If you are reading this post, you are either planning a trip to Ireland soon or are researching on destinations for your next vacation. Either way you have chosen well. Ireland is the place to go right now and you will see why. Ireland – an epitome of good things come in small packages! I had the opportunity to visit Ireland for the second time in the last 5 years, to attend TBEX, which is the largest gathering of travel writers and travel professionals. This year it was held in the quaint and cozy town of Killarney in County Kerry. The conference itself was only for a few days but I joined a group of bloggers and vloggers to explore Ireland after the conference. In this guide you will find comprehensive information to help you plan your amazing vacation in Ireland.
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Where is Ireland?
Table of Contents
- Where is Ireland?
- How to get to Ireland?
- What should I see in Ireland?
- When is the best time to visit Ireland?
- How long to spend in Ireland?
- Do I need a Visa to visit Ireland?
- What currency do they use in Ireland?
- What is the best way to get around Ireland?
- How easy is it to drive in Ireland?
- What is the best way to get around locally?
- What accommodation options are available in Ireland?
- 5 experiences not to be missed in Ireland
- What should I pack for Ireland?
- What foods should I try in Ireland?
Ireland is an island in the North Atlantic and is the second largest island of the British Isles. Politically, Ireland is divided between the Republic of Ireland (officially named Ireland), which covers five-sixths of the island, and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom.
How to get to Ireland?
Since Ireland is an island, there are only two ways of getting there. You can either fly or take a ferry.
With so many budget airlines competing to reduce prices, flying has become so much more affordable these days than it was a decade ago. If you plan of flying into Ireland from the UK or Europe, the cheapest option will be Ryan Air. If you live in the USA, there are great deals right now on Norwegian air to fly from Rhode Island and Boston to Ireland. Some fares are as low was $300 round-trip. Wow air also has cheap flight from USA to Ireland with a connection or stopover in Iceland for $200 roundtrip. Book you flight here!..SALE!
Ferries to Ireland leave from England’s west coast. Ports in England include Liverpool in the north and Plymouth in the south. Other ports include Fishguard and Holyhead in Wales and Stranraer in Scotland. Ferries across the Irish Sea generally tend to serve the cities that are geographically closest to one another. Liverpool offers ferries to Dublin; Stranraer has ferries to Belfast and Fishguard, Holyhead and Plymouth have ferries to County Cork in the southern part of Ireland. Car ferries are available if taking a personal vehicle across the water. Trips take between 1 and 10 hours, depending on the point of origin and destination.
What should I see in Ireland?
Ireland is a nature lovers dream come true. It has so much to offer from UNESCO World Heritage sites, jaw-dropping scenery, charming little towns, dramatic cliffs, bustling cities and everything in between. It can be hard to choose what to see and what to miss especially if you have limited time. Hopefully this guide can help you plan a fabulous vacation in Ireland. I recommend seeing these places.
1. Ring of Kerry
The Ring of Kerry is Ireland’s most scenic tourist trail. It is a 112 mile or 179 km circuit through the Iveragh peninsula. It runs through some of Ireland’s most verdant landscapes and quaint seaside towns. There are plenty of coach buses or bus tours offering this route and they typically run counter-clockwise as in many areas the roads are too narrow for two buses to pass each other. If you are doing the Ring of Kerry by car, do it clockwise so that you don’t get stuck behind a coach bus for several miles.
2. Dingle Peninsula
The Dingle Peninsula stretches 30 miles or 48 km into the Atlantic Ocean from Ireland’s south-west coast. The peninsula is just the right size for a day-long driving or cycling tour. The drive is gloriously green and with rugged cliffs and beautiful sandy beaches. The quaint little town of Dingle has something to offer for everyone. Right from the little harbor to the resident dolphin “Fungi”, the best cookery school, to pottery classes and everything in between, Dingle is a must!
3. Connemara National Park
Connemara national Park is one of six national parks in the Republic of Ireland. The Park covers some 2,000 hectares (4942 acres) of scenic countryside, rich in wildlife on the slopes of the Twelve Bens. Western blanket bog and heathland are the most common vegetation of Connemara National Park. Just driving around the Connemara National park left us breathless. Vast green meadows with sheep dotted all over is a common sight. We had the opportunist to go Gorge walking and Canyoning in Connemara with Epic Ireland. I highly recommend this anyone who is looking for a little bit of adventure!
4. Killarney National park
Killarney National Park, near the town of Killarney, County Kerry, was the first national park in Ireland. The focal point for many visitors to Killarney, Muckross House & Gardens is a 19th century mansion, containing all original pieces of furniture, artwork, trophies and many other furnishings from that period. The extent of the park’s range and rugged landscape is 26,000 acres, encompassing the infamous McGillycuddy Reeks Mountain Range. Killarney National Park was deemed a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1981 and it is easy to get lost in its beauty and green trails. If you love biking, Killarney National park has some of the best biking trails.
5. Glendalough Mountains
“Glendalough” means “the glen of two lakes” in Irish. It is located only around 30 miles or 50 km from Dublin. The Glendalough mountains are an hours drive from Dublin and is perfect for a day trip. The ruins of the ancient monastic city, two magnificent lakes surrounded by cliffs and rocks, nearby forests as well as waterfalls create an unforgettable scenery. There are many hiking trails available in the area. If you are in the east coast and want to visit a National Park then the Wicklow National Park is one closest to you.
6. The Giant’s causeway
The Giant’s Causeway is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. It is located in County Antrim on the north coast of Northern Ireland, about three miles (4.8 km) northeast of the town of Bushmills. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986. It is quickly becoming the most popular tourist attraction in Northern Ireland.
No vacation to Ireland is complete without seeing the bustling capital city of Dublin. I have been to Dublin twice already and it never gets old. There is so much to see, amazing food to try and so much culture. When in Dublin, don’t miss out the beautiful Trinity college campus, the over-hyped yet interesting Temple Bar area, the world-famous Guinness Storehouse among other things.
When in Ireland, why not visit its oldest city? Waterford is the oldest city in Ireland and boasts a history of over a 1000 years. The Vikings founded this city in the 9th century and later it was invaded by the Anglo-Normans in the 12th century. You have probably heard of the world-famous Waterford crystal. There is a lot you can do in Waterford. You could visit the Waterford crystal museum, visit the Bishop’s Palace, bike the Waterford Greenway, visit the Medieval museum and also experience the Vikings, which is a virtual reality experience. We absolutely enjoyed Waterford, especially biking the Waterford Greenway. Scroll down to read more about this amazing experience.
9. Galway City
Galway, a harbor city on Ireland’s west coast, sits where the River Corrib meets the Atlantic Ocean. This charming medieval city is bustling with a bohemian vibe. It’s brightly painted pubs and restaurants brimming with live music and overflowing with crowds. Galway is definitely a party city. We were there on a Friday and boy what the city packed! The music went on past 3 am. If you are looking for a city that knows how to party, Galway is your best bet.
When is the best time to visit Ireland?
How long to spend in Ireland?
Ireland is deceivingly small and I honestly feel like I could spend an entire month driving around the cute country side. But who has that kind of time off of work right? The first time we visited Ireland, we spent 4 days driving from the west cost to Dublin, stopping in a few towns. The next time, I spent close to two weeks there and still did not make my way to Northern Ireland. But realistically speaking you could see the main sights in a week or two depending on what you want to see. The west coast is drastically different from the east and while planning your vacation, make sure to include stops on both coasts.
Do I need a Visa to visit Ireland?
Some nationalities do require a visa to enter Ireland. Click here to see if you need a visa.
There is also a British Irish Visa Scheme for those of you who require a visa. In this scheme travelers who require a visa can apply either for a British visa or an Irish visa, which ever you enter first and will be able to enter the reciprocal country. Click here for more details.
I hold a green-card and I am a citizen of India. I had to apply for a visa. Since I was attending a conference I had to apply for a Conference visa. It took me 20 days from the time the application reached Chicago to the time I got my visa and passport back. So plan ahead. Good thing is that you don’t need to go in person.
What currency do they use in Ireland?
The local currency of Ireland is Euro. You can exchange them at banks and at Currency exchanges located in towns and cities and airports. I highly recommend getting your currency at your local bank as you will get the best value for it. Banks and currency exchanges are closed on Sundays, something to keep in mind.
Most major credit cards are accepted in Ireland. Among the major credit cards, Amex is not widely accepted. If you have an Amex card, I would not rely on using that for all your payments. Another thing to keep in mind is to ensure your credit card has no foreign transaction fees. Having said that, most eateries and shops in little towns prefer cash over card.
What is the best way to get around Ireland?
In my opinion driving has got to be the best way to see Ireland. There are many quaint little towns and villages which you cannot access on a train and having a car gives you the flexibility to start whenever you please and go anywhere you like.
If you cannot rent a car in Ireland then trains are your way to get around. Ireland does have a good train system, but it may not connect you to all the places. You can see the trains schedule here.
The other way to get around if you don’t want to rent a car is bus. The bus system can get to almost everywhere although you may need to do a few transfers.
How easy is it to drive in Ireland?
Driving in the Ireland is great once you remember to stay on the left and after you’ve mastered the roundabouts. Just like in Britain, you will be driving on the left side of the road and your steering wheel on the right. While this does scare people who are used to driving on the right side, it isn’t half as bad as you think. The both times I visited Ireland, we drove around quite a bit. The first time my husband drove and it was the first time he was driving on the left side but it was pretty smooth. The second time my friend drove us all around Ireland and it he says it wasn’t that bad.
Having said that, getting around by car is the best way to see Ireland. Whether you have your trip all planned out or you are just going with the flow, having your own car is the best way to experience this beautiful country. Our first visit to Ireland, we didn’t really have a plan, we just rented our car and drove around different towns and villages until we made our way to Dublin. I believe this is the best way to see a country. Having a few places in mind, but really going with the flow.
Roads are paved well, but are quite narrow compared to your average American highway. The motorways are wider but the roads connecting little towns and villages are narrow. Just remember to exercise caution as there are no shoulders. Emergency phone : 999 or 112
The only thing to remember is that manual transmission cars are still popular in Ireland and if you do not know how to drive a stick shift, please specify that while making a car rental reservation.
What is the best way to get around locally?
Taxis are widely available in cities and towns. They do not take card payment from my experience. They also charge an extra person fee of €2 per person after the first two passengers.
Walking is the best way to get around in cities and towns and it is free. I thoroughly enjoyed walking around in Killarney.
Ireland has got to be one of the best countries to bike around. They have dedicated bike paths in the country side with breathtaking views. Ireland even has great long distance biking routes if that is your thing. Find more info here.
What accommodation options are available in Ireland?
Right from traditional Bed and Breakfasts to high-end hotels, Ireland has it all. I did get to try out some rather cute and quaint BnBs on my visit. There is something about them that adds to the overall experience. Be it hotels, hostels or BnBs, the one thing that was consistent was the standard of service and how personable the service is.
These are the places that I have stayed in and I highly recommend
I have nothing but great things to say about this hotel. Having come from a hospitality background, I know it’s not always easy to have a smiling face and be so amicable to your guests but the staff at Victoria House Hotel outdid themselves. Every staff member I encountered knew me by my first name, they always enquired about my day, gave me amazing suggestions and followed up on asking if it worked out. The hotel itself had so much charm and the breakfast was outstanding. If you ever plan on going to Killarney, you just have to stay at Victoria House Hotel.
Book your hotel here.
A classy hotel right outside the main town of Galway. What I loved about this hotel was its location. It was close enough to all the action at Galway and yet far enough that you could not hear the partying going on till 3 am. If you haven’t guessed yet, Galway is a party town! Most bars and restaurants are lined up on the main street and the partying going on till the wee hours of the morning. The breakfast at The Nox hotel was fabulous. Great variety!
Book tour Hotel here.
Waterford is a quaint town with so much charm. Just on the banks of River Suir is Dooley’s Hotel. Right in the heart of town. Everything is at walking distance from here, including the Waterford Greenway. Lots of restaurants close by and parking is just opposite the hotel for a feasible price. They have a bar and restaurant downstairs. Their service was impeccable. Breakfast buffet was great.
Book your hotel here
If you want to be in the heart of the party district either in Galway or in Dublin, stay at Barnacles Hostel. The one in Dublin is situated right in Temple Bar area and is a minute walk to the Temple Bar!! Great location.
Book your hostel here.
If your amazing Ireland vacation takes you elsewhere why not grab a great deal on your hotels right here?
5 experiences not to be missed in Ireland
1. Have an Epic adventure with Epic Ireland adventure tours
We had the chance to do a two-day adventure tour with Epic Ireland and we absolutely loved it. The first day we went caving. I have been Caving before but this is a caving experience like no other. We pulled off the road and parked our car in a little clearing and walked through a lush green forest that for sure felt enchanted. We entered a little hole in the ground that the stream had made and followed the stream till it surfaced back up again. We had to be on hands and knees for parts of the cave and had to squeeze ourselves into the tiniest ball imaginable to get through parts of it but it was the best experience ever.
On day two we did Gorge walking and Canyoning in Connemara. Although the temperature was cold, it didn’t feel too bad with our double layers of wet suit and all our gear. We walked up-stream and then slid down the little waterfalls. We even jumped off Cliffs. It was an experience like no other. You have to experience it to believe it. If you are planning a trip to Ireland, you just HAVE to go on an adventure tour with EPIC IRELAND.
They offer many other adventure tours if caving and canyoning is not your thing. Check them out here.
2. Learn to spin the Potter’s wheel and make your own pot with Louis Mulcahy Pottery
I have always wanted to try my hand at pottery and when I got a chance to try it I immediately grabbed the opportunity. This Cute little Pottery shop and workshop is located in Dingle. They make all their pots in this location and you can tour the facility. I had no idea how many steps a single pot had to go through in order to look perfect. Apart from being able to purchase their pots and lamps at the store, you can try your hands at pottery. Where a mentor will guide you in making your own pot or mug. I loved getting my hands dirty and the best part is that they will finish your product and ship it to you. Check out Louis Mulcahy here.
3. Learn to cook some mouthwatering dishes at The Dingle Cookery School
Dingle Cookery School is located in the beautiful seaside town of Dingle, a town well-known for its food and hospitality. Mark Murphy and Muireann Nic Giolla Ruaidh run this amazing business and both have a love for Irish food and are passionate about hospitality. They offers a vast variety of activities from Sunday Brunch to Fermentation, from Sensational Seafood to Sourdough Bread Making and many other unique culinary experiences. One of the most unusual class, is the ‘Catch and Cook’ experience where participants get to go out on a fishing boat, bring back their bounty then learn how to prepare and cook it, and of course to enjoy it all at the end of the class. Check out The Dingle Cookery School here
4. Bike the Waterford Greenway
The Waterford Greenway is a spectacular 46km off-road cycling and walking trail along an old railway line between Waterford and Dungarvan. The route has some jaw dropping scenery, viaducts and greenery. You have the option to bike the entire stretch if you like or you could start midway and hire your bikes at Kilmacthomas like we did and bike the 23 km to Dungarvan. They also offer a shuttle bus back to Waterford from Dungarvan so you don’t have to bike back. I’m not a huge fan of biking but this experience changed that. Most of the trail is flat and easy to bike and the breathtaking scenery is so worth it. I highly recommend this bike trail for anyone in Waterford.
5. Visit the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin
Located in the heart of the St. James’s Gate Brewery, the Guinness Storehouse is Ireland’s most popular tourist attraction. It’s the home of the world-famous Guinness. This tour, sprawling over seven floors, takes you through the steps of making Guinness and is by far the best brewery tour I have ever done and I have done quite a few. Your ticket includes a pint of the Black stuff or if you are not a big fan you can get one of their other beers. They claim that the secret to the taste if Guineas is their yeast and have their yeast locked up in a safe.
What should I pack for Ireland?
Here are a list of MUST HAVES when you travel to Ireland. This is obviously not an exhaustive list but rather a suggestion to the things that will make your vacation more enjoyable.
a. Travel adapter
If you travel as much as I do, you know what a pain it is to carry all the travel adapters for each country and wires for all your gadgets. This Universal Travel adapter is all you need to travel the world. It works in all countries. It is so compact and even has USB slots for your phone. I highly recommend this for anybody who is traveling anywhere. Get your travel adapter here.
b. Rain jacket
A good rain jacket is an absolute must when planning a trip to Ireland. I recommend getting a lightweight rain jacket that you can slip over your clothes to keep yourself dry. I love these as you can fold it and put it away in your purse or backpack when not needed. Buy your Rain Jacket here.
c. Thermal Layers
In general I don’t like to be cold. So I packed a few of these thermal layers which were super helpful when the daily temperature fluctuated. I like these thermal layers as they just look like a t-shirt, they are sweat wicking and super lightweight. They even have matching thermal pants which I recommend if you like a thin layer beneath your jeans or pants. Buy your thermal layers here.
d. Hiking boots
After I used these hiking shoes I just refuse to travel without them. Sneakers aren’t that comfortable after these shoes. They give great ankle support and they are water-resistant and I have hiked for a whole day in them and they give great arch support. I am a huge Merrell loyal and so is Vikram. If you are looking for sandals, I also recommend their hiking sandals which Vikram swears by.
Buy your hiking boots here.
e. Thick socks
Although you could use your regular socks while hiking, I like to use these hiking socks as they have padded heels and give greater support on the areas that need them. They fit very well and are very comfortable. Get your hiking socks here.
f. Woolen hat and scarf
The winds in Ireland can get to you. The last thing you want is to fall sick on your vacation. I loved using this hat while biking around, kept me warm and kept my head dry in the rain. Buy your hat here.
Like I said earlier, I don’t like being cold. I love these gloves, they are cute and keep my hands warm. I love that they come in so many colors! Get your gloves here.
h. Warm jacket
Ireland can be cold in the evenings and in the winters. We visited in October and pretty much used this jacket everyday. I just love that this jacket is three in one. It has a fleece layer that can be removed, a water-resistant outer layer which can be worn separately. And both the layers can be combined to make one jacket for colder days! It makes so much economic sense to buy this jacket instead of buying two different ones.
i. Camera with extra memory card
You will regret not bringing your camera to a place as breathtaking as Ireland. Whether you bring your DSLR or your pocket camera, bring an extra memory card for capturing all those amazing memories . Get your memory card here
Apart from the above recommendations, you don’t really need anything out of the ordinary that you would pack to go anywhere else.
What foods should I try in Ireland?
Think of Irish food and the first thing that comes to my mind is Potatoes!! Yes they do love their potatoes. To be honest I was tired of potatoes by the end of my two weeks there. I don’t want to see another potato for another few months!! Having said that, their potatoes were pretty damn good!!
Here is a list of things you must try. I will be writing a detailed post on what to eat in Ireland and where to find them, with restaurant recommendations. Stay tuned. For now these are the must try dishes in Ireland.
A. Irish Lamb stew
B. Cabbage and bacon
C. fisherman’s pie
D. Shepherd’s pie
E. Bangers and mash
F. Blood pudding
G. Full Irish Breakfast
H. Irish coffee
J. Irish Gin
I hope this post has helped you plan your amazing vacation to Ireland. If you have any other questions please don’t hesitate to ASK. If you liked what you read why not PIN it for later??
Hope you have a fantastic trip to Ireland. Happy Travels!!