The start of the year has gone past in a haze. I still think it is only the beginning of 2013, but here we are in mid-March after just having celebrated the “greenest” day of the year with festivities across the continents, even though the origins of the day are born in one of the smaller nations in Europe.
Saint Patrick’s Day, or Saint Paddy’s to most, fills the Irish pubs all around the world and turns the river Liffey running through the Dublin city into a flowing green mass for the celebrations.
For me this is the day when I would love to be back in Ireland, my home of almost five years, rather than in the beautiful winter wonderland of Norway. More often than not, I still think of Dublin as my home, or one of my many homes, and I will be happy to return to the Island later in the year. For now though, I gathered some of my favorite activities to do while in Ireland in the spirit of Saint Patrick’s Day, even though I passed the celebrations while getting to know my own home country, Finland, even better.
1. Getting Lost in Dublin
Just as well it is great to hop in a sightseeing bus from time to time to see all the must-sees of a destination, it is also good to forget about the map, schedules and destinations and just wonder around a city to find out what it really has an offer. This is how I have found the most interesting restaurants, cozy cafes and quirky sights in any given country. Of course this has limitations especially in bigger cities as sometimes it is good to keep in mind the areas where it is not so safe to get lost in.
2. Surfing the West Coast
I hopped on a surf board for the first time last autumn in Portugal and then honed my skills further up north, in the rolling waves of the Atlantic washing up to the Irish west coast. Along the coastline there are perfect training places for beginners and more demanding spots for the adrenaline hunters with experience. The coastal villages are cozy and characteristic and experience in themselves.
3. Meeting the Dolphins
Many visitors to Ireland might have heard of Fungi, the solitary dolphin who resides just outside the village of Dingle in the South-West Ireland. Fungi has been hanging around now for several years and unfortunately it is said that his behaviour is not that of a natural dolphin anymore due to the many activities centering around the animal .
I have actually never met him, but I have been lucky to come across more wilder members of the species in the small bays of the west coast while kayaking out on the sea. And those experiences have been unforgettable. Racing with a dolphin next to my kayak, and at times losing my paddle to a playful dolphin who goes for a spin with it, is something I have experienced nowhere else!
4. Climbing up the Sugarloaf Mountain
Sugarloaf mountain in Wicklow Mountains is easily accessible from Dublin, hence a great spot to spend the day and get the sense of achievement from hiking to the top and gazing across the Dublin Bay and beyond. Though the mountain, or hill, is only approximately 500 meters high, it appears taller than it is due to its steep sloes and isolation from other hills. The image above is from Glendalough in Wicklow, also a popular place for day trips from Dublin.
Especially if you have time, touring Ireland slowly by car takes you to places you might miss when transferring from one location to the next. Small villages, beautiful barren landscapes and unexpected sights can only be experienced when you have the chance to stop at a moment’s notice. I did a roadtrip in Ireland with my family last autumn and I’m already planning the next one!
6. Swimming at Forty Foot
What used to be gentlemen’s only swimming spot, popular among nudists too, is now open to women and children as well, all year around. The spot is especially busy on Christmas Day when the locals go for the annual plunge! Forty Foot is located south of Dun Laoghaire close to Dublin.
7. Pub Crawling
Even in the smallest of villages you will usually find at least two pubs and for me, Ireland is the nation of pubs. Unlike in the Nordic countries where the bars and pubs are mainly frequented in weekends for a party, in Ireland the pubs are social meeting places where it is OK to go just for one pint. In Dublin you can even take part in organized pub crawls where you will find some of the best spots in the city, at least for tourists…
But most important of all, the one thing to do in ireland is to “have great craic”, in other words, to enjoy yourself and have a good time!