My first trip to Ireland was Mother’s Day of 1997. I was six months old and I obviously have no recollection of our trip, but looking back on all the pictures of my Dad holding me at the Cliffs of Moher, being bundled in a white wool blanket, and sitting at a vibrant pub in Temple Bar were, in hindsight, a foreshadowing of this abroad experience. Here I am nearly twenty-one years later and experiencing Ireland all on my own. While I’ve visited Ireland several times before, this experience has turned out to be an incredibly transformative and refreshing experience for my education and creativity. I have the opportunity to walk through the front gates of Trinity College Dublin and call the iconic campus my own. I have had to pinch myself over the last two weeks because an opportunity that I long awaited is finally a reality.
While each country I visit is unique in its own regard, there is something very special about Ireland. Maybe it’s the fact that my extended family resides in Ireland or that I naturally feel very much at home here. Whether you have Irish blood or not, Ireland is most definitely a must-see country for several reasons. Over the past few weeks I have had the opportunity to experience both the West and East Coasts of Ireland. It’s a relatively small island with vast landscape, vibrant culture, and overwhelmingly friendly locals. From the city to the cliffs, here are a few of my favorite experiences from the last two weeks:
- Malahide Castle: Just a quick train ride from center city Dublin, this seaside town is the perfect weekend escape. Whether you enjoy watching the boats sail into the harbor, catching up with friends over coffee in quaint cafés, or roaming the grounds of a 12th century castle, visiting this town is the perfect reprieve from the bustling city life.
- Kilmainham Gaol: This just might be one of my favorite historical sites in all of Ireland. Now a museum, this former prison is where many of the Irish revolutionaries, including the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising, were imprisoned and killed by the British. Students can get a tour of the jail for only four euros where the guide will walk you through the incredibly rich history of the building. The stories of those once imprisoned will blow your mind and make you appreciate Irish history so much more.
- Book of Kells & the Old Library: Not many students can say they have 9th century artifact in their school’s library. Trinity College houses one of the most significant works of literature and art in history. Part of your admission ticket includes a walk through the Long Room in the Old Library that dates back to the 16th century. Everyone’s jaw drops as they walk through the doors. It’s just something you can’t miss during your trip.
- Cliffs of Moher: It’s Heaven on Earth! The Cliffs are one of the very few places I could stare at forever. It’s where the land meets the sea in the most incredibly beautiful way. The vibrant green grass, stunning cliffs, and fierce waves make for the most idyllic experience. There are several tour groups that leave from Dublin in the morning, visit the West Coast, and return in one day. There aren’t many countries where you can do this, so don’t miss out on seeing this wonder, even if you just have a few days in the country!
- Galway: I love this seaside city because it’s smaller than Dublin and filled with incredibly vibrant culture. The small streets are packed with shops, cafés, and pubs. I love passing by talented performers that light up the streets. Don’t miss the original creator of the Claddagh ring, Thomas Dillon's Claddagh Gold, which was established in 1750! It’s the quaintest little shop that sells one of Ireland’s strongest symbols.
I have so much more to explore and a lot that I haven’t mentioned, but there is an immense amount of history in Ireland that has made me appreciate my heritage in a new way. I am constantly amazed by the diversity of landscape and strong ties to its rich history. I am eager to experience more and see how Ireland fits in the greater story of our world in the past, today, and in the future.