First and foremost, people think of Ireland as `the Emerald Isle`, and its verdant beauty can be best seen in its many private and public gardens. It is also known for its castles, of which there once numbered over 30,000. They dot the Irish countryside, ranging from large stone fortifications to crumbling ruins. The latter castles are just the newest of Ireland`s ruins, which are famous in their own right, and stretch back to the time of the Celts. Coupled with backdrops of green fields, mountains, and even cliffsides, is it any wonder why people think Ireland is one of the most picturesque places on Earth, with fantastic views?
Ireland is fiercely proud of its culture, traditions, and native language (Irish Gaelic, or simply called Irish today). Included in Ireland`s cultural tradition are very strong literary roots, and the founding fathers of Irish prose and poetry are among the greatest minds of all time. You can also see Irish culture on display in the heritage towns as well as in the Gaeltacht (a predominantly Irish-speaking area of the country) where you can take Irish language lessons or even learn about traditional Celtic music? If you don`t get a chance to learn much about it, at least take some time to listen to it, either at one of a myriad of festivals or in one of Ireland`s many pubs. (It isn`t an Irish experience without a pint of Guinness!)
Most people who come to Ireland arrive in Dublin, its capital; even if you arrive in the country through another city, you should make time to spend at least three days here. We recommend that you drive so you can explore absolutely everything Ireland -- urban and rural -- has to offer. One of the most popular tourist drives is the Ring of Kerry, a 111-mile route which starts in Killarney (home to a picturesque and serene national park) and passes through many towns, including Kenmare, located on the ring`s southeastern edge. If you want to travel north from Dublin instead, be sure to visit County Meath on your way across the border to Northern Ireland, where we definitely recommend stopping to visit in Belfast, the capital, and vibrant Derry (Londonderry). Derry is just a hop, skip and a jump away from County Donegal, across Northern Ireland`s western border in the Republic, which offers some of the most beautiful views in the country, from mountains to cliffsides in mere minutes.
For those going to explore the Ring of Kerry, drive up the coast of Western Ireland afterwards and make some time to explore the beautiful and vibrant cities and towns such as Limerick, Shannon, and Galway. Galway, known for its festivals and seafaring traditions, is a great place to explore for a few days before moving on to see more of the country. If more of the coastal Irish life is what you`re after, head south again to South West Ireland and spend some time in Cork and Kinsale. Take a day trip to Blarney Castle, northwest of Cork, and kiss the Blarney Stone! Then head east to South East Ireland, where Waterford, known for its shimmering crystal and Viking traditions, is the region`s largest city.
The Emerald Isle of Ireland, with its lush green fields, rocky coastlines, and historic towns and villages, can be enjoyed year-round. However, there are more advantageous times to visit when compared to others. It is recommended to visit in the shoulder season, when accommodations and airfares are not as high as the summer high season, but temperatures are still mild and the rainy season has finally ended. Ideal times to visit Ireland are the latter part of April, May, September, and the early part of October. If you visit between late fall and early spring, note that you will most likely get caught in rain showers. It`s very Irish -- but it can be very dreary for a holiday. For more information, check out: Best Time to Visit Ireland.
We recommend 7-10 days based on what you want to see and do. We offer flexible vacation packages so you can select your number of nights in each city, desired hotel and activities. We suggest a minimum of 3 nights in larger cities.
The best way to experience everything that Ireland has to offer, from the big cities to the small, charming villages in the Gaeltacht and even further afield, is to travel by car. Trains in Ireland link large and medium-sized population centers, but do not always travel to smaller villages.
By Car: The road network in Ireland has grown to become one of the most developed infrastructures in Western Europe, due largely in part to the `Celtic Boom` of the 1990s. National highways criss-cross the country and expressways link major cities to the suburbs. As you explore the countryside, you will find quaint country lanes that may be as small as a single lane! There are many popular driving routes that connect tourists directly with the culture and landscape of rural Ireland, such as the Burren Loop and the Ring of Kerry, among others. There are minor differences between driving in the Republic and driving in Northern Ireland, mostly confined to signage. (For example, speed limits are posted in miles per hour in the North and in kilometers per hour in the Republic.) For more information on getting around by car, check out: Driving in Ireland.
By Train: Rail travel in Ireland is administered by Irish Rail. Rail lines connect nearly every provincial capital, although they do not stop at many villages, especially in the west and north of the country. A rail line connects Dublin and Belfast; Irish Rail offers daily trains from Dublin Connolly train station to Belfast Central; and National Rail offers the same in the other direction. The Republic of Ireland`s hubs for rail transportation are Dublin, Kilkenny, Waterford, Cork, Limerick, and Galway, with Belfast and Derry being the hubs for rail in Northern Ireland. Train service connects to, or is directly adjacent to, ferry ports in Drogheda, Dublin, Dun Laoghaire, Ringaskiddy (Cork), and Rosslare Europort.
The Republic of Ireland uses the Euro (€). Northern Ireland, like the other constituent nations of the United Kingdom, uses the pound sterling (£). US dollars are not accepted. You will need to exchange Euros for pounds if you enter the North from the Republic, and vice versa, you must exchange your pounds for Euros when entering the Republic from Northern Ireland or any other nation of the United Kingdom. Please be sure to have the correct currency on hand or be prepared to exchange your dollars upon arrival. Currency exchange desks can be found at the airport and many locations throughout Ireland. For more detailed information, consult our guide by clicking here: Tipping in the Republic of Ireland Tipping in the United Kingdom.