40 degrees Fahrenheit or 4 degrees Celsius, depending upon how you look at it, is a mighty big difference in temperature. It's also the same drop we experienced when we took off from Dubrovnik and landed in Dublin. Going from blazing hot days with relentless sunshine to windy, overcast and dreary conditions in a matter of just a few hours is amazing in so many different ways. But that's the beauty of Europe, the ability to pivot from one country, civilization and culture to the next in a matter of minutes. Did we mention the changes in weather, too?
Ireland is even more beautiful in person than people tell you. We also happened to catch it when the weather was on its best behavior, according to the locals, which made for an incredible nine days.
First stop was the Guinness factory because not going would be like slapping every Irishman in the face. It's an institution in this country, every bar serves it and everyone drinks it. The storefront is an ode to the makers of Guinness and those behind its success, its impact on the country and the evolution of the brand. Definitely a cool experience and yes, the Guinness does taste different in Ireland. Not necessarily better or worse, but different.
We found ourselves taking a tour of an old prison that whilst extremely eerie and depressing actually finds itself at the epicenter of many a famous movie due to the acoustics of their main cell block. The Italian Job (the original, not the one with Marky Mark) has been filmed there in addition to symphonies and concerts. I guess the search for good sound knows no boundaries. And due to the overwhelming amount of pubs, we sought out the one that bears Skyler’s middle name (a family name), the second of his two we should add, Madden. You would think they'd have given us a discount considering the connection, but apparently the potential kinship didn't hold much water… err Guinness.
Picking up our car to start our road trip, we headed to Blarney to, of course, kiss the stone. We both now have the gift of gab, but we promise to be gentle during any and all future conversations. And if you ever find yourself in those parts, due yourself a favor and stay at the Whitehouse B&B. Home to the nicest husband and wife combo who make you feel like you're family and also dish up a mean breakfast. But more on the Blarney Castle. That place was spectacular with fields of green, several hikes to enjoy, foliage that has grown to epic proportions in some parts, a babbling brook and mainly just a lot to do to spend a day. The climb up to the actual stone was something else. Literally hundreds of people lined up to climb the carefully carved, but never ending narrow and unstable staircase. Once at the top, the views were wonderful and it was well worth the ascent. Actually puckering up to the stone is almost an experience in itself as you have to lay on your back and almost invert yourself while suspended some 200 feet in the air. There are iron bars and a strong Irishman holding you to make sure you don't fall, but it's still freaky.
While there was a ton of awesome places and things to see, Inch Beach takes top honors for us. The tone was set early as our beach front B&B had unblemished views of the Atlantic Ocean and the sand. We even got to drive on the beach, which was an interesting concept, but tons of fun. Inch Beach is also close to the quaint and colorful town of Dingle filled with shops and pubs. And of course the start of a gorgeous drive around the Slea Head Peninsula, which featured magnificent views of the cliffs jetting into crystal blue ocean.
Speaking of cliffs, not to be outdone are the dramatic cliffs and views at the Cliffs of Moher. Whether at sunset or in the morning, no daypart is immune to the stunning views and dramatic drops. It’s also home to some of the best fish in chips you’ll ever have.
Galway... hmmm, it was what it was. A college town that had a lot of energy and was eclectic, but compared to what we saw at our other stops, it was hard for this place to make a lasting impression. Granted Skyler had been battling a cold for most of this road trip so maximizing our two days here was trickier, but we'd still recommend the other stops first.
Ireland, though, a must visit for any and all.