The past few days have been super fun exploring Northern Ireland and Ireland to visit my friend, Cormac, from university. We visited three cities in four days – Belfast, Derry and Dublin – so, as you can imagine, it was a mad rush around the Irelands, but it was great ‘craic’ and I had an amazing time visiting it with Cormac!
The trip didn’t start well at all. As soon as I landed, I missed the first bus from the airport because I didn’t have any cash on me. So I went in to the airport, got some cash and sat on the next bus due to leave in ten minutes. Once I was settled, I had a look in my bag for my Kindle. I couldn’t find it but thought it was probably buried at the bottom so I put my bag down on the seat and tried not to think about it.
Naturally, I couldn’t relax at all, so I took everything out of my bag and, nope, no Kindle. I started freaking out, wondering if I should even bother getting off the bus to see if the airline had found it. In the end, I decided to get off and frantically run to the Easyjet counter at the back of the bloody airport. Thankfully, the airline had found it and it was on it’s way back to me.
I headed back outside for the third time to catch the third bus. I think “third time lucky” is an expression for a reason because I was finally on my way in to central Belfast to meet Cormac.
Once I’d got my suitcase in to his flat, we headed out for some lunch and to explore a bit of the city. We walked and walked, and eventually stumbled upon the City Hall only to discover there was a tour starting that minute. I’m so happy we ended up doing the tour because the inside of the building was stunning and we learned all about how the City Council work, which was super interesting.
After that, we had a pint and headed back to Cormac’s flat and chilled for the rest of the night. I’d been up since 6am so chilling was the perfect way to end my first day on holiday in Northern Ireland.
The next day, we woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed to head for the walking tour. Ever since I started a walking tour company, I’ve become a bit obsessed, and need to do one every place I visit! The tour was good and we got a pretty good view of Belfast and it’s history. My favourite part of the tour was visiting a bar area with tons of murals. Street art has become a new favourite thing of mine to visit when travelling, and there were lots of great murals in the city!
My favourite mural of all was one by Smug. Smug has a special place in my heart because he lives in Glasgow and my favourite mural in Glasgow was done by him; we even have it included in our walking tour! So, when I saw that Smug has a mural in Belfast, I needed to find it. Quite luckily, the tour ended very close to the mural so I was able to see it, and it’s just as good as his one in Glasgow!
My favourite thing about Belfast overall was just how friendly the people are. They are an unbelievably friendly country. We had a ten minute conversation with a barista in a coffee shop and we could barely get out of the taxis because we’d be having such an in-depth chat about politics.
I really enjoyed exploring the city and, whilst I wouldn’t run back, I’d like to see how it develops over my lifetime and have the chance to visit it again (maybe even spend some time living in it…)!
Derry is where Cormac is from so we had to get this city in to my trip over to Ireland, and I’m really glad we did. We got the train from Belfast which was only a couple of hours and put our suitcases in his cosy home. We didn’t have much time before we were out in the cold again on our way to a big dinner with his extended family.
What a great experience going for dinner with his family! I was sitting next to his granny, Mary Nelis, who is one of the most incredible women I’ve ever met in my life. If you want to learn more about her, just check out her wikipedia page. Yes, she has a wikipedia page she is that badass! In the photo above, the woman on the right is Mary protesting for prisoner’s rights by showing up to the bishops naked, covering herself only in a blanket!
I drank a bottle of wine, learned all about his granny’s sticking up for women’s, along with people in general’s, rights through out her life. After a great dinner, we headed to a couple of pubs and ended in a club-type bar and danced away!
It’s safe to say I was not feeling the best the next morning. I woke up feeling like absolute crap, and definitely not in the mood to walk around all day and get a 4 hour bus to Dublin. To be honest though, Cormac and I agreed that I couldn’t come to Ireland and not have at least one night out with him! However, I sucked it up and we wandered all around Derry before grabbing some greasy grub to cure ourselves.
Derry is a pretty small city so we explored the walls for most of it with me complaining; I don’t know how Cormac didn’t kill me with my complaining! After that, we headed in to “Free Derry”, a self-declared autonomous nationalist area of Derry, as by Wikipedia’s definition.
It felt very socialist with army murals literally everywhere and flags all over the streets. A lot of the murals were of people who had been killed under British rule or from invasions of the British during the 20th century. Some depicted local hero’s, such as Mary Nelis, who had protested against the government in support of local citizens of Derry.
It was such an interesting place to visit and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to explore the small city before hopping on a 4-hour hangover bus to Dublin.
For some reason, I didn’t take that many pictures of Dublin. It wasn’t a hugely photogenic city really, plus we only had one day in the city. We woke up a lot earlier than planned in the morning so headed in quite early and wandered around the North side of the city, which is the more residential area, before our tour of the South side at 11am.
Once we’d had a coffee and made our way to the meeting point, we were ready for learning all about the city, and the tour did not disappoint. We got to see the main sites of the city and learned about the North/South class divide, with the North being typically poorer, and the South being more prosperous.
A very (in)famous part of Dublin is Temple Bar, which I assumed was a bar. It’s not. Basically, Temple Bar is an area of the city that is full of very expensive bars. However, it used to be the poorer area of the city and has only developed over the last 30 years in to somewhere tourists flock to. Sadly, we were both a bit poor to fully enjoy this part of the city so I’ll definitely be heading back to it the next time I’m around.
After the tour, we headed to a few of the museums and attempted to get in to the National Library of Ireland which was sadly closed. Having walked 20,000 steps by this point, we stopped for a much needed rest at Pygmalion and had a monstrous meal with a pint. It felt so good to have a seat for the first time in nine hours and people watch at the side of a busy street! And luckily, even though it’s November, we were able to sit outside (with heaters, of course).
Sadly that’s it for Dublin! It felt so short but it’s only more of an excuse to come back at some point in the future.
What was surprising about all three cities is how political and religious issues are so prominent in their every day lives. With pretty much every single person we had a conversation with, we talked about Protestants and Catholics, and a lot of Cormac’s family would use religion to describe someone they knew; “aw yeah he was a Protestant” or “he was in the IRA”. It was so, so interesting to see the country so concerned about political issues and the religious divide that has separated the country since it began.
In the future, I’m going to do a full road trip around both the countries to more of the rural parts. I’d love to see the hills and the countryside and local people living rurally. I’m going to make it happen at some point.
All in all, I had the best time exploring and it was great to spend time with one of the best friends you could ask for, Cormac.
À bientôt Ireland !