Since I was a teenager and lucky enough to travel I’ve been ticking things off my ever-changing (and growing) ‘must see’ list for a few years. I can safely say I appreciate travel so much more now that I’m older. Maybe it’s because it’s my hard earned money that’s funding these adventures now! Maybe it’s because in the last few years I have realised just how fortunate I am to travel freely and independently on my passport. Or maybe it’s because there‘s really so much of this world to explore that it makes me appreciate just how incredible human engineering and natural landscapes truly are. Not to mention the mesmerizing colours, captivating animals and stunning views to see along the way.
Kenya stole a piece of my heart when I visited 12 years ago so when I heard about the #TanzaniaWithYZS competition to win a safari trip, by sharing the best holiday I have ever been on, I absolutely had to try and get back to Africa. Can you just picture a Tanzanian sunrise safari with the sounds of the savannah waking up amidst the dissipating morning mist? Bliss. I know it would be absolutely breathtaking and a chance to see some of the earth’s most endangered animals including my all-time favourite, the elephant. Nothing gets me up early like the promise of some excellent photos!
It may sound contrived to say I have a few incredibly memorable trips to choose from so I have been wracking my brain trying to think of the BEST trip to describe for this post. Adventures with friends and family that have helped me to grow and learn about myself and when I’m from have all taught me valuable lessons that I take with me every day.
The BEST holiday I ever had
For years I sought to escape this island I grew up on, in favour of exploring far away, sunnier, more ‘exciting’ places. A couple of years ago a road trip around Ireland woke me up to just how beautiful the country is and it is probably the best holiday I have ever been on. It showed me that I don’t have to go far to enjoy landscapes, views, scenery, history, and magic. It’s been right here in my backyard all along. Ireland, especially in the sunshine, captures your heart and has so much to offer. A staycation saves time since you aren’t adding on airport waiting and transfers. Just jump in the car and you’re already on your way.
We started our trip in Kerry and explored the Dingle Peninsula and Ring of Kerry for those jaw-dropping views out to the Skellig islands. You do need to book the ferry out there well in advance because Star Wars has catapulted them to stratospheric levels of popularity. See what I did there?! Haha .. ahem. Anyway, once you’re wrapped up for the windy boat ride and wearing sturdy shoes for all the steps once you get there you’re set. Plus, puffins! This island houses so many of these beautiful birds it’s like a mini bird safari right there. The town of Dingle is a must see and has some of the most delicious restaurants and cafes. Murphy’s ice cream, Bean speciality coffee, Global Village for tasting menus, Out of the Blue for seafood. You can eat your way around the town after a boat trip out to see the resident dolphin and smuggler inspiring sea caves.
Wild Atlantic Way
If you can drag yourself away from the Kerry Kingdom there is more to see along the Wild Atlantic Way. Allow yourself to take the coastal route so you can be spoiled with stunning scenery, sea-battered beaches and windswept, rugged cliffs as well as a few village pubs along the way. Of course, there’s the Cliffs of Moher to see but I have to stay away from the edge because my vertigo can’t take it! Ireland has so many castles and picturesque abbeys to visit so while in the area I highly recommend the awe-inspiring Kylemore Abbey and walled garden in Connemara, Co Galway. The romantic building looks like it was transported from the pages of a Harry Potter novel and it really was a world-renowned boarding school for girls. Or stay in a real, converted castle in Ballyportry Gaelic Tower. Complete with stone staircase and huge open fireplaces as well as four-poster beds this holiday rental will transport you back in time. Sure, isn’t that part of the magic of a visit to Ireland?!
No trip to the west coast is complete without stopping at the famous, Irish poet William Butler Yeats’ burial place in Sligo and a photo of the quote on his gravestone. Drumcliffe Church and the cemetery is set against the backdrop of the sweeping Benbulben Mountain and you can see how the surrounding countryside inspired this son of Ireland’s prose and poetry.
One of my favourite places on this road trip has got to be the northern coastline. By starting in Donegal you’ll see some of the most incredible beaches, and blue waters Ireland has to offer. I almost forgot where I was, until a brisk wind blew me back to reality! The roads get windier and the sheep strolling around as calm as you like remind you that nature is in charge up here. Make sure you drive to the Glenveagh National Park, if strolls in the woodlands and lakeside musings are your thing. You should put the spectacular Slieve League Cliffs into your GPS and thank me later once you experience the awe-inspiring vistas and Instagram worthy photos. The sprawling sea stretching away from the safety of the cove below the cliffs reminds you of the power of the ocean and how small we really are. Check out the largest sand dunes in Europe at the Five Finger Strand nearby As you drive along the northern coast stop off at Malin Head, the most northerly point on the island before heading to stay in a super quaint and authentically restored thatched roof cottage in Ardara, Co Donegal.
The beauty keeps coming along the Causeway Coastal Route as you reach Dunluce Castle and the villages of Portrush and Bushmills. Obviously, you will want to pay a visit to the Giant’s Causeway and hear the tales of squabbling giants and marvel at the basalt rock formations. Your Game of Thrones film locations fix can be satiated in Ballintoy and the Dark Hedges before you make your way to Belfast and the jewel city of the north. With history striding around, pride of place you can’t help but be absorbed by the lives eager to share their story. From Harland and Wolf shipyard workers to the Titanic Experience and the Troubles there is so much to take in here.
Ireland’s Ancient East
So bear with me here, this part of the country is stunning, of course it is, but it is also steeped in myth and magic. Standing stones, ring forts, the Hill of Tara and seat of the High Kings of Ireland and the mysterious, Neolithic passage tombs in Newgrange your journey into Ireland’s mystical past begins. Stay at the Station House Hotel’s converted signal box for the most unique and quirky accommodation and revel in their gardens, which are perfect for photo shoots and frolics! I loved it there and think you will too.
This brings us to our nation’s capital and my home from home. Dublin deserves its own post because there is so much to see and do from the lush Iveagh Gardens and national history filled Glasnevin Cemetery and the Molly Malone statue after a trip to Trinity College, my alma mater, and the delicate and intricate Book of Kells. Exploring my home country was one of my favourite trips ever because it gave me a new found love for my own home. Seeing how beautiful the country is in the sunshine and sheltering from its showers and winds in quaint pubs and villages means there is something new to see everywhere you go. My eyes were opened and it made me hungry for more and to see what else Ireland is hiding for the eager explorer. I guarantee you will love it too.
This post is part of my entry for the Yellow Zebra Safaris trip of a lifetime to Tanzania. Wish me luck!