Ireland is a destination filled with culture, tradition and of course Guinness. When we think of Ireland things that pop into mind are probably the perfect pint, awe inspiring cliffs and green as far as the eye can see. These are all true and just as magnificent as you can imagine, but there is so much more. Especially, for the Millennial traveler. I booked my 8-day vacation with my travel agent and took off with Contiki on the Ireland in Depth Explorer.
The first stop along my route was Dublin. Here you get a mix of tradition and true Irish grit that will leave you searching the stores for a tweed sport coat and combat boots. Listening to Irish trad music (Irish traditional music) in the Temple bar area of Dublin was the quintessential way to start off this Irish adventure. When you order a Guinness don’t reach for it before the perfect pour is complete. In Ireland to pour a proper Guinness it takes 119.5 seconds. If it is not done correctly the bar tender will dump it out and start again.
As the adventure around the Emerald Isle continued we took a lunch stop in picturesque Kilkenny. Here we did a 5-mile bike ride around the quaint little town and learned of its rich history. Even someone who has no Irish heritage will feel a pull to this town. After a quick lunch we were off to our final destination of the day, Cork. Here we swapped our Guinness for Jameson as we took on the distillery tour in Middleton. This tour is a prime example of mixing true Irish culture with a relaxing Millennial style experience. We learned about the history of whiskey making in Ireland and got to see the process on a small group tour which ended with Jameson samples.
On the third day of the Ireland in Depth Explorer we head to Blarney, to kiss the infamous stone. Yes, it’s as exhilarating as you think. Only the brave can be slid over the edge of a building to kiss a rock that millions have done before them. But, it is worth it and if you live to tell the tale you will be blessed with the gift of the gab. Day 3 was jam packed with the essential Irish experiences, so of course our next stop was the Cliffs of Moher and a night in Galway. The cliffs are breathtaking, exciting and really only for the brave of heart. With people inching as close as possible to the edge for the perfect selfie it is not for those afraid of heights. Later that evening we retreated to Galway where we enjoyed a night out on the town, tasting the local favorites like fish and chips and sipping on a few pints. Make sure to try out different pubs as they all have their own unique vibes and tons of live music.
As the trip continued we headed north to the land of divide, where 20 years ago no tourist dared to venture. Northern Ireland is a separate country from Ireland, owned and governed by England. We were given the option to take a walking tour, which I would highly recommend, to learn about the hardships of this divided country and the infamous Sunday Bloody Sunday. Northern Ireland has a completely different feel from its southern counterpart. It is full of recent history that has its citizens pledging strict allegiants to Britain while neighbors live and die by a united Ireland.
In Northern Ireland we visited Derry/Londonderry, it goes by two names depending on if you are speaking to someone from Ireland or Northern Ireland, Giant’s Causeway and Belfast. Giant’s Causeway provides views and lore that rival Blarney Castle. And Belfast is a refreshing Urban escape after days of quaint Irish towns. Stop at the Titanic museum in Belfast and take in the culture in a local pub to see how different Northern Ireland is from the trad pubs in Ireland.
On the final day we arrive back to Dublin to visit all the last minute tourist attractions and gather our souvenirs. Trinity College library offers Instagram worthy photo ops and the Guinness Storehouse tour truly wrap up the Ireland experience. If you are looking for the best views in all of Dublin head to the 360 bar in the Guinness Storehouse, as it gives a full 360-degree view of the city.
Whether your ancestors hail from the Emerald Isle or you are just looking to take in some Irish culture there is something to be found for all travelers in magnificent Ireland. Getting to do a loop around the entire country is a way to see how individual cities change the way you think of tradition in Ireland and leave you with a great perspective on how both Ireland and Northern Ireland have arrived at this moment in history.