Deciding to travel to Ireland is not a hard a sell for most people, but what many don’t know about the country (other than St.Patrick’s Day is Ireland’s National holiday and the Shamrock is the symbol for good luck), is that Ireland is filled with more stories than one could ever imagine. The Irish have the gift for the gab which makes every tour and venture a delight. Whether you’re riding a tour bus or sitting in a pub, you’ll most likely encounter friendly hello and colourful historical story to accompany it.
Top Places to Visit in Ireland
- The Aran Islands
- Boyne Valley
- Rings of Kerry
- The Buren
Unique things to see and do in Ireland
- See Trinity College
- Visit Blarney Castle
- Wander the Cliffs of Moher
- Be awed by Giant’s Causeway
- See the Rock of Cashel
- Visit Bru Na Boinee in County Meath
- Tour the Guinness Storehouse
- Enjoy Waterford Crystal
- View Bunratty Castle
Planning Your Trip
Deciding what to see is often the toughest part of any traveling venture, especially if you’re the type that likes to see everything. Thankfully Ireland’s countryside, “the Emerald Isle,” is picturesque and traveling between cities feels like a worthwhile tour on its own.
Here’s a little background on Ireland’s geography. The first distinction is that Ireland is divided between the north, Northern Ireland, and the south, the Republic of Ireland. As many people will know the ongoing struggle between the British and Irish resulted in Northern Ireland becoming a part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain in 1921. The southern part of the island, the Republic of Ireland, has been independent from British rule since 1922. The whole country, north and south, is divided into 32 counties with names for each, like Galway, Kilkenny, Kerry etc. As with most people around the world, the Irish identify with the areas they grew up in and one the first questions you’ll hear, if you’re an eavesdropper, is everyone that asks each other which part of Ireland they’re from. You may hear provincial references too. The country is traditionally divided into four provinces: Connaught, Leinster, Munster, and Ulster. Each area with different traditions and customs.
Ireland is known for potatoes, whether they eat them as mash, chips, boiled, or roasted, you can expect to see them on the menu everywhere. Irish mash, or Champ, is typically a northern dish with includes spring onions. A traditional mash is Colcannon. It consists of mashed potatoes with kale or cabbage. There are several variations to this dish depending on the family and region, but if you like creamy mash then you’ll want to give this a try. There are high-end restaurants in the major cities, but Ireland is known is for its hearty homemade foods.
Did you know…?
Irish coffee is made with hot coffee, Irish whiskey, sugar and cream.
Did you ALSO know…?
Historically, only the rich ate beef and most of the commoners ate pork. Crubeens (boiled pig’s feet, battered and fried, otherwise known as pig’s trotters), tripe (pig’s stomach), drisheen (blood sausage), and cured meats were popular dishes. Check these out when in Cork!
- Irish Stew
- Bacon and Cabbage
- Fry (similar to an English fry with sausages, bacon, tomato, mushrooms, eggs, and black pudding)
- Bangers and Mash
- Boxty (Irish potato pancakes!)
- Dublin Coddle (salty bacon stew with sausages and potatoes)
- Steak and Guinness Pie
- Irish Soda Bread
Getting Around Ireland
Travelling from one major city centre to another is relatively easy. Most of the smaller towns along those routes are also well serviced, but travelling to some of the other smaller villages can be a bit trickier, or should we say time-consuming. For most people, travelling by car is the best way to go if you’re planning on spending a couple of weeks touring the countryside. The only real challenge is learning to drive on the left-hand side. Car rentals are available in every major city centre.
In both Dublin and Belfast there are a number of Hop-on-hop-off bus companies that are perfect for hitting all the major tourist attractions. You purchase a ticket for the day, they provide the bus stop locations map, and then you are free to hop on and off at your own pace. The tour/bus drivers will even point out places to check out along the way. This is a great way to get know the cities and scope out areas that you’d like to further explore later on.
Best time of year to visit Ireland
Ireland is an island next to the open Atlantic, so the winds and rain can come breezing in quite quickly. Overall Ireland’s climate is mild with warm summers and cooler winters. Unless you travel there in the summer expect there to be a lot of cloudy days or at least 50% of most days covered with clouds. Ireland also experiences abundant rainfall, giving way to gorgeous lush green hillsides. Our best advice is to find a travelling jacket that can double as a wind and rain coat, while being versatile enough for evening wear.
Ready to plan your visit to Ireland? Check out these popular guides and trips.