Travel to Ireland

Boats in Howth Harbour

Ireland, the Emerald Isle, is appropriately named as there is a lot of greenery throughout the country. Of course this is probably thanks to the number of rainy days. In fact, I remember visiting the Aran Islands in June and thinking it was summer. However, we got caught in stormy weather requiring us to buy extra coats and hats! I have had the opportunity to travel to Ireland many times. Many of the trips were thanks to the RyanAir deals in the early 2000’s when sometimes the only cost was to pay a few pounds in tax.

Dublin, the capital, has usually been my main port of entry. However, I have also travelled to Galwey, the Aran Islands, Limerick, Blarney, and Cork. I will write a separate post for Dublin and surrounding areas such as Howth, Malahide, DĂșn Laoghaire, Bray, Glendalough and the Wicklow Mountains. In addition, I have had the honour to be a volunteer cara (friend) for Barretstown Castle in County Kildare. We are part of creating a magical experience for seriously ill children and their families.

I’ve usually found Irish people to be warm and welcoming, and have always enjoyed my visits. There is a lively and fun spirit, as well as beautiful natural and historic sites to visit. To top it off, one can enjoy Guinness beer, Jameson whisky and hearty food. And the seafood including smoked salmon from Howth is amazing! This guide for travel to Ireland is to give you an idea of what to think about for your trip planning. However, there is a lot more information available online depending on your interests. Apologies in advance for the lack of photos. Many of my trips were to visit friends, so I didn’t take that many sightseeing photos.

Killiney, Dublin coast
Killiney, Dublin coast
Cycling on the Aran Islands
Cycling on the Aran Islands
Francis Bacon's Studio in Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin
Francis Bacon’s Studio in Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin

Highlights

  • Dublin, the capital is a fun and lively city
  • Near to Dublin are beautiful coastal areas including Dun Laoghaire, Howth and Bray
  • Wicklow Mountains for the scenery including Glendalough monastery
  • Cork is the large city nearest to the famous Blarney Stone (yes I did actually kiss it!) and Blarney Castle. It is also worth walking around the city centre and seeing Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral
  • Galway and the west coast has beautiful and dramatic scenery
  • From Galway, visit the Aran Islands. We biked around Inishmore, the largest of the islands. Lots of old stone walls and sheep!
  • Limerick to see King John’s Castle
  • Donegal to the north is meant to be beautiful and I know people from the area. However, I have not yet had a chance to visit

Before you go

  • Ireland is in the European Union, not to be confused with Northern Ireland which is part of the United Kingdom
  • The official currency is the Euro
  • UK and US citizens do not need a visa to visit for up to 90 days
  • English and Irish are the official languages, but almost everyone speaks English
  • The weather can be variable so always be prepared with layers and an umbrella or waterproof jacket
  • Some of the words are not pronounced as they look in English. For example, Dun Laoghaire is pronounced dun LEER-ee. And the name Naimh is pronounced Neev
  • Whisky is spelled without an “e”
Glendalough
Glendalough
The Spire, Dublin
The Spire, Dublin
Kilmainham Gaol
Kilmainham Gaol

Transport

  • There are four major airports in Ireland- Dublin, Cork, Shannon and Knock. Multiple airlines serve these destinations and the Irish RyanAir is of course one of them
  • There are trains and buses to get around between the cities
  • Within and near Dublin there is the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transport) and commuter rail services
  • Hiring a car can also be a good way to see smaller towns in the countryside. Just remember that they drive on the left side of the road in Ireland!

Accommodation

  • There are many levels of accommodation depending on your budget and expected level of comfort. Check Booking.com or GoogleMaps for prices and ratings
  • In Dublin and most other large cities, hostels are popular. There are dorms or private rooms. When I was younger, I had a good stay in the Barnacles Hostel in Temple Bar.
  • However, when we wanted to have more privacy we stayed in a B&B such as Marian Guesthouse
  • The Harcourt Hotel was comfortable and located near a nice square, but there is a nightclub below so it can be noisy
  • For the other Irish cities, I can’t remember where I stayed but we tended to go for B&Bs. They are often cheaper and cosier than hotels. Also, you get a cooked breakfast each morning

Currency

The official currency in Ireland is the Euro. As of July 2022, one British pound is equal to 1.16 euros.

I recommend to check the currency conversion just before you leave as this fluctuates

10 euro note
10 euro note
Desserts at Queen of Tarts
Desserts at Queen of Tarts
Beef and Guinness Stew at Boxty House Dublin
Beef and Guinness Stew at Boxty House Dublin
Dessert at the Shelbourne Hotel
Dessert at the Shelbourne Hotel

Food

When I think of Ireland, it is difficult to recall some of my favourite foods there. I tended to eat often at pubs where Irish stew is almost always on the menu. It is a hearty mix of lamb, potatoes and vegetables, usually served with brown soda bread. I love eating it especially on a cold winter’s night. Another speciality is boxty, a potato pancake covered in sauce.

Fresh seafood and smoked salmon are also specialties of the area, since Ireland is surrounded by the sea. I can especially recommend the smoked salmon from Wrights of Howth.

At Bed and Breakfast accommodation, the Irish breakfast is usually delicious and filling. It is similar to the English breakfast, but often has black and/or white pudding. Also, Irish butter and bacon are particularly tasty ingredients.

There are fine dining restaurants, even more now than in the past. One classic favourite in Dublin is the Winding Stair, highly recommended by the locals.

Of course, Ireland is also famous for some of its beverages including Guinness stout and Jameson Whisky.

Finally, the desserts from bakeries are very tasty such as scones, sponge cake, crumbles and Bailey’s cheesecake. I am not sure which are typically Irish. However, I consider any dessert with whisky or Bailey’s to be Irish. Also, Butler’s chocolate, especially the dark hot chocolate from Butler’s cafe, is not to be missed!

FAQs

Q: Do I need a tour guide?

A: No it is easy to get around and find the main sights to see.

Q: Do people speak English?

A: Yes everyone speaks English and some may also speak Irish, both of the official languages of Ireland

Q: Can I travel solo?

A: Yes it is safe and easy to get around

Q: How easy is it to send postcards?

A: It is easy to find and send postcards in the cities. See Sending Postcards from Abroad for details on cost and the time it took to reach the USA.

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