We’re in the midst of one of the worst storms to hit Ireland in decades and my head is only bleedin’ melted with cabin fever.
The wifi’s knackered, the car’s buried beneath a 5-foot ice fortress and I’ve eaten my yearly calorie allowance in three days… Toblerone will be the death of me.
In an attempt to keep my mind occupied, I’ve been having a think about what I want to do in Ireland in 2018, which gave birth to a mini ‘bucket list’ of sorts.
Here’s a quick breakdown of what’s on the list.
- Drive the length and breadth of Ireland’s coastline (booked in already)
- Get consumed by the stars at the Kerry International Dark-Sky Reserve
- Climb a big ass sea stack
- Have a gander at Inis Mór’s wormhole
- Find out what the craic is with Waterford’s Magic Road
- Visit Ireland’s most Northern Point
- Soak up the northern lights from Donegal
- Climb Croagh Patrick in the morning and spend the evening having the craic in Westport
- Explore a cave in Kilkenny with a history that’d turn your stomach
- Fly over Dublin in a helicopter
- Experience Crumlin Road Gaol
- Watch the whales have the absolute craic in West Cork
- Spend a night with the locals in the highest pub in the land
- Sink some pints by the fire in Ireland’s oldest pub
Right – let’s get started!
1 – Drive the length and breadth of Ireland’s coastline (booked in already)
I’m going to kick things off with the one I’m most excited about (and one that’s set to happen very soon); a road trip alllllllll around Ireland’s coastline… literally.
I’ve had it in my head to do this for as far back as I can remember, so I’ve booked 10 days off in late March to give it a lash.
I’ll kick the trip off in Dublin and drive clockwise right the way around Ireland’s coastline until I arrive back in the capital.
Keep an eye out on Instagram and here on the website as I’ll be sharing the route and itinerary shortly for anyone that wants to use parts of it to plan their own trip.
2 – Get consumed by the stars at the Kerry International Dark-Sky Reserve
Did you know (I definitely didn’t up until 2 months ago) that there’s a place in Kerry that has been designated Ireland’s very first International Dark Sky Reserve by the International Dark-Sky Association?
Oh, and it’s also one of only 3 Gold Tier Reserves on the planet, and the only Gold Tier Reserve in the Northern Hemisphere.
Sounds cool, but what does it mean?
It means that on a clear night the sky in this part of Ireland is scattered with astronomical sights that you can gander at with the naked eye.
You can kick back without any equipment and be treated to a show that’ll knock the breath from your lungs.
I’m hoping to catch this one on the trip in March, but it’ll be weather dependent.
3 – Climb a big ass sea stack
There’s a whole load of sea stacks dotted around Ireland and I recently learned (mind-blown) that you can, in fact, climb some of them.
A company in Donegal provide a ‘range of unique climbing packages’ where they’ll take you safely onto some of Ireland’s sea stacks.
I’m shitting bricks just thinking about it, but I’m buzzing to give this a shot.
The best part is, you don’t need any previous climbing experience to take part.
4 – Spend a night with the locals in the highest pub in the land
I’m gone well beyond the days of knocking back Jagerbombs until 5 in the morning, but I love a solid pub experience that’s a litte bit different to your run-of-the-mill pub.
The more unique the better.
Top of Coom in Kenmare, Co. Kerry, is officially the highest pub in Ireland, situated a whopping 1045ft above sea level.
An ideal day would be to get in a heap of exploring in Kerry, and then wiggle in a night in this pub.
A perfect day would involve knocking back pints into the early hours with the aul lads from the video above!
5 – Watch the whales have the absolute craic in West Cork
Whale watching. In Ireland. Yep, it’s a thing.
To-date, a whopping 24 species of the world’s whales and dolphins have been recorded in our beautiful Irish waters.
In recent years over 12 cetacean species have been seen in in the unpolluted waters of West Cork, making them a prime area for whale and dolphin watching in Ireland.
Here’s a schedule of when the various whales and dolphin species are known to swim into Irish waters
I’ll be in West Cork in the last couple of days of March, so fingers crossed there’s a chance to get out on the water and see some Dolphins and Minke Whales.
6 – Have a gander at Inis Mór’s wormhole
You may have seen some videos online of the Red Bull Cliff Diving series that took place on the Aran Islands – the wormhole on Inis Mor is what the divers were jumping into…
Although it looks like the hole was cut with some colossal industrial instrument, the wormhole on Inis Mór did in fact form naturally.
It’s located just south of Dún Aonghasa, and can be reached by taking a stroll east along the cliffs.
A perfect addition for those of you looking to explore some of Ireland’s islands!
7 – Sink some pints by the fire in Ireland’s oldest pub
A short walk from the River Shannon, and a stone’s throw from the castle in Athlone Town, lies an ancient public house called Sean’s Bar.
The pub dates back to 900AD, a fact that was verified during an excavation in 1970 that exposed walls consisting of ancient wattle and daub, dating back to the 9th century.
I have a trip here on the cards for next November, when it’s nice and wintery.
The prospect of spending an evening nursing creamy pints by the fire here has my mind a flutter.
8 – Explore a cave in Kilkenny with a history that’d turn your stomach
If anywhere that’s haunted in Ireland, it’s this place.
The first time Dunmore Cave was referenced was in a 9th century Irish triad poem where it’s referred to as one of the “darkest places in Ireland.”
According to a 17th-century manuscript, it’s the site of a 928 CE Viking massacre that saw 1,000 people murdered.
The cave is a short drive from Kilkenny and is absolutely teeming with history.
It also looks absolutely fantastic on the inside.
9 – Find out what the craic is with Waterford’s Magic Road
So, there’s a magic road in County Waterford…
When you park your car at the bottom of the hill and take off your handbrake, the car rolls back up the hill…
I just can’t get my head around this, so I need to experience it first-hand.
I’ve watched the video below a handful of times – it hurts my brain.
10 – Soak up the northern lights from Donegal
You won’t find the greatest show in the world on Broadway or in London’s West End.
It’s not airing at 9 p.m. on Sunday night on HBO and, contrary to popular belief – you don’t have to board a plane to check it out.
Over recent years, thanks to strong solar wind activity, the skies above Ireland have played host to the shimmering beauty that is Aurora Borealis (aka the Northern Lights).
The result – mind-boggling beauty.
If you’re hoping to get a glimpse of them, you can sign up for alerts with the lads at Astronomy Ireland.
This’ll be a crap-they’re-going-to-be-visible-tomorrow-lets-hope-in-the-car-and-go type of thing, but if that’s the only way I’ll see them, then that’s fine by me.
11 – Climb Croagh Patrick in the morning and spend the evening having the craic in Westport
I climbed Croagh Patrick a few summers ago, and it was one of the most memorable things I’ve done in Ireland.
On a clear day, the view from the top out over Clew Bay and beyond is just out of this world.
This summer, I plan on giving it a crack again, and then spending the evening eating and drinking my way around Westport Town’s many lively pubs.
12 – Crumlin Road Gaol/Prison
You’ll find Crumlin Road Gaol in Belfast City.
What was once a working prison (1845 – 1996) is now the second most popular thing to do in Belfast according to TripAdvisor.
If you take the tour, your journey will begin at a time when women and children were held within it’s walls and will take you through to the political segregation of republican and loyalist prisoners right the way up to its closure.
A friend visited there recently and told me about standing at the entrance of the tunnel that used to connect the Gaol to the Crumlin Road Courthouse.
Walking the same route that thousands of prisoners took many years ago as they awaited to discover their fate sounds like a surreal experience.