We started the week by taking an overnight trip down the coast to Cork. We stopped at Blarney Castle on the way and I kissed the Blarney Stone. The castle was beyond my expectations. Even though Blarney is notorious for being a tourist attraction, it didn’t feel like one. I felt like I had stepped back in time and could imagine the knights roaming its medieval walls with torches and swords.
In Cork, we stayed at University College and had some awesome burgers at the West Cork Burger Company.
The next day, we visited the medieval town of Youghal on Ireland’s southern coast. The main street hasn’t changed much since the 16th century, and the 1954 film Moby Dick was filmed there. We had locally made food from Collins Deli and toured the Collegiate Church of St. Mary in the center of town. The church is a Protestant church in a Catholic country, but it has one of the oldest roofs in the world behind the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. The wooden beams on the ceiling date to the year 1100 AD.
On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, my friends and I rented an Airbnb in Dublin so we could see more of the city and take a Game of Thrones Tour up the east coast to Northern Ireland. Ireland is divided into two countries: The Republic of Ireland which is Catholic, and Northern Ireland which is protestant and a part of the UK.
We learned that due to Brexit (the United Kingdom’s 2016 decision to leave the European Union), the violence and tension that has plagued the two Irish populations for over a hundred years could once again become destabilized. If Northern Ireland leaves the EU this October, the Republic of Ireland may be forced to put checkpoints back in place like they were during the Troubles (what the Irish call the period of violence from the 1960s to the 1990s between Catholics and Protestants).
Despite the ongoing problems with the EU and the two countries on the Emerald Isle, the North is a beautiful country with stunning scenery. When we crossed the border and had to switch currency from Euros to Pounds, and saw Union Jack flags everywhere. The Game of Thrones tour took us to Giant’s Causeway (fun fact: its also the place where the cover to Houses of the Holy by Led Zeppelin was shot). Giant’s Causeway is a geological wonder with thousands of pentagon-shaped pillared rocks that erupt from the shore like a monument. It is not man-made despite its appearance.
We then crossed the Ballintoy rope bridge and enjoyed driving along the Northern coast where we could see Scotland in the distance.