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A decade ago I visited Ireland for the very first time.
Man, doesn’t speaking in decades make you feel old? Shivers.
And a month ago I was back exploring the Emerald Isle with my family. Nineteen year old me slept in the airport, used a disposable film camera and only ate $5 fish and chips. Wow, have times have changed.
Though one thing hasn’t, my curiosity for the world and a desire to keep going back to places I’ve been and loved and to get to know them better. And that was certainly the case for visiting Ireland.
The gardens and estate around Dunbrody House
But I had another reason to journey halfway around the world to a different island than my adopted home of New Zealand.
When I was home in Virginia for Christmas holidays, I surprised my parents with a trip to Ireland. It was a place I knew they’ve wanted to explore for a long time but would never book on their own. Well, good thing I’m here to shake things up and make shit happen, right?
My parents are hardworking people who haven’t had a vacation in probably a decade, and even then they don’t go overseas. We’ve had our ups and downs over the years but they’ve ultimately been supportive of my crazy ideas and dreams, and it feels really good to finally be in a position to say thank you with the best way I know how – an adventure!
Hell yes to being an adult!
The Giant’s Causeway
As someone who has solo traveled for about a decade, traveling with others can be hard. Traveling with your parents, who somehow still see you as a bratty teenager, was often downright impossible.
But the good prevailed and usual and it was worth every crazy moment.
I didn’t let them have a chill holiday, instead dragging them to every corner of Ireland to see as much as possible.
I have so many crazy moments, anecdotes and stories to share of cool spots we discovered in Ireland, but in the meantime, I just wanted to pique your wanderlust with 20 of my favorite photos from the trip. Enjoy!
Starting in the great city of Dublin and had to take the parents to see the Book of Kells at the Trinity College Library. A famous illuminated manuscript of the Four Gospels from around 800AD, it’s quite possibly one of my favorite historical books I studied in university, and I go every time I’m in Dublin and don’t regret it.
How amazing is this reading room?
Wanting to stay in comfort in the big city, we rested our heads at the Merrion Hotel in Dublin, an incredible 5 star luxury property with cozy rooms and fireside hideaways you won’t want to leave.
Tucked away in the most stunning of Georgian buildings in the center of Ireland, the Merrion was definitely one of my favorite accommodations from the trip and its vibe of relaxed elegance just made you feel as comfortable as possible.
From Dublin we picked up a hire car, and our driver (me) took us down south through Wicklow Mountains National Park and Glendalough, places I first visited a few years ago during a conference but was so fogged in you couldn’t see anything. This time the weather was much better and we had the freedom to stop wherever we wanted with our own hire car.
Seriously though I reckon Wicklow is one of the most underrated areas of Ireland, I could have stayed here for the whole trip and been happy.
The highlight of the trip for my parents was probably staying at Dunbrody House in Co. Wexford. An intimate luxury hotel on the Hook Peninsula on Ireland’s stunning south coast, it’s run by Irish celebrity chef Kevin Dundon and his wife, it’s the kind of place you want to hide away in and not leave for a while.
In fact, their TV show is what inspired my parents to visit Ireland in the first place, and we had a great time dining on the property, enjoying the incredible forest and gardens, their own pub and brewery and just being in a place that felt like authentic, modern Ireland.
How stunning is the cute seaside town of Cobh? Famous for being the final port of call for the Titanic, Cobh is one of many adorable little coastal towns in Ireland begging you to just quit your normal life and to escape to one day.
We spent my birthday tucked away in a village near Kinsale after I found this adorable Airbnb that I couldn’t resist. It was a bit more rustic than I anticipated but the incredible host and style made up for it and even had my parents converted by the end.
Don’t forget you can join Airbnb today using my code for $30 off your trip.
My parents had a hard time choosing their favorite Irish adventure, but driving along the Ring of Kerry was definitely one of them.
Nope, don’t think I’ll ever get tired of these views!
One of the place I really wanted to visit in Ireland was Killarney. An area famed for its beauty, Killarney National Park was touristy but it didn’t disappoint. We had a stunner of a day, hiring a classic jaunting car (horse carriage) to cart us around, it was a definite highlight.
And since I kinda have a thing for historical buildings, I was frothing over Muckross House. Swoon!
This time we decided to skip the famously touristic Cliffs of Moher in favor of the lesser-known Kerry Cliffs. Hidden along Portmagee on the Wild Atlantic Way, the Kerry Cliffs are even more spectacular and dramatic, overlooking the Skellig Islands and Puffin Island.
Driving the Wild Atlantic Way along Ireland’s stunning west coast and the Ring of Kerry was one of my favorite parts of our family road trip, and I’d definitely go back and repeat in a heartbeat.
I never got tired of exploring some of the abandoned castles around Ireland. Can you blame me?
What do you think, does Dunquin Pier on the Dingle Peninsula win the most scenic port you’ve ever seen?
Not pictured, hurricane winds that about knocked me over.
Another major highlight from Ireland was getting to stay at the Lodge at Ashford Castle. Ireland’s most iconic castle hotel, if you’re looking for an epic accommodation experience you can stay in the castle itself or on the grounds at the Lodge
Why yes, I think all my childhood princess fantasies just came true.
After I said goodbye to the parents after 10 days on the road, I headed up to explore Northern Ireland on my own, and wow oh wow, was it just incredible.
I first visited Northern Ireland back in 2008 on my very first year living abroad in Europe, and to get to go back and see it with fresh eyes almost a decade later is something quite special.
My favorite spot, along with many others, is probably the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, first put up by salmon fisherman in 1755. Nowadays an epic swing bridge that spans over to an island, it’s worth queuing up to walk across.
Quite possibly the most iconic tree-lined country road in the world, the Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland were made famous in Game of Thrones and now are a popular tourist spot in their own right.
Be warned, I had to wait a long time to get a photo without people in it.
The Coastal Causeway Route along Northern Ireland is a dream for any roadtripper.
I definitely recommend exploring Northern Ireland by car. I turned down many a narrow winding road just to see what was at the end of it, and I was often rewarded discovering spots I would have never found otherwise, like Kinbane Castle here.
Exploring some of the cute little towns in Northern Ireland with many a medieval bridge and castle to be explored.
Dunluce Castle at sunset is pretty spectacular. A medieval Irish castle on the beautiful Antrim Coast built around 1500, it’s ruined state now is iconic perching above the sea and a must-visit for fellow castle nerds like me.
And of course you cannot come to Northern Ireland and miss out on visiting the famous Giant’s Causeway.
An incredible rock formation and one of Ireland’s most famous tourist attractions, it’s a wild bit of coastline with a great story. Built by a 54 foot tall giant named Finn McCool, if you look closely you can see the chimney of his house in the distance. The Giant’s Causeway is popular for a reason but a must do on any visit to Ireland.
Have you been to Ireland? What were your favorite spots? Have you traveled with your parents recently? Spill!