June 10th - August 3rd 2022

This was my first trip outside Québec since the start of the pandemic 

Since 1998, this was my first time grounded in Québec for so long!
Over two years without travelling is a long time! (Covid pandemic)

So I was very excited to get on a plane again and discover a new country (Republic of Ireland is my 96th official country). Travelling in a post-pandemic world is somewhat different than before. First, masks are still required inside airplanes, and the amount of waiting times at airports are incredible. Bag and flight delays are very common, more than ever. When I got to Dublin, my bag was missing, and it took 18 days for me to be able to get it back (after waiting 4 hours at the airport). MORE IRELAND PICTURES HERE
Killarney Ntl. Park

Gap of Dunloe at the back. 
Picture taken from Killarney Ntl. Park

Cynthia and Alixe's flights were delayed, and a short trip to Dublin ended up taking 72 hours through Edinburgh! You can read a complain letter sent to WestJet here.

So, I started my trip by buying clothes and a tent in Dublin and left for Killarney National Park. I finally felt happier and on holidays when I rented a mountain bike and slept in my new tent in Killarney. The park is beautiful, with amazing landscapes like I imagined Ireland would be. I biked up through Dunloe Gap (glacier valley) and I quickly forgot that my bag was missing, especially with the amazing Irish pubs!

Irish pub
Irish Pub
Dublin pub

The rest of the hike was very pleasant, and I slept in my new tent every night, except in Dingle (slept in a Youth Hostel). The hike was simply beautiful: amazing mountains, beautiful clear turquoise water (just like the Caribbean), free-roaming sheeps, longest sandy beaches I ever saw in my life (Formoyle Beach in Castle Gregory is over 15 km long). I decided to cut short my last day by bussing back to Tralee from Camp, giving me a total of 152 km in 7 days (I took a day off to visit Great Blasket Island).

After my Dingle hike, I spent two days in Cork before heading back to Dublin airport to see if I could find my bag. I will eliminate details of the massive confusion and disorganization that was happening at Dublin airport, but at this point in time, the government and public opinion were asking for the army to be deployed to the airport to assist travellers and help staff shortages. After 4 hours, someone came up with my bag!

I spent 3 days in Wicklow waiting for Cynthia and Alixe to join me in Ireland. During this time, I did some mountain bike in Bellinastoe and explored the Wicklow region (visited the monastery in Glendalough, hiked a little the Wicklow way, and did the coastal walk in Bray).

Finally on July 1st, after 3 days of being in airports due to delayed and cancelled flights, Cynthia and Alixe arrived in Dublin!
We spent our next two weeks in Westport, Mayo with a car due Home Exchange. The views on the mountains (from the veranda) were fabulous. We visited Connemara National Park, Ballycroy National Park, we went to Achill Island, we climbed Crough Patrick, we visited Westport, we went to Moher cliffs, Burren National Park, Galway, we tasted amazing smoked salmon from local smoked houses, we visited Kylemore Castle/Abbey and drove through some of the most fascinating landscapes in Ireland including Doolough. We spend many evenings in local pubs drinking cider and Guinness and listening to traditional Irish music. And yes, we ate more potatoes than we normally do!

On July 16, we left Westport and drove to Dundalk, before leaving the car to relatives of our Home Exchange and took the train to Belfast where we stayed until July 31. Contrasts were significant: from a big rural house in Westport, we stayed in a small, but comfortable apartment located 20 minutes from the city centre. From sheeps grazing in our backyard, we had planes flying over our heads and buses driving people to work. From an independent Republic country, we moved where the Union Jack and the Queen's face was more omnipresent than people on the streets. Nevertheless, we really enjoyed living the city life and visited most attractions Belfast has to offer including shopping, pubs, museums, gardens, parks, city walks, peace wall, etc.

We hiked the Coastal Causeway from Ballycastle to Portstewart (56 km) in 4 days and found it absolutely amazing. First, we thought this would be a very touristy route, but we were the only one walking on the trail and saw very few tourists (a few day walkers only). The weather was fantastic and the cliffs very impressive.
The breakdown of this hike was:
Day 1: Ballycastle to Ballycroy (13.6km)
Day 2: Ballycroy to Giant Causeway (20.8km)
Day 3: Giant Causeway to Portrush (13km)
Day 4: Portrush to Portstewart (8.3km)

On the way to Portrush

Hiking towards Portrush (Day 3)

Giant Causeway

Hiking the Giant Causeway (Day 2)

Finally, we rented a car and drove a little around Northern Ireland. We went to the famous Game of Thrones filming site ''Dark Hedges'' and visited the north-east coast. We drove west to Lisburn and Lough Neagh and hiked in the beautiful Mourne Mountains south of Belfast.

We travelled back to Dublin before flying back to Montreal. Overall, this was an amazing, relaxing summer. We really had the time to enjoy Ireland and saw enough of it to understand how life unfolds here. See our itinerary below.  MORE IRELAND PICTURES HERE 

Ireland Itinerary

Photos by Ian Wikarski