A few things prompted this trip - our friends from Philly had moved temporarily to Twyford, England for 6 months and we missed them, and we had a separate group of friends from Philly who wanted to check out Ireland. So being the resourceful couple we are- we turned a couple trips into one big trip and killed all the birds with one stone. Here is how we managed to do it all:
April 22: Arrived on an overnight flight into Heathrow from Philly. Our friend had arranged for a car service to pick us up from the airport and drive us 30mins to their house in Twyford. Twyford is a very small country town outside of London- but it does have a train that was a 5min walk from our friends' house we were able to take into London everyday. Once we showered, unpacked and ate, we headed into London on their local train (it only cost about $10-12 for a round trip ticket). Once to the train station in London, we hopped on the Underground subway and in a few minutes were in Portobello Road. There was a huge market that was going on that day, so we checked it out for awhile, also walked over to Kensington Gardens, had dinner in the area, and then headed back to Twyford. Writing it down, it doesn't seem like we did a lot our first day, but we really did trust me.
April 23: Up, showered, breakfast and ready to hit the train again and check out all the touristy London sites. We were able to hit London Bridge, the tower of London, Tower Bridge, then took a boat over to Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, checked out Borough Market for lunch, and ended in Picadilly Circus where we had dinner.
April 24: Last Day in England. Our friends headed to work, and we got ourselves together and did a run through the town of Twyford to say goodbye. We had some time to kill before our flight that night, so we grabbed the local train and headed into London one last time. The train station had a place that took our luggage for the day- cost us about $20/person for 2 bags each. We checked out Old Spitalfield's Market for lunch, walked around the downtown again for last photos, and then slowly made our way to the airport via train (the public transport in London is really the bomb once you figure it out). We then flew from London to the Shannon airport on the West side of Ireland- about a 1hr 30min flight. From there we got a taxi and met our friends at our Airbnb apartment in Ennis, Ireland. What is Ennis? A really small irish town that has a few pubs and is close to the Cliffs of Moher and the Shannon airport. Basically a place to crash for the night- which we did. Before I move on to the Ireland portion of the trip, here are some photos of London:
April 25: All together with our 3 other friends (which had flown into Dublin from Iceland, picked up the rental car, and drove it to Ennis where we all met), we stopped at a bakery for breakfast and then drove to the Cliffs of Moher for the day. From Ennis, it was about a 45min car ride, and a $3 entrance fee. We spent a few hours walking along the cliffs and went through a few weather changes in just a couple hours. It started out cold, then rained for 10mins, then cleared up and warmed up slightly, then crazy wind, and back to normal. I'm sure you've read this before, but not only must you go, the pictures do not do it justice. From there, we started the next leg of our trip- which was Galway-about 1hr 30min car ride from the Cliffs. We rented another Airbnb for the few nights we stayed in Galway, a cute house which provided street parking for the car and was only a 15min walk into town. That evening we walked down to Galway for happy hour on the main road with all bars, and had dinner at an awesome restaurant by the water Ard Bia Nimmos.
April 26: Trying to shake off the night before, and inspired by our Cliffs trip, the group decided to try find another hiking spot. An hour drive away, we discovered Diamond Hill in the Connemara section of Ireland. The hike started out casual enough, but in a few hours we found ourselves at what seemed like the highest hill in all of Ireland looking down on the countryside below. It was not easy, and it was crazy, and it also consisted of a few weather patterns. Big tip for Ireland- layers layers layers and rain jackets. After our random, epic climb, we checked out an Abbey (not really my thing, killed an hour and satisfied a friend's curiosity) and then drove back to Galway. Another walk into town lead us to a cool wine bar/tapas spot, where we had another great dinner, then headed to the bars.
April 27: Our trek from Galway to Dublin - took us about 3hrs. I was sad to leave Galway, if I could go back I would have stayed there one more day/night, or tried another town like Cork in the south. But we only had limited time and this crew was excited for Dublin. We had rented another Airbnb place which had street parking, and was located in Ranelagh, which was a good 30min walk into Dublin downtown. This place was so nice- 3 floors, 3 bedrooms, beautiful kitchen, and in a nice area that had it's own little scene going on with many pubs and restaurants to choose from. We headed into Dublin on foot, and from this point on the trip became a little monotonous. We saw the touristy sites in Dublin, we ate fish and chips, the guys drank a ton of Guinness, repeat for the next few days.
April 28 and 29: I'll rush you through what we did:
Guinness Storehouse (buy tickets online ahead of time to skip the lines - $20 per person)
Saw multiple castles
Drank at Temple Bar (and bars in that area)
National Leprachaun Museum (will kill an hour, good for kids, $20 per person)
By our last day we were pretty done with Dublin. I've had friends who have said doing a day trip to Howth on the coast (about 30mins from Dublin) was something they liked- and again hindsight being 20/20 - if I could go back I would have opted to only do a day and a half in Dublin downtown, and then Howth for a half day-day. Honestly, the Dublin draw and culture seemed centered all around drinking, and a girl can only do so much of that.
April 30: Drove to the airport (45mins with no traffic from Ranelagh), dropped off the rental car, shuttle to the airport. Something that tripped me up here, they did customs and passport control at the Dublin airport, so when we landed in Philly we were able to just get off the plane and go home. I did not expect that, so when flying out of Dublin give yourself extra time at the airport heading home.
Key takeaways from this trip:
- The weather is not the best in either London or Ireland. Pack a winter jacket, a rain jacket, layers, and rainboots
- West coast is the best coast of Ireland. Also I've heard good things about the South there (Cork, etc). Give yourself 1-2 days max in Dublin.
- London is amazing with public transport, you do not need a car. Ireland is not, you do need a car, luckily you can drive across the entire country East to West coast in about 3 hours, so it's very manageable.
- Pack a spare liver for these countries- drinking is a big part of their culture.
- Who knew, Ireland coasts have great hiking opportunities!
- I was able to run in Ranelagh each morning before everyone else was up. The cool irish weather (and it's usually sunny in the mornings) provided the perfect climate (plus it was flat and easy to navigate)
- London is HUGE. We just only scratched the surface.
Cost Breakdown of Trip (excluding flights):
Car Service Pick up from Heathrow to Twyford: $50
Trains from Twyford to London 3 days: $70
Train from London to Airport: $20
Underground Pass (includes boat rides as well) 3 Days: $60
Storing Luggage at Train Station for 1 Day: $40
Airbnb places in Ireland: $600 (since we split it with 3 other people, came to $300 per person for the 6 nights)
Rental Car: $160 (again split between 5 people, the car itself is cheap, but get the insurance even though that is what ends up costing in the end. Remember, you are driving on the opposite side here, makes for interesting road trips)
Ticket to Guinness Storehouse, Abbey and Cliffs: $66
Total cost for 2 of us: $2566