Ireland travel guide: Everything you need to know before you go
Everything you think you know about Ireland is probably true. Rolling fields home to every imaginable shade of green, old stone pubs with pints of Guinness lined with bars, crumbling countryside castles – they were all there. But much more can be seen beyond the traditional Ireland of castles and trad music.
This is a country where you can surf the biggest waves in Europe, swim in clear lakes and wakeboarding without even leaving the capital. It is a land of food trucks, street art, and non -alcoholic cocktail bars. And, most of all, it’s just a short hop away.
Current travel restrictions and admission requirements
So far, there are no travel restrictions between the UK and Ireland, and there are no entry requirements for any traveler. Although restrictions on Covid (and various locks) were relatively strict until recently, there are not currently any policies in place, other than loose advice to wear a mask on public transport. However, there has been talk of reintroducing mask wearing in stores and public spaces.
Best time to go
Overall, summer is a terrible time to visit Ireland-it’s full of tourists, meaning hotel prices are rising, and the weather is paradoxical at its worst. It is best, then, to visit in the spring or fall, when things are a bit quieter and the weather is generally at its best. The months of May and September are always a good bet, with the latter giving us the Galway Oyster Festival, Dublin Theater Festival and the Electric Picnic (Ireland’s version of Glastonbury). There’s also a lot to say for visiting in the winter, where you can capture those chilly days with blazing blue skies, and a built-in reason to find a cozy little pub and sit down with your book. next to the turf fire.
Top cities and regions
With plenty of free museums, cool cafés, and cracking nightlife, Dublin is clearly the first city in Ireland to encounter so many visitors. Skip the bustling and tourist pubs of Temple Bar, and instead explore the small neighborhoods and villages that make up the city’s true tapestry. There you’ll find the best street art, vintage shops and food trucks with a cult-like following. One of the best things about Dublin is its size – you can roam almost every part, drifting between the city parks lined with Georgian townhouses and the sleek tech -company buildings of Docklands. If you have the rest of the afternoon, go out and explore the coast – the beaches of Killiney or the clifftops of Howth are less than an hour away by train.
If you close your eyes and think of Ireland, you’re probably thinking of the sights of Kerry. It is the land of giants, deep green mountains, glassy lakes, and small winding roads where the rough white sheep have a right of way. It’s as beautiful as you’d expect, but because of its popularity, it’s crowded in the summer. Don’t think about driving the Ring of Kerry in August, unless you want to stare at the back of a coach for the better part of the day.
Known as Ireland’s second city by anyone other than its natives (who believe it’s the nation’s capital, if not the world), Cork is a very friendly place on the south coast, known for its killer food scene and maarte na sigla. Similar to Galway, the city is the perfect point from which to explore the coast, with its white sandy beaches and sea often crowded with whales and dolphins. Head to the Beara Peninsula and you will have countless beaches at your fingertips. Near Baltimore, you can go kayaking at night on the marine lake of Lough Hyne, in hopes of seeing the magical flow of phosphorescence as you cross the water.
Belfast and the Causeway Coast
Northern Ireland can often be an afterthought when it comes to Irish exploration, but you’re getting an incredible bang for your money when it comes to the scene. The drive from Belfast along the coast to Derry is a belter, with places like the Giant’s Causeway, the clifftop ruins of Dunluce and the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge more than worthy for a pitstop. If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, you can hop to the different locations used in the show, or visit the new studio tour where many of the series were shot.
This small west coast town has everything you want from an Irish getaway – traditional music played in rickety old pubs, a beautiful stretch of coastline and one of the best weekend markets in the country. But while the city itself is a winner, the surrounding countryside is even more beautiful, with the bays of Connemara looking Caribbean on a sunny day. Head to Roundstone, a beautiful seaside village where you soak up the seaside vibes while trying a dozen local oysters.
At the far north end of the country, the county of Donegal is relatively accessible, which explains why it has been off the radar for so long. But now, people in Ireland and beyond have woken up to its unmistakable beauty. There are giant, rolling mountains thick with heather and forests, tiny little beaches with clear water and the highest sea plateau in Europe. An added bonus? You often get it all on your own.
This west coast county is one of Ireland’s best kept secrets. You have quaint small towns like Westport, a thriving watersport scene and some of the most beautiful bike trails in the country. It’s also a misanthrope’s dream, with vast vacant space perfect for long walks and camping, specifically in Ballycroy National Park. Mayo is also home to one of the largest Gaeltacht in the country, a region where Irish is the main language spoken.
If you’re a surfer, you’ve probably heard of Sligo. With the arrival of winter, the best descent in the world is in this northwestern county to face some of the swells, which can reach heights of 60 feet. The rest of us can enjoy one of the calmer days, or spend time exploring the jagged mountains, kayaking on the lakes or eating local lobster and mussels.
Best things to do
Drive the Wild Atlantic Way
Covering the west coast of Ireland in its entirety, the Wild Atlantic Way is a 1,500 -mile stretch of road that hugs the coast and passes through sea stacks, wind holes and small clusters of islands. Driving the whole thing will be a bit of a rush, so pick small stretches along Donegal, Galway or Kerry and stop whenever you see a jagged bronze waymarker on the side of the road-they feature stops that are ridiculous beautiful.
Do island hopping
There are hundreds of islands along the west coast (in Clew Bay in May alone there are 365, one for each day of the year). Although many do not live, the bigger one is a dream to explore. Take the boat to the Aran Islands and you will be able to choose between the larger Inis Mór or the enchanting patchwork of Inis Oirr fields, where the island’s avid resident dolphin will strike the camera from your hand if you are too close.
In general, the areas on the coast of Ireland are getting all the attention. But if you go inland, you’ll see views that are stunning, without the crowds (and prices) of the more visited places. There are cool accommodation options popping up all the time, too, from lodges with an American summer camp vibe to transparent bubble domes where you can sleep under the stars.
Unfortunately, one of Ireland’s biggest drawbacks is its less stellar public transport system. Although it is relatively easy to travel between the big cities and Dublin by train or bus, if you want to properly explore anywhere in the countryside, you will probably need a rented car.
How to get there
The fastest way to get to Ireland is on a flight with Ryanair, Aer Lingus or one of the few British carriers that regularly fly there. Dublin is the obvious entry point, but if you’re exploring the west of Ireland, choose Shannon or Knock Airport. There are also several ferry options, serving Belfast, Rosslare, Larne and Dublin, with a port for the latter easily located in the city itself. Rail and Sail tickets offer a bargain rate that combines ferry and train fares from hundreds of UK stations.
Accommodation will almost always be the biggest expense, so avoid summer weekends if possible, especially in Dublin. If you haven’t booked in advance, chances are your hand is on a last minute booking site like Hotel Tonight where you’ll often find discounted rooms.
How is the weather
You’ve probably heard the saying “all four seasons in a day”, but in Ireland, you can get them all in an hour. In general, Dublin and the south coast are warmer and drier than the west, which can be a bit wild.
What time zone is this?
What money do I need?
Euro. Keep in mind that most places accept card or contactless payments, and because of Covid, more and more businesses are not accepting cash.
What language is spoken?
English and Irish, mainly spoken in the Gaeltacht regions.
What plug sockets are used?
Type G, same as UK.