20 Fun Things To Do In Dublin, Ireland (Plus What To Avoid…)

St Patricks Cathedral in Dublin

Best Things To Do in Dublin, Ireland

Dublin, Ireland

The city of Dublin is known for its charming streets, colorful doorways, live music and historic architecture. Here are some of the best things to do in Dublin that you won’t want to miss!

Dublin may be one of Europe’s smaller capital cities, but the city has been known to steal the heart of every visitor, with something for everyone.

I traveled to Dublin with my family during our Irish genealogy trip, tracking down the old home of my Irish grandmother. We had a fantastic time!

By now you’ve probably heard rumors about the Irish weather. It’s true what they say — you really can experience all four seasons in one day.

Because most travelers visiting Ireland spend some time in the capital, I wanted to recommend a few fun things to do in Dublin, whether you’re lucky enough to catch some summer sun — or the heavens open up above you.

Best Things To Do In Dublin

1: Visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral

St. Patrick's Cathedral

Inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Founded in 1191, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the largest church in Ireland, and the National Cathedral. It has been said this is where St. Patrick himself baptized Christian converts over 1500 years ago.

Unusually, St. Patrick’s isn’t the only Cathedral in Dublin. It’s a “two-cathedral” city, sharing the title with Christ Church Cathedral nearby.

Visitors can go inside and enjoy the impressive church interior between 9am and 5pm daily.

The writer Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels, was once Dean of the cathedral. He’s buried there too. On a sunny day, you’ll find tourists and locals alike enjoying the cathedral grounds soaking up the history.

2: Fish n’ Chips At Leo Burdocks

Things To Do In Dublin: Fish & Chips

Dublin’s Most Famous Fish & Chips

You can’t leave Dublin without trying a traditional Fish n’ Chips! But one place stands out from all the rest. Leo Burdocks Fish n’ Chips is so good in fact that they even have a ‘Wall of Fame’ outside showcasing visits from celebrities and politicians from around the world.

The original Burdocks has been around since 1913. They were serving up piping hot food during both World Wars and the 1916 Rising, when Ireland gained its independence from Britain.

The shop itself can only hold about 3 people, so grab your grub and head down to St. Patrick’s Cathedral nearby. Ask for the ‘crispy bits’ with your chips… you can thank me later!

3: Read At Trinity College Library

Ireland's Oldest University

Trinity College in Dublin

Created in 1592, Trinity College is Ireland’s oldest university, hosting students such as author Bram Stoker, poet Oscar Wilde and Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels.

The building has also been home to the ancient Book Of Kells since 1661. The Book of Kells Exhibition in Trinity College is a must-see in Dublin, but where it leads you to is the real treat…

The Old Library houses 200,000 of their oldest books in beautiful oak bookcases, so it is not hard to see why it was used as inspiration for J.K Rowling’s creation of Hogwarts!

4: Have An Irish Breakfast

Drinking Guinness in Dublin

Drinking Guinness For Breakfast!

They say drinking a pint of Guinness is akin to eating a meal… so why not start your day with a drink? It’s what 100 year old Gladys Fielden has been doing for the past 70 years, and she’s still going strong!

There is an old motto that says “Eat breakfast like a King, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper” which basically means you should start your day with a large breakfast. The Irish take this to heart.

A traditional Irish breakfast consists of cooked meat (bacon, sausages and black/white puddings), eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms, and potato all fried in butter with brown bread.

It was used to prepare you for a full day’s work on the farm on a cold winter morning.

5: Christ Church Cathedral

Cathedral in Dublin

Christ Church Cathedral

As you climb the spiraling staircase of Christ Church Cathedral, take a moment to imagine what life was like back in 1030, when Dublin’s oldest building first opened its doors.

Imagine the historic events this building has witnessed and the ancient artifacts it has collected along the way.

Christ Church is known for its stunning architecture, its 12th century crypt and of course the sound of the bells which have rung out over Dublin’s medieval center for hundreds of years.

Thanks to their guided tours, you can now explore the narrow corridors of the Cathedral and ring the bell for yourself, or see their exhibition of original 16th century costumes.

6: Trace Ancestors At Glasnevin Cemetery

Dublin Things To Do: Glasnevin Cemetery

Hunting Dead Relatives at Glasnevin

Built in 1832, Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery is surrounded by seven watchtowers which were home to armed guards. Ireland’s most famous cemetery was a key target for bodysnatchers!

It was also the final resting place for many historical figures like Michael Colins, a soldier and politician who played a key role in the struggle for Irish independence, Brendan Behan, Irish poet, novelist, and playwright who was imprisoned for IRA activity and Luke Kelly, vocalist in one of Ireland’s greatest bands, The Dubliners.

Nowadays, Glasnevin Cemetery Museum has vowed to tell the stories of over 1.5 million people, the people who helped to shape the Ireland of today. They also have the best tools for your family’s Irish genealogy search.

7: Walk Across Ha’Penny Bridge

Things To Do In Dublin

Dublin’s Ha’Penny Bridge

Every visitor to Dublin should walk across the Ha’Penny bridge at least once. This historic bridge over the River Liffey was built back in 1816, to replace the many ferries that shuttled people back and forth.

It was named for the “half-penny” toll that was required to cross it.

For an even more unique experience, you can kayak under the bridge with City Kayaking. They run tours all year, and if you’re lucky, you might catch one of Dublin’s famous autumn sunsets.

If you’re REALLY lucky, you can be there for the ‘Music Under the Bridge’ tours when they call in some of the best musicians in Dublin to perform under the bridges as people kayak down the River Liffey through the city.

8: Listen To Buskers On Grafton Street

Dublin Things To Do: Street Busking

Singing for Tourists on Grafton

You never know what you are going to find on Grafton Street, but you are guaranteed a great show! From traditional Irish music, to rock and pop, this free entertainment is the perfect soundtrack to your Irish trip.

Make sure to take a snap while you’re there because you could be listening to a future star. Recently, 12 year old Irish busker Allie Sherlock was flown to Hollywood by Ellen DeGeneres and is said to be the next Taylor Swift!

Grafton Street has also been known to bring out the busker in everyone, including people like Bono, Hozier, The Script, Damien Rice and Glen Hansard to name a few.

9: The Howth Cliff Walk

Dublin Things To Do: Howth Cliffs

Howth Cliffs at Dublin Bay

If you’re a nature lover who wants to enjoy a day outside of Dublin city center, the coastal town of Howth should be first on your list.

Here you’ll find some of the best seafood in Dublin, weekend markets for the perfect souvenir and coastal hikes with unimaginable views over the Irish sea.

On a clear day you will get a panorama view of Dublin Bay and Howth Harbor during this 2 hour trail.

The good news is the Howth Cliff walk is suitable for all fitness levels, but keep in mind that it is dangerous to walk in rough weather conditions, so it may be best to stay cozy in one of the many pubs and restaurants nearby.

10: DoDublin Bus Tour

Dublin Things To Do: Bus Tour

Tour Dublin By Bus

With authors and poets such as James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, W.B Yeats and Samuel Beckett, it’s clear to see that Ireland is home to some of the greatest storytellers in the world.

Normally I’m not a fan of bus tours, but the DoDublin Bus guides truly have the ‘gift of the gab’.

They take great pride in presenting the best of Dublin City and throw in plenty of historical and cultural references by famous poets/writers.

Be prepared for the Irish sense of humor though, you can expect a lot of playful sarcasm and plenty of songs from Dublin City – it’s like a history lesson, comedy show and karaoke sing-along mixed into one!

11: See Wild Deer In Phoenix Park

Dublin Things To Do: Phoenix Park

Deer at Phoenix Park in Dublin

Phoenix Park – Europe’s largest walled urban park is a national treasure for the people of Ireland. Opening over 350 years ago, the park spans 7 square kilometers and can be found just a stones throw away from the city center.

Not only is it home to Dublin Zoo, but it is also known for its wild herd of deer, which can be found roaming through the forests (and crossing the road when you least expect it!).

The deer were introduced back in 1662, when the park itself was set up as a royal deer hunting park, but nowadays the 450 member herd are free to run wild.

Phoenix Park is the perfect place for an afternoon picnic, but do keep your eyes peeled, because the deer have been known to join in!

12: Trad Sessions At The Hairy Lemon

St Patricks Cathedral in Dublin

Dance

Traditional Irish music, or trad, is one reason many people visit Ireland. And The Hairy Lemon Pub is certainly unconventional… you never know what you’ll find in this aptly-named green and yellow 19th century house.

One thing is for sure, The Hairy Lemon does the best Trad Sessions in Dublin! If you have never been to an Irish Trad Session, prepare yourself, it can get pretty wild especially when the Guinness is flowing.

You can grab a seat, but you won’t be sitting for long — Irish dancing on the tables in no time. The Hairy Lemon is also known for their traditional Irish food like Dublin Coddle, Cottage Pie and Irish Stew.

13: Watch A Hurling Match

Dublin Things To Do: Hurling Match

Have You Ever Heard of Hurling?

You may have never heard of Hurling before, but I can guarantee the moment you sit down to watch this ancient Gaelic and Irish sport, you’ll instantly become a fan.

And where better to watch, than in Croke Park (‘Croker’ as the Irish say). Hurling has been played in Ireland for well over 3000 years and is said to be ‘the fastest game on grass’.

It involves a wooden stick called a hurley and a small hard ball called a sliotar, and players must wear helmets at all times – this is high speed, high impact and high adrenaline for everyone watching!

14: Taste Some Irish Whiskey

Dublin Whiskey Distillery

Whiskey Tasting at Teeling Distillery

Guinness isn’t the only alcohol Ireland is famous for. Ireland has been making whiskey for well over two hundred years, so it doesn’t get much richer than this when it comes to taste and history.

The most famous whiskey tour in Dublin is the former Jameson Distillery on Bow Street, but it’s really just a museum now, no longer a working distillery. Instead, I’d recommend stopping by the fully functional Teeling Distillery to see an actual distillery in action.

Prepare yourself for a sensory overload, because after the tour you’re invited to try out their premium whiskey tasting experience, where you will learn the tricks of the trade, how to blend your own whiskey or master the craft of whiskey cocktail making.

15: Visit The Hellfire Club

Dublin Things To Do: Hell Fire Club

The Most Haunted Place in Ireland

With beautiful forest trails and an incredible view over Dublin, the Hellfire Club might seem like a peaceful escape from the city at first, but once you make it to the lodge at the top of the hill you will start to realize that there is much more than meets-the-eye.

If you’re not a fan of ghost stories, you might want to stay away as this infamous location is riddled with supernatural tales that will send shivers up your spine!

At the top of the hill you’ll find the remains of the Irish Hellfire Club, where the members were believed to be Satanists and Devil-worshipers — inviting the Devil to join them for dinner each night.

16: Explore Dublin’s Museums

Dublin Things To Do: Museums

Dublin is Full of Museums

If you have been to the Emerald Isle before, you will probably know that it tends to rain more than 160 days of the year! Thankfully, Dublin has an abundance of museums and galleries for you to stay dry in – they even have a National Leprechaun Museum!

The National Gallery of Ireland is home to some of Europe’s most incredible pieces, with art spanning the 14th to the 20th-century, while the stunning grounds of the Irish Museum of Modern Art are the perfect location to enjoy contemporary style art.

If it’s history you’re interested in, why not try the National Museum of Ireland or take a peek inside the Little Museum of Dublin which tells the remarkable story of the Irish capital, with over 5,000 artifacts in the collection.

17: Wander Down To Temple Bar

Dublin Things To Do: Temple Bar

Dublin’s Famous Temple Bar Area

The Temple Bar area is a maze of narrow streets full of pubs and live music. Located on the south side of the River Liffey, it’s one of the oldest areas in Dublin and home to some of the most famous bars in Ireland.

It’s a must see if you want to experience Dublin’s nightlife (however these days it’s mostly tourists). But there’s plenty to do in the daytime too.

Medieval architecture, food markets every Saturday afternoon, Europe’s oldest built theatre — it’s no wonder it’s renowned for being the cultural quarter of Dublin. Take a stroll down the cobbled streets and explore its galleries, vintage clothing shops, record stores and more.

18: Picnic At St. Stephen’s Green

Dublin Things To Do: St. Stephen's Green

Relax at St. Stephen’s Green

Saint Stephen’s Green Park is a little piece of paradise in the centre of Dublin and the perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. If you’re bringing a picnic to enjoy by the pond, make sure to bring an extra slice of bread for the park residents – the ducks!

Over the past 4 centuries, Stephen’s Green has played a key role in Dublin’s history. When you wander through the peaceful surroundings, it’s hard to imagine that this site was once a battleground during the 1916 rising.

But even in the height of battle, James Kearney, the park grounds keeper convinced both sides to stop fighting for one hour a day… so he could feed the ducks of course!

19: Tour Historic Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle

Explore Historic Dublin Castle

Built in the early 13th century, Dublin Castle sits on the site of a Viking settlement. Excavations have uncovered parts of a medieval castle with the remains of the Viking’s original defenses.

The stone covered embankment, the medieval curtain wall and the steps that led down to the original moat have all been preserved for you to see on your next visit to this historical masterpiece.

The history of Dublin Castle doesn’t stop there. Before the 1916 rising, it served as headquarters for the British administration in Ireland. In 1922, following Ireland’s independence, Dublin Castle was handed over to the new Irish government, opened up for visitors to experience it themselves.

20: Beef Stew At The Church

Dublin Things To Do: The Church

The Church Restaurant, Dublin

This might just be the best thing you ever eat, especially on a cold winter’s day in Dublin. Chances are you’ll see Guinness Beef Stew on menus across the city, but the best spot to enjoy it is The Church.

Built at the beginning of the 18th century, The Church (which was an actual church) boasts many outstanding features, like an authentic Renatus Harris organ, spectacular stained glass windows, and has hosted some incredible historic events.

Arthur Guinness, founder of The Guinness Brewery (another great stop in Dublin) married here in 1761. Sean O’Casey – Playwright & Author of “The Plough & The Stars” – was baptized here in 1880.

Jonathan Swift – author of “Gulliver’s Travels” and Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral attended services here too.

Molly Malone Statue Dublin

Molly Malone’s Famous Statue…

What NOT To Do In Dublin…

  • Never tell an Irish person that YOU are also Irish. Maybe your great, great, great, grandmother was, but you’re American.
  • Don’t get a selfie with the statue of Molly Malone. This is probably the most touristy thing you can do in Dublin.
  • Stay away from Sheriff Street. Despite the name, it’s one of the most dangerous parts of the city. The rest of Dublin isn’t too bad!
  • Never call an Irishman (or Irish woman) British. In fact, try not to mention the UK at all. The Irish are fiercely independent.
  • Don’t expect to drink all night. Most pubs in Dublin actually close at 11:30pm on weeknights and 1am on weekends.

Where To Stay In Dublin

Accommodation in Dublin is expensive. There’s just no way around it. Dublin is a small city, so hotels within the center can charge a premium.

Here are some suggestions for good places to stay in Dublin:

BUDGET
Dublin Hostel
Abbey Court Hostel
Good breakfast, great location, easy to walk to everything. Clean.

Check Prices / Read Reviews

MID-RANGE
Dublin Mid-Range Hotel
Blooms Hotel Dublin
Close to bars, restaurants, and attractions. Good value.

Check Prices / Read Reviews

MID-RANGE
Dublin Mid-Range Hotel
Jurys Inn Dublin
Large rooms, comfortable beds, and friendly staff. Great location and breakfast.

Check Prices / Read Reviews

LUXURY
Dublin Luxury Hotel
Trinity City Hotel
Super comfortable hotel with cosy courtyard area. Close to all the best attractions.

Check Prices / Read Reviews

DUBLIN TRIP PLANNING INFORMATION
Location: Dublin, Ireland
Cheap Flights: Check out Skyscanner.net
Car Rental: Check out RentalCars.com
Accommodation: Check out Booking.com
Useful Notes: Dublin International Airport is about 6 miles away from the city center. The easiest way to get into the city is by using the airport’s Airlink Bus (also known as Route 747). They depart for the city every 15-20 minutes, and costs €6 one way.
Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Dublin
Suggested Reading: 1916: The Irish Rebellion

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This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

Cliffs Of Insanity! Visiting Ireland’s Cliffs Of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

Ireland’s Cliffs of Moher

Doolin, Ireland

A cold wind blows as I walk along the legendary Cliffs of Moher. Ireland’s most famous landmark rises dramatically out of the ocean, waves crashing into rocks far below.

Whoever he is, he’s too late. See?! The Cliffs of Insanity! ~ Vizzini

A favorite childhood movie of mine is the 80’s cult classic The Princess Bride, a crazy fairy tale adventure through the mythical kingdom of Florin.

In one scene, Princess Buttercup’s kidnappers are chased across the ocean by the Man in Black before they climb the steep “mile-high” Cliffs of Insanity.

While not quite a mile high, Ireland’s 700 foot Cliffs of Moher are certainly imposing enough to feature them in the movie. Now that I’ve finally seen them myself, I can assure you the cliffs are even more astounding in person!

Ireland Cliffs

Cliff Views Looking South

Cliffs of Moher Tower

O’Brien’s Tower

Cliffs Of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher are located about 90 minutes south of Galway on Ireland’s west coast in County Clare. They’re part of a scenic driving route called the Wild Atlantic Way.

While technically the cliffs are Ireland’s most popular tourist attraction with one million visitors each year, at 5 miles long, there’s plenty of room to explore if you enjoy walking.

A visitor’s center was built into the hillside so people can experience the site without intrusive buildings wrecking the view, and a scenic walking path branches out in two directions across the top.

The cliffs range in height from 390 feet to 702 feet tall, and are home to over 30,000 birds, including colonies of Atlantic Puffin that usually make an appearance in late March.

Cliffs of Moher

Stunning Cliffs of Moher

Hag's Head

Hag’s Head Tower

Walking Over The Sea

There are safety barriers to keep you from getting too close to the edge of the cliffs, but only up to a point. If you keep walking, eventually the barriers end.

Some people risk standing or sitting right on the edge…

I was one of them. However do so at your own risk! There’s often strong winds at the Cliffs of Moher, with freak gusts reportedly blowing people off to their deaths from time to time.

The Namurian shale & sandstone ledges that make up the cliffs will sometimes crumble without warning due to erosion, creating another danger.

To the south, there’s a beautiful old stone tower from the Napoleonic Wars called Hag’s Head. Walking here from the visitor’s center will take the average person about 1 – 2 hours.

To the north, O’Brien’s Tower marks the highest point of the cliffs. It’s just a short walk away from the visitor’s center and offers the best views in both directions. You can pay an additional $2 to climb the tower.

Cliffs of Moher Flowers

Flowers Growing on the Edge

Visiting The Cliffs

There are two villages near the Cliffs of Moher, Liscannor (6 km south) and Doolin (7 km north). Both are small, but you’ll find plenty of restaurants, bed & breakfasts, and pubs with live music to relax in after a day of exploring.

Tourism is highest here during the months of July & August making the area quite crowded. However in September it wasn’t bad at all, especially if you walk beyond the area around the visitor’s center.

Other potential adventures include viewing the cliffs from below on a ferry boat, or hiking the entire 12 mile (20 km) Coastal Walk over the cliffs.

There is a good reason why Ireland’s Cliffs of Moher are so famous. Walking the winding dirt path on the edge of a precipice, its beautiful Atlantic Ocean views & surrounding landscapes are awe inspiring.

It’s a truly magic travel experience to have in the Emerald Isle. ★

More Information

Location: Doolin, Ireland [Map] Accommodation: Churchfield Bed & Breakfast
Official Website: Cliffs Of Moher
Total Cost: €6 Entry Fee, €2 for O’Brien’s Tower
Useful Notes: Like always, I recommend visiting popular tourist attractions early or late to avoid large crowds. The best time for photography is just before or during sunset, when the cliffs are bathed in light. Plan to visit for at least 2 hours if not more.
Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Ireland
Suggested Reading: In Search of Ancient Ireland

READ NEXT: Finding My Roots In Ireland

Have you ever visited the Cliffs of Moher?

Finding My Roots In Ireland: Family Genealogy Road Trip

Genealogy in Ireland

Family Genealogy Trip in Ireland

Glengarriff, Ireland

It only took me 34 years to visit my family’s ancestral homeland of Ireland. Joined by my parents & sister, we traveled to the Emerald Isle to research our history.

Like most Americans, I’m a mutt. My family immigrated to the United States from Ireland, Poland, Germany and England. Mostly from Ireland though — including my paternal grandmother.

Concentrating on the side of the family with the most recent links to Ireland, we decided to visit the area where my grandmother was born. A small south-western coastal village called Glengarriff in County Cork.

I was especially excited for this journey, as it was the first time that my family members were going to travel with me internationally, and years since we’d traveled together for any kind of road trip. Woohoo!

O'Neils Bar Dublin

Guinness For Breakfast

Dublin Sights

Dublin Castle

Arriving In Dublin

The first order of business once we arrived in Dublin after checking into the Trinity City Hotel was to grab a large Irish breakfast and wash it down with a few pints of Guinness at O’Neil’s Bar & Restaurant. At 10am of course. We were off to a good start.

Hey, isn’t that what you’re supposed to do in Ireland?

We spent the rest of the day exploring Dublin by bus and on foot. Everyone was running on little sleep due to the intercontinental flight the night before, so our activities were kept to a minimum.

Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle was originally built as a defensive structure for the city of Dublin, later serving as residence for the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland who governed for the King of England. These days it’s used for presidential inaugurations and state functions.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Saint Patrick’s Cathedral is Ireland’s largest church, founded back in 1191. Jonathan Swift (author of Gulliver’s Travels) was once the dean, and is currently buried here. Dublin actually has two cathedrals belonging to the Church of Ireland, the other being Christ Church Cathedral.

Teeling Whiskey Distillery

Most people who visit Dublin go to the Jameson Distillery, which is just a showroom for tourists. The only working Irish Whiskey distillery in Dublin is called Teeling. We watched the whiskey process from start to finish and tasted the difference between single grain, single malt, and age.

Cashel Castle Ireland

Rock of Cashel

Colmans Cathedral

Port Town of Cobh

Irish Genealogy Road Trip

Now that we’d experienced a taste of Dublin, it was time to embark on the core mission of this trip. Searching for any information we could find about my grandmother’s life in Ireland before she sailed to Boston in 1930.

Prior to traveling to Ireland, my sister Lindsay had done some research on Ancestry.com which helped us track down basic United States immigration records for my grandmother.

To expand on those, we also enlisted the services of Eneclann, a genealogy research company. They provided a detailed report based on Irish census information with all kinds of interesting facts we’d never known before!

Like that we came from a family of fishermen and farmers.

Armed with this new knowledge we rented a car and began driving southwest across Ireland on the M8 through the town of Cashel and the city of Cork stopping at famous landmarks along the way.

One such landmark is the port town of Cobh, formerly Queenstown, where 2.5 million of the six million Irish people who emigrated to North America left from. Including my grandmother in 1930!

Glengarriff

Glengarriff, Ireland

Carraig Dubh House

Paudie & Kathleen Connolly

Glengarriff Village

Arriving in Glengarriff after navigating some of Ireland’s notoriously narrow roads, we checked into a quaint local bed & breakfast called Carraig Dubh House perched on a hillside overlooking the town. It was here we met the cheery owners Paudie & Kathleen.

They would be the key to unlocking the mysteries of our quest.

We explained that we were in Glengarriff as part of a genealogy trip, and asked if they might remember my grandmother or her family. Of course they did! In a small town of 800 people, everyone knows everyone.

My aunt had given us an old postcard of Glengarriff from when she visited a while back. It was said to feature the McCarthy family home that my grandmother grew up in.

Glengarriff Ireland

Old Postcard of My Grandmother’s House

Ellen's Rock Glengarriff

We Found It!

Searching For The House

Our hosts took one look at the postcard and confirmed our suspicions. Yes that’s where she grew up, and it still exists! In fact it’s just down the road…

The traditional 3-room Irish home made of stone is located at a place called Ellen’s Rock, a famous spot for photos when Glengarriff was a popular tourist attraction and ocean cruise destination in the early part of the century.

We jumped in the car and headed over to see it for ourselves.

Sitting on the edge of Bantry Bay, the building has seen better days yet was still standing. Turns out it’s owned by my father’s cousin Teddy, a long-lost family member none of us had ever met before.

Our next mission? Track down Teddy and buy him a beer!

Everything seemed to be falling into place perfectly.

Ireland Family Trip

My Dad Meets His Cousin Teddy

Garnish Island Ireland

Garnish Island Gardens

Meeting With Relatives

Teddy keeps the McCarthy family tradition of fishing and sailing alive as a boat captain for the Harbour Queen Ferry. They take tourists out on fishing trips and ferry rides to the beautiful Garnish Island Gardens.

We went down to the docks, but unfortunately just missed him, so we decided to ride the ferry out to Garnish Island and explore the gardens. Motoring past happy seals sunbathing on rocks.

Concluding the island excursion, we surprised Teddy with an unexpected family visit. He seemed a bit taken aback, and not sure how to respond. Who are these strangers from the United States claiming to be relatives?

We made plans to meet later that evening at The Cottage Bar, a favorite local watering hole in town. Hopefully we would all get to know each other a bit better over a few pints of Guinness.

Glengarriff Church

Sacred Heart Church in Glengarriff

Glengarriff Cemetery

McCarthy Family Plot

Learning Family History

Teddy brought his wife Abigail to join us at the bar. Luckily she acted as a translator too, his thick Irish accent difficult for us Yankees to understand! We learned that Teddy likes to work on old boats, just as my father does.

My great grandfather Timothy was apparently a fisherman & boatman. He boasted the most groomed mustache in town, and was always seen wearing his favorite bright white pea cap.

My sister Lindsay apparently looks just like Teddy’s daughter Marie.

One mystery we never solved is why my grandmother sailed from Ireland to the United States on her own when she was only 17 years old. Everyone we spoke with seemed to remember her siblings, but almost nothing about her.

The town church and local cemetery was our next stop, paying respect at my great grandfather’s grave and chatting with the local priest. My grandmother’s birth was never registered in official county documents, but we did have her baptismal record from the church.

Father Michael Moynihan explained to us over coffee that this was common in those days, as many people from the countryside didn’t bother to travel to the city to register their children so soon after birth, and often forgot to later.

Sheep in Ireland

Irish Traffic Jam

Ireland Road Trip

Learning to Drive on the Right

Exploring Ireland

Towering Cliffs of Moher

Wild Atlantic Way

Overwhelmed with all that we had learned in just a few days, it was time to say our goodbyes and continue our Irish road trip up the West coast along the Wild Atlantic Way.

The complete route stretches 2,500km (1553 miles), however we were driving the southern section up through Dingle and on to Galway before heading back across the country to the capital. I’ll go into more detail in future posts, but the highlights for me were Slea Head Drive and the Cliffs of Moher.

Driving in Ireland can take some getting used to! The back roads are super narrow with no shoulder to pull off on, locals drive fast, curves are sharp, and sheep are plentiful.

But by the 3rd or 4th day I started to get the hang of it. A good trick is to buy the “learner” sticker sold at gas stations so locals don’t get pissed at your incompetence on their roads.

Overall I’d say our Irish genealogy road trip was a success. Together we teamed up to track down relatives, learn about our heritage, and experience a little Irish culture, food, drink, and hospitality.

Ireland’s coastal landscapes are breathtaking to see in person. It was a memorable journey, and I’m happy I experienced it with my family. ★

READ NEXT: Inspiring People I’ve Met Traveling

Have you ever been on a family genealogy trip before?