I began my solo backpacking trip in the UK and while I was close by I thought why not see Ireland too? I pictured rolling green hills, luscious grass (think that Windows desktop display), big stone hedge things, and well, I hear the Irish are amongst the friendliest and welcoming folk in the world. With only 10 days I decided joining a tour would be the best way to see as much as I could in a short amount of time!
I was still in Germany finishing my exams when I was planning the first few weeks of my solo trip. I did a lot of research on what I wanted to see in Ireland, the price of hostels, and getting around and it turned out that joining a tour group is THE way to see Ireland. The other option is renting a car and doing a road trip – kind of like if you wanted to explore the south/north coast of Australia or go around Tasmania. But I was travelling solo and didn’t have an international driver’s permit so that wasn’t an option for me. After some more research I went with Shamrocker Adventure tours :D.
The sights and attractions of Ireland are very much nature based and spread out over a natural landscape. We probably spent just as much time in the tour van as we did exploring sites but the flexibility of being in a small group with a very informative guide was well worth it. Here’s some of the cool stuff I got to experience!
My first Guinness
I’m no fan of beer or alcohol (or anything carbonated really) but this is one drink the Irish are proud for lending to the rest of the world and well, if I’m gonna try the best of the best, why not here?
I headed out to a bar with some of the crew after we settled into our accommodation and though I wasn’t keen on drinking, I should get out and socialise right? I didn’t want to buy a whole pint of Guiness so one of the girls let me try hers and let me tell ya – it was smooOOOOooooOOoth!!! No bubbles what-so-ever! It was almost like a really dense but not heavy vanilla coke haha. We chilled for a bit and the pub owner even let a few of us pour our own Guinness (apparently they normally charge like $50 to do that!)
I haven’t had a Guinness since 🙂
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
This was an awesome sight off the coast of Ireland and I forget what it’s famous for, but the cliff face and greenery made it stunning. We caught a guy proposing to his girlfriend on the bridge actually! Not so wise in my opinion because well – what if he dropped the ring down below? And it was a SUPER windy day!! All was well – she said yes 😛
While the wheels were a-rollin’ our groovy guide with long luscious orange hair and scruffy beard would sing to us and teach us a thing or two about Irish culture and slang. His accent was a tad difficult to catch sometimes but boy did he have some knowledge on Irish culture and history. The only thing I really remember is the word ‘Feck!’
Traditional Irish music at a pub
I think it was a pub / dancefloor? I don’t know but I went pub-hopping with the young crew and we ended up finding our tour guide at one of them, singing with the live-band. He was obviously well known to the guys there not to mention drunk off his face! I loved the local community feel and cheery atmosphere – there was old folk, young folk, and everyone was engaged in delightful conversation and connecting eye-to-eye. Nothing like Sydney clubs where all you get is DOOF DOOF DOOF, people grinding in the dark and drinks being poured to an overworked cash till. (Okay, there are some nice places in Sydney, but Irish pubs are better 🙂 hehe)
Cliffs of Moher
Of all attractions in Ireland I was most looking forward to seeing the Cliffs of Moher! Sadly it was a windy and rainy day and it wasn’t as fantastic as I imagined but it was still worth seeing! The landscape is HUGE and worth spending a couple of hours exploring the cliff faces to the left and right. There’s also a hill you can walk/run straight to the end to and we took some daring photos. It’s quite dangerous and easy to fall to your death though. Most of the pathway is blocked off by barriers but we were able to sneak a few silly photos before the patrol officers came whistling at us 😛
If open landscapes of greenery, tranquil nature, and low-lying clouds is your calling, Ireland is full of it. I know you can find green land everywhere, but there is something unique about Ireland that’ll have your camera batteries running out in a Jiffy.
How did I find travelling alone on tour?
I didn’t give much thought to the fact that I’d be alone on tour and this kind of honed in on the first couple of days. Our group was 11 but it was made up of an Indian family, 2 girls from Melbourne, a girl from USA and a group of 3 that were doing a working holiday in UK. Although they were all around my age (except the Indian family) I didn’t quite ‘hit it off’ with anyone but they were all really friendly so it was okay. But when it came to checking in to accommodation we always had to split up in a group of 5 and 6 and none of the young guys were keen to bunker in with the Indian family so I always ended up volunteering. Sometimes I did feel left out as they socialised more with each other but I tried not to let it bother me too much.
On one of the nights the Indian family actually sat together on the floor and made some chai and brought out some sweet cookies. They were so lovely to include me and I had a wonderful time getting to know them. It felt like I was having a little Indian cultural experience in the heart of Ireland haha ^_^
Ireland attracts a certain type of traveller and instills a wandering spirit within anyone who walks its marvellous landscapes. Of course you got your Lord of the Ring fans too, but I would think Ireland to be the road-tripping kind of country when you’re in your 40-60’s. The towns you come by and chill places to visit make it a super chillax travelling experience at any age though!