Tour Your Way through Ireland, Part II
Welcome back! Hopefully, you enjoyed the first half of the tour through Ireland. Are you ready to continue your road trip experience onto Sligo, Bushmills, and Belfast? We are heading north so it’s getting a bit cooler, depending on the time of year you are traveling you may need a light sweater or a heavy jacket.
As you head out of Galway, north towards Sligo, bear slightly east and you will come across a small, quiet village named Cong. This village is where Quiet Man, starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara was filmed in 1951. Several of the outdoor locations have been left untouched since the filming. Take a tour to learn more about the cast, crew, and filming of Quiet Man.
If you’ve worked up an appetite while exploring Cong, there are several pubs to catch a bite, one of my favorites was Danagher’s Hotel & Bar. Their traditional Irish stew is not to be missed. Explore the beautiful grounds at Ashford Castle nestled within the village. Now, it’s time to continue heading north to Sligo and Northern Ireland.
Continuing into Sligo, you’ll uncover a variety of ancient ruins known as Megalithic sites from ancient societies. One of the largest cairns – a burial site that can be explored is Carrowkeel. The hiking terrain here is great for an intermediate hiker and if you are up for a challenge, it’s worth it. Insider’s tip: Make sure to bring a good pair of sneakers or hiking boots. If you’re looking for something more relaxed, visit the Sligo Abbey, a 13th-century Friary. Definitely, go pub-hopping in Sligo and in the spirit of Ireland have a pint at one of my favorite spots – the Strand Bar or Belfry Pub.
If you continue heading North there is a small coastal village named Mullaghmore which is famous for its history. The Classiebawn Castle sits high above the village on 3,000 acres of land and can be seen from miles around. It was once the summer home of Lord & Lady Mountbatten; Lord Mountbatten was the uncle of Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh. It’s a tiny little village with amazing views and a very unique history that’s definitely worth a stop.
Traveling through Northern Ireland
Crossing into Northern Ireland one of my favorite attractions is Bushmills Distillery where there is yes, you guessed it, whiskey to taste! Take a tour through their working distillery and learn about the grain process while grabbing a sample of whiskey at the bar. Be sure to take a bottle home with you; my recommendation is purchasing a bottle of the 12-year reserve which is exclusively sold at the distillery.
For an incredible view, the Giant Causeway is not to be missed. These unique basalt column rock formations are the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. Check out the ruins of the medieval Dunluce Castle, dating back to the 1500’s and in recent years has become a filming location for the infamous, Game of Thrones. Crazy fact: the castle sits on the edge of a cliff; one night in 1693 the cliff collapsed and the castle’s kitchen fell into the sea.
Sightseeing around Belfast
Next on your adventure is the capital city of Belfast. I suggest the City Sightseeing Belfast bus tour featuring 23 stops. Your ticket is good for two full days so take your time to discover all that Belfast has to offer.
A big piece of the Titanic’s history lies in Belfast. The Titanic was built in Belfast and a portion of the original slipway remains there to this day. The Titanic Belfast tour takes you back in time to when the Titanic was built all the way through her ill-fated ending. Expect to spend hours exploring this amazing time capsule.
For more culture, the Parliament Buildings at Stormont is home to the government of Northern Ireland. A chandelier in the main entrance was gifted or loaned from Buckingham Palace; you’ll learn about the full story of the chandelier when you visit. The Queen’s University is nearby and offers daily tours of buildings dating from 1847 to 2006; it’s a unique blend of classic architecture and modern design.
If you’re looking for food and nightlife, a few of my favorites are the Bar & Grill St. James Street South which offers delicious fish and chips. Sonoma, located in the Hilton Belfast, has daily specials and a great view overlooking the river. For a little pub-hopping stay in the City Center for everything from an award-winning bar at the CAVE to traditional pubs like the Crown Bar and Kelly’s Cellar. Yet no matter where you end up, there will sure to be a seat with your name on it and a pint of Guinness or a shot of whiskey will find its way into your hands. Sláinte (Cheers!)
If you’ve ever wanted to visit Ireland don’t wait, make a plan and GO! We talked about going for over seven years before we finally made a plan and went. It was the best trip we ever had and we can’t wait to go back. There is plenty to see and explore whether you are a city pub-hopper or an outdoors adventurer, Ireland has something for you.
Know Before You Go