Official Language: While Irish (Gaelic) is the official language, English is the language that the majority of Irish locals speak
Welcome to the land known for its green countryside, old castles, the lucky Four-Leaved Clover and a touch of the whimsical…
With its green fields and dramatic ocean side cliffs, the inland mountains that hide away ancient castles and sights, the quaint villages and a cultural tradition as old as time itself, Ireland is a brilliant destination where thousands flock to annually for a touch or Irish Luck. While Dublin is bound to be a major part of your Irish tour, once you’re done visiting the cultural heart of the country, there are a lot of hidden gems just waiting to be uncovered, and they can only be found once you take a few steps off the beaten path. From Kilkenny to Cork and Galway in between, Ireland’s other cities boast a magnificent blend of the old and the new, and a cultural scene that’ll probably never get old. But the beauty is not only to be seen in the cities, after all, the Irish countryside is a force to be reckoned with, which means nature lovers will find their piece of heaven nestled in the picturesque landscapes.
Ireland is a warm and always welcoming destination. Its rich in culture, abundant in friendly locals, filled with an intoxicating laid-back atmosphere, a fascinating history to be discovered and a place where rugged and romantic landscapes steal a part of every traveler’s soul. Step inside and have yourself an Irish craic…Irish for a ‘good time’, and allow the Emerald Isle to put a sparkle in your eye!
Ireland’s capital city lies nestled between Howth in the north and Dalkey to the south. It’s also divided in two by the River Liffey that flows into the harbor, but there are several bridges that span the divide like O’Connell Bridge to name but one. Dublin was once the British Empire’s second city, and its past is tangible in the Georgian architecture and the English parks that are scattered across the city today. Officially dubbed as a UNESCO City of Literature in 2010, Dublin is an all-star just waiting to be uncovered.
Next to Dublin and Belfast, Cork is Ireland’s 3rd largest city and lies on the south coast, connected to the sea by the Cork Harbor and Passage West channel. The original city is an island enclosed by two arms of the River Lee. Locals are set in their beliefs that Cork is the ‘real capital’, which means it has a lot in store for visitors.
The Aran Islands
The Aran Islands are located just off the coast of Galway, and if you’ve got the time for it, it should definitely be on your itinerary. The outdoor museum of the islands is scattered with the most beautiful Celtic churches and it’s also where you’ll find the breathtaking Dun Aonghasa and the Cliffs of Aran, where the film Man or Aran was shot. The islands are a peaceful escape where you can soak up the amazing atmosphere and escape the mainland buzz for a day.
Take a 40 minute drive west from Clarinbridge and you’ll reach the heart of The Burren in County Clare. As its name implies, it’s a barren landscape, yet it’s filled with a sense of magic and serenity. The stunning rock formations here are what make the destination so famous, but it’s also a place where you can enjoy the diverse plants and animals. Make sure you get to see some of the historical sites like the Celtic high cross in Kilfenora and the preserved Corcomroe Abbey while you’re out in the area.
The Cliffs of Moher
If you don’t see the Cliff of Moher, your Irish tour is seriously lacking. The cliffs are one of Ireland’s most breathtaking sites, and it’s their wild, rugged and vertigo-inducing nature that earned them their popularity. The cliffs rise up some 214 meters, stretching 8km along the Atlantic coast of County Clare. On a good day you’ll be able to see the Aran Islands and Galway Bay from here. O’Brien’s Tower sits near the highest point of the cliffs, and proves to boast some of the best panoramic views you’ll ever find.
The magical and mysterious Glendalough can be found in Wicklow, and it’s one of Ireland’s most important monastic sites. Dating back to the 6th century, the ancient Monastic City has been a place that draws thousands of visitors to the valley of the 2 lakes. On offer here is a rich and basically tangible history, but it’s also the splendid scenery with its abundance of wildlife and archeological finds that draws in the masses. The Round Tower is one of the best preserved sights of the surrounding monastic city, and it’s breathtaking to explore, as is the surrounding woodlands and lakes.
Wexford is what you would call Ireland’s ‘sunny southeast’ and its where the locals from Dublin head to escape the city buzz and spend some quality time on one of the beaches that dot the coastline. It’s a small town, which perfectly explains why so many of its attractions lie outside of the town, but you should definitely try and get to them all if you’re here. Some of the top attractions include the Hook Lighthouse - the world’s oldest lighthouse still in use - and the Irish National Heritage Park near Ferrycarrig. There’s also Johnstown Castle & Gardens, the Irish Hall of Fame to be found at New Ross Quay that also houses the replica ship SS Dunbrody. If you’ve got the time try and get around to seeing Selskar Abbey - Wexford’s Westgate - located near the St. Selskar’s Church.
Located on Ireland’s western seaboard, lies the medieval city of Galway. It’s small, intimate and filled to the brim with great character and live music venues, so this is where you’ll head to have an Irish craic, or a good old time. The city is located northeast of the beautiful Galway Bay, but there’s a lot to see in the small town including the Eyre Square, the city center. Other top attractions include Browne’s Gateway, the majestic Lynch’s Castle (a modern day bank that boasts picturesque exteriors), the River Corrib aboard the Corrib Princess and the Galway City Museum to name just a few.
As the midway mark between Dublin and Cork, Waterford is a place where you can see the famous handmade crystals of the area - Waterford Glass - and embrace the rich history that includes Vikings and Strongbow legacies. The town’s not just about its glass though, and some of its most notable features include the Curraghmore House & Gardens where you’ll find the stone arched King John’s Bridge and the Shell House. Then there’s also the Rock of Cashel, Ireland’s most visited site. Waterford’s Medieval Museum, the Bishop’s Palace, The Mall (Waterford’s Parade Quay) and the Reginald’s Tower are all sights just waiting to captivate and inspire visitors.
While the Shannon region has some pretty awesome touristic attractions, the highlight is definitely the Bunratty Castle. It dates back to 1425 and it’s the best preserved medieval fortress in all of Ireland. The 15th and 16th century furnishings and tapestries instantly take you back in time. Don’t forget to explore the magnificent Folk Park that’ll take you back one century into Ireland’s past with its roughly 30 buildings situated in a village and rural themed area. The park is complete with village shops, farmhouses and quaint streets you can explore, which makes it a great family destination.
Located Ireland’s County Kerry on the southwest, Killarney is a destination you can’t afford to miss out on. Attractions nearby include the pristine Killarney Lakes, the 19th century Victorian Muckross House Gardens situated in Killarney National Park, the Dinis Cottage and Island where you’ll also see the Meeting of the Waters and the Old Weir Bridge, the imposing 15th century Ross Castle and its tiny island of Innisfallen, the glacial ice-carved Gap of Dunloe and the Dinloe Castle tucked into a grove of trees. Don’t forget to check out the group of Ogham Stonen, a National Monument of Ireland when you’ve got some spare time.
The idyllic fishing village of Dunmore east can also be reached from Waterford, with a mere 20 minute drive out with the R683 or R684. Essentially, this is one of Ireland’s best kept secrets that see an increase of curious traveling feet during the summer months ascend on the town. The beach and the harbor are fantastic but head into the village for some tantalizing seafood once you’re done soaking up the ocean views.
If you’ve been to the town of Wexford, then a short 30 minute drive south is in order so that you can enjoy the remote and picturesque fishing village of Kilmore Quay. You can explore that maritime museum housed in an old lightship that’s moored at the quay houses and then take a boat out to the uninhabited rocky Saltee Islands, home to Ireland’s largest bird reserve that houses over 30 species of rare birds.
Located on the banks of the River Nore in southeast Ireland you’ll find the town of Kilkenny. The town’s old world charm has much to do with its romantic winding streets, its Georgian houses and tranquility to be found amidst a modern town. If you happen to have time, the town has plenty of great sites just waiting to be explored like the Kilkenny Castle, Rose Garden and Park. But there’s more…the National Craft Gallery the Kilkenny Design Centre, the Rothe House and Gardens, St. Canice’s Cathedral and Round Tower, the Black Abbey, the Dunmore Cave and Jerpoint Abbey are all found in or around the town and offer visitors some of the most amazing sightseeing experiences in these parts.
The scenic heritage town of Lismore lies roughly 70km out of Waterford, and sits peacefully beside the River Blackwater. The Lismore Castle has to be its most impressive sight as it towers over the tranquil waters below. The Heritage Center is a great place to get some basic background on the area, but make sure that you see St. Carthage’s Cathedral, the Towers Woodland Trail and soak up the charming atmosphere from one of the quaint cafés or restaurants in town.
Best time to visit Ireland
Tourists travel from April to September
Ireland has a temperate climate, which means they have warm summers and cold winters, although you’re highly unlikely to encounter snow in these parts of the world. Spring and autumn are mild, and you can expect rainfall throughout the year. Ireland’s weather however, is seriously unpredictable, which means you could go from basking in the sun one week to layering up to keep out the chill the next.
Did you know?
While a good old Hello will suffice, if you want to impress the locals, try using Dia dhuit, which is the Irish term for Hello.
- Cruise on the River Shannon
- Visit the Guinness Storehouse
- Attend the Dublin Theatre Festival if you’re here during September
- Attend the Galway Arts Festival if you’re here during July
- Laugh out loud at the Kilkenny Cat Laughs Comedy Festival during June
- Visit Ireland’s most interesting landscape, The Burren
- Join up and experience the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl
- Visit the Passage Grave of Newgrange, a prehistoric tomb that dates back to 3000 BC
- Take a trip down the Wild Atlantic Way from Malin all the way through to Cork
- See the Dingle Peninsula, and the town of Dingle, where you’ll be able to head off and explore the Blasket Islands, Conors Pass, Eask Twer, Oceanworld and the Rahinnane Castle.
- Explore the Ring of Kerry
- Dublin Bay Prawns - you might know them as langoustines
- Oysters - served with soda bread and a cold Guinness
- Irish stew - made with lamb or beef, potatoes, stock, onions, carrots and garlic
- Crubeens - pig’s trotters
- Colcannon - mashed potatoes mixed with cabbage
- Wild salmon - served from April to June annually
- Dublin coddle - a dish made with leftovers like sausage, bacon, potatoes and onions
- Guinness - Irish stout
- Irish coffee - strong black coffee served with brown sugar, whiskey and cream
Ireland’s comprehensive road network means getting from point A to point B seems effortless, but with signposts boasting Irish and English names, you’re better off using a GPS to get you where you need to be. The Irish drive on the left hand side of the road. They also have great ferry and train systems that’ll help you travel between destinations if you don’t want to drive yourself.
Ireland has some pretty amazing public transport systems, so you’re always able to get to where you need to be without too many hassles. If you’re self-driving, take note that Irish cars are right-handed and they drive on the left hand side of the road.
If you want to use the rail (for getting to and from major cities) then the Irish Rail will make it happen, but there are some places that the train won’t take you. Book online and well in advance to make sure you save a little on your traveling expenses. Dublin’s LUAS (light rail train) is great for whisking you across the city in no time, but you can also use the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) train.
Irish bus services are anything but luxurious, but they are convenient and cost-effective, which is why it’s totally okay to use this as your main method of getting from one city to the next. Make sure you book your long haul tickets online well in advance to save up. InterCity busses are known for being delayed and breaking down frequently, but they’re still cheap, which makes them good to use.
- Make sure you take adapters with you for your electrical devices that’ll need charging
- It WILL rain while you’re there, so make sure you’ve packed your rain clothes and umbrella!
- Busses in Ireland won’t stop just because you’re standing at the station; you’ll need to put your hand out to flag it down
- Get used to the idea that you’ll probably be late for everything if you’re using the bus as your main transport, their just never on time