A few months ago, I Went on the trip of my life. I got to use my passport for the very first time, and crossed an item off of my bucket list. I went to Ireland! It was such an amazing experience, and I am finally going to write about it so that I can remember the most important things: The landscape, the history, and the castles. =]
The landscape: The Irish scenery is so varied, and so beautiful. The green rolling hills were what originally drove me to Ireland, and they certainly did not disappoint me. They were everywhere. And they were all dotted with sheep. In many places, you would also see stone fences. I am sure some of them were recently built, but I couldn’t help but imagine them being thousands of years old. There are so many architectural masterpieces that are that old, dotting the entire country. There was also the beautiful seaside. One day, we spent the whole day in the car, driving along the coast of Northern Ireland. The ocean was unbelievably blue-green, and the coastal cliffs and rocks were stunning. I had never seen anything like it. Every now and then we would stop at a particularly interesting spot and just enjoy the scenery. One of my favorite spots that we stopped was called the Giant’s Causeway. It was a natural rock formation that really reminded me of magic. There were hundreds of stone columns lining the coast. What was truly amazing, was that these columns were hexagonal in shape. They did not look natural and they were very stunning. Another beautiful natural landscape that we witnessed were the legendary Cliffs of Moher. They are the cliffs that are filmed in The Princess Bride, known as the cliffs of insanity. These also took my breath away. We spend a couple of hours just walking along the edge of the cliffs. We even sat on the edge of them and snapped a couple of pictures. That was cool. On the western side of the island, there was an expanse of bare rock covering miles of the ground. It was crazy how cool the Burren looked with just nothing but the weirdest shaped rock in the world! It was cool!
Another really cool thing that we did was take a tour of a local forest. On a Segway. Although it was winter in Ireland, the scenery in the forest was stunning. I seriously felt like I was in the heart of a mythical, magical fantasy. The trees were all lined in moss. There were several old and crumbling bridges that we crossed that were built in the 18th century.
The History: We were able to spend much of the trip driving around the beautiful country. Everywhere we went you could just look off to the side of the road and see old, ancient, crumbling buildings. Some were churches, some castles, others watch towers, some bridges and some were old cathedrals or monasteries. Oh it was so amazing to see so much history. We didn’t get a chance to talk to many of the locals, but the ones that we did get to talk to were incredible. You could tell they were all very proud of the country and their heritage. While we were there for only 6 short days, we did get to learn a little history about Ireland. One day while we were there, we toured an old 18th century house. It was interested to learn about the history of the wealthy vs. the unwealthy of the area. The servants were not treated very well. They were not allowed to be seen by anyone of their masters. Ever. And when the potato famine occurred, the landowners sent their servants to America because it was cheaper for them to do that then it was for them to keep them on their land. We also went to a potato famine and learned more about that terrible time in Ireland. We also learned about all the famous symbols that you see in Ireland. For example, my favorite symbol is the Claddagh. It is a heart, with a drown on top and two hand on each side. The heart stands for love, the hands stand for friendship, and the crown stands for loyalty. Claddagh rings are still often used as promise rings. I also learned a little bit about the high crosses, some of the churches, and a bit about an ancient burial sight called Knowth. The site pre-dates the Stonehenge and the pyramids. At the sight, on the winter solstice, or the longest day of the year, the light of the sunset creeps across the ground and illuminates the chamber, which is really cool. There were also lots of other little burial mounds across the area. It was quite neat. One of my favorite parts, though was seeing the green rolling hills around the area from the top of the mound. Actually, at one of the sights, the largest mound used to be the cite of several cities throughout the years. Apparently, across thousands of years, the cite was used for various purposes depending on the era. I thought that was cool. No one quite knows what the cite was originally used for.
The Castles: We got to stay in 5 different castles. A couple of the castles we stayed in were complete let downs. The first one we stayed in one of the “cottages” of the castles. Which sounds super romantic. Except that it really really wasn’t. It was a complete let down. I felt like we were sleeping in the attic of a cheap house. Ha ha. But I was tired enough that it didn’t matter too much. And the next castle more than made up for it. It was a 5-star place and you could tell. The bathroom floor was heated! It was super nice. The next place we stayed in was also nice. Not quite as big, but still beautiful. And it was fun to walk around and see the old suits of armor, tapestries and furniture. The last castle we stayed in… I am not sure how it was ever considered to be a castle. It definitely seemed more like a crappy hotel that was trying to be modern and trendy. But overall, we had a good time. We didn’t spend a ton of time in the hotels anyways, because we totally wanted to explore Ireland.
It was amazing! It rained the ENTIRE time and it was so windy that I often felt like I was going to blow off the side of cliffs. It even hailed a couple times and it was FREEZING. We stuck out like sore thumbs in our bright American colors and weird accents and mannerisms. We didn’t know how things worked half the time. We got lost about every twenty minutes. We never truly got used to driving down the wrong side of the road (the car has dents to prove it… oops). We loved the culture. We had a blast! I would go back in a heartbeat =]