Ireland – The Emerald Isle
Prior to visiting Ireland, all I knew about it was that it is very, very green and there are a lot of sheep. While doing research about what we would do while there, I discovered that Ireland has so much to offer and it got me pumped for my very first visit with my family.
Ireland, Dublin specifically, is a 6 hour plane ride from the NJ/NYC area and that is where we decided to make our home base for the next few days. We spent 3 nights/4 days exploring the city of Dublin as well as venturing out to the countryside and Northern Ireland. To be completely honest, Ireland was never on my list of places I wanted to visit, but my husband had his eye on it for a while and I am SO happy we finally made the trip there.
Just a side note: Our itinerary might sound a little aggressive for some people, especially if traveling with younger kids, with such a short amount of time but for our family I knew it would work.
Where to stay?
When you don’t have too much time in a city, location is KEY! My one big issue with Dublin was how expensive accommodations are. Most decent, non hostels, in the heart of the city will easily cost you $300+ per night when approaching peak season. I personally prefer rentals when traveling because they provide more room for my toddler and always end up being more cost effective. We found the most PERFECT rental and I couldn’t have been more happy with our choice. Dublin City Condo is a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment with full kitchen, washer/dryer and balcony. It was in a great location too – 1 minute to the nearest grocery store, 2 minutes to a Starbucks and in walking distance to pubs, restaurants, shopping and most major tourist attractions. Best of all – it was a lot more affordable and had way more space than any other hotel we could have booked.
Click HERE to view our rental.
We landed in Dublin at about 6am but by the time we went through customs, grabbed our luggage and made it to our rental – it was almost 9am. We were exhausted, so we took a quick nap and then headed out to explore. Prior to heading to Dublin, I scored a great deal on Groupon for a 1 day Adult Dublin Pass – normally priced at 59€ (abt $69) for only 40€ (abt $47) so picked up 3 of them as I was traveling with my husband & mother – Victor is still free at most attractions! If you are not familiar with the Dublin Pass, it’s basically a sightseeing card that includes a ton of the top places to visit. Even though we had a late start to the day, we were determined to make the most of our pass. These are all the things we were able to do/check out on our first day:
-Hop on Hop Off Bus
-St. Patricks Cathedral
I would say my highlights were St. Patricks Cathedral and Teelings. I’m not religious but I love visiting churches while in a new city, mainly because many have a lot of history behind them and architectural wise are simply stunning. Teelings was also a big surprise to me because I feel like people don’t talk about it as much as Guinness or Jameson. It was my favorite of the 3 – it is much more intimate in the sense that the people who work there seemed to genuinely LOVE their job and telling you the history behind the distillery and overall just more personal. The tasting room was great & parents, it’s kid friendly so absolutely don’t miss doing a tour when you are in town.
I knew I couldn’t visit Ireland and not make my way to the Cliffs of Moher. Usually, I have no problem just renting a car and driving while on vacation, but we decided that ultimately the best thing to do for this trip was to book tours. Doing this allowed us to see more in such a short amount of time. While that may not be ideal for everyone – it ended up being the perfect decision for us. I booked the Cliffs of Moher tour with Irish Day Tours that included a visit to Doolin, The Burren and Galway City. The tour was about 12 hours long but we never felt rushed, except for the short stop in Galway. The drive was super serene and scenic with lush greenery going on for what seemed like forever. I can’t really properly put into words what it feels like when you get to the top of the cliff and are finally able to just take that view in. It’s one of those things that in pictures it’s amazing BUT in person… you are left speechless. I think at that moment, I officially fell in love with Ireland. Each stop left a big impression on me and I am looking forward to the day I get to return to Ireland to Glamp in Doolin and spend a few days exploring Galway.
On this day, we got to visit Belfast, the Giants Causeway and Carrick A Rede Bridge with Wild Rover Tours, which also was about a 12 hour tour. Sidenote: I’m pretty sure Wild Rover is the only operator in Dublin that offers something that includes all 3 of these in one day. While in Belfast, we took a 1 hour Black Taxi Tour and I now totally understand why they are so highly rated. I am very fascinated about history in general but visiting Belfast makes you open your eyes to current day issues and I honestly was so shocked to learn about how separated by religion/national communities they still are. The art work on Shankill and Falls Rd show two complete different ideologies. My top highlight from that day would have to be seeing my son cross the Carrick A Rede Bridge. At only 2 years old, he is so brave, because after crossing once – my knees were shaking but it was worth EVERY STEP. That evening me & Ryan stepped out solo for some adult fun. The bar area around Temple Bar was a little more rowdy than I could deal with after a super long day, so thankfully we found this really awesome spot called Mulligan & Haines. I highly recommend this spot for drinks and good music.
Today was our last day in Dublin. Since we would be catching a flight to our next destination later in the evening, we decided to sleep in a bit and then head to the Jameson Distillery for a drink and then catch lunch at The Brazen Head, which is Ireland’s oldest pub, dating back to 1198. The Brazen Head was super busy but was worth the wait for a table. We got a table at the back bar area and stepping in that room you are instantly transformed to a past era. There is something really cool about having a pint of Guinness in the oldest pub in Ireland, so I would say this is one of those stops you have to make when in Dublin. The food was also really good!
One of the questions I got most from people after our trip was regarding safety while at some of our stops – in particular, the Cliffs and walking across the bridge. Victor is your typical toddler boy. He is full of energy and is very curious. We discussed before leaving for our trip how we would make certain stops work. When we got to the part of the cliffs that were fully open, my husband held him. As you can see from the photos above, the only shot I got of him there was behind a secure wall and in front of a castle. To me personally, his safety is worth more than a cool shot. If not careful, it can be very dangerous as it is fully open. I would not recommend letting a small child walk/run around this area by themselves. As far as the bridge – it’s actually very secure and I did a lot of research about small children walking across it before deciding we would let him. We knew that when we made it to the bridge, if he expressed that he did not want to go (my son is very vocal about not doing certain things) one of us would stay back with him but he was so brave and crossed it, holding my husbands hand, with no issue. This bridge is also much shorter than it appears in photos. Getting to the bridge was actually way more work than we anticipated but was totally worth it.
Ireland exceeded my expectations. It’s such a gorgeous country and for the parents that follow me – it’s super doable with kids. You know your children better than anyone else, so just plan accordingly and go at their pace. As always – if you have any questions on my recap or maybe something I didn’t cover, leave a comment below or shoot me an email.