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Magical Ireland – 9 Tips for Travelling the Emerald Isle

Ireland is one of those mystical destinations everyone has a faint idea about, but few know well. You may think of the Blarney Stone and rolling green hills.

Perhaps you think of Leprechauns and pots of gold.

You might be vaguely aware that it rains a lot in Ireland, but you can’t remember having seen many photographs showing the rainy weather.

Should the Emerald Isle be on your destination bucket list, you may want to consider a few things before booking your flight. You’ll find many Ireland travel tips online, but somehow a lot of them apply quite generally to most destinations.

Let’s try and keep things relevant to the little green island that, for the most part, does not belong to the UK.

Some practical stuff before you leave

When to travel

Given that the weather is unpredictable any time of the year, it shouldn't be your main deciding factor. Of course, there is a lot less daylight during the winter months, which means you’ll spend less time exploring and more time meeting locals in the pubs.

How would you like to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with the locals? It is certainly THE most well-known Irish holiday and the Irish celebrate it in style. Perhaps spend some time in the country leading up to the holiday, because afterwards you will likely nurse a hangover.

July and August are obviously the main travel months. The weather is better than at any other time of the year, but it is also more crowded around the sights. Needless to say that it is also the most expensive time of the year to visit Ireland.

So consider going during shoulder season, either April to early June or September to early October. It’s cheaper and, more importantly, less crowded.

What to bring

Layers. Many layers. A raincoat and waterproof walking shoes. Perhaps even a pair of rain pants. Even when you go in July or August, you’ll still want some warmer layers and rain wear.

Don’t bring a huge suitcase. You’ll be able to get your laundry done along the way and since you’re likely going to travel around, you may not wish to bog yourself down with too much luggage.

If you're interested in our packing tips for traveling light, then I highly recommend reading our Travel packing Tips.

Remember to bring an adapter for the power outlets. They very likely won’t be the same you have at home and that’ll prove difficult when you want to charge your mobile phone.

Plan ahead

Despite its size, Ireland has an awful many sights for you to see. Figure out where you want to go and what you want to do before leaving home. It means you won’t waste precious time in Ireland trying to figure out what the local sights are. You will go astray every so often. That is part of the experience.

You won’t be able to see everything. So pick an area and explore it thoroughly. If you have time, of course, go wild.

If you travel around by car add at least a 1/3 more time to your travel estimates between places. Ireland’s roads are small. You’ll find yourself stopping and hopping out of the car a lot for the various photo opportunities.

As always, though, don’t plan your trip to death. Leave room for spontaneity. A certain flexibility is a pre-requisite, otherwise you’ll find yourself saying no when you really should be saying yes.

Some practical stuff for when you’re there

How to get around

If you truly want to experience Ireland, rent a car. Of course you can always take a coach or book a tour, but Ireland is best discovered by car (or motorbike), especially if you want to get away from the tourist parts.

Do remember that you have to take the left side of the road.

Where to eat

At a pub! Where else? Almost all pubs serve food and it’s usually cheaper than eating at a restaurant. It also tends to be more social. Often a restaurant will have a pub adjoining, so you might as well sit down in the pub and order your food there.

It’s also an excellent way to meet some locals. They’ll have the best advice for you where to go the next day and will probably tell you about places you can’t read about in any guidebooks.

And you get to try out your Irish on them. Proceed with caution, though. Pronunciation of Irish words is usually tricky for any of us who didn't grow up with it. Just ask someone to help you with that and away you go.

How to save money on food

Since you’re likely going to stay at a B&B, which is really the only place you should be staying, you’ll have the option of having a local or a continental breakfast. Go for the local one, it’s pretty hearty and will give you sustenance well beyond lunch time.

During the day, when you do feel hungry or maybe just peckish, buy cheese and meat and perhaps some crackers at one of the many delis that you find in most towns. They’re great and you can make yourself a little picnic.

One more thing

Blasphemy is prohibited by law, but actual adherence may vary.

Also, the Irish like to swear a lot and complain a lot. Take it in stride, they don’t mean any harm. When in doubt, buy them a pint.

The most important stuff

Where to go?

Mandatory to visit Since you’re likely flying into Dublin, there are many places around for you to explore. In Dublin itself you have the Trinity College and the Irish History Museum. You’ll find many great restaurants here, can go to the theatre and, of course, shopping.

Nearby is the Hill of Tara, the Newgrange passage tombs and Boine valley. You can visit the Wicklow mountains and visit the ancient monastic city of Glendalough. If you’re interested in horses, pay a visit to Kildare, which is famous for its thoroughbreds. You can also check out the curragh, the Japanese Gardens, and finally the monastic sites with the holy wells of St. Brigid.

You will have heard of Blarney Castle, perhaps the Ring of Kerry and maybe Bunratty Castle. All these are among the most famous sites and will likely be crawling with tourists. Which is not to say that you shouldn’t go. Though visiting all these, including the Cliffs of Moher, the Waterford Factory and the Guiness Brewery, in one trip can be rather exhausting unless you have more than two weeks.

If you are a literature buff, you will also want to see W.B. Yeat’s grave.

Consider these places too

The south offers beautiful coastlines, plenty of castles, and many formal gardens. Here you will also find he second largest city: Cork. Visit Cobh, which is famous for its port, and the medieval city of Wexford. The Beara Peninsula, the Dingle Peninsula and the Iveragh Peninsula landscapes are simply beautiful and should not be missed.

In the west you will find wild landscapes with archaeological wonders. There is the Burren with the ancient Poulnabrone dolmen and or the hills and bogs of Connemara.

The hills of Donegal are in the north. So is Fermanagh with its scenic lakes and megalithic monuments. Visit Belfast in Northern Ireland (here you’ll need the British Pound though), which is a historic and, vibrant cit. Derry is the only completely walled city in Western Europe. And go see the Giant's Causeway, you won’t regret it.

It’s impossible to cover everything in one article. Go read everything you can find and then make up your own mind. You will likely want to come back to Ireland anyway, so don’t worry about not seeing everything in one trip.

You will leave there knowing that you've been to a magical place. And if you've already been, please go ahead and share your own tips and suggestions below.

About the author

Anja

I left home eight and a half years ago to travel around the world for what I thought would be three years. I somehow ended up living a year in Melbourne, Australia, almost three years in Christchurch, New Zealand, and a year in Victoria, BC, Canada. In between I traveled slowly, but extensively. Just when I thought I’d go home and settle down for a bit, I ended up living in London working for one of the biggest online travel agencies there is. Needless to say travel holds my heart and when I finish my current trip around the world, I will have been to roughly thirty countries (“only” ten on this trip, though, seven of them for the first time). My first passion is, and always has been, writing. When I get back to Europe, I will continue to work on my freelance career, keep writing my own blogs and publish a novel one of these days, all whilst living on a houseboat, because settling down is not for me.