Netflix. HBO. & Hulu.
That could be about 70% of my off season. The time a friend introduced me to Game of Thrones was the most epic two months of my life (sorry adulthood). BUT, the keyword in that first sentence is “could be”. My biggest love during off season is stepping out of my living room for a travel adventure.
One of my favorite memories was joining a friend on a six day road trip through Ireland. I visited the country a couple years prior but having the ability to drive around at our own leisure was exhilarating. We flew in and out of Dublin and immediately rented a car (acing the “we have to drive on the other side of the road” hurdle).
If you’ve ever visited Ireland, you know Dublin is a must. The pubs (yes, definitely Temple Bar), its rich history, as well as important must-sees such as the Guinness Storehouse, Dublin Zoo, or even Wicklow National Park gives you well-rounded taste of Ireland.
Quenching for more? We were too. We packed up the car with goodies (including some candy incase we got on each other’s nerves), found a solid radio station, and unfolded our paper maps heading West. We drove through Connemara National Park, and headed to Galway. It was the perfect city to grab a pint and take a load off, before stopping in Doolin to experience the impressive Cliffs of Moher.
But I said adventure didn’t I? In this city we didn’t just stop for a pint, we took a ferry from Galway to the Aran Islands, specifically visiting Inis Mor! Ditching the car, we rented bikes and took our time seeing the white sandy beaches and green pastures. The main attraction though was Dún Aonghasa. It is a monument located on the very edge of a cliff. The best part after seeing the famous hill forts, is walking right up to the edge, or if you are like me: sliding forward on your belly, to look down at the water 100 meters below. Mind blowing! It’s moments like these I’m thankful the camera has a strap to put around your neck.
The winding roadsides connected us South along the shore of this magnificent country. I have yet to see a location that is equally as terrifying as it is breathtaking (in a good way)! We drove the Wild Atlantic Way from Galway through Dingle, seeing some spectacular views! The best part about this was that we didn’t even know we were on the Wild Atlantic Way until we reached the top of this random mountain. We looked down at O’Connor’s Pass (this beautiful valley nestled in the hillsides) and laughed at ourselves. It was definitely worth every second thinking we were lost!
Once we arrived in Dingle, we again, enjoyed a pint of Guinness (a definite must), and some Bulmer’s. I could name all the spots to eat as we ventured through in Ireland, but nothing beats sitting in the local pub, listening to a man play music with just a cup and a string, while eating a shepherd's pie. This country surely doesn’t lack authenticity.
On our way to Cork we drove through Slea Head Drive, another famous roadway around the southern part of Ireland. This primarily pointed out beaches and rocky shorelines that deserved a “stretch your legs” moment.
We didn’t stay in Cork long, but the highlight of our experience here was spending the night at Hayfield Manor. Instead of our typical B&B, we splurged a bit to hit the hay in style, strawberry water and all.
My best piece of advice for someone visiting Ireland, or even just a new country in general, is to get lost! So cliche, I know, but definitely ditch the itinerary and go off course. Having the ability to enjoy the present and allow nature show you something other than your sofa is the best adventure of all! The car definitely helped in this aspect. Giving us the freedom to move at our own pace and see some off-the-grid sites was well worth it.
Bottom line: of course Game of Thrones is epic, but nothing beats the views Ireland has to offer. Absolutely nothing. Pack a camera, maybe a toothbrush, grab a pint and adventure on!
xo - mariss
Marissa Decker is candid wedding and lifestyle photographer with roots in Cleveland, Ohio. She believes in red wine, sunrise, spontaneous travel and Hufflepuffs. Her naturalistic approach to photography stems from her love to travel. She believes in embracing the present moment, and ignoring all rules of posing to capture life as it unfolds. Having photographed through more than two hands worth of countries, Marissa’s wanderlust list is ever growing.