We took the ferry from Holyhead west to Dublin. The ferry is an experience in itself – driving the car into the maw of the giant ship and then going exploring everywhere from the deck to the on-board arcade. As far as the eye could see there was nothing but the grey of the ocean and surrounding fog.
A gigantic breakwall with people riding bikes and kids jumping off the rocks greeted us and gave way to the industrial port of Dublin. We jumped in the car and drove to the Sandy Mount Hotel. We wanted to go exploring right away so we dropped the car off and took the dart (metro-tram) into Central Dublin. The river liffe divides the Main Street and we walked along it as the sun began to set. As it was so late many places had stopped serving food, but the people were very friendly and directed us elsewhere (three times in total) until we found a place.
After hearing so much about the Guinness brewery tour, we just had to go. With spring finally upon us we walked from the centre of Dublin and literally into the Guinness district – it looks like the factory has taken over acres of the city. In 1759 Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000 year lease on disused brewery in St. James’ Gate. The huge brick walls didn’t look particularly welcoming as we searched for the tour start.
One of the original factories has been converted to house the tour and while the exterior maintains its original charm with 150 foot unadorned brick walls the interior has been masterfully converted – into the shape of a giant glass of Guinness. As you enter there is a shop with literally anything you can imagine with a Guinness label (just in case your golf game is that little bit better with a beer logo on your ball). From there the tour begins taking you through the history of the beer and all the ingredients that go into it in a Charlie in the chocolate factory-esque presentation. I won’t give away any spoilers, but the tasting room is worth the wait and there is really nothing like the view of Dublin from the sky bar.
After throwing back a few beers (I am officially now a Guinness drinker) we decided to do a bit of a pub crawl back through the city to the famous Temple Bar area of Dublin. We must not have been the first to have this idea – on the wall as you leave the Storehouse is a “Pub crawl planner” – showing all the pubs that serve Guinness on the way back into the city. The crown jewel is the Temple Bar pub – filled at all times of day with tourists and live music – we sat and had a Temple Bar scotch and enjoyed the atmosphere. We headed back to the hotel and indulged in far too much room service to cap off a brilliant day.
The next day we loaded up the car and headed to the holiday town of Portrush on the northern coast of Ireland. Despite being early in the season it was a beautiful day and despite the long drive from Dublin it was all worth it when we reached the hill and saw the stunning coastline below us.The town was packed and we walked down to the bay for dinner at the bistro. We finished just in time to walk to the breakwall and catch an amazing sunset.
The next morning we headed to the giants causeway – a UNESCO protected world heritage location. Famous for the unique regular hexagonal shaped columns of stone along the coastline, the area maintained a mystique for many years about how such a landform came to be. The most common tale, for which it is named, is the one of the giant Finn McCool.
It was great to hear both the folklore and the history of site, even if the guides wanted you to join the national trust charity just a little too much. We were able to climb up the chimneys and venture close enough to feel the spray of the waves as they crashed against the rocks.
From the giants causeway we headed to the south western edge of Ireland to the scenic ring of kerry. Beautiful mountains, cliff lined coastlines, stone walled farm fields and hidden little bays made for great driving and many photo opportunities. We saw a little hidden cove from the road and backtracked down a steep dirt track to find Derrynane Bay, and walked along the empty beach, flowers and soaked up some sun.
Next Stop: Edinburgh