Just an hour in a plane and we were in Ireland. It didn’t feel real. I’d been hoping all my life for that moment, and there it was.
We flew over the green fields dotted with fluffy sheep that I’d only ever seen in movies and my dreams before landing in the city and taking a bus into the center. We set off right away to see all that we could.
Our first stop was Trinity College – Ireland’s most prestigious university. It’s known for its medical program, famous alumni (including one of my favorite authors – Oscar Wilde) and beautiful campus. We took some time to explore, taking note of where the most important spots were. We’d planned to come back when the exhibits opened – it was still pretty early in the morning.
Then, we headed west toward Dublin Castle and Christ Church Cathedral. The castle was closed because it was Sunday, but the grounds and exterior are always open to the public. We walked around the courtyard, marveled at the facade of the chapel, and eventually stumbled upon a garden in the back. It was there that we saw another building that looked castle-like, though this one appeared to be open. As we walked closer, we realized that it was the castle’s stable building, and that there was a small photography exhibit going on inside. Such a fun find!
Then, we picked up a light lunch at a cafe to eat on the lawn of Christ Church Cathedral. The foliage and almost cloudless sky made for the perfect day for a picnic. Though records of human activity on the spot date back to the early 11th century, the cathedral as we saw it that day was built between the 1300s-1500s (and majorly renovated in the years since). It is one of two remaining medieval cathedrals in Dublin. (Stay tuned for the story of my visit to the other one on my last day in Ireland!)
After visiting the church, we made our way back to Trinity College to check out the now-open exhibits – namely, the Book of Kells and the library. The Book of Kells is one of the oldest surviving original prints of the Gospels, having been completed around 800. It’s also a masterpiece – every one of its 680 pages is decorated in some way. In fact, many pages are fully covered with intricate Celtic knots, crosses, symbols and letters barely distinguishable from the scenes embellishing them. Unfortunately, photo-taking was not allowed in the exhibit, but you can check out some photos of the book here.
The library? Not only is it the largest in all of Ireland, but it’s said to have inspired JK Rowling’s image of Hogwarts’ library. It was nothing short of magical.
We took the rest of the evening to do some shopping, eat some good Irish pub food, and check in on the tour that we’d be joining the next morning. We’d be hopping on a bus to see the entire country – making a loop to the north, to the west, and to the south.
My dream trip into the Irish countryside was about to begin!