7 Authentic Experiences On The Emerald Isle


Bianca Blades

Bianca is a lover of the written word and travelling the world. When she's not catching high-speed trains and getting lost in art museums, she enjoys exploring new forms of storytelling.

18th October 2018

1. Visit the beautiful Irish coast

Once considered the end of the known world, Ireland’s dramatic shores attract travellers from across the world (who also don’t mind getting a little windswept as they take in the area’s natural beauty!)

From the towering Cliffs of Moher to the whales and dolphins inhabiting the Dingle Peninsula, there are so many breathtaking photo opportunities along the winding Irish coastline. Taking the road less travelled never looked so good.

2. Treat yourself to hearty Irish food

Two thousand years ago, Roman sentries dubbed Ireland ‘the land of eternal winter’. To stay cosy and warm, you’ll need to try some classic comfort food during your stay here.

These Irish favourites should be on your list:
• Soda bread (some recipes include a pint of Guinness!)
• Hot Irish breakfast served with black or white pudding (a type of sausage) and a cup of Irish tea
• Salted pork and cabbage
• Galway’s oysters, shellfish and seafood delicacies
• Dublin Coddle: a slowly simmered Irish stew with bacon and potatoes
• Fifteens: a Northern Irish cake made from digestive biscuits, marshmallows and cherries
• Potatoes: have ‘em fried, mashed, boiled or blended into a soup. Don’t miss potato hash and also try boxty: potatoes and flour baked into a potato pancake.

3. Visit Belfast: Northern Ireland's capital filled with architecture and history

Once known as Linenopolis, Belfast glimmers with architectural relics from the booming Victorian era. Highlights include Queen’s University and Northern Ireland’s oldest food market, St George’s Covered Market(constructed in 1896).

You could also cross River Lagan to explore Belfast’s shipbuilding past at the Titanic Museum. This museum was opened in 2012 to commemorate 100 years since the sinking of the ill-fated luxury liner.
Don’t miss the chance to see Belfast’s political murals with a Black Cab tour on the Back-Roads Ireland The Emerald Isle tour. This tour will give you insight into the period of conflict in Northern Ireland known as The Troubles.

To round up your time in Belfast, pay a visit to the Crown Liquor Saloon. You’ll feel like you’ve wandered into a gin joint from the silent movie era with its mosaics and stained glass interiors.

4. Learn about ancient myths at the Giant’s Causeway

When diving into Irish mythology, you’ll soon discover that the folklore is heavily intertwined with the natural world. Think: stories of leprechauns and shamrocks, fairies and changeling children.

On the coast of Northern Ireland, the Giant’s Causeway is a UNESCO World Heritage site and geological marvel. It was formed after a volcanic eruption met the sea millions of years ago. The result? 40,000 columns rise up from the crashing waves like steps.

Depending on which version of history you believe, the Causeway is also said to be an ancient sea crossing where an Irish giant called Finn MacCool had a stand-off with a Scottish giant (and lived to tell the tale). We’ll let you decide which one you prefer to believe!

5. Listen to live music in Galway

Want to experience a typical Irish evening of great craic (that’s an Irish word that loosely means ‘excellent banter and fun’)? The seaside city of Galway has a long history of traditional Irish music. Otherwise known as ‘trad’, the music is performed by street buskers, fiddle bands and ballad singers alike.

You’ll be toe tapping to legendary folk tunes in no time. Hint: you’re not in an Irish pub unless there’s a group singalong to the catchy chorus of The Wild Rover.

6. Explore away from the crowds

You might be wondering what the Back-Roads difference is when it comes to group travel in Ireland. With small tour sizes of up to 18 people, we’re able to travel by mini-coach to off-the-beaten track attractions and authentic Irish places.

For example, we’ll visit Molly Gallivan’s Cottage on our Corners of Southern Ireland tour. Here, you’ll step back in time to experience what Irish rural life was like in the 1800s. In its past life, the cottage was a clandestine pub where Molly sold an illicit brew to support her seven children. Nowadays, you can settle in and enjoy a dram of her famous whiskey in historic surrounds.

Other Back-Roads highlights on the road less travelled in Ireland? Pay a visit to the 12th-century Kilkenny Castle and enjoy scenic drives around the Ring of Kerry in the mini-coach.

7. Immerse yourself in Dublin’s literary legacy

It’s no secret that the Irish are known for their gift of the gab. When wandering the streets of the Republic of Ireland's capital city, Dublin, you’ll even hear some of the statues talk! We can thank creative Dubliners for writing and recording monologues that give visitors a glimpse into the minds of famous bronze statues.

We recommend listening to the thoughts of Molly Malone, a fictional (and often misunderstood) fishmonger who stands tall a few minutes’ walk from Trinity College. Molly Malone is the subject of Dublin’s unofficial anthem of the same name, made popular by the Irish band, The Dubliners.
Wandering through the parks of Dublin, you’ll see monuments dedicated to the playwright Oscar Wilde as well as the postmodern author James Joyce. After relocating to Paris, Joyce published his magnum opus, Ulysses, as a 730-page ode to his homeland and Ireland’s capital.

Fans of the novel, or those interested in an authentic slice of Dublin life in the early 20th century, can visit the historic Sweny’s Pharmacy. Joyce famously described this pharmacy in the text and it has since been converted into a bookstore and book club which is dedicated to his life’s work. An added bonus is that the ex-pharmacy also sells bars of the famous lemon-scented soap that is described in Ulysses.