Hops and Skips

Snapshots: Winter in Ireland

Two years ago, Colin and I spent five days in Ireland just before Christmas. We usually go to New York for Christmas to spend it with Colin’s family, but the way the school calendar fell that year gave us several open days out of school before the actual holiday. Not wanting to spend all those days in New York, we took a short—and cheap!—flight to Dublin and moseyed around the country via the worst rental car.

Usually our travels end up being overly ambitious; I figure if we’re flying somewhere new, we might as well see as much as possible, because who knows if and when we’ll ever be back. For this trip, for once, we succeeded at pacing ourselves and exploring slowly. After spending one night in Dublin, we rented a car and made our away across the middle of the country, stopping in quiet towns off the typical tourist-beaten path. We stayed in old guesthouses and bed and breakfasts and had hardly any stops planned ahead of time.

In Dublin, we fought jet lag by roaming the streets, drinking beer high above the city at the Guinness Storehouse (overpriced and underwhelming) and reaching my mecca, the Old Library at Trinity College. Once out of Dublin, we ventured to the Tullamore DEW distillery and drank beers in the small town of Birr. We stayed at a cozy manor house in Cloghan with a wonderful hostess we got to know over a few hot cups of tea. We meandered through a frosty countryside and explored an old monastery, Clonmacnoise, in a winter drizzle.

Back to a “big” city, but unable to shake the rain, we pub hopped in Galway before winding down the west coast, finding castles and cliffs (of Moher, famously) and fighting the wind. In Doolin, we felt like the only people on the entire island, left in a town that had shuttered its doors until spring. The locals we met seemed constantly bemused at our very presence in their country at this time of year. “Why are you here in December? You’re not staying for Christmas, right???”

I’ve thought a lot about this trip in the two years since we took it, because something about this one has particularly lingered. It was a trip without much fanfare. It felt like we sneaked in and were hardly noticed as tourists, quietly assimilating into the scenery, rambling along without itinerary. While every trip has its own vibe and leaves its own impressions, this one has left me with the reminder that travel doesn’t have to be complicated and using your passport doesn’t necessitate stressful planning. It’s a mindset I hope to remember, as everyday life gets more complicated and the very idea of travel (may) get more daunting.

In response to our skeptical hosts, Ireland in the bright, warm sun will just never seem fitting to me. The quiet, wet, misty streets of December felt just right.

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The Ferryman Townhouse // Dublin
The Rectory // Deerpark, Co. Offaly
Skeffington Arms // Galway
Crotty’s Pub // Kilrush, Co. Clare

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