Our friends Alwin and Alyssa came to visit us in Edinburgh! We took them all over the city, to our favorite spots and restaurants, and even on a hike with our borrowed doggy, Blue. Thanks for visiting guys! We love it when people visit.
Alwin and Alyssa were doing 4 countries in 12 days so we decided to join them on their Ireland leg. Did you know that it only takes 45 minutes to get to Dublin from Edinburgh? That’s shorter than a TV show!
We arrived in Dublin in the afternoon and rushed over to the Guinness Storehouse before they closed. If you’re unfamiliar with Guinness, it’s an Irish dry stout that is one of the most successful beer brands in the world that originated in Dublin.
We purchased tickets in advanced so we pretty much walked in, but I’m sure there could be a long queue if you walked up since it’s one of Europe’s leading tourist attractions. You can also get a discount if you purchase them in advanced. The tickets include a pint of Guinness (or soda).
The Storehouse is huge (7 floors!) and feels like a “Disneyland” of beer. At the start of the self-guided tour, you learn about the ingredients that goes into the beer. For the first time, I got to see what hops were. We also got to see how the casks were made and transported.
Then, we entered the tasting room(s). The first part of the tasting experience was in a futuristic white room where you can smell the four aromas of Guinness and where the staff teach you how to properly drink Guinness. They give you these really cute glasses to taste the beer. Then, you enter another room that is similar to the inside of one of those grand ships that used to transport Guinness to Liverpool for the actual tasting. I don’t like beer, especially dark beers, but it definitely tasted better when I drank it properly. Alwin had another Guinness at a pub in the city as well, but still says that it tasted better at the Storehouse.
The next floor displayed all of Guinness’s ad campaigns.
Did you know the Guinness Book of Records started as a Guinness marketing giveaway, based on one of its managing directors?
You can also learn to pour your own Guinness, but we didn’t want to wait in that line so we just went to the Gravity Bar on the 7th floor. You get 360° views of Dublin from the bar, but it was so crowded that we left and found a spot to sit down and drink our beers.
After our Guinness Storehouse experience, we went to dinner at The Brazen Head, Ireland’s oldest pub (since 1198). From the outside, you can see the remains of its 11th century coach house. I personally didn’t like the food here, but the atmosphere here is really great for a traditional pub experience.
After dinner, we had to get ice cream so we went to Murphy’s. Murphy’s Ice Cream is an Irish ice cream spot that uses milk from Kerry cows, a rare cow in Ireland. Apparently, the milk from the Kerry cow is creamier than others. They also have uniquely Irish flavors like Carmelized Brown Bread, Dingle Gin, and Irish Coffee (with Irish whiskey).
The next day, we rented a car and headed west. We stopped in Athlone, a town on a river for lunch.
Our Airbnb was located in Athenry, a walled heritage town in the Irish countryside close to Galway. To get to the Airbnb, we drove through narrow roads in the middle of farms relying only on landmark-based instructions from our Airbnb host. We didn’t even have cell phone service out there. It was really scary, but thanks to Alwin, we made it.
Our Airbnb was more like a cabin. It was originally a thatched cottage and a barn in the 1800s. The hosts converted it into the cutest space, complete with a wood-stove fireplace, an attic bedroom, 4 poster bed, and even a compost toilet. Compost toilet was kinda weird. It was actually very clean and didn’t smell, but it was very interesting. Our hosts are pretty much self-sufficient and grow most of their food. They gave us a tour of their garden and showed us all the fruits and vegetables they grow. If we cooked, we could have used some of their produce from their garden. They also have their own chickens and gave us fresh eggs for us for breakfast.
After checking into our Airbnb, we headed out to Galway, a harbor city with a vibrant atmosphere and the cutest cobblestone streets. Historically, Galway was formed from a small fishing village and thrived on trade with European countries. Christopher Columbus supposedly stopped in Galway on his trip to the Americas in 1492. I really liked Galway. The city was just so full of life. There were lots of buskers (street performers) too.
We ate at McDonagh’s (not to be confused with McDonald’s 🤣) on Quay Street. McDonagh’s is a family-run seafood restaurant. One side just does fish and chips, but we chose to eat on the restaurant side since they have a much larger menu. Andrew got the McDonagh’s Scampi, which basically fried prawns, fried fish, and chips. I got the Balsamic Grilled Mackerel which I really liked. This was probably the best dish I had during our trip in Ireland.
Of course we had to ice cream again after dinner.
The next day we got in our car and drove to one of the most iconic places in Ireland, the Cliffs of Moher.
On our way, we were super spontaneous and made two stops before arriving to the Cliffs. We saw a castle so we got out.
We also stopped at Hazel Mountain Chocolates, a chocolate cafe and factory in the Burren Mountains. They import chocolate bean from Cuba, Venezuela, and Madagascar, but make the chocolates in their little factory. We got a mini-tour of the factory and got to taste the pure chocolate (with some sugar) before it hardened. It was delicious.
After a quick lunch in Doolin, a coastal village, we finally made it to the Cliffs. The Cliffs of Moher is Ireland’s most visited natural attraction. It’s beautiful and the views are absolutely amazing. It’s so picturesque. It’s everything you imagine Ireland to look like with its rolling green hills, Atlantic coastline, and dramatic cliffs. The Cliffs are technically free because it’s part of the Wild Atlantic Way and you can hike all of it. For any budget travelers that are up to a 10-mile hike, you can park in Doolin and walk 5 miles to the cliffs (and another 5 miles back) for free. However, we didn’t want to walk 10 miles so we just parked at the visitor center and paid the entrance fee. We paid for each us, but I totally think it’s possible for visitors to get dropped off and just pay the entrance fee for the driver.
You can walk along the cliffs and it was actually pretty scary cause there’s nothing that will catch you if you slip off. Someone actually died the same day we were there! 😱
The next day, we drove back to Dublin and spent our last day in Ireland strolling through the city.
We went to Trinity College, one of the seven ancient universities of Britain and Ireland (and Ireland’s oldest university). It was originally a Protestant university. The main reason for visiting Trinity College though was to see their beautiful library. However, it costed €13 (€10 for students) so I decided to not go in. I didn’t want to pay €13 for a library. Andrew, Alwin, and Alyssa went in though. The library is also famous for displaying the Book of Kells, a medieval book that tells the gospel in pictures.
We walked through Grafton and Henry Street, the main shopping streets of Dublin. Grafton Street is pretty famous for street performers. I became a fan of Once, the musical when I saw it on Broadway which was based on a film that was filmed on Grafton Street. We also strolled through Temple Bar, Dublin’s “cultural quarter.” We got dinner at a Japanese spot in Temple Bar (because we had our fill of Irish food) that I don’t recommend and ended the night with drinks and live music at the Auld Dubliner.
We had a great time exploring another country with good friends and were so grateful for amazing weather. I don’t think Andrew and I would’ve had as much fun as we did though if we did Ireland on our own. Also, I’m not sure how Alwin got into all the pictures. Thanks for coming to visit us!