So as most of you who follow my Instagram can tell, Niall and I recently returned from an amazing 10 day trip to Ireland (with a little pit stop in Barcelona for warmth). Needless to say, we had an incredible time. I tend to be pretty type A and do extensive research on just about everything, this trip was no different. A lot of my friends have been considering visiting both Spain and Ireland and have reached out to me for advice, so I've decided to streamline the process and write out a pretty handy guide to getting the most out of your time there! I'll put a bunch of trip planning advice and links down for you guys and then pictures and a short video if you scroll to the bottom!
FLIGHTS: Around early May, we found an unbelievable deal on Norwegian Airlines. We each paid $280.00 round trip from New York (Stewart airport) to Dublin for flights in late August, which is generally unheard of. If you're a bit reserved about going to Stewart-Newburgh International Airport (it's about 60 miles north of Manhattan), there's a shuttle bus service provided from Times Square - Port Authority based on the time of your flight. It was honestly a painless experience, and while the airport is tiny, our flight left perfectly on time.
* something to note regarding Norwegian airlines, they are very strict with their baggage policy. You pay very little for a ticket, and therefore they try to find other ways to charge you. Make sure your bags are within the size requirement and that they both don't weigh more than 22kg combined.
Once we had arrived in Ireland, we spent the night in Dublin and flew out to Barcelona the following day with Ryan Air. They have a similar baggage policy, and run a little bit less organized than Norwegian. Expect delays, cancellations, and whatever else they may throw at you, however the prices are still too good to be beat.
AIRBNB: As far as where we stayed we did a mix of friends, Airbnbs and one hostel. When I backpacked around Spain as a teenager, I had a blast staying in hostels, but at 26, sleeping in bunk beds has lost it's charm. The Airbnbs, however, were so lovely and each of our hosts was so helpful. I've listed each apartment as well as the hostel below:
TRANSPORTATION is where the planning in this trip became a bit more complicated. We were adamant about renting a car in Ireland and road tripping around the perimeter of the country for a week. However, after reading reviews, most car rental companies in Ireland are downright thieves. Budget, Hertz, Europcar all have terrible customer ratings, and extremely unreasonable prices. After much research, we decided to go with Dooley's Car Rental.
* Things to note about renting a car in Ireland:
- Most credit cards offer a worldwide collision damage waiver, however, Irish car rental companies only accept this waiver from two specific credit cards: Chase Sapphire, and World MasterCard. If you happen to have either of these two cards, you'll have to contact your company, ask them to email you a copy of your collision damage waiver (dated within two weeks of your trip) and make sure to print out a copy for your rental company as proof. This seems like a lot of work, but it will save you a lot of money and trouble regarding car insurance.
- Most cars in Europe are manual. Here in the states we are spoiled with automatic vehicles, and while they're available in Ireland, it more than triples the daily price of a car rental. If you can drive stick, do it.
- Even with your CDW, you will still have a 3000 Euro hold placed on your credit card until you return the car. There's no way around this. It's a real pain, but honestly everything else ran so smoothly with the return, it was still worth it.
- Driving on the right hand side of the car while on the left hand side of the road can feel overwhelming, but honestly it really wasn't so bad as long as you stayed focused.
Both Barcelona and Ireland were so spectacular this time of year. Below I'll list a few places worth visiting.
The night we arrived, our Airbnb host walked us around the Born Historical district and gave us restaurant recommendations. He was spot on! Here are some of our favorite places in Barcelona.
- Casa Lolea: this is a sangria factory with the most incredible tapas. Shoutout to the octopus ceviche I'm still dreaming of.
- Xiringuito Escriba: After visiting Platja Nova Icaria (a beach a little further off the beaten path from Barceloneta beach), we ate at this lovely open aired waterfront restaurant that served possibly the largest paella I've ever seen.
- Elsa Y Fred: This place was adorable, and deserves mention for giving us free shots with our check.
- Caelum: Famous for their homemade cakes and delicious pastries. Niall and I definitely had cake for breakfast here every morning.
- Ginger: a small but intimate cocktail bar in the historic district. They have excellent cocktails, and a really lovely romantic vibe.
We spent time in Dublin, Kerry, Galway, and Belfast. Here are a few of the watering holes and delicious restaurants worth mentioning in each of those cities.
- In Dublin, I can't recommend Fade Street Social more highly. It's an incredibly inventive tapas restaurant, the food was delicious. Make sure to reserve in advance.
- Doolin Cafe: If you're going to the Cliffs of Moher, make sure to stop in Doolin, a charming little seaside town, on the way. If you're going to have breakfast, you won't find a more cozy, irish breakfast than at Doolin Cafe.
- The Barking Dog in Belfast: Well, this was by far the best restaurant we've ever been to. It may sound like an exaggeration since we live in New York City, but we truly had the best meals of our lives. The cocktails and food were so inventive and yet felt like comfort food. This combined with a fun atmosphere and reasonable prices (as well as it being next door to our Airbnb) meant we ate here for dinner both nights we were in Belfast.
- Maggie Mays Belfast Cafe: This is a standard breakfast stop in Belfast. We grabbed some of the famous hot chocolate last time we were in Belfast, and we couldn't help but come back for those marshmallows.
- Sean's Bar in Athlone: This may take you out of your way as far as major cities go, but Athlone is historic and who wouldn't want to say they've had a pint in the oldest pub in Ireland. Dating back to the year 900, Sean's bar had a fantastic live Irish band and great beer selection.
-The Hole in the Wall: If you're near Phoenix Park, you have to check out this pub. It's officially the "longest bar in Ireland" as it used to be a coach house. The rooms vary from cozy nooks with a fireplace, to a dining room setting, to a typical pub.
My favorite part of traveling through Ireland was that every pub we stumbled upon had live music. Whether it was traditional Irish music or a folk singer, it created such a warm and festive atmosphere and really made me fall in love with the country and it's culture.
As far as traveling around Ireland, I'll list the places definitely worth visiting in the proper order:
- The Ring of Kerry: a beautiful drive around Kerry that will take you through Torc mountain and Waterfall, and the Gap of Dunloe as well as other awe-inspiring vistas.
- Skellig Michael- Be sure to book this in advance. We didn't actually visit because tickets were sold out but as a Star Wars fan, I am dying to go!
- Drive up the Dingle Peninsula, on the Wild Atlantic Way. Stop in Slea Head, Dingle, and the Conor Pass.
- The Cliffs of Moher, just be sure to go on as clear a day as you can manage.
- Gleniff Horshoe Valley, is a stunning drive and it's right on your way from Galway to Cuilcagh Mountain, a 12 mile round trip hike up a boardwalk path surrounded by wild bogs and painted hills. Honorable mention for one of my favorite destinations on this trip that hardly anyone knows about.
- NORTHERN IRELAND: Carrick-a-rede Rope bridge, which is incidentally along the Causeway Coastal Route. Stop here first, as it gets crowded when the day goes on, then hit the Giant's Causeway. * REMEMBER, Giant's Causeway is FREE to all visitors. Do not let them fool you into paying a visitor's fee just because you walked through the visitor's center. Just to the right of the building is a tunnel and a free entrance. After you finish up, you'll be nice and ready for a tour of the Bushmills Distillery , tours are first come first serve, but well worth it. On your way back to Belfast, pretend you're Jon Snow and stop at the Dark Hedges for as many pictures as you can get before the tourist buses come through.
If you're feeling a little overwhelmed about how you can map this trip out, I've created two saved google maps with every restaurant, bar, and place worth visiting pinned and color categorized. Feel free to use them to map out your trip.
Now for the fun part: pictures and the trip videos!
I made a Spotify playlist specifically for our Ireland road trip. Check it out here.
Let me know if you have any questions or need any more details on how to travel Ireland or Barcelona!