Out of all the countries I’ve been to in the world Ireland has been the most beautiful by far. We left for our one year late honeymoon (military of course) in January 2019 and spent 10 days doing a western loop from Dublin, out west towards Doolin, up north and around Northern Ireland, and back down to Dublin. I have to admit aside from being a McGuire, we were drawn to Ireland because of Guinness and Game of Thrones. We definitely had Guinness running in our veins and went to many Game of Thrones film sites.
Before I begin, I have to say that even though we took our honeymoon late, going in January was the best decision we ever made. I read numerous travel blogs and guides that suggested we shouldn’t visit in January because of poor weather conditions. Perhaps we were lucky, but it only rained a few times we were there and the overcast did not bother us much. The best part of it was that there weren’t many tourists! You’ll see in our photos that we rarely had people in the background, but that’s far from the point. We were able to enjoy ourselves with no lines in touristy places and felt like were able to tune out from all the craziness (San Diego is a busy city!).
Below are our highlights. Some of which are the touristy things that you must do, and some are the hidden gems/experiences that we found.
Guinness Storehouse- Dublin
So every single blog/guide will tell you that you should visit the Guinness Storehouse, and they are all absolutely right. This was our first stop after landing in Dublin. Honestly, Justin was almost brought to tears because he loves Guinness that much. Before we went to Ireland, I wasn’t much of a Guinness fan but I was definitely converted when I left! Not only is the storehouse fun (you will be taught how to pour a perfect pint!), you also get to learn about the history and process of brewing the much loved stout. Interesting fact–Guinness tastes soooo much better here than anywhere else. Even when we drove a couple of hours outside of Dublin, the taste changes. We had the best pints of Guinness in our entire lives here at the storehouse.
Watching a Rugby Match and Visiting Local Pubs
We were able to meet up with our friend, Callum, in Dublin who took us to some local pubs and taught us a thing or two about rugby. I don’t do sports. But Justin loves American football so he definitely picked it up quicker than I did. It was such a great break to hang with a local instead of the typical sightseeing that every tourist does. I felt like we truly got to experience Dublin this way. We hopped from pub to pub and the night went on.
Cliffs of Moher, The Burren, Doolin, Galway
When we booked our trip from home we were unsure of the whole driving situation. So we actually purchased a day tour from Dublin to Cliffs of Moher. Our driver, Buddy, was super fun and informative. He sang to us the entire way there and back. In retrospect, we would have preferred to drive there on our own because 1.5 hours at the cliffs were definitely not enough. We spent an hour just standing around and admiring the beauty of it all. If you want to hike along the cliffs, you’ll need a significant amount of time. The trail is about 13km (~8.6). Even though I got gorgeous photos, they really don’t do it justice.
On the way back, we stopped for lunch at Doolin, a little village along the coast in County Clare. I had the BEST seafood chowder at Fitzpatrick’s Bar. Justin thought I was crazy because I ordered seafood chowder in other places for the next 2-3 days of our trip but nothing can compare to the first one that I had in Doolin. We then headed out for a quick 15 minute stop to walk around The Burren (means great rock), a vast area of glacial limestone. Again, we wish we wouldn’t have purchased this tour and drove ourselves so we could have more time.
Lastly, we stopped at Galway for about 2 hours before heading back to Dublin. I got to live my 2 hours of Ed Sheeran’s “Galway Girl” that day. We had amazing fish and chips and pints of Guinness at a cozy pub. If we were to do this trip again, we would probably spend a night in Doolin to have a full day of sightseeing and maybe another night in Galway to experience more of this cool city.
Giant’s Causeway- Northern Ireland
Giant’s Causeway was probably my personal favorite of the entire trip. We stayed at the Causeway Hotel which includes a ticket to enter the Causeway. We were able to walk along the entire Causeway and back to our hotel. It was a magnificent sight! Also, on the way to Giant’s Causeway, we made a stop at the Dark Hedges (Bregagh Road) in County Antrim which is where King’s Road was filmed on Game of Thrones. Notice how I didn’t have anyone else in the photo? Perks of traveling during off-season.
Game of Thrones Film Sites- Northern Ireland
Okay, so I googled a lot of this and read through tons of blogs to find out where all these locations are. Then I realized that there were SIGNS everywhere, like legit signs /plaques that tell you who, what, when, and where each scene took place. Discover Northern Ireland also has an app that shows you where all the film sites are. We were able to drive and stop at 5-6 locations all in one day. We left Giant’s Causeway around 9 a.m. and we made it to Belfast, our last stop, around 3 p.m.
Belfast- Northern Ireland
Our final stop before going back to Dublin airport and flying home was Belfast. We were able to see where the Titanic was built, yes it was built in Belfast (we were dumb and didn’t know that…even though there’s literally a TITANIC QUARTER). We stayed at Hotel Belfast and met a super cool bartender who actually bartended to the GOT cast before. He shared many fun stories and poured us (more like Justin) many glasses of whiskey. We also visited Crumlin Road Gaol, the only Victorian era prison remaining in Northern Ireland. I felt chills during our tour as we saw the actual execution room that was used at the time. These two spots are a must-see!
The best way to describe Ireland is–GREEN. The moment our plane was descending into Dublin airport, we looked outside our window and we were in awe of how green it all was. If you enjoy natural beauty as much as we do, you would absolutely fall in love with Ireland. All the things that I love were in one place all at the same time. There’s beer, cozy pubs, beautiful scenery, and friendly faces. And that is why my heart will forever belong in Ireland.