Father’s Visit to Ireland: Belfast to Waterford

One of the hardest parts about living abroad is being away from family. So I was fortunate to recently share my father’s visit to Ireland for the 2nd summer in a row. He’s 85 and thankfully in good enough health to still make trips across the Atlantic from Florida. I’m very grateful for the wonderful 3 weeks we just shared exploring new things in Dublin, the nearby coast and a few other places. But equally great was just sharing the little moments like catching up over dinner every night. My Dad’s visit also coincided with the Obama’s visit to the island, so we were both interested to see all the hoopla surrounding that as well.

Obama visit hoopla...security at the Shelbourne Hotel where the First Lady stayed with Sasha and Malia while President Obama was in Belfast for the G8 Summit.
Obama visit hoopla…security at the Shelbourne Hotel where the First Lady stayed with Sasha and Malia while President Obama was in Belfast for the G8 Summit.

Should We Rent a Car to Explore Ireland?

Bell and I still haven’t driven in Ireland. We’ve been fortunate to have a few friends visit who have been happy to rent a car themselves and we’ve shared in the cost. But being my father’s second visit, I felt ready to finally take the plunge and drive myself. Unfortunately, my Dad didn’t feel like going that route.

He had the same reservations I had for driving on the west coast. Asides from driving on the left side, the coastal roads are extremely narrow. Rainy conditions can add to the challenge. So we opted to explore by other means once again.

father's visit to Ireland
Seaside town of Malahide
father's visit to Ireland
Malahide Castle…waiting for Mario to save the Princess from Bowser’s Castle.

Ireland’s East Coast, Including Belfast

Last we visited Belfast and saw the political murals during my father’s visit to Ireland. We also hiked in Bray, on a Day trip from Dublin. For Father’s Day weekend this year, we took a 2 hour and 15 minute train ride south, on the east coast, to Ireland’s oldest town, Waterford.

We spent a night at the Travelodge, a good cheap option for three people sharing a room in several locations in Ireland as the couch pulls out into a little bed in all their rooms. We couldn’t do better for 45 euros. The intention was that we would wake up early on Father’s Day and take a bus tour to see the famed Copper Coast Geological Park.

father's visit to Ireland
Ice cream on a lovely sunny day in Dublin’s Phoenix Park…proof that climate change exists!

Waterford and the Copper Coast

Immediately after exiting the train station in Waterford we headed to a massive and seemingly new tourist information center. When I inquired about bus tours to the Copper Coast I was given a look like I was crazy. “You could rent a car” she said. “There are no tours there.” Looking around the massive information center I probably gave the employee an equally bewildered look in return. Sure, why would there be given there is a UNESCO World Heritage site just 20 km away?

Hand made Waterford crystal at Kite Studios
Hand made Waterford crystal at Kite Design Studios

So with the Copper Coast out we had to make other arrangements. Waterford is famous for crystal but after the recession hit, 2,000 employees were laid off and many crystal making  jobs were shipped to Poland. So we decided to skip the Waterford Crystal tour and showcase room. A few of the employees who were laid off, along with a few other local artists, formed a co-op called Kite Design Studios. It’s well worth a visit as you can see lovely crystal glassware being hand made and shop for great gifts.

We arrived late and did not see any glassware being made but we had a wonderful chat with a fantastic porcelain sculptor named Sharon Fleming who told us of her adventures hiking the famous 800 km Camino de Santiago trail in northern Spain. She also told us the best places to eat and drink in town. After a good pub dinner we headed to the oldest pub in Waterford, T & H Doolan’s, to listen to Irish music. Sinead O’ Connor started her career in this pub and it’s a must stop for a drink in town. Try a locally brewed Metalman pale ale if you like this style of beer as it’s a good one.

father's visit to Ireland
Thumbs up to Doolan’s, Metalman pale ale and an awesome Father’s Day weekend in Ireland.

Tramore and the Copper Coast

The next day we caught a local bus to the coastal town of Tramore to catch a wee glimpse of the Copper Coast. Unfortunately, the weather was horrendous and we were forced to flee into a little diner and warm ourselves with coffee and hot chocolate…Summer in Ireland! So we returned to Waterford and had dinner at the oldest hotel in town, the Granville Hotel. It’s a charming establishment for a meal and a memorable highlight of my father’s visit to Ireland.

father's visit to Ireland
Despite Dad’s umbrella nearly blowing away in horrid conditions, he still manages a thumbs up at the foot of the Copper Coast in Tramore.
father's visit to Ireland
Father’s Day dinner at the Granville Hotel in Waterford.

Father’s Visit to Ireland Recap

Another great excursion we embarked on was a visit to Glendalough. It’s a lovely and historic place. You can even catch a tour bus to from Dublin. But that’s a story for another time. In the meantime, thank you so much for visiting again Dad. We love you.

Thanks to 2 and 1/2 years living in Dublin, we were able to learn a lot about the country. Read this article on how to spend one week in Ireland!

father's visit to Ireland
Majestic Glendalough…A place where leprechauns play (when you’re not looking).

Have questions about planning your trip to Ireland? Email me at [email protected] or leave a comment below and we can assist you!

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  • Alex&Bell

    Alex and Bell originally met while solo traveling after finishing university in 2002, in Brugge, Belgium. Alex grew up in the USA and Bell hails from Australia. During our nearly 20 year marriage we've lived around the world, including spending six years living in the Netherlands and Ireland. We have traveled to nearly 70 countries and enjoy giving readers authentic and quality travel tips. Alex is an award winning travel journalist and travel planner, who also freelances for other outlets. Bell is an award winning PhD scientist who currently works for a non-profit lung cancer advocacy research organization called Lungevity. Happy travels and if you have any questions leave a comment or drop an email!

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4 thoughts on “Father’s Visit to Ireland: Belfast to Waterford

  1. Lovely article. However, being from Ireland myself, I wondered about the thumbs up signal. Was he looking for a lift? 🙂 Glad you all enjoyed it so much, and yes, the roads in the west of Ireland take years to get used to. I lived on Galway Bay, so I drove them for years.

    1. Thanks so much for the compliment, Orna! With my American origins, I have a long history of throwing a thumbs up all over the world for the past decade. This trend has now spilled over to my Dad. And who knows, maybe one day we will catch a free ride 😉 Over 2 summers my father has spent 7 total weeks in Ireland with us and raves about it all the time over the phone. He has such fond memories and I know he’d love to return a 3rd time. Most visitors to Ireland leave feeling they were treated with respect, hospitality, great scenery and wish to come back. So big congrats to you on this! 🙂

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