Natural beauty is profound in Ireland, you can see why this place has inspired and produced incredible poets, farmers, tall stories, folklore, musicians and dancers. Ireland looks just like you imagine it would, rolling meadows separated by ancient stone walls. Sheep grazing as they look out over the ocean and yes, I fit right in with my ginger beard. Redheads rejoice for you will be welcomed in Ireland.
The people in Ireland are genuinely friendly, a rare sight after travelling Europe relentlessly. Go to any local pub and try a Guinness, don’t worry if you’ve had one before and didn’t enjoy it in your own country. It tastes excellent here – trust me. Also the standard measure is a pint but don’t feel bad for ordering a half pint it’s perfectly acceptable and doesn’t pin you as an out of Towner. you’ll look much like more of a tourist sitting trying to down your warm beer that’s too big to handle.
Remember that for a lot of people living in the republic or Ireland, Gaelic is their mother tongue and English is their second language – pay attention to pronunciation and accents if you’re having trouble talking with locals.
I don’t want to dwell on or discuss the politics of a country that isn’t mine but you should know that (in extremely simplified terms from an outsider) the troubles years stemming from the (predominantly) Catholic Republic and Protestant North are now a more political aligned form of division resulting in the ideology of EU vs UK, compounded more by Brexit. What does all of this mean for a traveller?
Honestly not much, people are helpful and welcoming in both countries. Apply common sense and courtesy i.e. don’t ask stupid insensitive questions regarding religion or points of division in a busy pub (no one wants to discuss politics there anyway) and be aware that the border areas such as Derry still do have walls around neighbourhoods designed to separate violence. Occasionally, it does rear its ugly head. The cities are very safe but exercise caution in those areas and around large times of celebration. Moving on…
What To Do
If this is your first visit and you don’t want to hire a car the best way to experience Ireland is aboard a bus tour.
We booked a Paddywagon week long tour of all of Ireland. It was a perfect amount of time for us, nowhere felt like it was too long and Blarney Castle was probably the only place I wished we had more time. As you cover the whole island you get to stop in lots of quaint, beautiful little towns. The company also offers 2 types of accommodation, hostels for backpackers and private rooms for those wishing to have a bit more privacy. Now after seeing all the wonderful sights Ireland has to offer I would recommend hiring a car and using this itinerary to guide you.
This list includes the absolute must see places in Ireland over the course of a week. If you have the time, slow the pace down and stay in every place for an extra night and really sink into the relaxed Irish way or life.
Day 1 Arrive in Dublin
Transport from Airport – 757 or 747 bus from airport is €7 and takes about 30mins to reach the city. There is a kiosk of self service machines and you can also buy tickets on the bus with cash only.
Dublin is the capital of the Republic of Ireland and is a relatively small capital city of 500,000 people. The city is easily walkable and packs a punch of old and new in its very accomodating and down to earth vibe.
Accommodation is fairly expensive, if you feel like splurging go lux and stay at the Alex. It doesn’t particularly matter what side of the river Liffy you stay on as everything is close by.
Visit the Temple Bar area, there are 3 namesakes – the area, the street and a pub called the temple bar. Prices are higher around this part of town but it’s popular with locals and tourists.
Day 2 Belfast
Belfast is becoming a tourist destination but you won’t find much here that you can’t find in other European cities. Walk around the friendly approachable city centre of 300,000 people. Visit the Titanic museum and eat at the University Quarter which is filled with good proper Irish pubs. If you have time there are also Black Cab tours that show you the city walls and explain the reason they exist.
Day 3 Galway via Giants Causeway and Derry
Giants Causeway is shrouded in mystery and then there’s the unlikely story of the (scientific reason) about why this area exists. Spend a couple of hours here then drive through to Derry, be warned the place is a bit rough. It is the site of the Bloody Sunday killings and the memorial is intriguing however you can fell the vibe is still a bit unsafe.
Alternatively – Skip Derry and go straight through to Galway.
Galway is fun, it’s a university town good for people watching and drinking, who knows you might even find your very own Galway Girl. There are lots of street performers of varying quality. There isn’t much in the way of sight seeing, really just the Spanish Arch, Red Earl Court and associated buildings.
You can find an excellent dinner at the Quay Street restaurant in between two busy pubs. The capacity isn’t much bigger than 30 so go early.
Day 4 Killarney via Cliffs of Moher
Situated in the picturesque County Clare. The Cliffs of Moher are a sight to behold. Weather permitting, we got a clear day and golly they were impressive to see. Otherwise you may be best to skip this. It is the most popular tourist attraction in Ireland so be prepared to see lots of other people also trying to get that perfect photo.
Optional Doolin is close by and if the weather is good (also unlikely as the Atlantic ocean is hectic). A boat trip is magic, you can see the puffins waddling swimming and flying.
Killarney was probably our favourite small town to stop in. Walk around the beautiful park that Queen Victoria paid a visit to. You can also go see an Irish music performance, it’s aimed at the tourist rather than the traveller though. If you want local, your best bet is to get into a busy pub and settle into a pint as it will only be a matter of time before the fiddles come out.
Day 5 Dublin via Blarney Castle
Now’s your chance to get the gift of the gab. It’s busy and touristy but that’s Ok. Blarney Castle and the grounds are incredible, make sure you kiss the stone, it was one of the highlights of our trip. If anything I would have liked to stay longer than 2 hours to see everything in detail, there’s also a good lunch from the restaurant across the road.
Get back to Dublin late and return the car.
Day 6 Dublin
Enjoy your time back in the Capital, cross the river Liffy and walk through the grounds of Trinity College. Head down Grafton street to the Temple Bar area then on to Temple Bar street and finally the actual ‘Temple Bar’ pub. If you have room for more beer then grab another pint at Haypenny Bridge pub and admire the Guinness memorabilia on the walls. Walk over the Millennium Bridge, through O’Connell street and if you haven’t already found you pub for the night then make your way home.
- Centra is the best supermarket chain in Europe and has excellent take away meals. Grab something to go at the one next to the castle in Duhb Linn garden for a cheap and cheerful lunch.
- Hire a car from Dublin, it will be the cheapest and easiest way to connect when you fly in and out of Ireland.
- A bus tour is best if you don’t want to drive but even the biggest cities are easy enough to get around in.
- North and South borders still have problems with fanatical splinter groups, exercise caution and be aware of your surroundings.
- Make sure you see Northern Ireland too, it’s slowly becoming a place that is worth spending a few days exploring.
- If you only have a couple of days visit Dublin, Galway, Blarney Castle and the Cliffs of Moher.
- Gaelic is the first language of many Republic of Ireland citizens.
- The word craic should not be confused with crack.