🇮🇪 February 15, 2022 - A Month In Ireland - Part 4
Written By Amanda
Our last week in Ireland was spent between Bundoran and Sligo. The plan to stay at a beautiful seaside cottage for the week didn’t pan out as we had hoped. In the end, none of our work/school weeks spent in Ireland were looking as we had envisioned. Despite the setback, we made the best of the situation and explored more of Sligo. After a full school week, we packed up and made our way from Sligo to Dublin. There we spent our last weekend exploring Dublin City and the surrounding sights before our flight back home Monday morning.
Bundoran, Ireland → Sligo → Dublin → Home
Day 23 Bundoran
I was excited to start our last week in Ireland! I was feeling a little homesick, but I was also making an effort to be present and appreciative of my surroundings. Tommy and I started the day with our traditional morning routine; a cup of coffee while watching the news. However, this morning we had a breathtaking view out to the ocean!
While attempting to stream the news from back home in the US and before the full effects of the coffee set in, reality hit hard! The Internet signal was too weak to support streaming.
Immediately we became very concerned about Evelyn’s ability to participate in live virtual schooling with such a weak Internet signal. Tommy went into investigative mode but found no solutions and only confirmed what we had suspected. Our concern turned into panic! How were we going to stay here? How would Evelyn be able to participate in school?
I frantically contacted our Airbnb host. She confirmed there were no outages in the area. Tommy researched ways to boost the Internet strength or use our phones as hotspots. Going to a nearby coffee shop or library was out of the question because of her odd school hours. Ultimately, there was one harsh reality. There simply wasn’t enough Internet strength in the area. We had to leave.
Our panic then shifted to finding a new place to stay and worrying over the money we would lose by canceling the remainder of our current reservation. To ease the urgency, we decided to stay for one more night. We would do our best to make it through the school day and leave the following morning.
Our host was very kind and understanding about the whole situation. She refunded us as much of our remaining stay as Airbnb would allow. I began searching for rentals in nearby Sligo. I hoped the Internet signal would be stronger directly in the city. I messaged three hosts, explaining the situation. I stated that we needed high-speed Internet and would need to check in by 12:30 pm the next day. Luckily, all three responded quickly and were ready to welcome us. We ended up just picking the rental that replied first.
It was a stressful situation, but I was relieved to have a plan. And to finish my cup of coffee! I hated that we wasted our whole morning scrambling to find new accommodations. I was so sad we had to leave. I had visions of spending the week with ocean views. Those visions were now crushed. Almost like adding salt to a wound, I watched a pair of surfers catching waves outside the kitchen window while we scrambled.
Determined to make the best of what little bit of the morning we had left, I forced us all to get outside for a walk before school started. Our spirits slightly rose as we walked along the rocky beach together. We wandered towards the remains of an unnamed castle nearby behind the dunes. We collected some bright orange tiny shells as souvenirs. We also met a woman walking her horse on the beach and into the ocean. She explained to us that this is how she baths the horse.
When returning to the cottage, Evelyn started her school day. She was able to log in to the meeting and listen, but she could not leave her video on or submit assignments. This was not sustainable for the rest of the week but we made it work for just one day. I spent the rest of the evening packing us up as well as making a large meal so we could consume some of the refrigerator food we had stocked up on.
That evening, I was able to enjoy the sunset from the backyard with a well-deserved full glass of wine in hand! Tommy stepped out just as the sun was dropping below the horizon. We were able to see the elusive “green flash” more vibrant than we ever had before!
Day 24 Sligo
Up and reluctantly ready for moving day, it was time to check out and work our way south to Sligo. I did not allow Evelyn to cry this time at check out because I was on the verge of tears myself.
We had about a 40-minute drive into Sligo. I did not want our morning to feel like a waste, so I planned for us to do a little bit of exploring along the route. The area we would be driving through is known as Yeats country, after W.B. Yeats. The area’s beautiful scenery (mountains, lakes, waterfalls, and beaches) inspired many of his works.
First, we hoped to hike to Devils Chimney. This waterfall is Ireland’s highest. When the wind blows, it has the appearance of steam coming out of a chimney. The only downfall is this waterfall only flows after heavy rain. After a very dry week, we could easily see that the waterfall was not flowing as we drove by.
We then drove on to the nearby Glencar Waterfall. We took the short hike on the well-maintained trail to the beautiful falls. We were hoping to get a snack at the nearby teaShed with views of the beautiful Glencar Lough but it was closed. Evelyn played a bit on their playground before returning to the car.
From there, we drove to Rosses Point. After we parked the car, we walked along the seaside trail and enjoyed the beautiful views. We then got lunch from the Little Cottage Cafe. Unfortunately, this was the only restaurant open at the time. The food was good, but we had to eat picnic-style because all the tables were occupied. I wouldn’t have minded a picnic had I been more prepared.
Check-in to our new rental home went smoothly. Upon arrival, we immediately checked the Internet strength. It was not great, but it was at least functional.
The home had a large backyard, so Evelyn was thrilled! There was also a small grocery store right behind the house. This meant we could buy supplies as we needed them. We made the mistake of stocking up on goods at our last rental home resulting in us just loading them right back up to relocate them.
By that evening, when we fully settled in, we could finally breathe a sigh of relief. We had solved our Internet disaster, and we hoped for a calm remainder of the week. Evelyn was already playing in the backyard and I enjoyed watching her out the window while I worked from the kitchen table.
Day 25 Sligo
That morning we decided to take advantage of the fact that we were staying in Sligo, about a kilometer walk from the city center, and explore more of the city. Overall, the city was one of the least tourist-oriented we had visited while in Ireland. This was fine. We just didn’t have much to do or see.
We walked by the closed Sligo Abbey ruins and down along the river. Then we walked around the shopping mall looking for any last-minute souvenirs but had no luck. To pass some time before lunch we visited Insomnia Coffee Company. Evelyn had her first babyccino and enjoyed the experience of sipping a special drink along with us.
For lunch, we tried Tuco’s Taqueria. The restaurant advertised that they had the best Mexican food in Ireland. Everyone in our family loves Mexican food back home, so we had to try it out! It did not disappoint!
On our way back to the rental house, we stopped at Foleys, an off-license store. Tommy decided to invest in some Red Spot whiskey before returning home to the US. The clerk was very kind and gifted Evelyn a cold soda from the refrigerator. We spent the rest of the day schooling and carrying about our typical routine as if we were at home.
Day 26 Sligo
Knowing there wasn’t much more for us to see in Sligo we decided to explore more outside of the city center. Nearby Benbulbin is one of Ireland’s most iconic mountains. There are a lot of great hiking opportunities in the area. It is possible to climb to the top of the mountain but hearing about the dangers, we opted for a trek around the base. If we weren’t under the time constraints of a school day we may have decided differently.
The Gortarowey Loop trail took us about an hour and a half to complete and was just under 6 kilometers. We had beautiful views of Benbulbin’s sheer cliffs and out to the Atlantic ocean. As an added bonus, the trail was relatively flat with easy terrain.
We finished up our hike a little earlier than planned so we headed back into Sligo city center for lunch. We were finally able to try out the well-reviewed Hooked! It was too busy during our previous attempts to dine there. They serve locally sourced artisan Irish food. I got the fish and chips where the batter was seasoned with paprika. It was so good! We finished the meal with a dessert from the next door Le Fournil bakery.
After lunch, Evelyn and I walked along the river and played at the local Doorly Park. We had some time to kill since it was a Thursday, and Evelyn’s virtual schooling didn’t start until later in the day. The playground was fun. There were a lot of different climbing and play structures. Unfortunately, it was heavily graffitied.
Day 27 Sligo
For our last full morning in Sligo, I signed Evelyn and me up for horseback riding on the beach through Island View Riding Stables. It was a perfect morning full of beautiful scenery and animals. This ended up being one of my most memorable activities in Ireland and one of my all-time favorite travel experiences! Tommy sat the activity out but was happy to drive us there and take pictures.
The company is owned by a German-Irish couple who have workers from all over Europe come in during the summer to help out. The horses are very well-loved and even get to “holiday” (or freely roam) on their own island during the winter months. Our guide led us out to and along the beautiful secluded beach. You could tell the horses were just as happy as we were in the beautiful scenery.
Off in the distance, I noticed a castle and questioned our guide about it. It is not often that you see a castle in Ireland that is not in ruins. Turns out it was Classiebawn Castle once owned by Lord Mountbatten the uncle of Prince Philip. Lord Mountbatten was staying here when he was killed by a bomb planted on his fishing boat. A story I was very familiar with after watching The Crown.
That evening we packed up and prepared for our last full weekend in Ireland. It was bittersweet but we were all starting to feel anxious to return home.
Day 28 Sligo to Dublin
Before leaving Sligo that morning, we completed our scheduled COVID tests required for entry back into the United States. We found a nearby lab with a temporary setup in a hotel. The process was quick and easy but not cheap.
As we drove from Sligo to Dublin we made a few stops along the way. About 45 minutes down the road, we made our first stop in the small town of Carrick on Shannon. The town is known as the stag party capital of Ireland, but there wasn’t much excitement there at 10:30a on a Saturday morning. We treated ourselves to some goodies at Coffey’s Pastry Case and then walked over to the Costello Memorial Chapel. This is the smallest chapel in Europe and the second smallest in the World. Who knew? It reminds me of the quote, “Traveling is about finding those things you never knew you were looking for” (Unknown).
We planned to stop next at Mellifont Abbey but got sidetracked as we drove by Slane Distillery. As we passed by Slane Castle there was a sign outside for a distillery. There were also food trucks parked out on the lawn. We knew we had to check it out! After doing some sampling, we determined that the whiskey was just okay. However, the setting in the castle’s old stable was very unique. If we find ourselves in the area again with a little more time, we would love to tour the castle.
Our last stop before Dublin city center was at Brú na Bóinne. We had a timed ticket for the shuttle that would take us from the visitors center to Knowth and then to Newgrange. I had read that you should set the GPS to the Brú na Bóinne visitors center and not Brú na Bóinne. I forgot this little tidbit and got us lost. We were confused when we arrived at the end of a dirt farm road with a closed gate.
Again, being from the United States, our knowledge and experience with passage tombs is limited. Thankfully, the visitors center had a wonderful museum that we found very helpful. I couldn’t believe that what we were about to see was older than the pyramids in Egypt! I also loved seeing all the older photos of archeologists working to uncover and preserve the site.
The shuttle bus dropped us off at Knowth first. Due to COVID precautions, we were not allowed to tour the inside of any of the passage tombs. I have heard this is a phenomenal experience that we missed out on. Hopefully, in time they will open back up to tourists.
Knowth was my favorite of the two sites. There is one large central carine (with two tombs inside) surrounded by several smaller tombs. The larger tomb is surrounded by boulders all painstakingly carved with megalithic art dating back to over 5,000 years ago. We were allowed to climb to the top of Knowth and take in the beautiful views of the Boyne Valley.
Next, the shuttle took us over to Newgrange. Newgrange is the most well-known of the tombs. Our experience would have been better had we been allowed to take a guided tour inside. During our visit, the shuttle dropped us off and we just walked around the outside.
Following Brú na Bóinne, we drove into Dublin. Tommy’s driving skills were put to a final test as we drove right through the city center on a Saturday evening to our hotel, Hilton Dublin. He mastered it like the pro he had become!
Once we settled into our hotel room, I had the pleasure of meeting up briefly with a kind local, Victoria, and her family. It was a wonderful experience meeting a family who actually lives, schools, and works in Dublin! Victoria’s husband, who was born and raised in Ireland, helped me understand a little more about Galic Football and offered great advice on how we should spend our time in Dublin.
Victoria’s passion project is crocheting beautiful handbags and donating a portion of the proceeds to a local organization, Children’s Health Foundation Crumlin. This is her small way of giving back to an organization that has done so much to her family and other families with sick children. I had the pleasure of taking one of Victoria’s handbags home as a souvenir. When seeing her product firsthand, I couldn’t believe how well-made and fashionable the handbag was! Now that I am back home and have put the bag to use, I can also attest to the quality! My grandmother, a long-standing crocheter herself, was so impressed with the craftsmanship. Victoria’s handbag is my favorite souvenir from Ireland. It is unique, fashionable, high quality, and for a good cause! If you are looking for a unique souvenir from Ireland or want something shipped to you, I highly recommend checking out her shop.
Victoria gifted our family some handmade Irish chocolates from The Chocolate Garden of Ireland. You can find a lot of these small privately-owned chocolatiers throughout Ireland. Like butter, there is just something different (and better) about Irish chocolate! The chocolates from The Chocolate Garden were to die for! Evelyn wants to make sure that I tell the Internet world that she only got one piece and mommy snuck the rest for herself.
For dinner that evening we tried The Barge Gastro Bar. It was a block from our hotel and came highly recommended by Victoria’s husband. He also shared that The Barge Gastro Bar was a favorite hangout spot for one of Dublin’s famous poets, Patrick Kavanagh. We had a very good traditional Irish meal that was fitting for our first night in Dublin!
Day 29 Dublin
Today was our last full day in Ireland. It was going to be a busy one! We had plans to see as much of Dublin as we could fit in one day. By the end of it, we walked over 9 miles. We were so proud of Evelyn! This was her first city tour in which she walked the whole day by herself. We could now officially say goodbye to our strollers and child carriers. It felt like we had reached a major milestone in our family travels.
Our first stop for the day was The Bretzel Bakery & Cafe for breakfast. We were naive to think that a cafe with “bretzel” in its name would serve pretzels. Being somewhat close to Germany we were hoping for authentic pretzels! Sadly, no pretzels. I even got an odd look from the clerk when I asked if they had any. Luckily, the pastries we did get were delicious and somewhat made up for it.
We took our pastries over to St Stephen’s Green where we found a bench and began eating them. During our picnic, we were stalked by a persistent seagull. Despite Tommy’s warnings, I couldn’t help but reward the seagull for his patience with a few crumbs. Out of nowhere more seagulls swooped in and started bullying our sweet little friend. Tommy started rolling his eyes at me as Evelyn squealed in delight. I attempted to shoo the seagulls away but was unsuccessful. I threw a balled-up pastry bag at one seagull that was particularly aggressive to the others. Before I knew it, he was eating the pastry bag! We were all in shock! I also felt bad and briefly contemplated fishing it out of his beak. Common sense got the better of me. I figured I’d done enough damage. Lesson learned: do not feed the seagulls!
Following our seagull showdown in the park, we headed over to Trinity College for our pre-booked appointment to see the Book of Kells. The college is surrounded by a stone wall. It took a bit of time to find out how to get inside. Once we finally found the entrance, there was heavy security before we could enter the college grounds. We were then directed straight to the Old Library, where we toured the museum. Then, we were guided into a dark room where we could see the Book of Kells opened to two pages. The book, written in Latin around 800AD, contains the four Gossips of the New Testament. The decorated book contains extravagant full-page and miniature illustrations intermixed within the Latin text. It is a piece of artwork in itself! It was captivating to be in a room with such beauty and history! Evelyn was also very impressed but was upset she could not find the word “Jesus” in the text.
We finished our tour in the Long Room. This room contains wooden shelves stacked to the ceiling with antique books. It is what makes the Old Library one of the most beautiful libraries in the world! I doubt Evelyn is old enough to fully process the history she was surrounded by, but she felt the magic to some extent because she begged for a sweatshirt from the gift shop. Rarely do we treat her to gift shop indulgences, but given her enthusiasm, at such a young age, we could not resist.
We then went on to explore the Temple Bar district. We were there around early lunchtime, and the pubs were just opening up for the day. Given our location, and that it was our last day, we had to stop at a traditional Irish pub (The Dame Tavern) and have a Guinness. When in Rome!
We walked through Temple Bar past the overly crowded The Temple Bar Pub and over to Christ Church Cathedral. We then made our way back to Dublin Castle for our pre-schedule ticketed time to tour the castle. I am sad to say I remember very little from our visit. Just that they had a cool sand art exhibit in the courtyard. Our visit must have been fairly unremarkable otherwise. My indifference may have been influenced by my hunger for lunch.
Tommy, feeling a little homesick and burnt out on pub food, opted for lunch at the Smokin Bones Temple Bar. I still managed to get pub nachos and Evelyn continued her search for the perfect ribs. Following lunch, we crossed the river and explored the North Lots district. It was a little seeder than Temple Bar, but we were there during the day, and I wanted to see the Famine Statue. I am not sure why I was so determined to see the statue, and in hindsight, it probably wasn’t worth the extra walking.
We headed back over the river to visit the Oscar Wilde statue. The visit to that moment was much more uplifting than the Famine Statue and helped lighten our moods a bit more. Evelyn had fun attempting to imitate Oscar Wilde’s pose.
Now it was late afternoon, and we were killing time until our scheduled tour of the Jameson Distillery. We decided to head that way by passing St Patrick’s Cathedral, Teeling Distillery , and Guinness Storehouse. We didn’t have tickets to Teeling or Guinness but hoped we could just pop in for a drink. We couldn’t at either of them. Tour tickets were required. If we would have been in Dublin over multiple days we would have done a tour at either (or both), but it would have been a bit much to do all three in one day. Evelyn did get ice cream at Teeling and I got some fun photos at Guinness.
By then, we were all spent! We arrived at Jameson about an hour before our scheduled tour in hopes that they would let us in early. They were all booked and couldn’t fit us in before our scheduled time. They did go ahead and give us our free drink tickets so we could enjoy a cocktail while we waited. Jameson was decorated beautifully inside. When we did finally get to do the tour, we thought it was very well done. The guide was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable. He got the crowd involved and even managed to hold Evelyn’s attention.
Following our tour, we decided to make the trek back to our hotel via public transit. We were so fortunate all day that the rain had held off, but it was starting to drizzle. We were also beat! Unfortunately, our train took us back through the North Lots district. We thought it was odd that several cops were on the train with us. When we got off to switch trains, the police got off the train as well. The police headed over to assist a very young man laying out on the ground (but not visibly injured). Evelyn, of course, had a lot of questions. It was a little early in the evening for all that excitement and time to get back on the other side of the river.
For dinner, we ended up at The Barge again. Rarely do we eat at the same restaurant twice while traveling. But, we enjoyed the food the night before and we were too tired to make any decisions. Unfortunately, we had to get takeout because it was already 8:30 pm. Kids were not allowed in the bar past 9:00 pm. We all slept well after a busy day with dreams of being home and in our own beds soon!
Day 30 Dublin to Home
We were up early and ready for our flight home! Thank goodness we were out of the hotel earlier than expected and headed to the airport 4 hours early. Due to poor signage and a location change, we had the hardest time locating the rental car drop-off. We arrived at the check-in desk about 3 hours before our flight. We were advised to go straight through security because we would also have to go through US immigration in the Dublin airport. We were told that it tends to get backed up. Although I was hoping for breakfast and some duty-free shopping, we did as we were told. Our global entry got us through immigration fast, but we still had little time to spare at our gate. Word of advice, get to the Dublin airport early if you are flying back to the United States. We had smooth travels home otherwise. Our only other complaint being that the showers in the JFK Delta lounge were closed due to COVID, but we managed just fine.
For us, travel not only involves learning about the culture and the history of the place we are visiting. It also leads to challenging and learning about ourselves. The goal for this trip was to see if we could manage everyday responsibilities, like schooling and working, while traveling for an extended period abroad. Evelyn was enrolled in another year of virtual school. We wanted to take advantage of the opportunity and travel as much as possible!
After our month in Ireland, we found that while we loved our mornings exploring together, the evenings were rough! When school and work time rolled around we were worn out! Then by bedtime, we were too stimulated to get the restful sleep we needed. We would not be able to continue high-paced travel in this way while also trying to complete our everyday responsibilities from a different time zone. Although that wasn’t what Tommy and I wanted to discover, we didn’t let it stifle our goal of traveling as much as possible over the next school year. We just knew that for the next abroad trip, we would need to stay in one place longer, stick to trips within our time zone, or take more vacation days while gone. Read more of our posts to see what the travel future holds for our family!