For this week’s Travel Influencer, we are extremely excited to feature Rob Kenny from Northern Ireland, who is currently a MBA candidate at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. He sat down with us and shared his story of how he led a group of fifteen Haas MBA students on a trip that culminated in a visit to his hometown for a truly authentic experience of rural Northern Ireland.
Rob spoke to us about his upbringing in Northern Ireland and gave us incredible insight for anyone, who is looking to travel there in the near future. He told us that most villages in Northern Ireland raise cows and lambs in the scenic fields that surround them. To give us a better idea of the cultural traditions of Northern Ireland, Rob described an annual celebration that’s filled with colourful pageantry and marches. Also known as Orangemen’s Day, the Twelfth takes place on July 12th and celebrates the Glorious Revolution and King William of Orange.
In addition to these traditions, Rob spoke about what it was like to be brought up during the tail end of a conflict known as the Troubles. Rob grew up in a rural village of less than 5000 people that was surrounded by political, cultural, and religious strife. Although this was a turbulent period in history, it was a pivotal moment that defined Northern Ireland and its people. These tumultuous, yet important events influenced his childhood and helped shape Rob into the person he is today.
Rob previously attended university in Belfast, which is the capital of Northern Ireland. During this time, he worked tirelessly to build networks and gained valuable experiences with various companies. Equipped with these skills, Rob currently works with the business development and consulting teams at Google. During his time in university, he attended a study abroad program at UC Berkeley, which inspired him to return to the Bay Area for his MBA. As a part of the MBA program, students have the opportunity to attend different treks, where they build lasting connections and gain memorable experiences.
Influenced by his own experiences and his interactions with other MBA students and aspiring entrepreneurs, Rob planned an exciting trip to Northern Ireland for a group of fifteen MBA students. Through this MBA trek, Rob gained experience in planning and organizing group trips. He gave us valuable advice on the benefits of renting two vehicles for a large group. For any trip organizer, who is looking to lead a group of 10 or more, two vehicles allow you to accommodate two types of travelers: those who prefer to take it easy and end the night early or those who are night owls and choose to stay out later.
Beginning the trip in Dublin, the group enjoyed some Irish dancing and ate some Boxty, or Irish potato pancakes. Afterwards, they played a game of hurl, which is a traditional Irish sport that integrates field hockey and rugby. Following this, Rob took the group on a tour of the world famous Guinness Factory. Along with the brewery tour, the Guinness Factory also offers a glass atrium, where tourists can experience what it’s like to stand at the bottom of the world’s largest pint glass, which reaches heights up to a seven story building.
On the next day, the group got the chance to watch a professional Gaelic hurling game. Later, the group drove along the west coast for 4-5 hours and took the scenic route, as they traveled on winding roads and took in the beautiful, rugged scenery that culminated in the Cliffs of Moher.
A highlight of the group trip was a stay in the Bushmills Inn, a quaint inn with a peak fire. The group stayed there for two nights, as they toured Bushmills, walked along the beach, and took in the Giant’s Causeway before their scenic drive to Belfast.
In Belfast, the group went on the Black Taxi Tours and learned more about the conflict that scarred Belfast in the 70s, 80s and 90s. The tours were led by black taxi drivers, who actually lived through the conflict and were able to provide some unique insights and humor!
To end this incredible journey around Northern Ireland, Rob took a part of the group to explore his hometown of Dromore. When they were there, the group got a unique tour of his neighbor’s farm, which raises cows, sheeps and chickens. With the luck of their Irish group trip planner on their side, the group had the chance to see the birth of a newborn lamb at the farm, which is something we’re extremely envious of!
While a part of the group visited the farm, the other portion of the group split off to experience a Game of Thrones tour. Game of Thrones is mostly filmed in Northern Ireland and the tour takes its visitors around some of the sets where iconic scenes were staged. For all you GoT fans reading this, the unforgettable Game of Thrones tour now costs about $400 for a group of 4. We at Wetravel think it’s quite a steal!
We ended our meeting by asking Rob what he misses the most about Northern Ireland and he told us, “Family, watching rugby, not having to deal with the time difference from living in the Bay Area, and friends.” He also said that he misses Irish humor, since it is different and tends to be more cunning and sarcastic. Rob’s final tip for people who are planning a group trip to Northern Ireland? If you’re unfamiliar with driving on the left side of the road, be prepared for roundabouts that go in the other direction!
Featured Image Source: Rob Kenny