I’d never considered Ireland a destination for travel before our trip. My (mis)conception of Ireland resembled Pittsburgh; cold, rainy, and gray. I had my first and what I thought would be my last Guinness many St. Patrick Day’s ago. I didn’t enjoy it and I had no desire to try it again. To be frank, Ireland isn’t a country that I imagine many black people visit. But things change. My taste in beer developed and I married a white man with an Irish, Welsh and German heritage.
Mark is a compliance tester for a bank that owns a payment processing company with locations throughout the world. He has a complex job that requires him to travel domestically and internationally. Mark’s first international destination was to Dublin, Ireland and I “agreed” to accompany him.
We had to wait until Mark’s travel dates were confirmed before we could book our trip. With just two weeks to plan, I reached out to friends and posted on travel sites for advice. We wanted to make the most of our time and have a quality experience rather than see numerous places for a short time. We received an overwhelming amount of advice but only one recommendation met our expectations. Surprisingly it was for Northern Ireland. We decided to visit Giant’s Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede and Dunluce Castle with a few stops along the way.
And off we went! We stayed in Dublin for one day after traveling for several hours and to adjust to the time difference. We went on a Tour of Trinity College and saw the Book of Kells, we visited the Dublin Castle, and went on a lengthy but very informative (if you’re a nerd) historical walking tour.
The next day we departed Dublin about 9:00am to pick-up our rental car at the airport. In Ireland and the UK, motorist drive on the left side of the road and are seated on the right side of the car. Most cars are manual and renting an automatic car can become expensive. Mark hasn’t had much success learning to drive a manual and I can manage on a flat terrain. Fortunately for us we were able to rent an automatic Citron Cactus for less than €30 per day.
Brú na Bóinne
Our first stop was an archeological site about 40km north of Dublin city. Brú na Bóinne, a World Heritage Site in County Meath, is the location of three well-known passages tombs: Knowth, Newgrange, and Dowth. Reservations cannot be booked in advance, so we arrived early to secure seats on the first available shuttle. Mark and I were booked for the 11:15 tour for Newgrange and we had 30 minutes to explore the Centre Exhibition. Each site takes about 1.5 hours to visit (30 minute round-trip bus ride and 1 hour at the site including a 30 minute tour). Allocate 4 hours of you want to visit both tombs, the visitor center, and for wait time.
Newgrange is a large circular mound covering an area of over one acre. But the inside reveals the architecture and craftsmanship of the time, about 3200 BC. The tomb is narrow and we had to turn sideways at various points when entering. There are three recesses/chambers each with a basin on the floor that held the remains of the dead. Many of the stones had intricate carvings like that of the entrance stone. Unfortunately photos are not permitted on the inside of the tomb. There is also a roof-box above the entrance that illuminates once a year during the Winter Solstice.
Causeway Coastal Route
Because we didn’t have a scheduled itinerary for the afternoon, we decided to drive route A2, the Causeway Coastal Route to Portrush. There are nine scenic routes that branch off the main route with a variety of landscapes including the nine Glens (valleys) of Antrim. We accessed the A2 from Belfast to Portrush and made several stops along the route. The weather was warm and sunny which made for a comfortable and enjoyable drive.
For my next post, I will share our experiences at some sites along the Antrim Coast.