I just returned from two wonderful weeks in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Several family members, friends and other social media contacts have expressed an interest in traveling there, or already have plans to visit. I know that not everyone shares my interest in Irish history, but here are some notes and links from my trip to incorporate into your own itinerary, as you see fit. Enjoy!
- The National Archives of Ireland and National Library of Ireland have excellent resources, online and onsite. You’ll have to get an easy-to-obtain readers ticket in each place to view material in person. You’ll want to visit the library’s impressive main reading room, whether you are doing research or not.
- This year is the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising. The effort to break from Britain failed at the time, but inspired the successful war of independence (which also created partition) a few years later. No visit to Dublin is complete without stopping at the General Post Office, or GPO, the epicenter of the 1916 revolt. The 1818 building, where you still buy stamps and conduct other business, now also offers an “immersive exhibition and visitor attraction.”
- Some of the most important people in Irish history are buried at Glasnevin Cemetery, which offers walking tours and also has a fine permanent exhibit. Highly recommended. Photos from my earlier post.
- EPIC Ireland, which opened in May, bills itself as “Dublin’s dramatic new interactive visitor experience that showcases the unique global journey of the Irish people.” It’s located in old shipping storehouses next to the River Liffey. A modern mall filled with restaurants and shops shares space in the chq Building.
- See the famous Book of Kells and tour Trinity College Dublin.
- Ireland has a strong theater tradition. I saw “The Wake” at the Abbey Theatre. IrishTheatre.ie lists venues and shows on both sides of the border.
- Titanic Belfast. Would you visit Washington without going to the Smithsonian? Paris without a stop at the Louvre? Titanic Belfast is a modern museum experience (it inspired EPIC Ireland) about the ill-fated liner and the city that built it in the early 20th century.
- Several companies offer “black taxi tours” of West Belfast, a once dangerous “no go” zone during the worst violence of the Troubles. The area remains divided into Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods, but is safe for these daytime guided tours, which help the local economy. Just don’t shout “God Bless the Pope” in the loyalist Shankill Road, or “God Bless King Billy” in the nationalist Falls Road. Photos from my earlier post.
- Take a free tour of the stunning Belfast City Hall, at the city center.
- Visit the campus of Queens University and enjoy shops and restaurants of the surrounding neighborhood.
THE “KINGDOM OF KERRY” & WEST OF IRELAND
- There are many things to see and do on the rugged west side of the island, “the back of beyond.” Consider driving some (or all) of the Wild Atlantic Way, a 1,600-mile coastal route stretching between Cork in the south and Derry in Northern Ireland.
- Shameless promotion here for County Kerry, home of my maternal grandmother and grandfather.
Here are a few other tips and suggestions:
- Major U.S. voice and data providers offer service for the island of Ireland. My iPhone switched to an Irish carrier before I reached my baggage at the Dublin airport; clicked to a U.K. telecom while on the train to Belfast; then back to the Republic provider on my return to the 26 counties.
- Data service in the West of Ireland is spotty, so be prepared to use a paper map and ask for directions rather then relying on Google Maps. Besides, you’re in Ireland! Do you really want to be looking at your screen all the time?
- That said, don’t forget to bring a power adapter/converter to recharge your phone and other electronics. Outlets are different than in the U.S.
- Be prepared to drive from the right side of the vehicle on the left side of the road. Just remember that as the driver you should be toward the center of the road, passenger on the outside, same as in the U.S. You will pay a premium to drive a car rented in the Republic in Northern Ireland.
- Transit and taxi service is excellent in Dublin and Belfast. You don’t need a car in either city. You will if you want to explore the rest of the country.
- Let your bank and credit card company know that you’re traveling overseas. Grab hard currency from an ATM as needed. Easy!