Ireland, a hidden gem
Hoping that 2013 will be lucky for you? Our very own Brooke Scheer traveled to the Emerald Isle to discover the beauty, wonder, and charm that Ireland has to offer on Contiki’s 9-day Ireland tour.
Raise a pint of Guinness in honor of the coming New Year and keep reading why Ireland should be on your bucket list!
Guest Blog Post by Brooke Scheer, Contiki Sales/Marketing
“May your pockets be heavy and your heart be light.
May good luck pursue you each morning and night.”
With five Contiki vacations under my belt, it’s fair to say that Ireland wasn’t first on my bucket list. However, this surprising hidden gem is so beautiful, charming, historic, and FUN that words and pictures don’t do it justice (but I will try). I recommend this destination to anyone who will listen. Here is why I fell in love with Ireland and why this hidden gem should be next on your bucket list.
My sixth Contiki brought me to the stunning Emerald Isle. I’m fortunate to say that Contiki’s 9-day Ireland trip succeeded in adding one more gorgeous country to my growing repertoire of travel destinations. Ireland’s never ending lush green landscapes and gorgeous seaside cliffs make every glimpse look like a page from National Geographic. Yes, it really is that beautiful! Make sure you bring an extra memory card for your camera. I can say without a doubt that Ireland is the most beautiful destination in Europe.
After arriving in Dublin and meeting up with my Contiki group, I did what any traveler to Ireland SHOULD do. I enjoyed a pint of Irish Guinness in a real Irish pub! Call it cliché, but it’s a tradition for a reason – it’s damn good! After that small necessity was out of the way our Contiki group made way to Derry, stopping by the natural wonder and UNESCO World Heritage site, the Giant’s Causeway. Made up of over 40,000 natural rock columns that reach heights of 36 feet, this breathtaking rock formation gave me goose bumps!
Derry (aka Londonderry), in Northern Ireland, had a profound impact on me. Not very knowledgeable of the history, our included walking tour of the city revealed the reality of Ireland’s long-term political conflict that plagued this country for decades. With a mix of gorgeous rolling hills, Victorian buildings, and iconic murals that paint the story of Ireland’s civil war, this was one of the most influential stops in Ireland.
After Londonberry, our group traveled to the quintessential Irish l town of Galway. Imagine locals speaking Gaelic in streets, pubs on every corner, gorgeous lush foliage, and the friendliest people you’ll ever meet. It’s simply charming.
One of my favorite parts of the trip included a ferry ride to explore the gorgeous Aran Islands. You can choose to bike or cab your way to the top of the island for a breathtaking view. Attempting to conquer my phobia of heights, I crawled to very edge of the cliff swung my legs over and sat there in solitude feeling elated and liberated. It was the most memorable moment for sure!
After the Aran Islands our group made our way into Cork and stopped at the famous, Cliffs of Moher. This is another beautiful natural setting in Ireland. Yet again my fear of heights was tested as I kissed (and told) the Blarney Stone at the Blarney Castle to receive the gift of gab. And it worked! I haven’t stopped talking about Ireland since.
Once we arrived at Cork, I took some time to hit up the lively markets, pubs, and night life with my fellow travelers. The next day we made way to Kilkenny stopping at portside Cobh where we learned about the infamous Titanic and the history of Ireland’s famine. Then, we were off to a walking tour and whiskey tasting of the Jameson Distillery where we enjoyed many samples of this native Irish Whiskey.
Then we cheered to Arthur’s Day in Kilkenny. Arthur’s Day is an ongoing celebration that started in 2009, honoring the 250th anniversary of the Guinness brewing company. My fellow travelers and I were quite keen to raise a glass in honor of this celebration. After enjoying yet another delicious Guinness, we had a walking tour of the city. Then, we headed back for a St. Patrick’s Day themed evening including Irish food, pubs, and karaoke.
The next morning I enjoyed Guinness for breakfast while visiting the Guinness Shorehouse. After all, I was on vacation. Plus, I learned how to pour (and drink) the perfect pint. This is a skill I will never forget!
My Ireland experience finished up with a drive back to Dublin where I explore the city some more and said goodbye to my fellow travelers with some dinner and drinks at The Merry Ploughboy Pub.
Ireland has something for every traveler – fascinating history, gorgeous scenery, awesome pubs, friendly locals, oh yeah and did I mention the awesome pubs? I never expected to fall in love with the Emerald Island and its beautiful scenery will be vivid in my mind for the rest of my life. Ireland is truly a hidden gem and as I tell everyone who will listen – yes, it is THAT beautiful. Go, see for yourself!