Ireland and the United Kingdom by Destination Wedding Photographer Brandi Potter
I got back yesterday from my first international trip, and it was a bit of a doozy. There are definitely some things that I really loved about Ireland and the United Kingdom, but there are a lot of things I didn’t even think about going into the experience. If anyone has any questions about my trip please feel free to email or message me directly. I’d love to tell you what was good and ALL the disappointing things a bit more in detail.
Currency exchange was something I didn’t even think about until it was time to do it. The American dollar is worth a bit less than Euros and Pounds so I ended up spending more than I planned switching over. You can however do this through some credit cards (which is what I did) and at the airport, so I didn’t have to stop anywhere before I left. You should also be able to do the exchange through your bank, but they’ll probably have to order the money for it. Oh, and the Republic of Ireland takes Euros, and Northern Ireland takes Pounds. Make sure you have enough of each if you’re traveling to both.
Driving on the opposite side of the road wasn’t AS BAD as I thought it would be. It did take several days to get use to, and I don’t think I was ever really comfortable with the extra space being on the wrong side of the vehicle, but I enjoyed driving on their interstates and highways. Also, the roads are terrible through most of Ireland if you’re on the back roads, and they are barely big enough for a small car to fit in the lane. If you do go, do yourself a favor and rent the smallest possible car that you can. Oh, and good luck finding an affordable automatic, because they cost SO MUCH more than renting a manual. I can’t drive a manual, but I imagine it would be much harder to get use to switching gears with your left hand than it was to get use to driving.
And speaking of driving, getting to the Cliffs of Moher is a literal death trap. Very tiny roads with a semi high speed limit, and tons of buses and larger vehicles all over it going up a very curvy mountain. Every time I’ve talked to someone about the Cliffs, they’ve never mentioned that tiny detail. We saw one fender bender on the way down, and I’m extremely surprised that there weren’t more. Oh, and don’t go to the main touristy parking lot at the top of the hill, keep driving about a KM and there will be another road on the right (there should be a sign), and there’s a parking lot that’s only 5 euros, (the official parking lot was 6 euros a person), and leads you out to the Cliffs without the barriers. If you do go to that section just be aware that sometimes there is natural erosion and the cliffs do kinda just fall off. We weren’t aware of that or we wouldn’t have gotten as close to the edge as we did.
Every time we asked for directions we were given the wrong amount of time for the drive. Some friends of mine took a bus from Dublin to meet us in Galway and the bus driver told them it was a 2 hour ride, it ended up being 4. We were also told the Cliffs of Moher were 30 minutes from Galway so we wasted more time than we should have there, and it ended up being an hour and a half drive. This happened several times, so just make sure you have wifi/a data plan and map it all. Because we didn’t double check things we ended up being in a car for over 10 hours one day, so that kinda sucked.
Giants Causeway was a bit underwhelming for me. It could totally be that I wore the wrong shoes and it was to slick to climb all the way out, but it just wasn’t what everyone made it out to be. It was very cool, but definitely not what I was expecting. I was told we went at the wrong time of year, so that’s something I’ll definitely be going back to see it during the Spring or Summer just to give it another chance.
Kissing the Blarney Stone is a bit terrifying. I don’t think it would have been as bad for me if I didn’t get vertigo from hanging upside down, but I managed to do it after the second try. Also, they keep disinfectant nearby so I’m assuming they clean it often. We were told that the locals like to pee on it, so I’m really glad that they have the disinfectant up at the top. Oh, and the stairs going up to the Blarney Stone are VERY small and narrow, so be prepared for that. If you go into the poison garden at Blarney please don’t smell anything. Some of the plants in there are VERY toxic if you even smell them, and the only sign I saw warning people of this was at the end of it.
If you find yourself in London for a day or so (we had a 23 hour layover there) make your way to Buckingham palace. We literally got there and 10 minutes later people were lining up at the gate, and a police escort was getting themselves into place, and then the queen left. We literally saw the queen within 15 minutes of being there, and it was one of the coolest things to ever happen. There are also a bunch of cool things within a short walk of the palace so don’t miss anything by jumping back into a cab.
And if you’re worried about the flight, it’s really not that long/bad. We booked through American Airlines and took a British Airways flight, and had access to all kinds of movies, wine, and food on the way there. But do make sure to take an aspirin beforehand because if you’re sitting for long periods of time you’re more prone to get blood clots in your legs. Make sure you get up a couple of times or stretch your legs and do calf raises throughout the flight to keep your blood pumping.
Kilkenny Castle // Blarney Castle // Cliffs of Moher // Claregalway Friary // Giants Causeway // Castlerock // Benbulbin
Benbulbin & County Sligo
Galway & The Cliffs of Moher