Wild and beautiful, Ireland is known for its dramatic coastlines, vast and enchanting landscapes, historical castles and all that Irish charm. It’s a great vacation destination for many reasons including the ease of getting around, the ability to rent a car and see large portions of the island on your own with little to get in your way, like language barriers or political unrest. Add that it’s not a long flight from the U.S., and within close proximity to England and Scotland, and it’s an ideal vacation getaway. Learn everything you need to know here in our Ireland travel guide.
Read About Ireland
WHEN TO go
The weather in Ireland is unpredictable — you never know if you’ll have sun, rain, wind or hail from one minute to the next — but thanks to the Atlantic weather system, it’s generally quite mild. The temperature stays within a range of between 50-70 F. There really isn’t a bad time to visit, as the temperature never really dips too low or soars too high. Summer months (July and August) enjoy long days when it doesn’t get dark until after 11pm.
The crowds will be at their largest during those two months as well, though, so you have to weigh the benefits of the “slightly” nicer weather. April-May or September-October are shoulder seasons with decent weather, so that’s when I would go. Just make sure you take layers so you’ll be prepared for whatever change in weather occurs, and be prepared for lots of overcast skies.
WHERE TO go
There are two main gateways in Ireland. Dublin, in the east, is a very European city steeped in tradition and culture, yet very modern. Shannon, in the west, in County Clare, leads to beautiful countryside and rugged coastline, including the Cliffs of Moher. Most visitors start their journey in one of these two cities, rent a car and drive through the countryside, stopping at breathtaking ancient castles, limestone plateaus, towering mountains and sparkling lakes. And towns like Galway and Limerick provide another slice of Irish life, from lively festivals to buzzing nightlife.
If you’ve got children along, check out this guide to the top things to do in Dublin with kids.
WHAT TO DO
With so many things to do in Ireland, you’ll likely have trouble deciding what to do and what things can wait for another trip.
Connemara — a natural paradise covered in pristine lakes, jutting mountains and unspoilt beaches.
Ireland’s Ancient East — The eastern side of Ireland is packed with things to do, see and eat. Check out our full guide that takes you from Killarney to Kildare.
Ring of Kerry — this drive encapsulates the image of Ireland people have in mind. It will take you past majestic castles, ancient ruins and stunning scenery
Cliffs of Moher – the cliffs stretch for more than five miles along the west coastline with their dramatic imminence that draws over one million visitors per year.
Killarney National Park — The national park is home to the highest mountain range in Ireland and at the foot of the mountains are some of the most pristine lakes in the country, drawing tourists wishing to hike and explore nature.
The Burren — The limestone terrain of the Burren is home to one of the most diverse floras in Ireland with hundreds of species of plants growing in the unique growing environment, including some rare and elusive species.
The Giant’s Causeway — one of the most popular tourist attractions in Northern Ireland, the Giant’s Causeway is made up of more than 40,000 basalt columns ensconced in folklore involving a rivalry between an Irish and Scottish giant.
The Guinness Storefront — try some Guinness stout on draught from the brewery in Dublin and decide for yourself if it takes better in Ireland
Blarney Castle — I hesitate to add this to the list of things to do because it’s really just a tourist trap, but it does hold a special place in many people’s minds and is worth a visit for that reason alone. It’s located just 7 miles from the Shannon airport. Just don’t get too friendly with the Blarney stone – remember, millions of other visitors have gone before you.
Where to stay
Everyone wants to stay in a castle! You’ll have the chance to do just that in Ireland. In fact, you could stay in a different castle every night for a year and never run out of possibilities. The most fairytale like hotel castle in Ireland is Ashford Castle. It’s 800 years old and was once owned by the Guinness family. It’s now a 5-star luxury hotel. Kilronan Castle is another good, less expensive castle stay.
When staying in Dublin, it’s best to based the Temple Bar neighborhood. All of the attractions in town can be reached on the Hop-On Hop-Off bus, so you’ll want a hotel close to a stop or two, and Temple Bar has the best concentration of restaurants, bars and shopping.
- Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Dublin — Read reviews on Trip Advisor | Book a stay
- The Morrison, a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel — Read reviews on Trip Advisor | Book a stay
- The Croke Park — Read reviews on Trip Advisor | Book a stay
Stay in the center of the city to be easy walking distance from all of the charm it offers. Park House or the The Galmont are in good locations and have secure, covered parking.
- Park House Hotel — Read reviews on Trip Advisor | Book a stay
- The Galmont Hotel & Spa — Read reviews on Trip Advisor | Book a stay
The town center of Killarney is very cute and walkable. We recommend staying just on the outskirts of the center at the beautiful Killarney Park Hotel.
- The River Lee — Read reviews on Trip Advisor | Book a stay
- Hayfield Manor Hotel — Read reviews on Trip Advisor | Book a stay
What to Eat
There’s an Irish pub on every corner in Ireland, so prepare for some Irish comfort food. Irish stews made with Guinness and lamb or mutton and potatoes, sausages served on a bed of potatoes and an extra large helping of Fish & Chips. You may find items like boxty (a type of potato pancake) or colcannon (a potato and kale dish) on the menu. For breakfast, you’ll find The Full Irish at most restaurants, which refers to a full Irish breakfast of eggs, bacon, black or white pudding, grilled tomato and toast.
What to drink
Drinking is on official pastime in Ireland, so be prepared to gulp down at least one or two Guinness’s while you’re there. The black stuff is revered throughout the country and served at the perfect temperature in every bar. Another local favorite is Irish Whiskey, including Jamison’s, which has a facility in Dublin where you can take a tour.
If you’re a fan, plan stops at some of the other popular whiskey distilleries throughout the country. Cream liquors like Irish Cream are often served iced or as a shot in coffee. In fact, a shot of whiskey and Irish Cream in a coffee makes an Irish Coffee! Ciders are beginning to become more popular, and brands like Bulmer’s can be found on tap in most pubs. You’ll also find mead and some wine, but mostly people drink Guinness.
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