Back in 2013, I had the opportunity to be in Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day. It was such a wonderful experience and now I am obsessed with all things Irish! I wrote this post to share a little bit about what St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland is like!
A quick history — St. Patrick was born in what is now Great Britain. He was captured and enslaved by the Irish and then managed to escape and return home. He was given a dream by God to return to Ireland. In the dream, the people in Ireland were begging him to come back. He became a Bishop in the Catholic Church and returned to Ireland as a missionary. He died in Ireland on March 17th in 461 AD. Years later, St. Patrick was recognized as the Patron Saint to Ireland. Originally, blue was the color used to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day; slowly, green took over when people started wearing shamrocks. St. Patrick used the shamrock as a tool to teach the Irish people about the Holy Trinity.
Now, St. Patrick’s Day is mostly a secular holiday celebrating Irish culture. We here in the States have a different take on it than the Irish do, but it is still a very fun, very real day with a historical purpose. Here is a cute, kid-friendly video with a little more history.
Purpose of the trip
This trip was taken during my last year of college. I was a member of my school’s dance team and marching band. The band had been invited to march in two different St. Patrick’s Day parades: one in Dublin (which was a big deal — think Macy’s-Thanksgiving-Day-Parade kind of big deal) and the other in Limerick, which was more a marching band contest. It was a great trip and definitely something I will remember forever. I hope to visit again with my husband and kids (maybe).
During the trip, we had a tour guide the whole time we were there. Since it was a “school trip,” I’m not sure how this would fit into your budget, but I would HIGHLY recommend looking into it — at least for a day or two while you sight-see. There is so much history intertwined into modern day life that you might walk past something and not even realize it.
While in Dublin, visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Guinness Factory, Trinity College, and Temple Bar (not actually a bar . . . more later). St. Patrick’s Cathedral is a must see, especially near Patrick’s Day (as our tour guide called it. Definitely not St. Patty’s Day. Definitely not).
The Guinness Factory is the historical location where the Guinness beer was first bottled. Even if you don’t drink, it is still a really cool place. The museum is really informative about the history and making of the beloved Irish beverage. You can go up to the top of the building and see a 360-degree view of the city, and that’s where you can taste test it if you want to.
Trinity College is very old and Historical. It’s still a working college. but you can tour it and visit the Book of Kells.
Other must-see places
The Cliffs of Mohr are absolutely breathtaking. Overlooking the sea, it is so beautiful and peaceful. Blarney Castle is where the infamous Blarney Stone resides. It is not at all what I thought it would be. The stone is not something you just casually lean over and kiss. It is attached to the castle wall. You have to lean backwards and upside down while someone holds your legs and back. It is quite an experience for sure.
You should also go to a pub when they have a folk band. It really is such a cool experience. Even if you don’t drink, order a soda and enjoy the culture.
Be prepared to pay for public restrooms, and be comfortable calling them just “toilet”. There is no tipping.
Gaelic and English are spoken in Ireland. Gaelic is the national language, but everyone also speaks English. Be prepared for the Irish accent and slang words that you may not be used to hearing.
If you get breakfast at your hotel, it will probably look like porridge, eggs, bacon (more like ham or Canadian bacon), toast with creamy Kerrygold butter, and tea. The hotel rooms had an electric tea kettle, which is definitely different than the traditional American coffee pot. I highly recommend using it and making a good cup of Irish Breakfast tea, with milk.
The weather in Ireland stays in between the 40s and 60s year round. Of course it dips higher and lower sometimes but mostly, that’s what you can expect. You can also expect rain and sometimes snow in March. It actually flurried the morning of the parade. Dance costumes (and instruments) and snow weather are not really friends, BT-dubs. Brrr.
The St. Patrick’s Day scene
Temple Bar in Dublin is where the St. Patrick’s party scene is. Let me warn you, it is crazier than Bourbon Street in NOLA. SO many people you can barely move. It is a district/road not just one bar. So, you walk around and party, basically. We ate at a restaurant there and had some wonderful Irish food. Everyone was dressed in Irish patriotic colors of green, orange, and white. They also very quickly recognized that we were American, which was a little awkward, to be honest. But, the streets were full of plenty of tourists from all over the world. There were also lots of street performers such as Irish Step Dancers (think Riverdance), folk singers, magicians, and illusionists.
I hope this is helpful for when you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year and in years to come. If you ever have the opportunity to travel to Ireland you definitely should! It’s a beautiful country. I can’t wait to go back!
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!