Ireland – Part 2

Ireland – Part 2


Last week in – Part 1 – I spoke about north vs south Ireland and the history.

Ireland is a whole lot more than it’s dramas. Irish people are down to earth, yet feisty. They have a wicked sense of humour and something they call – craic. A good sense of fun. Colourful characters abound in Irish history like the canny brewer – Arthur Guinness – who had 21 children. Apparently his dark stout gave him and his wife stamina. Oscar Wilde was a character and half. His quotes are legendary. My favourite is vegetarian writer – George Bernard Shaw – who died at 94 after he fell off his ladder while trimming the trees outside his house.

Guild Hall Derry

Modern Irish celebrities like – Bono – and – Bob Geldof – are equally flamboyant and have a lot to say for themselves. These two Irish men have changed the course of history with their activism. Ireland has a lot to be proud of.

Ireland is full of magic and folklore. We heard it in the songs they sang at Bunratty, saw references to – Druids – magical powers at the stone circles and we saw warnings for us to beware of – Leprechauns.

Queens University Belfast

Ireland is called the Emerald Isle. There is a reason it’s so green. It rains a lot. Make sure you pack an umbrella and a light raincoat. You will use it. The best time to visit is mid season. July and August are when the European schools take their holidays. You may find screaming kids and exasperated parents a bit much. The favorable £ vs € exchange rate means Brits can pop across for an affordable family holiday.

Roads in Ireland are good and in the south road signs are in English and Irish. In the cities, as in most European cities, having a car was a bit of a nuisance but we left our car at the hotel or guesthouse and used public transport.

St Stephens Green Dublin

To plan our road trip, We took a map and kind of carved the country into quarters. We intended to find a base in each quarter and then do road trips radiating out from our base to key areas and attractions. We did a sort of E shape across Ireland but made sure we didn’t back-track and took in as much as possible. Here is a summary of our road trip. I can say – hand of heart – we put a lot of thought into it and I reckon we couldn’t have done it better.

St Mary’s Church in Dublin – now a bar

We hired a car from – Enterprise Car Hire – in Scotland and drove down to Stranraer. From Stranraer we took a ferry to Belfast where we spent a few nights at – Ibis Hotels. Starting in – Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, we did a walking tour of the city taking in the usual things such as museums, important buildings and cathedrals. We saw the Titanic, the – Albert Memorial – or leaning clock tower, the botanical gardens and Queens University.

Look out for – wall murals – in Northern Ireland which have clear Loyalist and Republican themes.

We found well priced and – surprise – vegetarian food near Queens University. And that’s a tip worth mentioning. You are far more likely to find budget friendly, healthy food near universities. Maybe students are more open minded? For more ideas on what to do in Belfast – click here. Allow around two days in Belfast.

Old wall around old city of Derry

We left Belfast and drove north taking in – Giants Causeway – which is described as “40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption”. If unique geology interests you, then you will love it. It’s a busy tourist attraction and requires a bit of walking. Follow – this link – for more on what to see and do in Northern Ireland.

Leaning clock Belfast

Next stop was – Derry. We loved Derry. Derry is the second biggest city in Northern Ireland and one of the oldest cities in Ireland. The old city is walled with ramparts that are still remarkably in tact. A person can easily imagine knights on horseback charging about. Derry is also where ‘The troubles’ began and here you will see wall murals that I mentioned. The Irish people are surprisingly open about their past and happy to talk. It happened not that long ago and many of them have been profoundly affected.  Allow two days – if you can – to explore Derry.

Next week in – Part 3  – I give ideas for what to do in Dublin, Galway, Aran Islands, Kerry, Cork and mention the druids.

Hanging backwards off the side of Blarney Castle to kiss the stone

Go to – My Holidays and Trips – at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on – this link.



Travel in Greece in 2002


Before he met me, my husband would take his annual holiday in Greece, every single year, for nearly a decade. He’s not alone. There are plenty Grecophiles who migrate to the same island and the same hotel, to hopefully have the same experience, again and again. For Europeans Greece is a go-to destination where sun is guaranteed and the landscape is vastly different from the grey skies and rain soaked fields.

Waiting for the next ferry

We went to Greece a few years after it joined the Eurozone. We heard that Euro status had pushed prices up. We heard right. Overnight a cup of coffee that would have been say $1 in Drachma became $3 in Euro. And that translated into all areas, meals, scooter hire and accommodation. Before Greece had been a value destination, now it costs the same as a trip to most Western European countries.

Ferry arriving at Ios island

It’s always so interesting to write about our older holidays and how many changes can occur in just a few years. Greece is in economic crisis right now and may well have to revert to the Drachma. Will the old prices return? Who knows?

Tourism is the number one source of income for Greece and in the height of season – July and August – Greece is more hell than heaven. Unless hanging out with hoards of bright red, drunk or hung over Europeans is your idea of fun. The best time to visit Greece is mid to low season. If that’s not possible then avoid the tourist hot spots and seek out remote areas of Greece. There are places in Greece where time has stood still.


Much of the tourism industry shuts down after low season. Ferry services dwindle, restaurants and accommodations close as many islanders head back to the mainland for winter. You don’t want to visit Greece too close to the end of the season or you could struggle to have a holiday at all.

I always say this and it’s true. No matter how much time you budget, you never have enough time to explore a country. A person can’t see and do it all. You have to prioritise and accept your lot or you can run yourself ragged and ruin your holiday. Athens is probably your arrival destination and a good vantage point for seeing the mainland. So allow a couple of days there.

Sailing off Skopelos island

Greece has over 60 inhabited islands in the Ionian, Aegean and Mediterranean Seas. The northern islands are greener and cooler. The southern islands are hotter with less vegetation. Ideally a couple of days in say the Sporades Islands and a couple in The Cyclades islands will give you a chance to experience the diversity.

Most common mode of travel – run down scooters

If you book in advance – make sure you factor in ferry times and allow plenty time for tardy services. We missed our ferry to Skiathos when our bus from the airport broke down. And the next hydrofoil that came only had one seat. We waited nearly half a day to finally get to the island.

Next week in – Part 2 – I talk about food for vegetarians and wine, scooters and getting about. And the week after in – Part 3 – I discuss  sailing, the islands and Athens.

Naxos town

Go to – My Holidays and Trips – at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on – this link.

Pin It on Pinterest