A Little Kiss… Smooching Ireland’s Famous Blarney Stone

Ireland is the most charming country on the planet. Okay, that’s a bold statement, I know. I’ve visited truly incredible countries during my year on the road. And while Laos and Nepal hold particularly special places in my heart, Ireland feels like home.

My parents nursed me on stories of the Emerald Isle. Pictures of the O’Donnell family crest graced our walls. I grew up captivated by tales of silkies and fairies, and captivated by photos once my dad returned home from his trip to Ireland spent tracing our family history. It’s impossible to not completely love a place you’ve dreamed of visiting. I first visited Ireland in 2005 with my dad, and we focused mostly on County Donegal—we rented a car, got lost on tiny winding roads, and hiked rugged coastline through endless sheep pastures. This time, I would seek out Ireland’s other most famous vistas, hikes, and yes, castles. Specifically, I would seek out Blarney Castle in Cork so I would be blessed with the gift of gab.

top of Blarney Castle
The lush green grounds of Blarney Castle viewed from up high on the top of the castle.

Getting to the Blarney Stone in Cork

Without my dad leading the way, my trip focused on the southern coast of Ireland. And because the country’s small, I decided to rent a car in Dublin as soon as I landed and head south immediately. While not an entirely sane idea since I hail from a country that drives on the right side of the road, it was the most efficient and effective way to get around.

That said, landing in Dublin and immediately driving on the massive highway system is baptism by fire. My blood pressure skyrocketed when I approached the first roundabout: I held my breath, tapped on my turn signal, looked left . . . no WAIT—I looked right before venturing on my way for the very straightforward three hour drive to Cork.

Cork is a pretty big city, but it’s still friendly in all the right ways. I’m not a “big-city” person, and Cork actually runs a fine line between being too large. Thankfully, once you park there’s plenty of charm to find in the city. Since it was raining when I arrived in Cork, I opted to wait until the next morning—hoping the fickle Irish weather would clear.

Where: Blarney Castle—which is home to the Blarney Stone—is located just 20 minutes outside of Cork. Far enough that you can’t walk from the city-center, but buses leave throughout the day from the city center if you’re carless!

Blarney Castle near Cork, Ireland.
The castle towers overhead making a looming figure that feels that ominous once you are inside winding through the narrow staircases.

What is the Blarney Stone?

The Blarney Stone is located in Blarney Castle, the stone foundation of which dates to 1210 CE. Legend has it that the man who rebuilt the castle in the 15th century appealed to the goddess Clíodhna for help with a lawsuit. At her direction, he kissed the first stone he saw, and a great eloquence overtook him in the courtroom. He then incorporated that stone into the castle.

Others legends claim the prophet Jeremiah brought the stone to the area, or that Cormac MacCarthy, King of Munster, learned of the stone’s powers by a witch saved from drowning.

No matter which way you look at it, the stone has a long history in Ireland and centuries of men and women have kissed the stone in hopes of all it promises.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/7b_T62a2z9A

Why Do People Kiss the Blarney Stone?

No matter which origin story you believe, all agree on one thing: kissing the Blarney Stone bestows on the kisser the gift of gab. This means you’ll leave the Castle with great eloquence and skill at flattery once you’ve puckered your lips and kissed the stone.

And it’s no easy feat to kiss the stone. The stone is a mysterious block of bluestone set into the actual walls of Blarney Castle. Kissing it is not for the faint of heart—you have to dangle yourself over the gaping hole in the castle floor. The bars are recent additions in the past century as you used to have to dangle by your ankles over the side of the wall. Even with the safety features, for some people the experience extreme fear of heights due to how precarious it all feels.

Once it’s your turn, you take a death-grip the handrails and the man assisting unceremoniously grabs two fist-fulls of your clothes and shoves you close enough to kiss the stone.

A heartbeat later, you’re hauled upright and sent on your way. (Note: Kissing the stone is still possible post-COVID—there are additional safety measures in place now to ensure it’s sanitary for those wishing to visit and earn the gift of gab during a post-pandemic trip).

So, the burning question: Did I kiss the stone?

Did I really put my lips on that wet slab of germ-infested rock where thousands have done-so before me? Did I dangle my body from the side of the castle and risk my life?!

shannon o'donnell kissing the stone
Yep! That’s me kissing the stone at Blarney Castle!

Yes, although perhaps not that melodramatically! I mean, how can you not? You’re there and it’s there. It may be cheesy and touristy, but I’m cheesy and occasionally touristy, so I saw no issue.

For all of the hullabaloo about kissing the stone, the castle and the surrounding grounds are beautiful and worth an hour or two, once you’ve made your pilgrimage to the stone. Although the dank, thin, and winding staircases are not for the claustrophobic, once you climb higher the sweeping views of lush green country and manicured gardens make the the trip to the top worth it.

I spent a few hours at Blarney Castle, and although I’m not sure my voice is more mellifluous and my speech more eloquent, I’m certainly still glad I kissed the stone.

Tell me, would you have kissed the stone? Or do you now think my lips are now tainted for a lifetime?  ;-)

Slea Head Drive on the Dingle Peninsula

A Little Beauty… Driving the Dingle Peninsula, Ireland’s Most Picturesque Drive

It’s no secret that I love Ireland—I have waxed poetic about everything from the toe-tappingly good Irish music in pubs to the beauty of Connemara to those special days getting lost and that unnameable something special that just exists in Ireland. Of all the places in the world that I have traveled, and the list is long, Ireland stands out as a place that consistently delivered the coziest of memories, the most intriguing of local interactions, and the prettiest of natural scenery. And that’s where Dingle’s Slea Head Drive comes into play.

Discovering the Dingle Peninsula

Dingle is a small town on the southwest tip of Ireland, it’s a port town on the Dingle Peninsula, which sticks out of the mainland like a finger reaching into the Atlantic Ocean. And although Dingle town is cute as can be and filled with the sort of deep culture that can be overlooked in busier cities like Dublin or Galway, no trip to the area is complete until you just take in the prettiness and history Slea Head Drive, which is a clockwise, circular driving itinerary that often hugs the gorgeous coastline for 30 miles (47 km).

This is one of Ireland’s most scenic drives (it’s also a part of the stunning Wild Atlantic Way route) and contains several of the oldest sites in Ireland, all contained in one small area. This driving route is for the most popular places to stop along Slea Head Drive—if you’re on Dingle Peninsula for longer you will want to spend at least an extra day so you can angle for a Fungie the Dolphin sighting, or undertake the gorgeous Mount Brandon hike.

Views of the ocean and sheep along Slea Head Drive.
Views of the ocean and sheep along Slea Head Drive.

Slea Head Drive on the Dingle Peninsula
Slea Head Drive on the Dingle Peninsula

Best Spots on Slea Head Drive

The drive should be undertaken clockwise from Dingle Town as this avoids oncoming busses (which is a terrifying prospect on narrow Irish roads). It’s really not possible skip any part of the drive, since it’s a circular route, but you could surely go faster if you didn’t slow down, hike around, and make an afternoon of it. But why would you do that?! This is an area worth exploring, getting out of the car, and really wandering through the history, and taking in the sights. It can be done in less than two hours, but if you pack a picnic lunch and enjoy yourself, plan for at least three hours (and if you’re a cyclist, have fun, no idea, but we definitely saw some tourists enjoying it that way!). Also, before you set out, know that the route is called Slí Cheann Sléibhe in Irish—remember these words! Some signs toward the end of the drive are only in Irish and you’ll want to continue navigating the correct route! These were my five favorite stops along Slea Head Drive.

Stop 1: Dunbeg Fort

Dunbeg Fort sign
Dunbeg Fort sign

Perched on the very edge of the cliffs is the promontory fort of Dunbeg, ruins date from the Iron Age, with a piece of ancient wood under one fort wall dated to about 580 BC, meaning the fort was built after that time period. Dunbeg Fort is small and mostly grass-covered for protection, and until it can be further excavated. This places actively changes ever single year as the sea reclaims the land and the fort actually tumbles from the cliffs regularly.

The sweeping views of the ocean and straight drop down to the jagged rocks are gorgeous, and no visit to Ireland is complete without scrambling around some ruins, and this is a good spot for it!

Dingle's Dunbeg Fort!
Conquering Dingle’s Dunbeg Fort!

Stop 2: Beehive Huts

Called clochán in Irish, these family dwellings and small community of huts could go as far back as the Bronze Age (think 2000 BC). Today, there is no archaeological evidence dating them earlier than AD 700, but archaeologists believe they were introduced earlier than that. These type of dwellings were continually built for thousands of years throughout Scotland and Ireland.

The first thing you’ll notice is that people must have been significantly shorter back then, because these beehive huts are tiny! They are not for the tall, and I had to continually watch my head through the doorways.

ancient beehive huts
Views of the ancient beehive huts on Slea Head Drive.

tiny beehive hut opening
These are small structures! This is one of the tiny beehive hut openings.

Inch Beach along Slea Head Drive
Most Dingle driving itineraries include stopping at Inch Beach.

Stop 3: Blasket Islands

Views of the Blasket Islands
Views of the Blasket Islands from Slea Head Drive.

The Blasket Islands were inhabited until until 1953 by an Irish-speaking population, until the locals were forced to evacuate. If you’re enjoying Slea Head Drive on a traditional Irish day—wet and windy—then you’ll look out to sea and wonder that any human being could live on such remote and rugged islands. Although the islands are only slightly offshore from the coast of the Dingle Peninsula, it was incredibly windy out on the peak and you’d have to be a very hearty person to survive the icy-cold and wet winds.

Although there are daily boat trips during high season out the islands (and some people even camp!), my backpacker budget instead sent me to the very tip of the mainland, where I could gaze out at the gorgeous seascape. Just past the sandy beach is a fairly large carpark with a worn and grassy path leading up a steep, sheep-poo filled hillside. In true Irish style, the path is only meant for the adventurous—I laced my fingers together to give Laura a boost over the rock wall (she’s pretty short!) hopped it myself, and we threaded amongst the grazing, sleepy sheep to look out over the Blasket Islands and gaze across the Atlantic toward the US.

The view is stunning and because we went a bit “off the path,” we were the only ones up there for about 30 minutes (which was perfect because each of us were forced to brave the heavy wind and pop a squat!). Although the boat tour is supposedly spectacular, I can’t imagine having missed this short hike either.

Windy day on the knoll looking out over the Blasket Islands
Ours was a windy day on the knoll looking out over the Blasket Islands.

chilly day in dingle

Slea Head Drive

Stop 4: Gallarus Oratory

The Gallarus Oratory along the drive in Dingle.
The Gallarus Oratory along the drive in Dingle.

There is no consensus on how old this church is as archaeologists can’t find a way to date it, and some claim it was built as late as the 12th century, while others contend it was an early Christian church built between the 6th and 9th centuries. So, now called the Gallarus Oratory, it was built in a similar style to Dunbeg Fort and the Beehive Huts, which means constructed without mortar. The stones are gradually stacked to reach the top, a form of construction that made it surprisingly airtight inside!

A torrential downpour caught up with us when we reached the Oratory so we huddled inside for some time, giving a good test to this ancient church. We were all amazed that it completely protected us from the strong winds and rains even after all these centuries since it was first constructed.

Stop 5: Three Sisters & The Sleeping Giant

Near the village of Ballyferriter, the Three Sisters are a set of three peaks associated with a number of Irish legends and stories. The Irish do love their myths and legends, so it’s perhaps no wonder that the natural landscape inspired many. One local legend even goes so far as to claim that Lindbergh’s first sight of land after crossing the Atlantic was the three jagged peaks of land known as the Three Sisters.

Meanwhile, the Sleeping Giant is fun to witness on the horizon, he’s easy to spot as the land makes it look as though he is lynching on his back, resting on the top of the ocean.

The Three Sisters Islands
The Three Sisters Islands in the distance.

Sleeping Giant Island
This is the famous Sleeping Giant Island—you can see that it really does look like that when viewed from afar!


Perhaps the best tip I can offer for driving Slea Head Drive around the Dingle Peninsula is to memorize the Irish name for Dingle town, An Daingean. Although it’s controversial that there’s no English name on the sign, that’s the way it is here and it’s one of the most charming parts of traveling through this region of Ireland. The Dingle Peninsula is an Irish speaking region, and though it can get confusing to only see road signs in Irish, it’s still lovely. But with that in mind we had to be prepared for the Irish when making our way back to our Dingle hostel for the night when all of the road signs only pointed toward An Daingean!

Plan Your Trip to Dingle Town

Discover Ireland's prettiest drive: Slea Head Drive on the Dingle Peninsula. Spend a day driving the scenic and ancient sights, stop in charming Irish towns, and take a pilgrimage hike.

#Ireland #Europe #Dingle #TravelGuide #TravelTips #Bucketlist #Wanderlust

Where to Sleep

I stayed at the Hideout Hostel, which has small room dorms and was just completely lovely. Highly recommend it. It also offers private doubles, which would make a fantastic option for couples who want the social aspect of a hostel without the lack of privacy from shared dorm. If the Hideout is booked, then Rainbow Hostel is a great alternative. The Hillgrove Guesthouse is ideal on a midrange budget, and or splurge on the An Capall Dubh B&B.

Where to Eat

While you’re driving Slea Head, you can stop in Ballyferriter if you haven’t packed anything, this small town has a lot of options. In Dingle Town, you must eat at Murphy’s Ice Cream. Vegetarians will find two options at Marina Inn, a full menu at Adh Danlann Gallery Cafe, my dorm mates loved the chowder at John Benny’s Pub, and seafood lovers will drool over the recommendations in this piece from Saveur on Dingle’s best cuisine.

Best Place for Irish Music

You absolutely want at least one night in Dingle Town so that you can enjoy the live music at most local pubs and restaurants. Head out by 9pm to find a spot and have a chance to really enjoy the music. Everyone at our hostel went out together several nights and truly loved the vibe. We had an amazing time at Dick Mack’s, which was recommended by the hostel owner, and O’Sullivan’s Courthouse Pub had an awesome mix of locals and tourists alike. O’Flaherty’s Pub is the go-to recommendation from many, but it was one that people either loved or hated—we didn’t visit.

What to Read

Although I carried the Ireland Lonely Planet, Laura was carrying the Rick Steves Ireland and, in the dual of “which one is better,” her’s won. Although I liked the LP for accommodation and transportation recs, her guide had a detailed accounting of this drive. It had us start our trip-meter when we left Dingle, and then it offered tidbits we could read as we drove along, each fact corresponded to the mile markers and what we were seeing on the drive. It was a lot of fun and provided heaps of history and facts we would have otherwise missed.

blasket islands ireland

A Little Travel Memory … An Important Lesson in Hiking Etiquette

Sometimes joy and fun in an experience is directly proportionate to how difficult it is…

…the short hike to the lookout point for the Blasket Islands in southern Ireland is one of those circumstances. It was cold and windy for my driving/hiking adventure and with the ever-present misting Irish rain a constant companion every time I stepped out of the car.

Blaskey Islands

Slea Head Drive rings the Dingle Peninsula and takes half a day to drive if you’re like me and stop for pictures, hike a little, see a few old rocks and stare down the odd sheep here and there. The Blasket Islands in particular are an intriguing stop on the route because they once contained a very isolated and pure form of Irish culture and language until the mid-1950s. The residents were mostly cut off from the mainland until evacuations in in 1953 and their traditions, resiliency, and culture have noticeably tinged the Dingle Peninsula.

So, there we were hiking through the sheep pastures and taking epic jumping shots over the look-out point and reading through our handy local history book when my bladder sent me an urgent SOS message.

What to do when the only thing nearby for miles in either direction is wind and rocks and a steep hike back down to the car? You prop yourself behind a rock, check that you’re not in sight of any humans or sheep, and drop trou, of course!

And before you think me strange, it is actually acceptable when you’re hiking. In fact, I give you complete permission to commune with nature next time you visit sheep pastures in Ireland…but as a hard-learned tip, make sure you’re not peeing against the wind.   :-)

beached boat in the sand ireland

A Little Mystery… There’s Secret Spot in the Heart of Ireland & I’m Not Telling Where

There’s a secret spot in Ireland. And the locals don’t want you to know it exits.

I found it by chance – though I recommend renting a car in Ireland that means a good deal of alone-time for solo travelers. Time spent following the directions of lonely brown heritage signs, standing as sentinels of history on  the side of the road. In you go, into the overgrown grassy fields filled with sheep and in the search of elusive ruins. Sometimes it’s just a rock in the ground. Old to be sure, but really, let’s be honest, it’s a rock at the end of the day.

Brilliant Irish Heather and Yellow flowers

Other times that venture on unnamed road leads to stone circles visible through the low growing purple heather — tumbling stone archways and altars alluding to a distant and pagan past.

Finding your way back to the car is an adventure into itself, one low stone fence looking remarkably similar to that last gray fence you just hopped ten minutes before. But you continue hopping fences until the sound of the nearby ocean draws your ear.

Though you’re certain the car lies east of where you’re standing the lapping of nearby waves and the bark of a dog leads you inexplicably closer. The Irish are world-renown for being a friendly lot and yet you hesitate as you crest the hill and see a fisherman storing his gear, the dog good-naturedly circling his feet.

The camera comes out. The scene is so in line with the postcard Ireland you remember seeing pinned to the wall growing up. The weathered lines etched on the fisherman’s face, strong hands and a heavy jacket to block the buffeting wind all accented with the only two colors that truly exist in Ireland — the green of the grass and moody blue of the ocean.

Walking closer you drop the camera until you’re close enough to simply watch and listen. The water laps at his boat. The thunk of his gear hits the dock.

The dog has discovered you sitting so quietly on the hill and although he’s been playing in the water he knows no sense of decorum and bounds toward you –only a slight glitch in his step as his owner bellows out a command. It slows his progress toward you, but only marginally. That dog is about to give you the wettest and hairiest hug you’ve had in weeks.

The dog has opened the door to conversation now and as the dog leads you to the fisherman you glance toward the sound of an approaching car, his wife, here to pick him up and transport his catch back into town.

The immediate pleasantries unfold. I’m an obvious American and don’t deny it, they’re intrigued as to why such a healthy and pretty young lady such as myself is wandering the cold hills in such a remote area of Ireland. “Single are ya? Well why in the world are ya traveling by yerself, you’ll never meet a man that way?” demands the wife.

She’s a tough customer and can’t fathom my answer “because I enjoy it,” evidenced by her long-suffering sigh and a muttering about “young people.”

boat

connemara

connemara something special

The sun is sinking lower and my fleece is no longer blocking the cutting wind. With a pitying glance, the woman motions to her car, “get in if ya’d like and we’ll drop you off at your car, I passed it just a wee bit back on the road.” It wasn’t a question, so I squeeze into the backseat and perch myself next to the dog.

As we’re parting just minutes later, the man recommends a nearby bed and breakfast and the best local pub with good music. He notes that he just might be around that way later himself, if I was inclined to get a pint this evening.

I thank them profusely only to be met with a waving and dismissive hand from the woman, “You were no bother really, now go find yerself a place to sleep this evening.”

And as their car drives away, swallowed up by the tall grassy bend in the road, you sit back and take stock of your afternoon. So pleasantly normal and with the promise of a pint, some music, and a warm bed the day seems somehow whole. Just perfect.

There’s a secret spot in Ireland, and I’m not going to tell you where it is. It could be that tiny speckle of a dot on the map that looks like a mere blip of a town. I’m not going to tell where it is because I know there’re other Irish towns out there just like it. They have a man tying his boat to a dock, a friendly local perched at the pub with his pint of Guinness and fantastical stories about the fairies and leprechauns, gritty reminiscences of the IRA — all laced with joy of simplicity.

Traditional Irish Cottage on the Aran Islands

A Little Travel Memory … A Slice of Uber Traditional Ireland

The thatch roofed houses peppering the sea of emerald grass fields seems so oddly reminiscent of another era but yet are actually still found in areas all Ireland. Landing on the Aran Islands off of the west coast of Ireland is like taking a full leap into a small and traditional pocket of intensely Irish culture; Irish is their first language and the traditional Irish céilidh on the weekends counts among the best Irish music jam sessions I have ever heard…although some of it is done for tourists, the small community of locals on the island were still genuinely having a great time as they yanked me onto the dance floor for some rapid swirling turns to the pulsing fiddle music.

Small Thatched Cottage, Ireland

It takes an eternally long hour hour boat ride across the rough Atlantic waters to visit the Aran Islands but is so worth the trip. In fact, my traveling friend for those couple of weeks so fully fell in love with Inishmór, the largest island, that she headed home, rented out her house in the US and has now been living on the island for more than five months!

Quick Travel Tips: Aran Islands

How to get there: Ferries leave from both Doolin (near the Cliffs of Moher) and Galway and take between 40 mintues and an hour. Ample free parking to leave your rental car if leaving from Doolin!
Where to go: Kilronan on Inishmór is the largest town and has two hostels and an amazing local nightlife
Where to stay: Kilronan Hostel – a mere one minute walk from the dock and central to all of the local pubs and music.
Aran Island Sights: Day tours to see the ancient Dun Aengus Fort and local cemeteries…renting a bike didn’t work out too well for me but can be good fun if you are up for some strenuous exercise on relatively unpaved roads!

Sheep in Connemara, Ireland

A Little Travel Memory … The Sheep of Connemara, Ireland

In an effort to add some regularity here, I’d like to start a weekly post called “A Little Travel Memory.” A photo and mini story from current or past travels…perhaps a neat person I’ve met along the way, or a photo that has a bit of a story but not enough for a full blog post…or perhaps just a random memory.

Sheep Amongst the Heather Connemara

Ireland is one of those countries that I can’t help describing melodramatically; the country just speaks to my soul. On the Diamond Hill hike in Connemara, Ireland I spotted this sheep among the fully blooming purple heather, which brings to mind the lovely song “Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go” that I used to sing back in high school when I worked at a Renaissance Festival for a couple years … it’s such a calm and pretty song and a beautiful one to have stuck in my head during solitary hikes in Ireland.

Sheep are not a novelty to most people, especially the Irish, but I couldn’t help snapping this shot because I grew up in suburbia, far from any farm life and pastures, and it calms me to take in these landscapes so different from the ones I logged in my early years of life.

You’ll notice the sun is shining in this shot. In a rare moment of total cooperation the universe gave me two weeks of perfect weather, which is an anomaly for Ireland. Bright sunshine followed the previous week’s heavy rains so the entire countryside blossomed into a riot of purples, yellows, and greens. The Irish had crispy red cheeks from sunburns by the second week of sunshine because it was so out of character for enduring blue skies.

My dad has always wanted to live in Ireland but he grew up in Panama during his childhood and Florida as an adult–he says he can’t deal with the overcast weather. I can’t fathom what he means because the weather on the entire trip  thus solidified that I now have an entirely false sense of perspective concerning Ireland’s notoriously rainy and stormy climate and for some unknown reason I left with a bizarre love of sheep?!   ;-)

A Little Cozy…Peat Fireplaces, Rugged Ireland, and Something Special

It’s the peat. Ireland just has this certain something that makes the country feel incredibly unique; a something that I couldn’t quite identify for the first three weeks I spent in the country.

I’ve concluded that if Leprechauns, fairies and the such exist, then surely they all congregate in Ireland’s “Wild West.” From Galway City I drove through hours of brown-speckled hills weakly lit with the few and tiny bits of sunshine able to wrestle from behind gray rain clouds and drove into the heart Connemara.

Twinkling Breakfast Nook
The twinkling breakfast nook at the Old Monastery Hostel in Connemara

And just for the record, what I just described, that’s everything that I actually kind of hate. I’m a Florida girl, the Sunshine state people! My entire RTW trip was structured to chase warm weather around the world…which means I run screaming from any signs of gloomy weather and the cold makes me cry just a little inside.

And yet. Here’s Ireland. The polar opposite “bright and sunshiny.” A rainy, overcast, cold and wet country with thousands of pubs and a charming yet occasionally incomprehensible (to me) brogue. The country inspires me and makes me just want to smile inside.

So back to the peat, a central part of my love-affair with Ireland. A quick tangent, in case you’re baffled right now, please, take a moment to educate yourself on peat – in short, it’s simply decayed vegetation matter then compressed and used in fires because it burns incredibly slow. But really, it’s a lot more than that. The smell of the peat stung the inside of my nose the first time I inhaled a big whiff of a freshly lit peat fire. The foreign smell made my eyes instantly water and I sat pondering the sanity of the Irish for even using peat.  But then I mellowed back out, watched the peat begin to internally glow a warm orange, relaxed back into my conversation and sank into the evening.

Peat Fireplace
A warm peat fireplace in the cozy communal living room

And that’s when it hit me. It’s this warmth and relaxed enjoyablity that I so love about Ireland. At one of my last hostels (and I stayed there for a week I enjoyed it so much) all the travelers enjoyed the warm peat fire, the varied accents, and dynamic conversations….all set off with that unique smell of a warm, peaty fire.

So when I’m asked the baffling question of why I love Ireland so much and keep going back there when there’s so much of the world to see…you know, perhaps it’s the peat.

Photo credit and big warm hugs to Eva, a friend  from the hostel who took these amazing photos and has the cutest baby ever  :-)

A Little Answer…How to Pull the Perfect Pint of Guinness

Affectionately referred to as “Irish mothers’ milk” by some and “the pint that drinks like a meal” by others, Guinness is a cultural right of passage on a visit to Ireland…and as a fiercely Irish yank (although to be clear, I’m not actually a yank…but in Ireland, if you’re American, they call you a yank no matter where in the states you call home) the Guinness Factory Tour was tops on my “must-see” list.

Just Dying to Know How they Pull a Pint of Guinness?

Now, before you wrinkle your nose and proclaim “I don’t drink Guinness,” I loved the Factory tour for so many more reasons beyond the fact that I enjoy a pint of beer here and there. I’m a big lover of knowledge and geek-out over a learning nuanced (and sometimes useless) information.

The Guinness Factory tour was well done on every level and newbies to Dublin should wander by for a visit (I was able to easily walk there from the heart of downtown). They have several floors of interactive displays, recorded videos, flowing water, colored lights, and every piece of information you could possibly care to know about how stout is made. I’m actually glad I was solo at this point in the trip because I was able to spend however long I wanted reading the displays and absorbing the information.

Guinness Storehouse
Signs on the tall walls point the way to the Guinness Storehouse

Whatever you want to learn – they’ll teach you! I learned not only how Guinness is made–from water, yeast, hops and barley, but I caught an expert explaining precisely how to pull a perfect pint of Guinness too. Although my bartending days are long over (and we didn’t serve draft Guinness at my restaurant, so I never learned!) I got the chance to put the lesson into practice and pull my own pint and then drink it!

Yeast, A Guinness IngredientGuinness Draft DisplayPulling a Pint of Guinness

With the factory tour over I hiked the remaining staircase up to the top of the Guinness Factory to catch the sunset and 360 degree views over the city while I sipped my very own pint of complimentary Guinness.

The tour is, in two words, fun & educational. I’ll admit that I do certainly enjoy a pint of the black-stuff (yet another pet name for Guinness) on its own accord, but the history behind the drink was key to making the Factory tour a must-see in my book.

View from the top, Gravity Bar
Views over Dublin City from Gravity Bar at the top of the Guinness Building

My favorite new fact? The yeast they use today is rumored as descended from the yeast Arthur Guinness himself used in developing the drink back in 1759. The brew-master keeps a small bit from each batch to use in the next.

Tell me, what do you geek out on when you’re traveling?