We are pleased to present a new Solo Travel Destination Post from Emily, a member of the Solo Travel Society on Facebook. Emily lives in South Afirca, and submitted the following report about the Republic of Ireland. Do you have a solo travel destination that you would like to recommend? Submit your description here, along with a few photos, and share it with fellow travelers!
Solo travel rating: 1 (1 is easiest, 3 is most difficult. Please see chart below)
Languages spoken: English, Irish
Reasons to go: If there was only thing I could say about Ireland, it would be that the world’s friendliest people live there! From the airport staff to the cab drivers to the cooks at the B&B’s, everyone in this country seems to be cheerful, friendly, and funny.
Dublin, I must say, seemed like a fairly relaxed city with beautiful architecture and funny commentary from the locals about some of their history with the English. There’s a very tall spire in town, possibly the tallest in Ireland – it’s quite a sight – and you can develop a nosebleed just looking at it and trying to see the top of it. St Patrick’s cathedral is another famous landmark, a church named after the patron saint of Ireland, the man who drove out all the snakes on this beautiful Emerald Isle. It is a beautiful and old building, very impressive and nice to see people still filling it.
No visit to Dublin is complete without a visit to the Guinness Breweries in town. Here visitors can see how the beer is processed and even have a taste. The staff are incredibly friendly and will make every effort to ensure their visitors have a great experience. I happened to visit when Dublin was playing the final game of some football league. It was insane in town after they won!
Heading out of Dublin, you’re surrounded by green fields for miles on end, loads of low walls made out of rocks, sheep here and there, and no shortage of abbeys (in ruins or intact). Heading to Galway, you pass many cute little towns and villages where I made many photo stops and got some eats. They have duck crossings in a town called Mayo – so cute! Keep driving and you’ll pass by Killary Fjord, which is Ireland’s only Fjord… so named because of their history with Vikings.
If you see trees covered with bits of clothing or toys, here’s why: it’s a fairy tree. It is thought that if you leave something behind (usually bits of clothing) on a faerie tree, your wish/hope/dream will be granted as it disappears. The young people of Ireland, however, use it to leave behind ‘trophies’ of activities done in the car park. Or so I was told… but who knows?
Moving on, you’ll arrive at Kylemore Castle and Abbey, a castle that was built by a grieving widower for his wife. It is a stunning castle on a lake, backed by a mountain. Devotees can visit the gardens and then take a hike up the mountain to pray at the Statue of the Virgin Mary. The hike up is worth it, if not for religious reasons, definitely for the view. Walking past the castle, through the gardens (beautifully peaceful), you’ll arrive at the abbey/chapel, which makes for a less strenuous route to prayer than walking up a mountain.
Galway… what can I say about this cute city? There are loads of pubs and restaurants available for visitors to choose from during a walk about town in the evenings. I stayed in a B&B just outside the city center, but the walk was not too far and I met some people who took me along with them. Of course, I would recommend just being sensible and not blindly trusting everyone. Fortunately, I met some lovely people who were curious about my visit there and were keen to make sure I enjoyed my time in their city. The B&B owner was certainly a character of note! First thing in the morning, he was singing opera at the top of his lungs, then he came into the dining area and screamed at two German guys to go sit with me so that I wouldn’t be eating alone. It was quite funny and scary at the same time. He looked like Santa Claus, with an Irish accent. Soon, he was chatting to everyone and when he asked me what I liked about Ireland so far, I just mentioned that they had really cute and fluffy cows. What does he do? Insists that I come with him and his wife to their farm outside town and ‘meet’ their cows. That was an awesome experience – they were such amazing people. Galway is also famous for these little boats, called Galway Hookers. If you get the chance, you should go check them out. Also, from the shore, you can sometimes spot a ‘tower’ in the distance. These were built by the Spanish years ago to protect Ireland from the English.
My next plan was to see the Cliffs of Moher. This did not work out well for me because of the heavy fog in the area. I could barely see where I was walking, so I did the cheesy tourist thing and took a pic indoors of the giant poster they have for days when the fog is like this. Through the fog, I could see bits of it, but it was nowhere near how magnificent it would have been without the fog. On the plus side, there is WIFI everywhere around there. One of the Information Desk helpers felt a bit sorry for me, especially because I was from so far away, that he recommended another spot to go to to see some cliffs. They were about 1/6th the height of the Cliffs of Moher, but almost as amazing. I’m glad I went to see the mini-cliffs of Doolin – they were stunning, regardless of their height.
Another must-do is a visit to Blarney Castle, especially if you want to be endowed with the gift of gab (great eloquence or skill at flattery). Visitors can receive this most wonderful gift by climbing up to the top floor of Blarney Castle, and being lowered head first to kiss this ‘magical’ stone. I don’t recommend this for people who may be claustrophobic, as the stairway up the tower is narrow and cramped. Also, keep your eyes closed when being lowered, until the guy holding you down says you can open them and then plant a big one on the ‘stone.’ It’s definitely an experience – my legs shook uncontrollably after I got back on solid ground. I did brag afterwards that I had kissed a legend, though. The castle gardens are beautiful and they even have a poisonous plants section – with real poisonous plants!
Now, Killarney, in the Kingdom of Ireland to be exact, is another gorgeous city with lovely people. From here you can drive on to the Ring of Kerry. Here, I met up with an old penpal from primary school days. She and her family took me out with them to a lovely pub in town, The Grand, where there was a live band playing. I think they were kidding with me, but I was told that one of the trio was part of the IRA. When I walked in, the bouncers asked where I was from and I guess they passed it on to the band – who then launched into ‘Country Road’ for me. It was awesome. I sipped some Guinness and was pulled up a number of times to dance with the locals. It was an amazing experience in there – live Irish music, loads of friendly faces, people dancing, very cosy and cute. The next morning, I joined the family for Sunday Mass at the gorgeous St. Mary’s cathedral. It was a beautiful walk around town and then a horse-drawn carriage ride around Killarney National Park. This park is huge – it has lakes, castles, and deer in it and is overlooked by Ireland’s highest mountain range – and beautiful.
Oh yes, one more thing… do not say, “‘Top of the mornin” to people. Apparently they don’t like it and only ‘Irish people in movies’ say that!
Solo Travel Destination Rating System
Safety – 1 (1 very safe, 2 safe in most areas, 3 be cautious at all times.)
Language – 1 (1 English is first language, 2 English speakers easy to find, 3 English speakers rare)
Navigation – 1 (1 easy to navigate by transit or car, 2 poor transit, car necessary, 3 not easy to get around)
Culture – 1 (1 Similar to North America or Western Europe, 2 Different from above but relaxed and easy, 3 Challenging)
Average Rating – 1 (1 is easiest, 3 is most difficult)