In the midst of keeping up with graduate work, coaching, community outreach, and competing with your college and club teams, it is easy sometimes to forget you’re living in a foreign country. Establishing a daily routine can have its benefits, but I have found it important to still take time to explore the island and appreciate the rich culture it has to offer. Aside from coming to Ireland to work with and inspire others, I also came to better myself as a person in the process: to develop a more global perspective and to expand my horizons. In the ten short weeks since we first arrived in Dublin Airport, I’ve been more than fortunate to get a better feel for the landscape of my home for the remainder of the year. Here are my Week 10 Power Rankings of must-have experiences during your time here:
1. Saturday Night on Shop Street, Galway – As a Galway-based scholar, I’m slightly biased I know. But, I’ve yet to have an experience here as surreal as my first moments in the city-center. Rounding the corner of the Latin Quarters, I literally froze in my tracks at the sight of thousands of people flooded into the iconic cobblestone streets, with bright lights overhead, traditional music and singing filling the air, and great craic being had by all. The weekends can make for a hectic time in the city, however, the interaction of the local Irish community with the masses of international tourism makes for a uniquely fun experience on any given night.
2. Explore the Edge of Earth at the Cliffs of Moher – For those brave enough to stand on the edge, I salute you. An obvious must-have experience on the island, the Cliffs certainly did not disappoint. Upon arrival, take a right towards O’Brien’s Tower for a great vantage point of the full landscape of the Cliffs. Take a left to see just how small you measure against the 700 foot drop into the Atlantic Ocean (and to get those prime selfie opportunities).
3. Take a Trip Back in Time at Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin – Relive the history of Joseph Plunkett, Patrick Pearse, and company in the aftermath of the 1916 Easter Rising. Learn how the news of their executions helped inspire the Irish nationalists’ War of Independence against British rule.
4. Bike across Inishmore, Aran Islands – Take the 45-minute ferry from Doolin and cough-up the €10 rent a bike for a day of travel. Channel your inner-Lance Armstrong and explore historic monuments like the Iron-age Dún Aonghasa fortress and the Seven Churches, while taking in the remarkable coastline around the island. Stop at Joe Wattys for a Guinness to cool down after a good day’s workout.
5. See a Sheep Auction in Leeanne – Spend your saturday morning watching Connemara farmers flock (pun intended) to the base of Killary Fjord to buy and sell one of Ireland’s most precious livestock. While not as glamorous as other points of interest on the island, it’s interesting to witness the behind-the-scenes dealings of Ireland’s wool export industry.
1. The Giant’s Causeway, N. Ireland – A UNESCO world heritage sight, the 40,000 interlocking basalt columns are a natural wonderment well worth the visit. Educate yourself on both the formation’s scientific explanation, as well as on Fionn mac Cumhaill and its Gaelic mythological tale, and decide for yourself which one is really true.
2. Halloween Macnas Parade, Galway – The origins of Halloween is found in Celtic Ireland. Celebrate the day with the Irish locals as they honor the traditions of their culture through meaningful fashion, music, dance, costumes, and floats.