Week 7: Ireland and Scotland

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This is the part where I start planning my post-graduate move to the highland countryside, where I will spend the rest of my life raising cows and cataloging native flowers. 

Can you tell I loved Ireland and Scotland?

In case you couldn’t, maybe our travel video will give you a better idea:

 

This week was my winter break, so I had two extra days off of school to travel. Rachel and I decided to go visit our friend Molly, who is studying abroad in Galway, Ireland. Except we didn’t just go to Galway. We also hit Dublin and took a flight to Edinburgh, Scotland, which was (in many ways) my favorite place that I’ve visited so far.

It was nice to be where people spoke English again, and for the first time since coming abroad, I think I felt myself truly unwind and relax. Ireland and Scotland will always have a huge piece of my heart, and here’s why. 

 

Tuesday, February 18: On Another Plane

Still shaking from an art test and exhausted from another 9-6 school day, we headed to the airport with our handy-dandy backpacks. I was wearing way too many layers, because in this house, we don’t pay extra for baggage. So hot, and exhausted, and excited as all heck, I boarded the late flight to Dublin!

The first things I noticed upon arrival:

  1. These people have an obsession with Cadbury Eggs. And when I say OBSESSION, I mean OBSESSION. They are everywhere. Even the chocolate powder for mochas is from Cadbury. 
  2. ENGLISH. What a godsend. Never underestimate how good it feels to be understood. 

We took the bus 2.5 hours from Dublin to Galway, where we would crash on Molly’s couches for the next few nights (thanks, Molly and roommates, for your hospitality :)). By this point, it was about 3 am, so you can bet that sleep hit different

 

Wednesday, February 19: Thank God I Almost Fainted

We were supposed to go on a bus tour to the Cliffs of Moher bright and early this morning, but I woke up very pale and dizzy, so we opted to go the next day instead. It sucked in the moment, but it ended up being a good thing, because this day was cold, rainy, and foggy: not exactly the best sightseeing weather. 

So we relaxed a little longer, then went on a walk with Molly to her campus. This took us through the main town of Galway, which was so precious and exactly how I envisioned it! Rachel and I explored a bit more and hit a lot of sweater shops before we went back to get cleaned up for dinner. 

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We got pizza with Molly, her brother and his girlfriend before hitting the pubs. I’m definitely going to miss the feel of going out in Ireland; it’s very laid back, and there’s always live music, which I love! We went to The King’s Head, which has been around since 1649!

 

Thursday, February 20: Ireland BLOWS Me Away (hahaha punny!)

My favorite day, and the longest day. We left at 9 am and didn’t get back until after 6 pm, but it was well worth it to see the Cliffs of Moher! 

We had a little bit of trouble finding our bus, but thanks to the friendly Irish folk who told me to “calm down” and “find my zen” (thanks, friendly Irish folk!) we were able to make it in time. I can’t even begin to express to you how green this place is. Within the first ten minutes after the bus left town, I was already in complete awe. Our first stop was Dunguaire Castle, built in 1520, which speaks for itself:

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We also saw these traditional houses with thatched roofs and learned that rethatching costs upwards of 15,000 euro! No thanks! 

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Next, we made our way through the Burren (the countryside), where we saw ancient burial tombs dating from far before the Stonehenge, and hundreds of cows and sheep grazing peacefully against the picturesque background. 

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After lunch at a pub and a stop at the fudge store, we drove up to the Cliffs of Moher. They were stunningly beautiful, everything I pictured and more– except I didn’t really expect that wind. It threatened to blow us over and actually prevented us from finishing one of the trails we started which hugged the edge of the cliffs. It was impossible to walk, so we couldn’t explore far, but it was still one of the most incredible things that I have ever seen. 

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On the way back to Galway, we followed the coastline and were able to stop at the “Baby Cliffs”, which were actually my favorite part of the tour. It was a series of rocks and outcroppings that the waves splashed against, sending turrets of water swirling through the air. 

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That night, we were exhausted, but it was Molly’s birthday, so that exhaustion couldn’t last long! We hit a few different bars and had a great time dancing to all of the live music!

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Friday, February 21: Day in Dublin

We woke up early this morning to catch our bus to Dublin. We didn’t exactly have a plan, but we also didn’t exactly need one. Dublin is…pretty underwhelming, to be quite honest! But we still managed to (mostly) fill the day with sightseeing. 

After dropping our stuff at the hostel, we took a (long) walk to the Guinness Storehouse, where Guiness produces all of their beer. We learned how the beer is made, learned how to taste it (gulp, not sip–who knew?), and eventually made our way up to the Sky Bar to redeem our free pint. I actually really liked it!

Outside of the Storehouse were tons of parked horse-drawn carriages. Being the child that I am, I forced Rachel to take one to lunch in lieu of a taxi. So. Fun!

We ate at The Brazen Head, Ireland’s oldest pub which has been open since the 1100s. It was surprisingly way cheaper than I had anticipated! 

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Next stop was Dublin Castle, which we toured. It was pretty small, but was pretty nonetheless!

We walked to Trinity College and got to see the campus a bit, which was beautiful. Sadly, the Book of Kells wasn’t on display, so we chose not to pay to go in the library. 

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We took a walk down Grafton Street and stumbled upon a cute little park! After some gelato, we headed back to our hostel to rest up and clean up for the night. 

Night is when Dublin really comes alive. We had drinks at an old church which had been renovated into a bar and then visited the famous Temple Bar for a while. It was HUGE, and I loved the performer who played a lot of Ed Sheeran 🙂 

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Finished the night at McDonald’s. Shocker. 

 

Saturday, February 22: SCOTLAND BABY

One of my favorite days ever! We took an early flight to Edinburgh, Scotland, where we would only be spending one day/night. 

This part of the trip was kind of a wild card. SLU is a heavy study-abroad school, so I see lots of posts from different places that people typically visit, and lots of “Madrid Bibles” passed down from older students mention trips that you just have to take while abroad. None of them have ever mentioned Scotland. So we didn’t really know what to expect!

It ended up being the absolute best from the moment that we got out of our taxi to see a man in a kilt. 

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We checked into the cutest hostel ever before sprinting across the street to find someplace for breakfast (it was raining hard). We weren’t even tired anymore because we were so excited!

The excitement only increased with each cool thing we saw. A medieval castle up on the hill. Streets that looked like something straight out of a Harry Potter book (we later learned Edinburgh inspired J.K. Rowling!).  So many people playing bagpipes in kilts. It was cold and windy and rainy, but wandering up and down the Royal Mile, poking in shops and giggling at the buff-men-in-kilts merchandise. Much more of that one than I had expected. 

There are lots of free things to do in Edinburgh, which was a pleasant surprise considering it was freezing outside. We went inside an art museum and a cultural museum with (creepy) wax figures that told the stories of the different social classes in medieval Scotland. We also stopped inside this beautiful cathedral! It was a strict no-pictures policy, but I snagged this one anyway. 

Our taxi driver into the city told us that the buildings were constructed from sandstone, which gave them this dark hue that you can notice in all of my pictures. It makes the whole place look ancient and mysterious– very unique from anyplace else we’ve been, and you can definitely feel how thick the history is. 

I was pleasantly surprised to see so many red phone booths! I thought that was just a London thing, but apparently not!

We had sandwiches and japanese cherry tea at the cutest little tea room before stopping by to see the outside of the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which houses the Queen of England once a year and was the famous home of Mary Queen of Scots. 

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Next stop (and one of my favorite little finds) was a poetry library that we stumbled upon on our way back to the hostel. It was two stories filled to the brim with books of poems, and there was a shop in the front where you could buy chapbooks and journals. I bought a pocket-sized book of travel poems that I’ve loved reading so far.

After a brief rest at the hostel, we hiked up to Calton Hill, which offers panoramic views of the city and surrounding areas. It was beautiful– oceans, city, cliffs, and snow-capped mountains, a different landscape to marvel at with every turn you make. There are unfinished national monuments at the top of the hill too, which were gorgeous to look at even though they weren’t complete!

We had dinner at a pub which had, like, eight pages of whisky options. Being in Scotland, we had to try it, except, full disclosure, we had absolutely no idea how to drink it. You can imagine how that went. We did, though, know how to smash the mac ‘n cheese that we both ordered (first time we’ve found this since coming abroad, and it definitely still reigns supreme as the best meal in the world). 

We finished the night with a ghost tour that I forced Rachel to go on, because I am a great friend 🙂 If you know me at all, you can picture how into this I was. We heard lots of legends about the violent past of the city, specifically in terms of witchcraft. In the dark tunnels underneath the city, we saw this room full of dolls, which people leave to try to connect with the spirits of children who were tortured during the witchcraft trials. Extremely creepy. 

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So you can share in the nightmare 🙂

We also saw the Greyfriar’s Kirkyard, famous for being one of the most haunted graveyards in the world. It’s also the place where that dog waited on top of his owner’s grave for years after he died because he missed him so much. People leave sticks there for the dog now.

 

Sunday, February 23: One Last “Cheers”

The plan was to hike up an inactive volcano, but we woke up and it was snowing, so we scrapped that plan for breakfast. Good choice. I had a traditional Scottish breakfast, and I gotta say, I don’t think I’ll be having beans at 8 a.m. anytime soon. 

We made a pit stop at The Elephant House, where J.K. Rowling first jotted down the idea for Harry Potter on a napkin!

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Finally, we went inside of that huge medieval castle on the hill. The highlight was getting to see the Crown Jewels of Scotland and learn about why they were so coveted for so long. 

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—-

We’re always heartbroken to leave, but leaving Scotland was just a little harder. Life decided to throw us another curveball by delaying our flight to Amsterdam, where we were supposed to catch a connecting flight to Madrid. After far more hours in the airport than we had originally planned, we finally made it home that same night! 

 

Thank you, Ireland and Scotland, for making me smile so big that my face still hurts. 

 

Things Ireland and Scotland taught me that I want to carry with me forever:

  • It is so nice to be understood. Never underestimate that. 
  • Also, never underestimate the power of mac-n-cheese after a 2 month drought.
  • If you ever feel like you’re suffocating, go outside and breathe in deep.
  • Do the crazy thing that you aren’t sure if you should do.
  • We’ve come a long way from where we began.
  • My ex-boyfriend was wrong. Women CAN handle whisky.
  • The best talks happen in the most unexpected places.
  • Cross oceans for the people you love.
  • Go out three nights in a row, because you’re only young once.
  • Brace against the winds and laugh hardest in the rains.
  • There are other places in the world where your passion is appreciated. Don’t ever let concentrated misunderstanding make you feel like a misfit.
  • Inspiration is absolutely everywhere.
  • The underhyped can often beat out the overhyped.
  • Plant-based eating is really hoppin over in the UK, so vegan/veggie pals, hold out hope! Times are a-changin.

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Author lifebylexi

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