Goodbye Dublin, Hello Edinburgh!

After an amazing time exploring Ireland on our All Ireland Rocker tour, we arrived back into Dublin in the late afternoon and said goodbye to our guide Gillian and our group mates.

Our next destination was Edinburgh. But we didn’t head for Edinburgh right away. We were advised not to book a connection out of Dublin too close to our estimated arrival time – just in case there were delays in getting back to Dublin. So we booked our flights through to Edinburgh for early the next morning at 6am.

Now we had a decision to make… book a hostel, sleep a couple of hours, wake everyone else in the room up at 4am and take the earliest bus to the airport to make our flight. Or… our other option was to hang around in Dublin that night, catch the last bus to the airport and stay the night at the airport. In the end, we decided to (save a couple bucks on accommodations and) spend the night at the airport.

Luckily for us, a couple of our group mates and new friends were staying in Dublin for a couple more days, so we decided to have one last dinner and night out in Dublin together!

While waiting for our friends to check into their hostels, Ioana and I wandered around Dublin for a little while, taking in the sights one last time before we left. It was also an opportunity to grab some last-minute souvenirs!

We all met up and headed to O’Neill’s Pub and Kitchen for dinner – a HUGE dinner, might I add!

Hard to see but O’Neill’s is the red building in the middle there! Right behind what I think is a construction zone sign… (which to me looks more like a hockey player, so the sign must mean “Hockey Game that way” =P)

We tried to have dinner here before we left for our Shamrocker tour, but it was totally packed that night and we couldn’t find a table. So we were glad we got to try O’Neill’s before we left Dublin. It was a little bit confusing figuring out how things worked at this pub, but in the end, we figured it out.

This pub is almost like a ‘cafeteria’ – you queue up, order your main and then your chosen sides are scooped onto your plate.  Some mains, such as carvery items, are already prepared and waiting for you under the hot lamps, while others items, like the Fish and Chips or sandwiches, are made to order. You grab your tray and pay for your food. Prices here are very reasonable, especially considering the portions you get! Definitely a good choice, if you are hungry after a day of walking and sightseeing!

Then came the task of finding a table, while balancing your heavy tray of food and your pint of Guinness, if you made a pit stop at the bar! We were lucky and scored a table on the second level by the bar. After a quick ‘Slainte’, we dug into our plates of food. I had the fish special that night, but my favourite thing on the plate had to be the sweet potato side dish! Ioana had something from the carvery – which might have been either the ham or the Irish Collar of Bacon. As hard as we tried, I don’t think any of us finished the entire meal that night!

After a filling dinner, we chatted and relived our tour and adventures over a couple of pints and enjoyed some Irish music and an Irish dancing performance! We even attempted to create the Claddagh ring design, which once we sobered up, we realized we had copied the design wrong! But all in all, we had a great time and it was an awesome last night in Dublin!

We tried!

After a round of goodbyes (and a see-you-soon to one of our friends who would be joining us on our Haggis Adventures tour!), Ioana and I wandered back to Temple Bar, enjoying the joviality one more time. We took the last bus out of Dublin and headed for the airport.

In hindsight, we probably should have gotten to the airport earlier. By the time we got there after midnight, much of the prime sleeping real estate (benches or couches) was already taken. We managed to snag two comfy armchairs but there really was nowhere to stretch out comfortably and – nowhere to charge our dying phones. (So far, my favourite airport for staying the night is still Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport – lots of seating, lots of comfy couches and electrical outlets!) We got a couple hours of (interrupted) sleep and then it was time to gather our things, check in and go through security.

We had what we assumed to be an uneventful flight to Edinburgh. We say this because neither of us remember any part of the flight since we fell asleep immediately after buckling our seatbelts!

After landing and picking up our luggage, we got our tickets for the Airlink service (airport to city centre express buses) and were on our way to Edinburgh’s city centre! We got off at Waverley Station and hiked our way up a WEE bit of a hill/mound to our hostel. Since we were there VERY early in the morning, our rooms weren’t ready yet. So we stowed our luggage in their luggage room and headed out to explore.

~~~~~

We stayed at Castle Rock Hostel in Edinburgh, although it would be broken down into 3 separate stays! It had a great location – just below Edinburgh Castle, just off the Royal Mile and just above Grassmarket! Close enough to everything, yet not teeming with people.

This was the view just outside the front door of the hostel – can’t beat that!!!

And here’s a view of Castle Rock Hostel from Edinburgh Castle. You can even catch a glimpse of Arthur’s Seat in the background!

The hostel had a mix of some really cool and interesting decor – from grand windows and curtains, richly decorated furniture to comfy couches, funky paintings, armour pieces… The hostel had a large self-catering kitchen, a couple of common rooms and even a “Groove Lounge” for guests to play music and jam together!

The rooms that we stayed in were clean and roomy, with plenty of space to store our backpack and luggage. The plus? Each bed had its own reading light and 2 outlets for charging our electronics =P! After this trip, we have found this to be pretty essential in any hostel room – so you don’t get 6 people all trying to charge their electronics out of 2 outlets!

Another bonus? One of the rooms we stayed in even had a view of the Edinburgh Castle! I sat up on my top bunk in the morning and this was what I saw out the window! Pretty awesome view to wake up to, if you ask me!

~~~~~

Both Ioana and I had such high expectations for Edinburgh (and Scotland for that matter!) and we were scared of setting ourselves up for disappointment. But this city definitely did not disappoint! We loved the architecture, the buildings, the history, the stories, the views – we could go on and on!

Our first stop was Edinburgh Castle – stay tuned to our next post for more on our visit to this historic castle!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

LettersofWanderlust3


© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

Shamrocker Adventures – 7 Days All Ireland Rocker

Our latest blog post was a review of the 7 days we spent wandering and exploring the beautiful country of Ireland with Shamrocker Adventures and some of our thoughts on the trip.

We also wanted to share some of our favourite moments and highlights from our All Ireland Rocker 7 days tour. We hope you enjoy our photographs and highlights. And perhaps this will help you when deciding the locations that you want to visit and the experiences you want to have whilst in Ireland.

~~~~~

Day 1: Dublin → Belfast → The Dark Hedges → Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge → Ballintoy

Highlight of the Day: One of the most memorable part of the day was the Belfast Black Cab Tour. Since we had a large group, we shared 3 cabs and got to hear from 3 different driver guides. We had driver guides from the Unionist and Nationalist sides and thus they were able to share with us the history and 2 different perspectives of the Conflicts. Although they may have different views, all three driver guides shared the same feeling and message of hope.

Overnight in¬†Ballintoy:¬†One of our favourite places – quaint town, beautiful scenery, lovely walks and friendly locals. We also thought it was a great start to the tour since being in a small town really gave us the chance to get to know our group mates. There are 2 pubs in town, a handful of restaurants and a hostel –¬†Sheep Island View Hostel, which we stayed at. We¬†slept in large hostel rooms with many roomies – so it was a good opportunity to bond and make new friends and future travel buddies! You couldn’t NOT meet new friends!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day 2: Ballintoy ‚Üí Giant’s Causeway ‚Üí¬†Derry

Highlight of the Day: The highlight of Day 2 was¬†Giant’s Causeway – without a doubt! Admission was already included in the price of our 7 day tour, so we didn’t have to worry about getting tickets or waiting in line. An audio-guide was also included and provided a good background on this UNESCO World Heritage Site and the myths and legends surrounding it. We loved exploring the area and the clifftop walk we went on gave us sweeping views of the Antrim coast and the fascinating basalt columns. A definite must-see in Northern Ireland!

Overnight in Derry: It was nice to stay in a Travelodge hotel room for a change Рa bit of a luxury after living the hostel life for the past couple of days! Especially having a comfy hotel bed each and a bathroom all to ourselves Рmade for a very nice sleep and stay here!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day 3: Derry → Westport → Croagh Patrick → Galway!

Highlight of the Day: We took in quite a few sights as we made our way from Derry in Northern Ireland to Galway in the Republic of Ireland. I think the highlight of the day was learning more about Irish history, culture and literature. I think I’m a bit of a geek this way – instead of just seeing something and snapping a photograph, I like to learn the history, the what’s, the how’s and the what happened’s. We saw Ben Bulben, which was a great source of inspiration for W.B. Yeats. After spending some time in Yeats Country, it was easy to see why he loved this area. We also heard many Irish stories, myths and legends – from faeries to the¬†Pirate Queen of Clew Bay. We learned about the role of religion in Ireland and St. Patrick. We also learned about the Great Famine, how it changed the course of history and spent some time reflecting at the National Famine Memorial.

Overnight in Galway: See next day!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day 4: Galway → Inis Mór → Dun Aonghasa → Galway!!

Highlight of the Day:

Natalie: We had such an amazing time visiting¬†Inis M√≥r. We lucked out with a beautiful day – blue skies and all! My highlight was biking around the island with our group. Our guide even took us to the world famous “Worm Hole” – which has hosted the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series twice! This little spot is not very well marked from the main road and I know I wouldn’t be able to find it on my own. There was a bit of scrambling and climbing over rocks to get there but… Wow, was it ever worth it! The views from there were stunning – crashing waves, sheer cliffs and the ocean stretching out into the horizon. I almost think this experience was better than the Cliffs of Moher… It was certainly less crowded and allowed for some time to just sit and stare off into the ocean.

Ioana: Also, remember if you don’t bike, you can take a more intimate tour of part of the island on horseback! This was my favourite part of the day and it let me experience¬†Inis M√≥r¬†in a different way! I made a couple new animal friends and learned a new skill all in one day!

Overnight in Galway: Galway is a great location to set up your basecamp for exploring the Western part of Ireland and for¬†taking in the dramatic scenery here. From Galway, you can easily get to the Cliffs of Moher, the Aran Islands and Connemara, just to name a few famous attractions on the west coast. Besides adventures in the great outdoors, Galway is also a fun city to explore – with shops, claddagh ring and jewellery shops, restaurants, dancing, music and pubs. We were told it is a fun city because it is a “student town.” But I think that’s only part of it – Galway is just a really friendly, lively and vibrant city, with a mix of locals, tourists and students all enjoying it!

We stayed in Galway for 2 nights at the Kinlay Hostel Galway. It was a large hostel, clean and had good facilities – such as the common rooms and spiffy Apple iMacs. It was also very close to Shop Street and all the pubs – which made it easy to get home after having a grand night ūüėČ

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day 5: Galway → Cliffs of Moher → Ennis

Highlight of the Day:

Ioana: The Cliffs of Moher¬†was what I had been waiting for all along!¬†Arriving at our destination we, again, didn’t have to pay for our entrance as it was included in our tour. This made it very easy for us to get in and start exploring. Needless to say, it was amazing! The grandeur and beauty of the views we saw was too marvelous to explain in words! It didn’t matter which any angle you looked at the Cliffs from, you always got a picture worthy shot. For me, this was probably my favourite part of the entire trip and although this was a very touristy destination, the sheer magnitude of these cliffs made me want to return again! This is a definite “must-visit” site on your tour of Ireland.

Overnight in Ennis: We stayed at the Rowan Tree Hostel in Ennis – we got a lovely large room and lots of space to move around in. After a nice group dinner at the Rowan Tree Cafe Bar, we¬†headed over to the¬†Knox Pub for some traditional Irish music! County Clare is known for its abundance of traditional Irish music spots, and the Knox Pub was it that night! Another definite “go-to” spot when visiting Ennis. After a couple pints, we even learned a bit of Irish dancing – which may or may not have been a success, but was definitely worth a few good laughs and good memories!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day 6: Ennis →  the town of Dingle → Dingle Peninsula and the Slea Head Drive → Killarney

Highlight of the Day:

I’ll just let this video show you the highlight of our day!

Overnight in Killarney: In Killarney, we stayed at the Neptune’s Killarney Hostel. It was a nice place to catch a couple hours of sleep after one last grand night out at the Grand! ( <– Just realized what I did there unintentionally and I’m going to leave it that way now!)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day 7: Killarney → Blarney Castle → Rock of Cashel → Dublin

Highlight of the Day:¬†On the last day of our tour, we topped it off with a visit to Blarney Castle¬†and an attempt at receiving the Gift of the Gab by kissing the Blarney Stone! Blarney Castle was an “Optional Extra” that we paid for ahead of time, when we booked our trip. Blarney Castle is much more than just the stone, however! Kissing the Blarney stone, hanging upside down from a tower might I add, was definitely the highlight of that day but there are many other sights to see! Give yourself plenty of time to explore Blarney Castle and its beautiful grounds, gardens and waterfalls!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The last day of our All Ireland Rocker 7 Days Tour flew by as we made our way back to Dublin and said goodbye to our new friends! ūüė¶

~~~~~

We truly had a great time on this tour and this experience was priceless. We met a really fun group of people on this tour and made some new friends that we still keep in touch with! It is really true that the people you travel with can make or break your trip Рespecially on a group tour like this where you are together pretty much 24/7.

This tour gave us a glimpse of the beautiful Emerald Isle and gave us some ideas for what to see and which places to add to our must-see list for our next trip to Ireland! Do you have anything that we need to add to our Ireland bucket list? Let us know below!

Hopefully our posts and reviews on our All Ireland Rocker 7 days tour have been helpful for you in deciding where in Ireland to visit, what sights to see and whether taking a guided tour of Ireland Рsuch as the Shamrocker Adventures trip that we went on, might work for you.

Next up: Edinburgh! Stay tuned!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

LettersofWanderlust3


© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

Shamrocker Adventures’ All Ireland Rocker – Final Thoughts and Review

Last September, we went on a guided tour of Ireland – Shamrocker Adventures – 7 Days All Ireland Rocker Tour. We chose it because it sounded amazingly fun, had good reviews and we wanted to learn about and see as much of Ireland as possible, with our limited vacation time and budget!

We loved this trip and are really glad we went with this choice! Here are the details of the trip we went on and also our review and thoughts! Hopefully this will help you if you are thinking about doing a similar trip!

~~~~~

Dates:
– September 19 – September 25, 2015
– 7 days, 6 nights

Thoughts: Definitely not enough to fully explore Ireland but we felt it was just enough to visit all the major sights, enough to get a feel for Ireland and enough to get a sense of the places we would like to return to in the future!

~~~~~

Included:
– Tour guide/s and driver/s
– Transportation on a coach bus
– 6 nights accommodations: at hostels, save one night at a hotel (Travelodge) in Derry.
– 6 breakfasts
– Admission fees to Giant’s Causeway and Cliffs of Moher
РBus and ferry ride to/from Inis Mór

Thoughts: It was really nice to have all of these expenses included in the price of the tour. It allowed us to budget better and have a better idea of how much money we would need whilst in Ireland. We also were able to pay this off ahead of time, giving us and our wallets some peace of mind, instead of having to paying the exchange rate and international bank fees or coming home to a huge credit card bill! We also didn’t have to worry about paying for admission fees or waiting in line to purchase tickets for Giant’s Causeway or Cliffs of Moher, which was really convenient.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

~~~~~

Pricing:
– In January 2015, priced at $789 CAD
– We booked with a 15% early booking discount, so we ended up paying $670.65 CAD for our tour
– Current pricing as of July 2016 is $929 CAD

Thoughts: We thought we got a really good deal, considering what was included in the price! It worked out to almost $100 CAD per day, which we thought was reasonable since it included accommodations, transportation, tour guide and driver, various sights and admission fees and most importantly – the EXPERIENCE! We thought our experience was DEFINITELY worth the price that we paid!

Current pricing has gone up, compared to when we went last year. However, Shamrocker Adventures always has deals and promotions that you can take advantage of, in order to bring your cost lower. We took advantage of a 15% Early Bird discount for our trip last year. Right now, there is a 10% discount for all trips in August and September 2016. As well, check out this page for 3 other ways to save:

  • the multi trip deal (get 10% off your total when you book 2 or more qualifying trips with Shamrocker Adventures, Haggis Adventures or Busabout)
  • special discount for students, which you CAN combine with the other two deals here!! 
  • special discount if you gather 3 or more friends to go on a grand adventure with you! 

*The above info was gathered in July 2016 when we wrote the article. Check out the websites above for updated details and discounts.

~~~~~

Extras we opted in for:
– Blarney Castle – $20 CAD (Current pricing: $22 CAD)
– We did opt in for the Black Cab Tour in Belfast and the Derry Walking Tour. We signed up and paid for these when we checked in on the first day in Dublin. Unfortunately, we can’t remember exactly how much we paid, but it might have been around 15 Euros?!
– Current pricing for the Belfast Black Cab Tour is $25 CAD and the Derry Walking Tour is $9 CAD.

Thoughts: It was nice that there were some optional activities – which allows you to choose another activity if the suggested one doesn’t appeal to you. For example, we opted for the Black Cab Tour in Belfast to learn more about the history of the city. Some of our group mates opted to make their own way to Titanic Belfast to learn more about the Titanic instead.  

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

~~~~~

Not included:
– Admission fee to Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
– Admission fee Dunluce Castle (probably not enough time to fully enjoy it for the short period of time that our group stopped here)
– Activities on Inis M√≥r (for example: bike rental or horseback riding or pony and cart tour or bus up to D√ļn Aonghasa)
– Lunch, dinner and snacks
– Drinks
– Souvenirs and extras

Thoughts: What we (and many of our group mates) liked about a tour like this, is the freedom to choose some of your own activities and meals! If you don’t want to do anything else on Inis M√≥r besides sitting by the harbour to enjoy the view, you can. If you want to save money by cooking your own meals at the hostel, you can. On the other hand, if you don’t want to cook, you can opt to eat out at a restaurant. Our guides had lots of recommendations and were very knowledgeable about all the places we stopped in. Our guides even organized dinners and our own “pub crawl” for us.  You are free to partake in these or do you own thing – whatever you want! We liked that you could “personalize” your trip, according to your own preferences! 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

~~~~~

Final Thoughts:

We would definitely recommend this tour!

We liked the itinerary of this tour and thought it was very well planned. The trip followed a logical loop around Ireland and there was no backtracking or repeating places that we had already seen. Of course, we would have liked more time in some places to explore further but at least this trip gave us an idea of what cities, towns and sights we want to see on our next trip to Ireland!

We visited the major cities and attractions of Ireland and Northern Ireland, like Belfast, Giant’s Causeway, the Cliffs of Moher, Inis M√≥r, Galway and the Dingle Peninsula. But we also stopped at smaller, quaint places, like Ballintoy, Westport and Ennis. So we felt we got a feel of Ireland, and not just the big cities!

These tours are geared towards the 18 – 35 year old crowd, with its activities and accommodations. But that’s not to say that if you are over 35 that you are not welcome! Some of our group mates were over 35 and I think we all had a good time together!

One thing we didn’t know ahead of time, was that there would be people joining and leaving the tour midway. On the 4th day, we had a new group and tour guide join us. We had all thought everyone on our tour would be together for the whole 7 days, but some left after 5 days. We also lost our first guide and driver on the 5th day, with the other tour guide taking over. Everything worked out well in the end, but we missed our friends who left on day 5 and there was an obvious divide between the two groups. Our first guide even made all of us promise to be nice to the new group… not sure what he thought we would do! But all in all, we thought it was ok and understood why they needed to do this.

There is quite a bit of “adventures and exploring!” We were walking every single day – scrambling up and down hills, jumping over rocks and hiking up and down stairs. So we would recommend bringing some sturdy runners or hiking shoes. Of course, there are always alternatives if you’re feeling tired or if adventures and exploring is not your cup of tea. For attractions like the Cliffs of Moher, Inis M√≥r and Giant’s Causeway, you are given free time to spend as you choose. While we were on Inis M√≥r, I went along with our guide for an epic island bike ride and adventure, while Ioana explored the island on horseback. At the Cliffs of Moher, we chose to take a long walk around the cliffs, but there is always the option to stay in the visitor centre or to sit on the benches outside and enjoy the fresh air and scenery. At Giant’s Causeway, you could take the clifftop walk to the Amphitheatre, or you might take the shuttle bus down to see the spectacular basalt columns making up the causeway. So, even if you prefer to look at the scenery from afar or through the bus window instead of trekking through it, we think you can still enjoy this tour!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Overall, we give the All Ireland Rocker 7 days tour that we went on: 10 sheep out of 10!

Google's Sheep  Google's Sheep Google's Sheep  Google's Sheep Google's Sheep Google's Sheep Google's Sheep Google's Sheep Google's Sheep Google's Sheep

We had a blast exploring Ireland and Northern Ireland! We learned a lot about its history, its stunning geology and landscapes, and heard some fascinating stories, literature, myths and legends. We took some great photographs and had an amazing experience. We also made new friends that we still keep in touch with – thank you Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram!

Check out this next post for a recap of our trip and our favourite moments and highlights!

Have you been on this trip before? Or another guided trip like this? How did you find it? Let us know below!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

LettersofWanderlust3


© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

Shamrocker All Ireland Rocker Day 7: Blarney Castle

After six amazing days on the road with our All Ireland Rocker tour, we had finally reached the last day and County Cork!

Day 7 started by leaving Killarney and all of its fun behind us – so we can go find the Gift of the Gab at Blarney Castle.

Blarney Castle, County Cork

I was so excited to finally go exploring in an Irish Castle!


Blarney Castle is a medieval stronghold near County Cork. It’s still quite well preserved and was one of my favourite places to visit on the tour. Lucky for us, the entrance fee for Blarney Castle was an optional “add-on” activity that we had purchased ahead of time when we booked our Shamrocker tour. So we didn’t have to pay or stand in line to purchase tickets. If you are travelling without a tour, tickets are¬†‚ā¨12.50 if you order them online!¬†(FYI – the cost was $20CAD when we purchased our tour.)

Its height and stone walls were magnificent and our Irish luck continued – giving us a gorgeous sunny day to explore the castle and its grounds!

image

image

As mentioned earlier, we were here to gain the Gift of the Gab. Similar to every other location we visited in Ireland, Blarney Castle was not an exception when it came to myth, folklore and fascinating stories.

image

The most famous being the Blarney Stone, of course. The Blarney Stone is set into a wall below the Battlements, and it has a most unique tradition attributed to it.

There are many different versions as to the story related to the Blarney Stone.

“Some say it was Jacob‚Äôs Pillow, brought to Ireland by the prophet Jeremiah. Here it became the Lia Fail or ‚ÄėFatal Stone‚Äô, used as an oracular throne of Irish kings ‚Äď a kind of Harry Potter-like ‚Äėsorting hat‚Äô for kings. It was also said to be the deathbed pillow of St Columba on the island of Iona. Legend says it was then removed to mainland Scotland, where it served as the prophetic power of royal succession, the Stone of Destiny.

When Cormac MacCarthy, King of Munster, sent five thousand men to support Robert the Bruce in his defeat of the English at Bannockburn in 1314, a portion of the historic Stone was given by the Scots in gratitude ‚Äď and returned to Ireland.” – Blarney Castle

What the people in the region believe is, of course, more mythical:

“Whatever the truth of its origin, we believe a witch saved from drowning revealed its power to the MacCarthys.”¬†– Blarney Castle

image

image

image

Can you spot the person lying down to kiss the Blarney Stone?

After climbing up some very steep steps, with very narrow corridors, we finally arrived at the top of the Battlements.

Along the way, as you walk up, there are several rooms in their original states that give you a glimpse of what life may have been like in medieval Ireland!

 

 

Once we reached the top, we watched as other people gained the Gift of the Gab and got excited for our experience… There can be quite a wait, so be prepared and make sure you leave enough time to explore the rest of the castle and grounds!

image

We also couldn’t help continuing our “gazing off into the distance” tradition while we waited!

image

image

In order to gain the Gift of the Gab, there is an interesting tradition to kissing the stone, as you can see below…

“Once upon a time, visitors had to be held by the ankles and lowered head first over the battlements. Today, we are rather more cautious of the safety of our visitors. The Stone itself is still set in the wall below the battlements. To kiss it, one has to lean backwards (holding on to an iron railing) from the parapet walk. The prize is a real one as once kissed the stone bestows the gift of eloquence.”¬†– Blarney Castle

Thank goodness we didn’t get held by the ankles! But, it was still exciting to be held upside down as you kiss a stone that tons of people had been kissing for centuries!!!

image

image

The view from the top of the tower gave us a chance to see just how extensive the grounds of Blarney Castle were!

image

Once we reached the bottom, we decided to explore the rest of the grounds with what little time we had left!

We had two choices of garden – which we, obviously, chose to go in the direction of the Poison Garden ;).

image

There were many interesting plants that we were warned to not “Touch, Eat or Smell any plant!”

For any Harry Potter fans out there, the garden actually had a European mandrake! You can pretend you are in Herbology and imagine¬†pulling out a screeching mandrake!!! ūüôā
image

Walking along, we just kept getting amazed by the amazing nature surrounding us. We were more than a little fascinated by this tree and its gigantic limbs!
image

We also happened to stumble upon a waterfall in a secluded Fern Garden and Waterfall!!! It was so beautiful and peaceful, if you have time to just sit and enjoy nature while you visit, this is the place to do so.
image

image

Walking along, we stumbled upon Blarney House. This is the ancient seat of the MacCarthy’s of Muskerry. The house is still inhabited and at times open to the public, but it was closed when we visited.
image

image

Since the area was so quiet, we figured we should claim the house for our own and again continued our tradition of taking pictures with epic doorways!
image

image

We continued walking and found more gardens! They just kept getting more and more beautiful as we walked along!
image

Sadly we didn’t spot any Leprechauns, but we were quite convinced they lived in this magical area!

image

While walking around, we also came across what our friend called an Igloo for the Canadians! We had to take a picture in it, since clearly it reminded us of home! A little piece of Canada in Ireland ;).


After wandering for a bit, we finally made it to the Wishing Steps! It is said that the Witch constantly uses wood from the Grounds for herself and as a result she must grant wishes to her visitors!

image

In order for the Witch to grant your wish, you must walk down the steps backwards (some even say with your eyes closed) while only thinking of the wish you want granted. If you can do that, then it is¬†guaranteed that your wish will come true! Of course, it’s easier said than done…image

This area is also home to the Witch’s Kitchen, Sacrificial Altar and Waterfalls! We won’t spoil all the stories for you, so you will just have to go and find out more about these ones on your own ;).

image

Continuing our walk, we came upon our first STANDING STONES of the trip РThe Seven Sisters!!! I was more than a little bit excited, because of COURSE I had watched Outlander and figured this was my first chance at finding the stone that would take me back in time and to Jamie Fraser (YES, wrong country, but, I had to try).

To know the story behind these stones, you will have to visit Blarney Castle yourself!

image

image

Blarney Castle, County Cork

After attempting to find Jamie Fraser, we had to take our leave from Blarney Castle – without having seen everything on the grounds! There are so many more parts of the grounds that we didn’t have a chance to explore, so we will definitely be returning to Blarney Castle and County Cork in the future!

If you want more information and to plan your own visit to Blarney Castle, you can do so here.

After grabbing a quick lunch and some souvenirs from the extensive Blarney Castle gift shop, we got back on the bus and started our journey back to Dublin :(.

~~~~~

On our way back, Gillian continued to point out historic sites and we made one last stop at the Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary.

We first stopped at the side of the road, to catch a glimpse of it.
image

“The Rock of Cashel was the traditional seat of the¬†kings of Munster¬†for several hundred years prior to the¬†Norman invasion. In 1101, the King of Munster,¬†Muirchertach Ua Briain, donated his fortress on the Rock to the¬†Church. The picturesque complex has a character of its own and is one of the most remarkable collections of¬†Celtic art¬†and¬†medieval architecture¬†to be found anywhere in Europe.¬†Few remnants of the early structures survive; the majority of buildings on the current site date from the 12th and 13th centuries.” – Wikipedia

And then we made a stop at a carpark near the bottom of the Rock of Cashel, where we could stretch our legs and explore a wee bit. Unfortunately for us, the structure was being restored at the time and we didn’t have enough time to actually go up and visit the Rock of Cashel. We did manage to wander down a road and catch another angle of the Rock of Cashel – the side without any evidence of construction!

Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary

If you want to find more information about the Rock of Cashel, you can do so here.

~~~~~

Near the carpark, we came across the¬†Br√ļ Bor√ļ sculpture. This amazing sculpture represents the traditional music, song and dance that is attributed to¬†Br√ļ Bor√ļ, the Irish Cultural Movement. The fluidity of the sculpture is amazing and definitely encompasses the passion that the Irish have for song and dance!
image

Of course we tried to recreate the sculpture ourselves. It turned out much better than I thought it would!

The Br√ļ Bor√ļ Dancers, County Tipperary

Unfortunately, quickly after this short stop, our Shamrocker All Ireland Rocker tour ended :(. We arrived back in Dublin and had to say goodbye to Gillian and many of our new friends – although we would reunite with one of our new friends in Edinburgh on our Haggis Adventures tour!

~~~~~

It was a whirlwind of a tour! Having hiked, walked, taken 1000’s of pictures and seen so many beautiful sights, we were lucky to have been part of such an amazing tour group with some pretty amazing tour guides!

We found a new love for Ireland! We left part of our souls in the Atlantic in Coumeenole, so we know we will be returning to this amazing country that is filled with such vibrant culture, rich traditions and mythical stories sooner rather than later!

Stay tuned for more of our adventures from last year with our next stop: Scotland!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie
LettersofWanderlust3


© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

Shamrocker All Ireland Rocker Day 6: Slea Head Drive Part 2

Let’s take you back to the West Coast of Ireland and finish off our day on the Dingle Peninsula

~~~~~

After leaving our souls behind at Coumenoole Beach, we continued on the Slea Head Drive Рleaving the Sleeping Giant behind.

received_10101712311186661.jpeg

The Sleeping Giant – pretty cool, eh?

Our next stop was Clogher Head (Not the same as ‘Clogherhead’ in County Louth!), where we had a nice view of the crashing waves, the beaches and the Three Sisters peaks in the background. Even though it had become stormy-looking, we didn’t mind it one bit! In fact, I thought it added to the atmosphere and the scenery.

wp-1463942147886.jpg

This would probably look completely different on a sunny and calm day! But I kinda like it stormy! ūüėČ

received_10101712311221591.jpeg

image

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Spotted some misty islands out there… Not sure which ones they are, though!

received_10101712311216601.jpeg

After enjoying the scenery, the stormy clouds and the waves, we piled back onto the bus for our next stop.

~~~~~

Next up was Inch Beach – a beautiful long stretch of sandy beach. If there were no clouds and it was bathed in bright sunshine, you would probably think this was somewhere tropical. But nope, this is Ireland and the Atlantic Ocean!

wp-1463942120286.jpg

The beautiful view that greeted us as we stepped off the bus…

image

Just gorgeous – the sun even decided to make an appearance!

image

image

As the sun set against the backdrop of clouds, it made for some pretty special photographs!

received_10101712311241551.jpeg

received_10101712311251531.jpeg

image

And just like that… our adventures on the Slea Head Drive and the Dingle Peninsula were over. But we got some awesome photographs and memories with our travel mates out of it!

~~~~~

Review: What a spectacular drive this was! ¬†The Dingle Peninsula and the Slea Head Drive are definitely worth a visit! The amazing scenery and the feeling of being immersed in nature on the Wild Atlantic Way¬†is just amazing! We would love to return and spend more time here – maybe do some camping and hiking in the area. Although I don’t know if I would be brave enough to take on these winding and narrow roads… ¬†To be honest, I would also probably get distracted by the gorgeous scenery and forget I was driving…

If driving is not an option, there are various guided tours that leave out of Dingle or Killarney Рso that could work. Some people will hire a bike and cycle the Slea Head Drive! That would be a pretty cool adventure and workout! 

The Slea Head Drive is definitely something we would recommend if you are headed to the west coast of Ireland!

Have you driven the Slea Head Drive? How did you find it? Let us know in the comments below!

~~~~~

After an amazing day of adventures and exploring, we headed into Killarney for the last night of our All Ireland Rocker tour. It was too bad we only had the one night in Killarney. There seemed to be a lot in the area to discover and explore – from the Killarney National Park, the Ring of Kerry, the mountains, the lakes to the historic castles/houses in the area. And of course, we can’t forget about the Traditional Irish music and the pubs!

We stayed at Neptune’s Hostel in Killarney. It was nice, clean and central to everywhere we needed to be in Killarney.

That night, with Gillian leading us, we all trooped over to a restaurant for a group dinner. Then as a group, we wandered over to The Grand, where there was to be live music and a DJ as well.

image

Earlier that afternoon…. Gillian had a warning for us: the Checkered¬†Shirt Brigade. She told us of the men in Killarney and their tradition of wearing… you guessed it – checkered shirts, to the Grand. It seems they must know when the backpacking tours get into Killarney and tend to come out in full force on those nights! They seem to have deduced that the ratio of males to females on these tours is a bit off and wanted to “balance” it out ūüėõ (We thought – belatedly, how funny it would be if we also wore our checkered shirts and what their reactions would be! Maybe next time!)

That night at the Grand, we did see some members of the Checkered Shirt Brigade but they didn’t give us much trouble! ¬†There was a cover band that night and after they finished playing, we stepped into the adjacent room, which housed the nightclub. There was lots of dancing and grand craic to be had that night, which was perfect for our last night together!

image

Wandering back to the hostel through the quiet streets of Killarney in the middle of the night, with our ears ringing from the music, made us sad that the next day was the last day of our All Ireland Rocker Tour ūüė¶

But! There were still adventures to be had on this last day – as we go in search of the “Gift of the Gab!”¬†Stay Tuned for Day 7!

Ioana and Natalie
LettersofWanderlust3


© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

 

 

Ladurée РDublin

We’re back home in Vancouver – after enjoying our day in Dublin and our¬†2 weeks¬†in Italy! Italy is so beautiful – with the breathtaking scenery, the incredible history and the amazing architecture. We didn’t want to leave! Having said that… we were itching¬†to get back to the slightly cooler temperatures of Vancouver (Roma was 37C!!) and the refreshingly delicious water back home (The water anywhere else just doesn’t taste the same!!).

While we were in Italy, we – along with our backpacks (Mine is named Jamie Fraser…) got around by train quite a bit, which provided plenty of time for staring out at the window at the passing countryside, thinking, reflecting, napping and… even some blogging! But blogging with my little old smartphone made it harder to format posts and photographs, so I’m definitely happy to be back home and back on my laptop again! (Might have to figure out how to stuff the laptop into the backpack on our next trip!)

So without another long winded story, here’s our next post – started on the train ride from Firenze to Venezia!

~~~~~

After having ice cream from Murphy’s in Dublin, we stumbled upon a Ladur√©e down the street. It felt a bit strange to be having French macarons in Dublin, but when the shop was right there, we knew we had to stop in for a treat. Since we had just finished our ice cream, we decided to come back later that evening to try some of their famous macarons.

After doing some (window) shopping on Grafton Street, we wandered back to Ladurée.

image

They always have such lovely shops! This one was similar in decor to the one that I visited in Paris Рbut on a smaller scale. A Ladurée recently opened up in Vancouver but neither of us have had the chance to visit it yet.

image

We walked up to the counter, where were perhaps a dozen different flavours of macarons in the display case. Again, being very indecisive, it took us a while to settle on some flavours.

We finally ended up with these: Rose Petal, Marie Antoinette, Lemon and Strawberry Candy.

The Rose Petal:

This had a really distinctive rose flavour but it wasn’t overpowering at all. Soft and delicate – just like a rose!

image

The Marie Antoinette:

This was inspired by their Marie Antoinette tea, which is described as – “A delicious marriage of Chinese and Indian black teas combined with rose petals, citrus fruit and honey.” It had a strong tea flavour, which was very interesting to taste in a macaron. (It also had an interesting colour, which may have been what drew us to it initially!)

image

The Lemon:

This macaron had a nice and refreshing lemon flavour. It was enjoyable and classic but it wasn’t very special or unique.

image

The Strawberry Candy:

This was our favourite! It smelled like strawberries and candy and tasted even better! It had a strong strawberry flavour and the filling was marshmallow! The marshmallow filling was chewier and stretchy Рdifferent from the fillings of the other marcons. All in all, we enjoyed it and this macaron tasted very much like a strawberry marshmallow candy!

image

These macarons were the perfect early evening snack to tide us over to dinner! ūüôā

If you want to try something different in Dublin, we definitely recommend going to Ladur√©e for a small treat ūüėČ.

Ioana and Natalie

LettersofWanderlust3


© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

Murphy’s Ice Cream – Dublin

When we were in Dingle last September, we tried Murphy’s Ice Cream. It was so deliciously creamy and they had such interesting flavours!

So when we discovered that they had a location in Dublin, we knew we had to make a stop there when we were in town this time around.

We dropped our luggage off at the hostel after getting into Dublin and headed to Wicklow Street to find us some ice cream!

image

They were handing out samples of the Dreamy, Creamy Caramel. I personally thought it was a bit too sweet for my taste, but Ioana loved it and settled for that as her choice.

As for me… I tried a couple of samples – lavender, dingle sea salt and brown bread. If you know me, you’ll know that I’m the most indecisive person in the world, even when deciding on something as trivial as ice cream flavours! I finally decided to go with Irish Coffee and Kieran’s Cookies for my flavours. (Yes, I didn’t try any of those… but they turned out to be good choices!)

As with the ice cream we had in Dingle, both of our choices were delicious, flavourful and creamy. I’m thinking Murphy’s needs to come and open a store in Vancouver!

image

After having the ice cream, we stumbled upon Ladur√©e…. and of course, we had to make a stop later that evening! Watch for our next post to see what we had from Laduree!

Ioana and Natalie

LettersofWanderlust3


© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!