Ashley McDermott ’26
Rolling green fields, bustling pub life and grand fortresses. All sights that are rare throughout the U.S., but are scattered all over Ireland. This summer, I traveled to Ireland with my grandparents and brother. From Aug. 16 – 23, I was immersed in the culture and various destinations. Being a part of a tour group kept us busy, but it also ensured that we would discover the beauty Ireland has to offer.
We start in Dublin, an urban location that is home to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Stained glass windows line the walls, complementing the dark gray stones and Gothic architecture. We then loaded up our luggage and made our way over to Galway. On the way we stopped at Sean’s Bar, the oldest pub in Ireland and all of Europe. It was established in 900 A.D., and some top beverages on the menu include Irish Coffee (whiskey and coffee), Bailey’s and coffee and a pint of Guinness. Once we were settled in Galway, we took a catamaran boat tour of the Killary Harbor, which was the prime vessel to view the green mountains. We then explored Kylemore Abbey, where a Benedictine order of Nuns live. Besides the Abbey and neo-Gothic Church, there’s an enormous garden full of elaborate displays of flowers and trees. Not to mention, two friendly horses who are not afraid to approach guests and make friends with those who visit. In the days that followed, we watched a sheep dog demonstration, saw the incredible Cliffs of Moher, and drove through the Ring of Kerry.
My favorite spot we visited was the Blarney Castle. The grounds are over 60 acres large, and hold numerous gardens, trails, rivers and the infamous Blarney Castle. The castle looks like a stone fortress lost in time. Although parts of it are in ruin, the foundation and layout remains intact. The main attraction is the Blarney Stone. Guests climb 109 steps to reach the top where you can oversee the rest of the grounds. The stone itself is built into the wall. Imagine the wall and ground of the top level forming an “L” shape. The stone is located in that 90 degree corner where the wall meets the floor. However, the floor connecting to the stone in the wall is gone, leaving a gaping hole that exposes a 90 foot drop. So what are you supposed to do at the top? Lay down on your back, hang your upper body upside down into the hole (again, 90 feet up), reach out and kiss the Blarney Stone! Why? For the Gift of the Gab, of course. Legend has it that a man once saved a woman’s son from drowning, and to repay him, she told him to kiss the stone to give him the gift of eloquence. Later on, that same man went to see Queen Elizabeth I. He owed her a large sum of tax money, in which he never had to pay, because he had “eloquently” talked his way out of it. The Queen claimed that it was a “load of blarney,” which is where the stone gets its name.
Night life in Ireland is vibrant and boisterous. When walking down the street as the time approaches 10 p.m., music fills the area from numerous pubs. Folks walk up and down the strip, bouncing from bar to bar looking for their destination. One particular pub my brother and I checked out had two areas. The front being an older scene, with an acoustic guitar and conversation. The back room, however, was a college student’s dream. A live band played some of the most well known rock songs, while people between 18 – 25 danced and enjoyed a few drinks. By the time the band wrapped up, the dance floor was full, and the music switched over to a DJ. I was surprised to hear plenty of songs that I recognized, and I was also excited to hear the club songs native to Europe. The locals cheered and rallied when they heard these tunes. (In case you are curious, listen to “Freed from Desire “by Gala, or for a more traditional listen, check out “Drunken Lullabies” by Flogging Molly).
Visiting a place that has incredible destinations and an exciting nightlife has made an unforgettable vacation. While there are places with sunny beaches or cities with huge skyscrapers, there’s no place like Ireland. With its greenery, castles, bar life, music, culture and its folklore, it’s clear to me that I (and hopefully you) will once again, visit Ireland.