With its breath-taking scenery, enchanting historic castles and lively pub culture, Ireland has so much to offer and should be at the top of everyone’s travel bucket list!
When to go
Ireland unfortunately is not known for its good weather. Changeable conditions (a sunny spell can quickly be replaced by pouring rain) are more or less guaranteed year-round, so it doesn’t really matter what time of year you go. On the bright side, the rain keeps Ireland so beautifully green!
How to get around
The best way to get around and explore Ireland’s diverse counties is by hiring a car as even driving is an activity in itself – as you travel along the winding roads you’ll be surrounded by rolling hills, snow-capped mountains and endless greenery. One of Ireland’s unforgettable driving routes is the Wild Atlantic Way, a 1500-mile stretch along the West coast running from County Donegal in the north to County Cork in the south. Alternatively, take the slightly shorter drive around the Ring of Kerry, a 111-mile circular route with spectacular coastal views, quaint seaside villages and plenty of sights to stop and see on the way, such as Skellig Michael, a rocky island home to an abandoned 7th-Century monastery.
Hikes and Scenery
County Donegal is full of picturesque places to visit, such as Slieve League, the highest cliffs in Europe. Although often outshined by the more commercialised Cliffs of Moher, these cliffs are even more breath-taking and less of a tourist hotspot. Also in County Donegal is Glenveagh National Park where you’ll find lakes and waterfalls, as well as Glenveagh Castle to explore.
Further down the West coast is the beautiful Connemara National Park, just under 3000 hectares of mountains, grasslands and forests. Nearby is Kylemore Abbey, a Castle for Nuns who fled Belgium during World War I. This castle truly looks like something out of a fairy-tale and is really worth a visit.
In County Sligo, the Gleniff Horseshoe is a great hiking location with sensational views and the peaceful rural countryside to enjoy.
History and Culture
Ireland is not short of historic castles to wander around. In addition to the previously mentioned Kylemore Abbey, also on the West Coast but further south is the 15th-Century Blarney Castle in County Cork. Many people visit this castle because legend has it that if you kiss the Blarney stone you will receive the gift of eternal eloquence!
Obviously a trip to Ireland is not complete without visiting Dublin. This vibrant city is full of fascinating history and culture. Be sure to see the Book of Kells, a lavishly decorated book of four Gospel texts written in Latin dating back to around 800AD housed in Trinity College.
Art and theatre enthusiasts should make a trip to Galway for the Galway International Arts Festival at the end of July.
Beaches and Water Sports
Although it will most probably always be too chilly to splash around in the sea in a bikini, Ireland does have some beautiful beaches that are lovely to stroll along. In Donegal Murvagh Beach, located just in front of the pretty Murvagh Forest, is a long shallow beach, perfect for paddling and picnics. Alternatively, Ballymastocker Bay on Fanad Head is breathtakingly beautiful and usually completely empty, so you will have the place to yourself to peacefully appreciate the natural beauty.
In Cork, Inchdoney Island is another fabulous beach destination. Surrounded by crystal clear water and with views across the Atlantic, Inchdoney Island will not disappoint. If you’re into sailing, Cork also holds an annual sailing festival, Cork Week, in July.
Ireland also has some great beaches for surfing. The best places to surf are Bundoran in County Donegal, Sligo, and West Cork.
Food, Drink and Pub Culture
Due to its many coastal towns, Ireland is famous for its amazing seafood. If you love seafood, you’ll love the Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival, which takes place on the last weekend of September each year.
Finally, to really get a feel for Irish culture you have to visit some traditional Irish pubs. Grab a Guinness at the 800-year-old King’s Head Pub in Galway, or take a trip to the famous Temple Bar in Dublin. Whichever pub you go to you will almost always find it filled with lively musicians playing traditional Irish folk music and country blues.
Guinness lovers should definitely visit the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, where you can enjoy a guided tour around the brewery, taste the beer and finish off with a drink at the rooftop bar!
However you end up spending your time in Ireland, you are guaranteed to meet some incredibly friendly Irish locals and have the most unforgettable experience.