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Solo Travel to Ireland: Tonic for the Soul

Words and Photography by Candy Marx


Cliffs of Moher, Solo Travel to Ireland - Candy Marx

Have you ever been in the presence of something so beautiful that it left you breathless or speechless? Ireland did that to me, many times.


Travel isn’t only about sightseeing, but it is also about forging new connections, self-discovery, and even self-empowerment — especially solo travel. I recently solo-travelled to Ireland with a tour group and had the time of my life. Solo travel forces you to connect with those around you and to remain present. I was initially nervous, but pleasantly surprised by how easy it was.


Ireland, and the original Celt teachings, have been calling my soul for many years. I wanted to immerse myself in the culture and the landscapes, hoping I would somehow personally and spiritually grow. But what I didn’t expect was how deeply connected to the land and to the friendly, light-hearted, quick-witted people I would become. Which, in essence, healed parts of me that I never knew needed healing.


Being a private person, I typically only socialise with trusted, like-minded people. I had to let go of those layers and conditions to be present with the travel group. I soon realised that my tour group and I were all there for the same reasons — to travel and to meet people — to connect. These intentions are precisely what we need for authentic connections and bonds. And when in this environment — surrounded by others with no agenda but to seek connection — the healing and growth energies are powerful. 


Humanity’s greatest traits are empathy and love — and shedding the layers and conditions opened my eyes to another possibility — the possibility that I didn’t need to have the same views and hobbies to form genuine bonds. All it took was both sides being open to a new connection: no agenda, just curiosity, empathy, and love.


Combine that with Ireland’s serenity, stillness, breathtaking views, and ethereal energy, and it became a powerful healing combination for my soul.


Every destination filled my internal cup — that’s how healing and grounding the energy in Ireland is. The following recommendations are for the soul traveller looking for growth, fulfilment, happiness, healing, and perhaps even love.



Glendalough


In the Wicklow Mountains National Park, County Wicklow, St Kevin founded this sacred monastic site in the 6th century. The valley, carved by glaciers during the Ice Age, surrounds rainforest-covered mountains, multiple fern-lined walking and hiking trails, gentle streams, iridescent pops of colour that radiate through the cloud-covered sun and bounce off the crystal clear lakes, and ancient monastic stone ruins. The air so fresh as the mist lingers on the mountains. There are two lakes: the Upper and Lower Lakes. The Upper Lake is about a 4.2km looped trek. Whether you visit for the history or the scenery, the calming energy will soothe your soul. And if you’re lucky, you may even spot frolicking wild deer.



Blarney Castle and Gardens


The famous Blarney Castle, built between the 15th and 17th centuries, most commonly known for the Kissing of the Blarney Stone, is in County Cork. The story behind kissing the Blarney Stone is that it’s meant to give you the gift of the gab, and is at the top of the Blarney Castle. I didn’t intend to kiss the stone — especially being lined up behind a man who coughed up everything but his liver — but after seeing the staff sanitize the stone after each kisser, I went for it. The medieval castle is spectacular, but the gardens won me over. I only had a few hours there and needed more time to explore. But saying gardens doesn’t do it justice — it’s more than gardens; it’s like stepping straight into Narnia. There are the Druid Gardens, Rock Close, Wishing Steps, Fairy Glade, Himalayan Valley, Poisonous Garden, Vietnamese Woodland, Seven Sisters, plus much more. And the energy is a tonic for the soul. I lacked photography of the gardens due to the weather turning, so I've left you in suspense. All the more reason for you to visit. Allocate at least half of a day there, get to the grounds early, make out with the stone first to avoid the massive lines, and then explore the dreamy Narnia-like gardens.



Cliffs of Moher


These majestic UNESCO heritage-listed cliffs, in County Clare, left me speechless — I was in complete awe. There is something to be said about the 200-meter-high cliffs with the teal Atlantic Ocean knocking at their doorstep; it was like being in the presence of a powerful deity or supernatural being — I just stood in silence and breathed in its energy, while my brain tried to catch up to my heart. You know you’re in the presence of true might when your mouth can’t form words.


Take a long or short stroll along the windy salty walking trails, or marvel at the waves breaking against the transcendent rocky cliffs overflowing with wild birds. On a clear day, the Aran Islands are visible. And because the cliffs face west, sunset would be a stunning time to visit.



Ring of Kerry (Wild Atlantic Way)


In County Kerry and part of the Wild Atlantic Way, the Ring of Kerry is a lush, scenic nature and ocean drive that loops around the county. About 179km (111 miles), it twists and turns through national parks, endless green hills, and rugged coastlines — turquoise waters, rainforest, mountains, and countless island bluffs out to sea. There are many lookouts to stop at to appreciate the picturesque views, and cafes for a bite to eat. I didn't venture the entire Wild Atlantic Way (though I wish I had). However, I did experience many parts of it: from County Donegal, County Sligo and Mullaghmore Peninsula (and Classiebawn Castle - pictured), Connemara (below), and the Cliffs of Moher. The Aurora Borealis is visible from Counties Sligo and Donegal, so keep an eye out when you're there.




Giant’s Causeway


Also a UNESCO heritage-listed site on the Antrim coast in Northern Ireland, Giant's Causeway is approximately 40,000 pentagonal and hexagonal vertical basalt columns at the base of the basalt cliffs. So unusual that the black columns look man-made, which adds to the otherworldly appeal. However, the columns aren’t the only highlights. Where the mountains and volcanic rocks meet the sea, it’s almost like stepping out of Ireland and straight into tropical Hawaii. The flora-covered, towering, black-rocky cliffs surrounding the site also emit therapeutic energy. After taking your photos, spend some time away from the crowds and truly soak in this energy — your soul will thank you. 



Connemara Mountains & Kylemore Abbey


In County Galway, and similar to the Blarney Castle and Gardens, the surrounding landscapes won me over. The Abbey and Church are spectacular works of stone architecture; however, the tree and fern-covered Connemara Mountains shimmering off the crystal-clear lake, the nature-lined walking trails, and the pristine colourful flower-filled gardens stole the show. There is something sacred about the Connemara Mountains — also home to Ireland’s only fjord — which your soul will feel when you visit.




In County Wicklow, these stunning gardens, farmstead, cookery school, and B&B are owned and run by the beautiful celebrated Chef Catherine Fulvio. While we strolled the gardens —where the B&B's food is sourced from — Catherine and her team put on a delectable three-course meal. Catherine was friendly, warm, and hilarious. They can work with most dietary requirements, and they whipped up tasty, hearty, healthy plant-based meals for me.




I fell in love with Dún Laoghaire (above). This cosy seaside town in the south of Dublin is central to everything you need — it’s lively without being too busy and has a homely feel. I realise how obsessed I became with the Irish wildflowers. I arrived at my hotel about six hours early, so I left my luggage with the hotel and embarked on a journey of wildflowers. I fell for the bold pops of colour, buzzing with busy bees, and I love how they thrive in places where they've decided to grow, rather than where they've been told to grow. I love how they aren't considered weeds or pests — they're just allowed to live and flourish. I followed the wildflower path from my hotel, down to the piers. The East Pier wildflower path stopped near the beginning, and something told me to turn back. When I saw the wildflower path begin again, I followed it to the end — to the end of West Pier.


I stayed at Haddington House (pictured above), where I headed straight after landing at Dublin Airport. This hotel, made up of several beautifully restored Victorian townhouses is so stunning and elegant, as well as the staff, the service, and the restaurant. It’s located right across from Dún Laoghaire Harbour near the foot of East Pier — breathing in the salty air while watching the sunrise over the ocean was exactly what I needed after being on long-haul flights from Sydney. I met fellow writer, Mark Doherty, who was also capturing stills of the sunrises and was lovely to bounce ideas off and discuss current and past works. Haddington House is only one block from the main street, and they supply the cutest vintage bicycles to explore the area. Take a brief ride down to Dalkey, and you’ll see why it’s dubbed ‘Ireland’s Amalfi Coast.’


I ate at Soup DL most evenings, which caters to the health-conscious plant-based diners — they served me up some seriously tasty, hearty, and healthy grub. I also adored my daily stroll to the end of the pier, sitting amongst the wildflowers, and gazing back at the land. It was like discovering the starry night for the first time. It's hard to describe but in energetic terms, the land has etheric magnetic power.


I had a blast at Malzards Pub, a family-owned and run Irish pub in Stoneyford, County Kilkenny, which put on a fun-filled evening immersed in the Irish culture. Teaching hurling out the back of the pub, followed by live Irish music and a Guinness pouring competition. I scored 9/10 for my shamrock-topped Guinness, which I’m thoroughly proud of! The guests became part of the live music, which was hilarious and thoroughly entertaining. It was a great way to let loose and belly laugh.


Killarney National Park and Irish pubs are well worth a visit. If you’re a book-lover, check out the gem of a bookstore, Charlie Byrne’s in Galway. And right next door is Hazel Chocolate Mountain. This premium Irish chocolate cafe serves the best ceremonial cacao and caters to the vegan traveller. I sipped the chilli cacao with oat milk — the most luxurious and creamiest ceremonial cacao I’ve ever tasted. I purchased several blocks of divine vegan chocolate, too.


I thoroughly enjoyed each city and town I visited (I travelled counter-clockwise around the country from Dún Laoghaire to Dublin, up to Belfast, across to Derry and Donegal, and back down the west coast, the south coast, and finishing in Dublin). I wish I had spent more time in Galway, Belfast, and Killarney. And I wish I had visited Kinsale, Dingle, and Achill Island—I thought three weeks would be enough time to explore, but I'll have to save that for my next trip! I loved learning about the history, visiting the Peace Bridge in Derry, and writing on the Peace Wall in Belfast. I'm still in two minds as to whether viewing the Carrick-a-Rede Bridge (Northern Ireland) from above was better than walking across it. I didn't venture across the bridge, but the views from above are simply divine.


Carrick-a-Rede Bridge, Northern Ireland, Solo Travel to Ireland - Candy Marx
Carrick-a-Rede Bridge, Northern Ireland

Ireland’s exceptional catering to the plant-based traveller pleasantly surprised me — every cafe, hotel, and restaurant I dined in had vegan options.


I visited Ireland in June, which is summer. I found the lengthy sunlit skies captivating, with the sun peering over the horizon from around 4.30 am until about 10 pm. The skies were mostly blue, and a chill lingered in the air some nights — but the weather changed rather quickly several times. Take a coat or umbrella on your day trips.


After experiencing travelling with my tour group, I realise how much I would’ve missed out on had I not travelled this way — not only the sightseeing and activities but the human connection. My travel group and I sat down and shared meals — an intimate setting — and our differences became our strengths. We wanted to learn about each other’s differences because, ironically, that is what connected us. 


Ireland affected me more than any other country or travel destination — it was like my soul was healing and returning home. The sheer energy of the land, the people, and my tour group elevated me to new levels. Being surrounded by the perfect conditions and people to grow. I made many lifelong friends, even family (my Canadian parents, Ma and Pa!), and I left Ireland on a complete high. My cup, heart, and soul are full. 


Sláinte Mhaith — to good health.



x CM x


Travel group details and itinerary can be found here.

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