May the road rise up to meet you…

…May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face; the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand. – Irish Blessing

My first travel experience outside the U.S. was on a family trip to Ireland. I was seven and my sister was five. We were visiting family in Killenuale, Tipperary and playing tourist. According to my second grade writing assignment we went to a lot of pubs where my parents drank dark beer and I had soda.

My grandmother is one of ten (yes, TEN) children. Three siblings live in the States with her, one lives in the UK, and the other half still live in Tipperary. My grandmother and her sister kept the house they grew up in. We stayed there when we went to visit. It’s perfect for our family of four, but I still can’t fathom how the whole Hayes clan fit back in the day! That might be part of the reason she moved to the U.S.

I have the best memories from that trip. Our family was so welcoming. All Ireland feels that way. I wish we could go back every year (it’s a long way to Tipperary), but thankfully we have social media now to help us stay in touch between visits. Here are some highlights from our trips to the Emerald Isle.

Planning a trip to Ireland? As a Fora Travel advisor I can help and hopefully add in some perks too =)


As kids Katie and I loved the hop on / hop off double-decker green bus that took us around Dublin. It’s a great way to tour the city and cut down on walking with little ones. My sister asked for piggy back rides everywhere. I think our cousin PJ’s back might still hurt from carrying her. The tour stops at all the main attractions, such as, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Trinity College and the Book of Kells, Dublin Castle, Ha’Penny Bridge, O’Connell Street, Kilmainham Goal, and The Dublin Zoo in Phoenix Park.

We also had the best time at Croke Park watching Ireland’s favorite sport, hurling. It’s a thrilling (and violent) game that’s been played in Ireland for over 100 years. My grandfather used to bring my mom and her siblings to his games in Gaelic Park, Bronx NY. I’d seen old pictures of him and his teammates and my grandmother used to joke he was the MVP (Most Violent Player). We enjoyed seeing the game he loved to play in his youth. Tipperary is one of the competitive hurling teams and has a long, fierce rivalry with County Kilkenny. We happened to catch the match against County Galway, but unfortunately Tipp came up short that day. Also unfortunate – my mom booked the one hotel in Dublin that the entire Galway team was staying. Our Uncle John was less than thrilled! If you’re not in town while the matches are going on you can visit the GAA Museum to learn more about the history of the sport and test your own hurling skills in the interactive games zone. There’s also tours of the stadium and the Ericsson Skyline that allows you to view the Dublin skyline from the top of the stadium. It’s also a popular venue for concerts.

Prefer an enclosed view of the Dublin Skyline? Rest assured. Gravity Bar at the top of Guinness Storehouse offers 360 views of the city, but be prepared for the crowds. A free pint of Guiness is included with your entry ticket. Be sure to include “rest stops” at Temple Bar and Brazen Head. Brazen Head is the oldest pub in Ireland, founded in 1198. Both pubs host “trads” (traditional sessions of Irish music) and live bands. Sláinte!

My husband and I stayed at the Merrion Hotel during our last visit before Annie arrived. It was a baby moon splurge and I loved everything about it. We arrived right before New Year’s and the hotel was still decorated for the holiday season. The hotel is walking distance from Trinity College, Stephen’s Green, Grafton Street, and The National Gallery. The Merrion is also home to Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, the only two-star Michelin restaurant in Ireland. You can also enjoy afternoon tea in the drawing room or drinks in the Cellar Bar.

Other favorites

During our first trip to Ireland we took a trip to Adare Village, voted Ireland’s prettiest village, and took a tour of a traditional thatched roof home. We also saw Waterford Crystal being made on the Waterford Crystal Factory Tour and went to Waterford Castle for a fancy lunch – at which my sister picked up her soup bowl and slurped every last drop. Our five and seven year old selves might have been out of place, but the food was delicious! We also toured Cahir Castle, a defensive castle dating back to the 13th century.

My mom doesn’t remember where we went horseback riding, but I remember that being a highlight of our first trip. Here is Trip Advisor’s list of horseback riding tours in Ireland. We also enjoyed placing bets with our parents at The Galway Races.

My sister, cousin and I went back to visit family when we were old enough to have a Guiness of our own. We had a fun night (full of craic) in Galway City after a day of visiting the Cliffs of Moher. The cliffs were stunning even on a cloudy day. There’s a secure and paved viewing area, shops, and cafe near the visitor center. Another coastal town I sometimes dream of moving to is the bright and colorful Kinsale. The town was filled with shops, restaurants, and a food market the day we visited. Kilkenny town is also worth a visit. The castle sits prominently in the city center with shops and restaurants nearby.

I can’t wait to bring Annie and Ryan on their first trip. I’d love to drive along the Wild Atlantic Way and visit Donegal to see the northern part of Ireland my grandfather was from. Time to plan the next Irish adventure.