We had no idea why the country was called the Emerald Isle until we took a trip to Ireland. As you’re about to land, you can see the country unfolding like a green carpet from the plane’s window.
But the views from the plane don’t do Ireland justice. Once you explore it, you’ll understand what the name truly means.
Thanks to the Atlantic Ocean, this country boasts a dramatic coastline, rocky peninsulas, and unspoiled beaches. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The inland is just as attractive, with quiet lakes, peat bogs, green pastures, forts, stone villages, and megalithic tombs. All these tell the story of Ireland’s long history.
The locals are friendly, the culture is diverse and rich, and the pubs and traditional music will make you want to stay longer. Then there is the delightful cuisine we found hearty and comforting, making the dishes irresistibly delicious!
With so much to do and explore, it can be hard to know where to go when planning your trip to this country. To help you, we have compiled a travel guide to Ireland with the best places to visit.
Best Things to Do in Ireland
1. Visit the Guinness Storehouse
Considering that one of the most popular beers in the world is Guinness, and it comes from Ireland, it’s no surprise this iconic beer landmark is a popular attraction in Dublin. This huge site covers more than 26 hectares, but you’ll only visit the old grain storehouse.
The building was built in 1902 and was the fermentation plant for St. James’s Gate Brewery. In 1997, it was redesigned and became the tourist attraction we know today. Since 2000, when it was opened, it has been the most visited attraction in the Emerald Isle and has welcomed more than 20 million visitors.
Through the self-guided tour of seven floors, you will learn about the rich history of the plant. For instance, surprisingly Sir Hugh Beaver came up with the Guinness Book of Records idea. He has been the MD of Guinness since the early 1950s. The book was available to settle debates in Ireland and Britain’s pubs.
We found the end of the tour to be the most rewarding part, as we were greeted with a complimentary pint of beer and panoramic views of Dublin. If this is your first time in Ireland, this is a trip you’ll want to take.
2. Admire the Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher are in County Clare and are among Ireland’s most breathtaking sights. They stand about 702 ft above the ground, giving you a stunning view of Ireland. Their names originated from the Gaelic word Mothar, meaning ruins of a fort.
We discovered one of the best ways to visit these cliffs was through guided tours. Because we hadn’t been here before, we wanted someone who could point us to all the hot spots.
Most people visit this popular destination around summer, which is the peak season. The area can also become quite crowded between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you’re trying to avoid crowds, avoid these times.
Before you can experience the real cliffs, we suggest stopping by the visitors’ center for an Atlantic Edge Experience. This is a virtual tour of the cliffs that gives you an overview of what to expect.
Another way to experience the cliffs is by taking a cruise. There are a few cruises that start from Doolin pier. It will give you a different way to experience the cliffs.
For those who love taking walks, take the Doolin Cliff walk along the Atlantic. You will get spectacular views of the cliffs. However, the trail is about 8 km and takes three hours.
Don’t skip O’Brien’s Tower during your visit. We promise you won’t regret it. It’s the highest point on the sea cliffs and was built by Sir Cornelius O’Brien. From the top, you can see Galway Bay, the Maumturk Mountains, Aran Islands, and Loop Head.
3. Have a Drink at the Temple Bar
Temple Bar is another popular site we had to include in this Ireland travel guide. It’s iconic, attracting visitors who come here just to relax.
A word of advice, the district can be quite pricey compared to other parts of Ireland. However, consider stopping by if you’re just spending a few days here. From the unrivaled service to the huge selection of whiskey and beer and the entertaining traditional music, you’re sure to have some fun.
The vibe is fantastic, whether alone or with friends, and you will feel right at home. Plus, the staff are very friendly and ready to give you any information about the district or the bar.
Take a Road Trip Through the Ring of Kerry
A few of my friends who had visited Ireland kept mentioning the Ring of Kerry. I, therefore, had to include it in my itinerary, and so should you when you visit Ireland.
The Ring of Kerry, or the Iveragh Peninsula, is a popular driving route and perfect for a road trip. The loop is filled with immense beauty, cute towns, stunning views, and much more.
As the loop is 111 miles, it will take you about 3.5 hours of driving without stopping. But what’s a road trip if you can’t stop to take in the fantastic sights? We suggest making it a day trip or even a few days to avoid rushing the experience. For instance, Killarney National Park deserves at least a day or half a day.
Also, if you’re driving yourself, we suggest going clockwise. That’s because most tour buses go anticlockwise, and you’ll be stuck behind them occasionally if you follow them.
As mentioned, Killarney National Park is one of the major attractive sights on this route. It covers more than 26,000 acres and features sparkling lakes, dense forests, thundering waterfalls, and a huge variety of wildlife.
Next, we have the Gap of Dunloe. This natural spectacle will blow your mind. It’s located between the McGillycuddy Reek mountain range and the Tomie and Purple mountains. Other places to stop by around this loop include the following:
- Visit the Skellig Islands
- Derrynane National Park
- The small town of Cahersiveen
- Visit the Cahergall Stone Fort
- The colorful Kenmare town
- The little town of Killorglin
- Ross Castle
Explore the Dingle Peninsula
The fishing village in the Republic of Ireland has become a favorite for most people. It’s beautiful, charming, and easy to navigate, especially if you only visit Ireland for a few days. If you enjoy beaches, stop by the iconic Inch Beach. On a sunny day, you can explore the water. But even if it’s not, a stroll by the beach will still do.
Make a stop in Dingle town. I’m yet to discover any other place with amazing fish and chips like this town. And the fish and chips shops are plentiful. Buy your meal and enjoy it by the sea. We also loved Coumeenoole beach because it had a great picnic spot. It’s a perfect place to visit with your family, as kids can build sandcastles on the beach while you take in the view.
We can’t talk about the Dingle Peninsula without mentioning the Blasket Islands. This group of islands is located off the West Coast of the Peninsula and is ideal for anyone who doesn’t want to run into many tourists. However, we’ll level with you here. The weather on this island can be bad. Constantly being exposed to the wild Atlantic, the conditions are a bit tough. Still, if you visit around summer, you can find ferries to take you there.
1. Take a Drive Along the Wild Atlantic Way
National Geographic named the Wild Atlantic Way one of the most beautiful places globally. And if you take a drive along this 1,500-mile route, located on the west coast, you’ll see why.
The route starts from county Cork, covers three provinces and nine counties, and ends in county Donegal. Along the road, you’ll discover a craggy coastline, green rolling hills, quaint villages, sandy beaches, sea cliffs, and historical monuments.
While there are tour companies offering day trips to the Wild Atlantic Way, we suggest taking a tour that covers multiple days. There is so much to see that a day is simply not enough.
If you’re coming from Dublin, your first stop will be Cork, one of the major cities in Ireland. It’s considered the culinary capital of Ireland, thanks to the variety of eateries, cafes, restaurants, and pubs that serve traditional Irish foods and international cuisines. It’s also close to nearby attractions such as Blarney Castle. The highlight of this attraction is the Blarney stone, which is believed to grant people eloquence if they kiss it. Try your luck.
Other towns you can visit along the Wild Atlantic way on the same day include Kinsale and Mizen Head, which are just as attractive. Another point of interest on this route is county Galway.
Make a stop at Dunguaire Castle, which dates back to the 1500s. This county is a wonderful blend of the old and new, history and culture, and great food and music.
From Galway, drive for about an hour and a half to Kylemore Abbey. It’s a stunning mansion with 33 bedrooms. The Henry family built it in the 1860s, but it’s now home to the Benedictine nuns and open to tourists.
2. Party on St. Patrick’s Day
If you happen to be in any of Ireland’s cities on the 17th of March, you must join in on the celebrations. What was originally a religious holiday has now become secular and is celebrated beyond Ireland. Characterized by beer and green outfits, the day celebrates the arrival of Christianity in this country and is also the day St. Patrick died.
The Irish people have observed this holiday for thousands of years. Although most cities in Ireland host parades, the biggest parade happens in Dublin. It’s a huge party that attracts visitors from all over the world. If you take a trip to Ireland at this time, be sure to book your stay, as accommodation usually sells out.
Where to stay in Ireland
Ireland has plenty of accommodation options whether you’re a solo traveler, traveling with friends, or with a family. But if you’re new to this country, you will likely not know where to stay. Below we highlight the best accommodation so you know where to go once you land at Dublin Airport.
- Roxford Lodge Hotel– Dublin
- Beach House B&B– Dublin
- The Merrion Hotel– Dublin
- Cappa Veagh B&B– Galway
- Talbot Hotel Wexford– Wexford
- Oak Tree Lodge– Westport
- Killarney Court Hotel– Killarney
- The Lake Hotel– Killarney
- Mill Park Hotel– Donegal
- Manor West Hotel & Leisure Club– Tralee
How to Get Around in Ireland
There are several ways to get around Ireland. Are you planning to use public transport? Get a leap card. It’s a prepaid card that lets you travel for less money on all Dublin commuter trains, buses, DART, and Luas.
Buses are the practical way to get around Dublin and nearby towns. The destination street will be printed on the bus’ front window. Most bus services operate from 6 a.m to 11.30 p.m and run every 30 minutes.
Another alternative is Irish Rail and DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit). The DART is an electric rail that covers several districts, including Malahide, Blackrock, and Dalkey, while the trains serve Dublin, Limerick, Killarney, Cork, Galway, and Sligo. The trains are more expensive than buses but still affordable. For instance, Galway to Dublin takes like 2.5 hours and costs €17-25.
The best way to get around Ireland is by renting a car. That’s because a huge part of visiting the country is discovering random villages, checking out an under-touristed castle, visiting the set of Star Wars like the Skellig Michael, and going all the way to northern Ireland. Such spontaneous outdoor adventures are only possible by driving yourself. If you need a car rental, check out RentalCars.com and select your location to book a car.
Travel Tips Ireland
This small island has everything for every kind of tourist. Whether you’re traveling with your family, friends, or a partner, you’re bound to find something interesting. With that said, here are some Ireland travel tips to help you out.
Get Travel Insurance
Don’t take any chances by traveling without insurance. You never know what could happen. Ireland is generally safe, and you’ll be fine if you take the usual precautions. However, your precious items can be stolen, or you might get sick. When that happens, travel insurance will help pay for the medical expenses or replace your stolen items. We chose Safety Wing and VisitorsCoverage as they offer flexible coverage for travelers.
Pack for Every Weather
The weather in Ireland is quite unpredictable. One minute it will be sunny, and the next, it’s rainy or windy. It also rains all year round, but winters are particularly tricky as they are characterized by daily rain and short daylight hours. Because of this, pack for every season. However, some essentials include a nice waterproof jacket, walking shoes, a warm sweater, an umbrella, and binoculars.
Don’t forget to carry a universal travel adapter with short circuit or surge protection for your hot tools like curling iron and hairdryer. You don’t want to ruin your electronics and start spending money on others.Generally, Ireland can be enjoyed year round, but summer weather is better and more accommodative.
Ireland Has Five International Airports to Choose From
When looking for flights to Ireland, most people check out flights to Dublin Airport. But an important Ireland travel tip is looking for flights to other major airports as well. You will save money this way. Shannon Airport, Belfast Airport, Knock Airport, and Cock Airport are all options you should consider when checking out affordable flights.
Nonetheless, the airport you choose will also depend on where you’re going. Belfast is the ideal airport if you’re going to Northern Ireland, and Shannon airport will provide you with direct access to the West Coast. No matter where you’re coming from, there are several ways to get to Ireland.
5. Immerse Yourself in Irish Culture
The official languages in Ireland are English and Gaelic, but Gaelic is the first official language. Still, even if you only know English, you’ll be fine. A huge part of Irish culture is centered on pubs. Step into a local pub to meet the people and make friends.
Also, know that the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are different. Some people describe the latter as a country on its own because it’s part of the UK. While Ireland uses the Euro, Northern Ireland uses the Pound Sterling. However, no matter where you are, you’ll find that credit cards are widely accepted for your purchases.
Don’t Spend All Your Time in Dublin
Listen, we understand that Dublin is charming. From the beautifully designed Trinity College to the National Museum of Ireland, this is one of the most popular destinations when people visit Ireland. But if you ask anyone who has been here for travel tips, they’ll tell you to explore beyond Dublin in Ireland.
For instance, take a trip to Northern Island. As mentioned, it’s a country on its own, as you have to cross the border to access it. It’s one of the most memorable and beautiful regions on the island of Ireland, with natural wonders.
Start with the Giant’s Causeway, which is made of over 40,000 interlocking basalt columns formed through a volcanic eruption. No amount of words can prepare you for what lies here.
If you’re a historic nerd, the Northern Island has a few castles and castle ruins you can check out. The most famous is Dunluce Castle because it was featured in Game of Thrones.
You can also visit Ireland’s southern coast, particularly County Wexford. It’s known for the modern National Opera House, medieval lanes, and Westgate Heritage Tower. And for our tea lovers, there are plenty of tea rooms where you can take a break from your trip and enjoy a snack.