causeway about 50 to 60 million years ago. The natural wonder lies beneath the Antrim Coast cliffs and is approximately 40,000 basalt columns, some flat and some tall, extending from the cliffs out to the ocean. Legend says Finn MacCool, an Irish giant, built the causeway so Benandonner, a rival Scottish giant, could make it across water to fight. It’s cool folklore to accompany a very cool natural wonder!
- Skellig Michael: Skellig Michael is nearly 7.5 miles out into the Atlantic Ocean off County Kerry’s coast. This natural wonder housed Augustinian monks from the sixth to the 13th centuries. Where did the monks live? In the cliffs! Skellig Michael means “rock in the ocean,” and this complex of cliffs and beehive monastic cells extends 700 feet above sea level. The Irish say Skellig Michael was formed when Michael and his army of angels helped St. Patrick banish the snakes from Ireland.
Some Dublin Must-Sees
Let’s head over to Dublin, Ireland’s largest city and the capital of the Republic of Ireland. The island of Ireland is actually divided into two parts: the Republic of Ireland, a sovereign state independent of the United Kingdom, and Northern Ireland, which remains a part of the United Kingdom. Founded as a Viking settlement, Dublin has grown into a cultural and economic powerhouse. You must see:
- The Guinness Storehouse: You’re in Dublin, so drink a pint… or two… or three! You know Guinness beer – it’s one of the biggest exports to come out of Ireland – and many say that visiting the Guinness Storehouse is a must. While there, you’ll learn how Guinness is crafted as you explore your way up seven floors to the Gravity Bar. Now, what would you possibly do at the Gravity Bar at the end of your Guinness Storehouse tour? Drink a complementary (you read that right) pint of Guinness!
- St. Patrick’s Cathedral: Are you seeing a St. Patrick’s theme ? Well, of course! We are talking Ireland here. St. Patrick’s Cathedral has inspired many knock-offs throughout the world, and it is the largest church in Ireland. The grounds are home to numerous historic events, including a well where St. Patrick is said to have baptized numerous pagan converts, the place where Handel’s Messiah debuted, and the burial site of Jonathan Swift. This beautiful cathedral, constructed in 1191, is really a Dublin site to see!
- Trinity College, Dublin: Other Dublin universities might take exception to the following statement, but Trinity College is considered the most prestigious educational institution in Ireland. Unless you attended university in Ireland, you probably don’t care much about the rivalries, but you will care about this university’s campus. The main buildings that make up Trinity College date back to 1592; the institution was founded by Queen Elizabeth I! While you’re there enjoying the architectural magnificence, check out the Book of Kells in the library.
Those of you who follow my blog know that eventually, I’m going to get around to talking about food. Hey, I know what’s important, and we’ve already had a pint at the Guinness Storehouse. The Irish can party, and they can also cook, and after a long day of visiting the country’s beautiful natural wonders, as well as the popular man-made sites, we’ve gotta eat! Grab some sustenance at:
- Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud: This restaurant is the best of the best in Ireland. Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud is the only Irish restaurant to be featured in the 2014 Elite Traveler Elite 100 Restaurant List. Awarded two Michelin stars, fine dining at Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud in Dublin includes delicacies such as blue lobster ravioli, free range egg pasta, and a tart of Cevenne onion for vegetarians.
- Max’s Wine Bar: I’m a firm believer in seeking out where the locals eat, and when you’re in Kinsale, County Cork, the locals recommend Max’s Wine Bar. The wine bar presents a wonderful ambiance, as it is set within a 400-year-old townhouse. The owner is French chef Olivier Queva, who cooks up a mean pâté de foie gras, and he also knows a thing or two about the local seafood!
- The Ginger Bistro: If you’ve trekked up to Belfast, Northern Ireland, perhaps to visit the historic shipyard that built the RMS Titanic, you simply must eat at The Ginger Bistro. The food is excellent and reasonably priced. You’ll find seafood on the menu, which is no surprise in Belfast. You might be surprised at how tasty the fried spiced squid is, however, especially if you pair it with a ribeye steak!
There are countless amazing things to do in Ireland – so much so that many tourists return every year to enjoy this beautiful country, the hospitality, and some nifty annual events. I don’t know about you, but I cannot think of a better place to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day than at the annual St. Patrick’s Festival, which is a country-wide celebration. The Rose of Tralee competition is also a country-wide festival, and Ireland hosts the Electric Picnic music festival, which Rolling Stone magazine dubbed one of the best in the world! There’s beauty, there’s Irish ale, there’s food, there’s festivals… come on! Pack your bags!