A Long Irish Weekend

After wanting to visit Ireland for a very long time I finally had two excuses to visit the Emerald Isle. The first was to see Rachel Tucker in concert and also to see my favourite musical Once at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin.

As with most of my trips I booked it very much on the cheap side and quite last minute, but I ended up with two really great places to stay while I was in Ireland.

On the 18th of July I flew from London Gatwick to Dublin airport, and straight from there I got on a coach to go up to Belfast as that was where I’d be spending the first part of my trip. I know it sounds a bit crazy to fly to Dublin first but looking at flights it was definitely cheaper to do a return from Dublin rather than have two separate bookings with one to Belfast and the other back from Dublin – and the coach was hardly expensive!

So I was on my way up to Northern Ireland by lunchtime. The coach journey was pleasant enough, they advertised luxury travel but I don’t think I’d quite go that far… I have to say as well it was very busy with people coming from the airport which was to be expected, but I wish at least I’d bagged a window seat!

It took around two hours to get to Belfast and not long after I’d arrived the heavens opened and it began to pour so heavily with rain that I ended up spending the afternoon at my B&B just relaxing and getting ready for the evening.

That night I went to see Rachel Tucker in concert at The MAC Theatre in Belfast and it was such a beautiful night. I adore seeing Rachel performing and to see her in her hometown was an added treat – I’ve written a post about the concert which you can read here!

The next day Belfast saw much nicer weather and I spent the day in the Titanic Quarter to visit the Titanic Signature Project – a beautiful visitor experience all about Titanic and it’s history. When I first saw the film at 10 years old I became absolutely obsessed with Titanic so to finally visit its birthplace and to find out even more about it was really amazing. I’d wholly recommend this attraction as it was so different to anything I’ve ever been to, it was interactive, informative and so unique. 100% worth visiting!

Seeing as the sunshine stuck around I thought I’d take a boat tour as well, unfortunately as it was a Sunday most places were closed, this was the next best option rather than roaming around aimlessly! I really enjoyed the boat tour which was very informative and gave more knowledge to the impact Titanic made on Belfast’s shipyard history. It was a relaxing way to spend an hour or so too!

Having finished with the boat tour I did have a walk round Belfast centre but it was surprisingly quiet, I thought about staying around and finding a pub that hosted live music but knowing I had an early start the next day I decided to return to my B&B. In the end I’m quite glad I did because I got chatting with the owner of the B&B (Parkview Lodge, highly recommend it!) about why I was in Ireland, Irish politics, history, all sorts! As I was travelling alone it was nice to have someone to talk to about what I’d been up to in the day, and I certainly appreciated getting a good nights sleep!

Celebrating the Yes vote to equality in Ireland!

In the morning I took a coach back to Dublin for the next exciting part of my short trip. From the bus stop in Dublin I had a short walk to the Arlington Hotel where I was staying but unfortunately couldn’t get into my room for another couple of hours – thankfully I could leave my suitcase there and decided to get on a sightseeing tour bus while I was waiting for a room. I believe I paid 19 euros for the ticket and it would last me 24 hours, perfect for the amount of time I’d be in Dublin! First I took the red route of the tour (if you watch the video I’ve posted at the end of this post I explain through the route) and included in the bus ticket was a free glass of Guinness at Nancy Hands and a free Irish coffee at O’Sullivans as well as discounts at a few restaurants – you get so much for your money!!!

The bus tour was a Hop On Hop Off one which I found to be great, and I never had to wait too long at the bus stops to be picked up either. The tour guides on board were fantastic and having taken a few different trips I had a different guide each time so they all added their own anecdotes and jokes to the script, they didn’t sound robotic whatsoever! After doing a full tour of the red route I returned to my hotel and thankfully my room was now ready so I could get in and rest for a while.

My plan for the evening was another of the main reasons I came to Ireland – I was going to see Once in it’s hometown! This musical has a very special place in my heart, I’d seen it multiple times before in London but when I found out it’d be returning to Dublin I desperately wanted to see it. It deserves it’s own post and if you’d like to read more about what I thought of seeing Once in Dublin you can read about it here, but it’s safe to say it was a magical experience to watch this beautiful show in the city where it’s set, and I feel so grateful to have seen it again!

After the show I wanted to enjoy some of Dublin at night, so I took a walk through Temple Bar in search of live music. I wandered into a couple of different pubs and ended up at Oliver St. John Gogarty’s having heard a fantastic duo from the street! I also fell in love with the lights on this building – subsequently I’ve wanted to cover my entire flat in fairy lights… The atmoshpere at Gogarty’s was insane, everyone was dancing and laughing and singing along, it was so much fun! Even though I was on my own it didn’t feel like it, the camaraderie was palpable.

Having had a very enjoyable evening I walked back to my hotel and stopped to admire the beautiful reflections of light on the River Liffey, I fell a little bit more in love with Dublin in this moment! I felt so safe and happy walking through this city which is a rarity; I felt 100% content.

The next morning I was reluctant to leave the Arlington hotel having had such a lovely but too short stay, when I next go to Dublin I’ll definitely be staying here again. With my bus tour ticket still valid I took the blue route of the tour just to make sure I had my money’s worth ha! Having missed out on my free Irish coffee the previous day I stopped off at O’Sullivans after picking up my suitcase from the hotel and spent time people-watching while very much enjoying Irish coffee (rather this than Guinness)!

Sadly then I had to get back on a coach to the airport to head back to the UK. It’s always a shame that holidays go so much quicker than working days, I bloody loved Ireland and can’t wait to re-visit. Belfast helped to calm me down after a stressful week and Dublin made me fall in love with a new city. One of the things on my bucket list is to spend a couple of weeks driving round the Emerald Isle so hopefully next year I can maybe tick this one off, I definitely want to explore more of this beautiful country!

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Parkview Lodge | Arlington Hotel | MAC Theatre | Once | Olympia Theatre | Titanic Belfast

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