by Ila Bumagin, Junior
Have you ever been to Ireland? Scotland? If you haven’t, you should seriously consider it. There’s ocean views, there’s castles, there’s history, there’s sheep and cows – who could ask for more! Oh wait, there’s universities. How could I forget?
Over Thanksgiving break, I was lucky enough to go on vacation to Ireland and Scotland. Looking at universities can be daunting, but not if you make it into an international vacation. It’s pretty hard to be stressed when the college is – quite literally – a castle by the ocean. I am talking, of course, about the town and university of St. Andrews, Scotland, which is northwest of Edinburgh. The town is home to the world’s most famous golf courses, and a stretch of beach that feels straight out of a movie. Walking along the coast and observing the 18th hole, it was easy to picture myself walking those sidewalks as a college student, sipping a cup of coffee and pondering the universe.
Before going to St. Andrews, we went to Edinburgh. The Royal Mile is like a summary of the city – walk along it and you are transported into the bloody history of medieval Scotland. From Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Castle, stone buildings from every era line the cobblestone street. Stop in any number of the delicious restaurants for an authentic Scottish dinner or the little shops to grab souvenirs. The University of Edinburgh is the same way – mysterious old buildings backed by the rain and endless stories.
A short (and cheap!) flight from Edinburgh to Dublin, Ireland marked the halfway point in our trip. There, I stayed with family friends who live outside the city. Dublin has a much different feel than Edinburgh, as it is much larger and more urbanized. It feels more like Boston. It was surprisingly sunny as we ate pastries and coffee, but don’t worry! The typical Irish weather set in soon, and believe it or not, a three hour walking tour in the rain is not as fun as it sounds! But, seeing the Book of Kells and Trinity College made up for any bad weather. Both here and Galway, as you will hear about next, have one amazing thing in common – everybody is nice. Not a single person would not welcome you and make you feel at home.
So, last but not least, Galway! Finding a place to stay, park, or eat was quite the challenge in this bustling town. While we were there, the Christmas Fair was happening, and absolutely everyone in Ireland must have been there. The vibes were mile high. The pubs were alive with traditional music and support for the World Cup. The university there gave us the best greeting yet – but! We decided to take a road trip to the Cliffs of Moher instead of touring the school. How can you stay away from the rocky coastline and endless castles Ireland has to offer? We passed at least four castles and at least two abbeys (c. 1390). As someone aspiring to be a history major, I was enthralled. The Cliffs of Moher, if you don’t know, is one of the most famous landmarks in Ireland, and it is the set for movies like Harry Potter and The Princess Bride. The cliffs are right near the Burren, a large national park with prehistoric history. So, although the roads are twisty and long, it is unbelievably worth it to go see the cliffs.
All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a better trip. The people were welcoming, the history was strong, and the food was great. I hope that you someday get the chance to visit the British Isles.