For the past few years, my new year usually begins in a quiet way, wrapping up winter break and trying to get to all the books I can before heading back to school and ‘real life.’ However, my 2020 started in the most exciting way possible by going on a study abroad trip to Ireland!
I always knew that I wanted to do some sort of study abroad program while in school. Blame it on all the books I’ve read, but I’ve had this growing sense of wanderlust in me for the past few years. I admit that I was intimidated by going abroad, having never travelled outside of the United States before and how pricey study abroad and travelling can be. However, everything seemed to fall into place during the fall semester of my senior year and I decided to apply to my school’s winter break program in Ireland. I have a few countries on must travel-to list, but Ireland has always been in the #1 spot because of my own Irish heritage.
In short, I am so, so glad that I went to Ireland because I had such an incredible experience. I have a ton of photos featured below, but even they do not fully capture how beautiful everything is there. I’m going to be breaking down my trip more for you below, but I quickly fell in love with the West Coast of the country and know I need to go back someday. It’s true what they say about going abroad or travelling: once you go somewhere, you want to get back on a plane and go somewhere else! I’m hoping my adventures abroad or at a travel feature will become a somewhat regular series here on Fangirl Fury.
And yes, I admit that I’m disappointed with my bookish self for not taking a long a copy of Jenna Evan Welch’s Love & Luck for ALL of the bookstagrams.
My day spent in Derry was one of the trip’s highlights. As a Derry Girls fan, going to Derrry was one of the things I was most excited about. During the first half of the day, we visited the Museum of Free Derry, hearing from a relative of a Bloody Sunday victim and walking through the museum’s exhibit on civil rights. After the museum, we toured the Bogside murals.
The second half of the day was spent in Derry City, where we had complete free range to explore the city. Since our bus dropped us off at The Guildhall, we walked through the Plantation of Ulster exhibit and later took some nice nightsky photos. After the exhibit, my friends and I walked across the Peace Bridge, which again prompted for the nice photo ops. We then went into the city, with our first stop at the Derry Craft Village. We popped into a few stores, where I picked up a belated Happy Christmas ornament for my family and a pair of claddaugh earrings for my sister. My must-see stop for the day was of course the Derry Girls mural! After, we walked along the 17th century wall near there and also stopped at St. Columb’s Cathedral. We also stopped at a print shop that sold a ton of Derry Girls merchandise, picking up a postcard for my equally obsessed Derry Girls friend and I, and at an ice cream shop called Joe Jackson’s. After falling in love with lemon meringue pie at dinner earlier in the week, I treated myself to lemon meringue and salted caramel ice cream.
While I loved the city life in Derry and began to warm up more to Dublin, I absolutely loved being in County Donegal. Our main accommodation was in Bundoran and right across the street from the ocean and Fairy Bridges. We stopped at the Fairy Bridges and Wishing Chair before arriving at our hotel Sunday night. One of my friends and I made an early treck before one our lectures one morning to get more photos on the beach. Since County Donegal is considered one of the best surfing locations in the world, I couldn’t help but take my first ever surfing lesson while there! We went to Rossnowlagh Beach for the lesson. I absolutely could not stand up on my board, but I had such a fun experience.
The Monday of our trip was spent in Donegal Town. In the morning, we went on a guided tour of O’Donnell Castle and then had the afternoon to ourselves in town. My friends and I walked around a bit and did some light shopping. I picked up a wool scarf and a shot glass with the cutest sheep on it- my friend and I were absolutely obsessed with finding any sheep-related merchandise throughout the trip. We went to lunch at The Blueberry Tea Room. It was the coziest café with such Insta-worthy backdrops and had some of the best food on our trip.
Sliabh Liag Cliffs
The best weather day on our last day in County Dongeal, which made for the perfect compliment to our hike up the Sliabh Liag Cliffs. These Cliffs are bit less famous than the Cliffs of Moher, but they’re actually almost three times the height of Moher! I got some amazing photos on our hike, but even they don’t fully capture how beautiful and serene everything was there.
I was in Ireland for about nine days, but I only spent about two of them in Dublin. And by two I mean more like one and a half, because one of those days is when I landed in Dublin after a red-eye flight and basically having only one hour of sleep in me from when I left the US at 6 PM EST on Friday to 10 PM Dublin time the next day. On the day I landed, I really only visited Grafton Street and Trinity College in between checking into the hotel and orientation meetings. I also popped into a few bookstores, where I somehow prevented myself from buying the UK versions of Laini Taylor’s Muse of Nightmares and Katherine McGee’s American Royals.
I was back in Dublin the following Saturday and I did a few more tourist things. I returned to Grafton Street (this time with about eight more hours of sleep in me), picking up a few gifts for my family and a claddaugh ring for myself. I’ve always wanted a claddaugh ring and figured that I was in one of the best places in the world to finally get one. I’ve since decided to wear my ring on my right hand ring finger.
That night, my group went to the Temple Bar area for dinner. We didn’t eat at Temple Car, but went to a pub called The Old Storehouse where I had the best bangers and mash on my trip. After dinner, we went to an ice cream shop called Cloud Nine right across from Temple Bar. I had so many amazing desserts throughout my trip, but Cloud Nine’s Biscoff Ice Cream is hands-down is some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had.
-Hiking up the Loughcrew Cairns
-Touring Enniskillen Castle
Overall, I absolutely loved my study abroad experience in Ireland. I wouldn’t recommend going abroad and returning the night before the spring semester starts- I have never been more tired or obviously jet lag than I did during the first week of class- but I also 100% supporting going on a study abroad whenever you can. I’d easily trade a few more hours of sleep in order to visit Ireland again ASAP.
Have you been to Ireland? Do you have any tips or recommendations for my next visit? Have you read any books set in Ireland? Share in the comments!