I am not going to lie you guys, I approached the first roundabout in Dublin, Ireland in sheer terror. Driving on the opposite side of the road was the first step in my adventure, and I was not having any hiccups on my first big solo trip!
Focus on following the flow of traffic and watch a tutorial on road rules before you leave for Ireland so you know what to expect, especially in bigger cities. Driving in rural areas is much easier, which thankfully was where I wanted to do most of my sightseeing! I merged onto the highway and let out a big “WOOHOO!”. I had made it.
After my hike at the Mourne Mountains, I headed to my Airbnb in Kilcurry, Co. Louth.
The air was crisp and the sun was shining. After my host introduced me to the chickens, she asked if I wanted to walk around Carlingford. I was eager to have some company and touched by her offer to show me around!
Don’t be surprised if you get caught talking to complete strangers for 20 minutes. People in Ireland are so warm and less likely to be in a rush. I’m on board with this concept of time!
Tip: Check out Carlingford Abbey and walk along the greenway for some incredible views.
That evening I grabbed food at a local pub where I realized I was the only person below the age of 50. They were quick to make me feel right at home! I even met a lovely fellow who at one point lived in the States. I asked whereabouts and he said, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. There is no way… That is my hometown! What a small world it is.
Kinbane Castle, Ballycastle, UK
Kinbane Castle is in Northern Ireland where they use pounds not euros. Be sure to get both at the airport. You can use your debit or credit card most places, but you may be charged an international transaction fee depending on your bank. It’s never a bad idea to have some cash on you.
I was headed towards the coastal route when I saw a sign for Kinbane Castle and boy, I’m glad I did! This was not on my itinerary and it ended up being my favorite destination (I stopped there 3x throughout my stay in Ireland).
I could lay on the oddly plush/pillowy grass all day and listen to the waves crash. It was like nothing I had seen before, but dreamt of often. I felt so childlike exploring. Honestly, I was running and tripping on rocks like an idiot to ensure not to miss a thing.
As if the view couldn’t get any better, a massive rainbow formed. I couldn’t take any more of mother nature showing off! The tears started welling up. I pulled myself together as I spotted a girl and flagged her down to take a photo of me in front of the rainbow. That’s where we had our, “did we just become best friends?” moment. On our way back to our cars, Lauren shared with me places I needed to visit during my stay. She took me to Springhill Bar in Portrush a few days later to listen to traditional Irish Folk music. I also enjoyed tasting local whiskey. Yum!
Ballycastle was by far my favorite town. The people were just as delightful as the sights.
After exploring Kinbane, I went to Anglers Arms to warm up & unwind. Order a Guinness (duh). I met the sweetest locals here who were more than happy to give suggestions on what to do. The bartender even called her friend who owned a B&B up the road and that’s where I ended up staying that night. She so sweetly charged 40 pounds as opposed to her original listing, which was 60. I was booking lodging last minute because I wasn’t sure where the day would take me, but I recommend giving Airbnb hosts at least 24 hours to respond.
Slieve League – Co. Donegal, Ireland
In Irish, it’s Sliabh Liag.
Before my hike at Slieve League, I stopped to walk around a beach in Malin Beg, a small Gaeltacht village. The beach is called the Silver Strand. I almost hit a sheep on the way there, but I’d say sheep are a huge contributor to the Irish village’s charm, so it’s worth having to dodge a few here and there.
Slieve League has a trail that leads to the top of the peak. I didn’t hike that far because it was super windy, but you should definitely do it! Earn your bragging rights.
To end my day, I went to the Reveller Bar in Donegal. I met a local named Stephen who allowed me to pick the horses for him to bet on in a race that was airing. HA! You can always trust to have a good laugh and chat with the locals in Donegal. You will feel like they’re family!
Go out there and surprise yourself … Spark conversation with locals. They will be delighted to share any insight. You never know who you’ll meet.