I can’t believe I had never been to Ireland. We just spent the weekend across the water exploring one of our closest neighbours and had an absolutely great time.
I realise that it’s ridiculous to write a blog post of first impressions (especially twelve of them) of a country that we spent two days in, but we managed to pack a lot in and see a surprising amount of Dublin and Galway. But that’s what a first impression is, right?
So here are 12 of my first impressions and observations of Ireland.
It’s very green
Obviously this didn’t come as much of a surprise, given that Ireland’s nickname is the Emerald Isle, green is on absolutely everything Irish, leprechauns are green… you get the point.
But I literally don’t think we saw another colour between Dublin and Galway – a two and a half hour journey across the entire width of Ireland.
Unless, of course, you count brown cows, white farmhouses and … yeah, that’s all I can think of.
It’s blimmin’ expensive
Dublin has the reputation of being one of the most expensive cities in the world, but I really was surprised by just how expensive. Not only that, but Galway wasn’t actually any cheaper!!! Each round cost us between €13 and €14 (I think one place was even €14.20!!! For two drinks!!!).
Every museum I looked at in Dublin was at least €10, often up to €20 or even €30. I know we’re lucky being from the UK where most of them are free, but we paid €16 for the National Leprechaun Museum! Mental. Even the Guinness Storehouse, which everyone seems to do, is €25, compared with £10 or less at Scotch whisky distilleries.
When I started looking into accommodation, I was shocked that hostels in Dublin were charging £50 a night for a dorm bed – but that’s because it was a bank holiday weekend. But really, that should have set the precedent for us. We managed to spend a whopping €100 on our first day AND WE DIDN’T EVEN DO ANYTHING. WE EVEN – WE EVEN SKIPPED LUNCH. And still spent a hundred bloody euros!! Just on breakfast, dinner and six drinks.
HOW do people afford to come here on a stag do? Do they take out a second mortgage?
They give you glass bottles of coke instead of on tap
I drink rum & coke (this is where someone tells me that no wonder our drinks were so expensive), but every single place gave me a little glass bottle of coke. So I guess I could have saved a tiny amount of money by ordering another rum to use up the rest of the coke.
There are motorways
Ireland has this reputation for having awful roads that are narrow and winding, often single-track which is seemingly enough to put most American tourists off driving on them. Even my Lonely Planet book says “Ireland’s efforts to improve its dire roads have been dealt a setback. Good. If you could scoot along as you do in other First World countries, you’d reach one end of Ireland almost before you left the other. But like a properly poured Guinness, the Emerald Isle is best enjoyed slowly.”
So when we hurtled across Ireland on a smooth motorway (well – a dual carriageway, really), I was very surprised!
…and lots of tolls
Again, for a country that isn’t supposed to have great roads, I was surprised to see how many toll booths we went through. It felt like America! In fact, there are 11 toll roads in Ireland (compared to zero in Scotland), and 2 or 3 of those are just between Dublin and Galway.
They have wooden fences
Alright, bear with me a minute. Wooden fences?! Yes, really. Unlike the UK where our fields are all lined with barbed wire fences and plain wooden fence posts, in Ireland all the ones I saw were lovely little brown wooden fences.
And when every field has wooden fences and stone dykes, doesn’t it feel a bit more fairytale? It just suits Ireland so well.
It’s very flat
I didn’t see any hills in Ireland; barely even sloped fields. The whole journey was oh so very flat – but not boring; in fact, as soon as we left Dublin and got out on the open road, I felt this overwhelming sense of calm for the entire journey.
Once we got to Galway, we could see the Connemara hills in the distance, but other than that, it was virtually the horizon in eveeerryyy direction.
They use KM instead of miles
I don’t know why this surprised me so much. I guess I didn’t expect Ireland to be much different to the UK, so this threw me off. (Gosh, next you’ll be telling me they use the Euro instead of the pound)
Galway is lovely
I really enjoyed Galway, as I knew I would. It was a bank holiday weekend, so it was a lot busier than I would have liked it to be, but that’s okay. It’s so pretty and colourful, and I loved wandering around!
My favourite thing, other than the absolutely amazing beer garden we found in the perfect sunshine, was all the buskers we passed. Apart from Lisbon, this has been my favourite place for buskers!
Dublin is actually really nice, too
I liked Dublin a lot more than I thought I would. Everyone I’ve talked about it with has said, “yeah… it’s nice”. A girl at work said it felt just like any other city, which is exactly what my expectation was.
So I was surprised to spend a couple of hours on our first day soaking up the very quiet Sunday morning atmosphere of Temple Bar, checking out all the cute pubs and discovering alleyways. I wasn’t expecting to like Temple Bar at all! Of course, it was completely different when we arrived back in Temple Bar on Monday afternoon, but the bustling crowds and music seeping from every corner (both inside and out) made it another really enjoyable wander. I imagine it’s completely different again when the sun goes down.
The doors in Dublin are pretty
As we sailed into town on the airport bus, I kept noticing beautiful doors. I thought I was mad, to be honest. Why am I suddenly obsessed with doors?
Clearly though, I’m not the only one to have noticed, given that they are even on Dublin postcards!!
Everyone is friendly
Our first impression was actually how friendly the people were, which comes as no surprise to anyone. Even at the airport, everyone wore a smile, and the first place we went to for breakfast in Dublin pulled out ALL the stops – it was genuinely the most friendly café we have EVER been into (I’ll be writing about it in my Dublin post, don’t worry!). Our hotel in Galway, not so much, which was a shame.
I wish we’d had more time to enjoy Irish hospitality, and to drink at more pubs in Galway. And err, more money to do so.
I think it’s a given that we’ll be back in Ireland at some point! But this was a perfect trip to find our feet and get a teensy tiny taster of what the country has to offer.