One of the great things about studying abroad is that it not only presents you with an opportunity, but it presents your family with one as well. My family visited at the end of March and beginning of April. I was so excited. I had been missing them, and although Skype is a great tool, it’s not the same as seeing them in person. We had a great time traveling around Ireland together, and I was very excited to show them my life abroad.
1) Connemara is by far the prettiest part of Ireland and my favorite place to visit. It was formed by glaciers and it has a ton of lakes and lots of mountains. It’s breathtakingly gorgeous. The tour that my family went on took us to Kylemore Abbey, an old manor house. It was built by a wealthy English Doctor, named Mitchell Henry for his wife. The story of the Henry family is one of romance and tragedy. Mitchell’s wife, Margaret, died of a fever just four years after Kylemore Manor was completed. Henry then sold Kylemore to another couple, the Duke and Duchess of Manchester, who lost it through gambling. It was then bought by Benedictine Nuns, transformed into an Abbey, and so it stays today. On its property is the oldest walled Victorian garden in Ireland. The scenery and the Abbey make Connemara a must see.
2) The Cliffs of Moher and the Burren are in another pretty part of Ireland (not as pretty as Connemara, in my opinion, but still pretty). The Cliffs are very famous, and worth seeing. The Burren is very neat as well. In fact, the Burren’s landscape of exposed limestone (very unique, I’ve never seen anything like it) was the inspiration for JRR Tolkien’s description of Middle Earth in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and “The Hobbit.”
3) Blarney, home of the famous Blarney Stone, this is a definite go-to spot in Ireland. Blarney Castle and its surrounding grounds are so cool, and much more than the stone. There are caves, dungeons, poison gardens, rock formations, and manor houses to explore. Plus, Blarney is home to the biggest Irish gift store in the country. It’s a good one-day stop while you tour Ireland.
4) Cobh is a cute little village between Cork and Waterford. It’s claim to fame is that it was the last stop of the Titanic before it continued on its infamous journey, and it was also the last stop for many Irish immigrants going to America. There is a Heritage Center that shows the history of this town. There is also a Titanic Experience, where you can step into the ship’s history. Plus, it’s the most colorful little town I’ve seen in Ireland. All the buildings are brightly painted. I highly recommend seeing it.
5) Waterford, of course, is home to the famous Waterford Crystal Factory. I suggest taking the factory tour, because it’s so cool to see how these luxury items are made. There is more to Waterford than just the crystal factory, though. Waterford is an old Viking town, so there are a lot of old Viking towers around the city. There are also friaries and churches all over the city. Also worth seeing is the Waterford Medieval Museum, it gives a history of the city and is also home to the oldest complete set of vestments (Catholic ceremonial clothing) in Europe. They date back to before the 1600s. In the 1600s Cromwell’s army from England overtook Waterford, and the Catholics hid the vestments away, so the Anglicans who would take over the Cathedral wouldn’t destroy them. In the 1800s the vestments were discovered by the Anglicans and given back to the Catholics, as a gesture of goodwill.
6) Dublin, it is the capital city of Ireland after all. Now, Dublin is very big, very international, and very BIG (did I say that already?) One of the best ways to see Dublin is the Hop On/ Hop Off bus tour. It takes you all over the city, to all the major sites: Trinity College (home of the Book of Kells and the longest room in Ireland), the Guinness Factory, Phoenix Park (The largest city park in Europe, two times the size of Central Park), Temple Bar, the Cathedrals (St. Patrick’s and Christ Church Cathedral), and anywhere else you want to go. For one ticket you can get on the bus, hop off at whichever stops you want to see, and hop back on whenever the next bus comes around. And one ticket covers one day.
- Life in Galway: 7 Tips for Family Visits (isastudentblog.wordpress.com)