Ireland is one of my favorite places. After studying abroad there at UL I packed up my bags for a year off to live as an Au Pair in Cork and stayed. I made it my mission to explore and experience Ireland to do what the Irish do. I got more out of my experience there and learned more by doing this. I become involved in various different festivals, I kept up in what was happening in Ireland, I developed a passion for the boys in green and Munster rugby.
So I put all my knowledge of Ireland into this post talking about transportation, three major cities, towns, and villages you might not think of stopping in, what to do, and what to keep in mind when there.
If you’re coming from Europe, it’s pretty easy. But if you’re coming from America, there are only two airports that fly from America straight to Ireland-Shannon and Dublin. If you are like me and want to get to Cork. Either you have to fly to London or Amsterdam. Either is fine London has more flights where Amsterdam only has two. Once you’re in Ireland, it’s easy to get around.
You can travel by train, bus, tour bus or car. A car is probably the best way if you want an off the road experience and you like to yell STOP when driving. Like me. Note they do drive on the left, and most of the cars are stick. They have a lot of roundabouts, and the signs might be confusing if you don’t know where you are going. So make sure you ask for directions, have a map, and say “keep the bitch to the ditch.”
You don’t need a car for getting around the city. Each place is walkable! Just wear the right shoes. They have taxies and a bus line. Dublin has the Luas to get from one end to the other end of the city. But there is hop on hop off buses that I always recommend.
Outside the city, you can drive, take the bus system or train. Tour buses are perfect for those day trips outside where you stay esp if you don’t like driving and are only staying in one place. The train is the most expensive part of getting around but could be easy if your traveling from Cork to Dublin or have a lot of luggage.
Note: It’s also hard to get to some places with public transport like Kilkenny for example if coming from Cork you will have to go to Dublin first and then back down to Kilkenny. The bus system is pretty good, I did them a lot just grab a bus schedule and keep the times in mind when planning your trip.
Where to go when in Ireland? There is actually a lot to see and do, I live there for two years, and there are still places I still haven’t seen and want to look at! I put them in categories of the top 3 cities in Ireland (I say are the top) and in that, I talk about areas around that you can see in that area. Note I am not a foodie, all I want is food, but I do have some suggestions.
This is probably the most city-like city in Ireland. It is the capital and the hub of Ireland.It has a lot of Ireland’s history, the architecture is very British (surprise?) Dublin is very different from the rest of Ireland good or bad. You can very easily go to Dublin and eat at Applebees or Hard Rock Cafe, but I say NO! Avoid that as much as possible because if you’re going to do Ireland right and only be in Dublin don’t go to those places! Things to do:
You should definitely check it out! It is pricey, but you get a lot out of and get to see how a Guinness is made and can become an expert in pouring a pint of Guinness.
Hop on hop off tour bus
This is the best part to see Dublin, hear about its history and figure out where and what you want to visit! There is a Viking tour that goes into the water, super fun!
A lot of history. You’re able to take a tour, see the books of Kells. It is a place you should definitely see, the buildings, the library- it is free to walk around!
Pub crawl esp. Trade music pub crawl
Trade music is part of pub and life of Ireland. You will be able to go to learn more about Ireland, trade music but hear some stories! So many times I was out with drinks with my friends and everyone around me would just end up singing! We went on one called, and it was the top of our night.
I love zoos, and they had elephants-so I was very eager to go! If you like zoos, traveling with younger one going to the zoo!
Walk Grafton street and wander around the side streets and you will find local shops, cafes, and pubs. If you like more chic vibe go to Sophie’s Dublin, its right across Steven Green and has some great views for sunset, the bartenders are super friendly, and the food is “New York Italian” (personally I don’t know what that means), best known for brunch and their cocktails. Take the green line out of the city limits to more local part of Dublin. I stayed out there with friends and loved it so much! Dublin is a place you should see, definitely try to go outside the city limits, into other parts of the city area.
When you’re in the West and staying in Dublin here are a few places:
Wicklow: if you have a car or get yourself a tour to take you to Wicklow National Park. Stop at the Guinness lake and Powerscourt Estate which has some fantastic gardens and views of the Wicklow Mountains. Stop at Glendaloud, one of the most historical parts of Ireland’s history. On the way out or in make a stop in Bray, think Coney Island. I talk more about Wicklow in a blog post here.
Newgrange: its outside in Meth county, take a tour bus out there or drive yourself. It’s built in 3200 b.c. There is a lot of history here and a place you should see and experience yourself! Also when out there go to Hill of Tara. Which holds Irish history and legends. It’s mostly a hill now with history and views of all of east of Ireland
Kilkenny: I love this town! There’s an old bank that’s now a pub. My friends and I talk about a road trip for a night out there but never did. In every town has its history and Kilkenny has its own with its own castle. It has more of a medieval vibe to it. Talk a walk around the city, I went off what I had in my travels book which linked below. But a highlight was the castle!
Galway is more of a hipster, bohemian of Ireland brings a new age art scene to Ireland. It’s very easy going area with old-fashioned pubs. There are a lot of young people running around the city center and hanging at Eyre Square. If you go by bus you come out of the bus station straight into the center of the city, the city is all one way if you are driving. I love going up to Galway for a weekend, traveling from Cork it will take two buses through Limerick and a lot of stops in between. Unless you get the express I recommend the express bus! The best thing about Galway is near a lot of tourist places like Aran Islands, Cliffs of Mohr, Kylemore Abby. Galway’s is known for their seafood. I love The Quay Street Kitchen, anytime someone asks me where to eat I say ‘the purple place’ aka Quay Street Kitchen! If around in December Christmas market! More about places and things to do in Galway I wrote a blog post about it here.
Get outside of Galway:
Drive around the Connemara for some scenic views, and some sheep on the road. Stop in towns like Letterfrack and Clifden. The wild Atlantic way takes you up there. Letterfrack has a Diamon Hill, more like a mountain you can climb, it is an adventure but worth to see. The view is AMAZING! I love and enjoy Letterfrack it is one of my favorite areas! Take in the views around Clifden, and on your way back to Galway after your adventure stop in one of the seaside towns for some pub food!
Go up into Sligo county, a county I have never been, but it’s on my list. The furthest country of Ireland boarding Northern Ireland. Know for it’s surfing Sligo holds a lot of nature’s beauty with amazing beaches, rocky hills and valleys like Benbulben, an inspiration of Yeats literature and traditional bars. Sligo is on my list, and it should be on yours!
There is a lot to see around Galway that you might need a weekend or two up there!
The one thing about Limerick its very industrial, it known as “stab city” but it’s actually a very artistic, vibrant city. Check out the University of Limerick, stop at the local pubs on campus either Stables or the Scholars for a pint and some chips. If you are in Limerick when a match is going on definitely go see a Munster game! Check out the Locke Bar, its a lovely corner pub right by the river that on a beautiful sunny day you can sit out and enjoy a nice pint!
Places to check around Limerick:
Adare, it has thatch roofs it’s such a cute down with one main road! A heritage town of Ireland with medieval vibes. Also, check on Ennis, it’s in Claire, it is a 30 mint drive. Check out Doolin, it’s on your way to the Cliffs, a fun city with a pink thatch roof building, a corner that is tight turn but busses take it so you should be able to! A town that’s on my list is Kilkee. Beaches and high cliffs, I saw people go cliff jumping there, and since that’s on my bucket list, I wanted to go.
Limerick, Claire, and Tipperary have some great hidden gems and villages you have to just drive and see. There’s the furthest point in Claire called the Loop head, Clonmel largest town in Tipperary, to a small town right outside the board of Limerick and Kerry called Athea. Great way to see all these places is to take the Wild Atlantic Way especially if your driving and don’t know the roads. This area has a lot of thatch roofs and Swiss cottages not like any other place in Ireland!
I lived in Cork, and it is my favorite city because of this. I have a lot of blog post about Cork; here. Cork does have some hidden gems, cafes, and restaurants. But here are my top places and things to do in Cork:
Probably one of my favorite places to have a pint for the night or a night out.
The best view of Cork City! It’s a long way up but worth it!
Some history of Cork and another great view of the city. If up there check out a few local places, like Tom Barry’s pub and the Alchemy Cafe.
It is such a local spot with local butcher and fish market. It is fun to just walk around.
On a beautiful sunny day, this is a place to be. Enjoy the sun, some pizza, and a pint.
In the city there is a hop on hop off bus recommend always taking its fast way to see and hear about a place! In October Cork is packed with festivals like the Guinness Jazz festival which is a big thing there, film festival and more! There seems to be a festival every weekend! Walk down Oliver Plunket and take Maine turn, head up to the Shannon bells for more of a local artistic feel, walk down and stop in at Son of a BUN for a burger next to Everman theater also the opera house on Opera Ln, Centre.
Drive outside of Cork city there is Blarney castle and Fota park (it’s like a zoo), check out Cobh or Kinsale two popular towns. Kinsale is more of a luxury place compared to Cobh, but Cobh has some colorful and a huge church that is worth seeing! Go to Cobh by train is quick and a lot of fun! Drive to the west coast and check out; the church along the lake (Gougane Barra), the furthest point Mizen Head, stop in towns like Clonakilty, Bantry, Glengarriff. Bantry is Home to literature festival! Check on Old Head, a golf course that is open to see the lighthouse during open days. Old head is in the place I lived called Ballinspittle. Check out the Village, stop into Hurley’s and tell them I sent you 😉
For more photographs of Ireland check out my page here.
Note small towns and villages are the heartbeats of Ireland. I have stopped in so many, I can’t even remember their names. I love seeing them!
Wexford and Waterford:
Go east to Wexford and Waterford county, both are vibrant food scenes if your into that stuff. Wexford town is a port town. It is a vibrant area to explore with Enniscorthy and Saltee Island. Waterford town I feel is a forgotten town, there is no direct train from cork there. It’s home to Waterford Crystal which you can take a tour of, highly recommend. I wrote a more in-depth blog post about them here. If you’re going from Cork to Waterford stop in Lismore, a small town, with a castle. It’s a beautiful place to go to, try a local pub and head back to Cork. Stop in Dungarvan, Ardmore and in Youghal.
Note the best way to see all that Ireland has to offer is to take a turn and see where it leads. Of course, try not to drive yourself into nowhere’s lands.
Killarney is not one of the three cities, but it’s one of the top tourist towns of all in Ireland if it isn’t Dublin you will end up in Killarney. A starting point of the Ring of Kerry, a drive you should definitely take. It is very tourist town. If there you should check out the national park, do Kayaking, and if you feeling adventurest climb the highest point in Ireland. There is a lot to do in Killarney from eating, shopping, outdoor activists but go outside of Killarney go to Dingle and drive the Dingle Peninsula; go have a beer at one of the hardware stores. And don’t be confused that there are signs and people talking in a language you never heard of, its Galic the Irish language.
Note: Irish is Galic Ireland’s language.
Here are some stops I suggest you take when on the Ring of Kerry (not in order of location on the Ring):
Beach with great views. Stop after you stop at the Kerry Bog Village Museum. You might see people riding horses.
Skelligs Chocolate Factory
It’s a chocolate FACTORY! Do I need to say anymore? It’s off the main road of the Ring. Near a beach St Finian’s Bay! Also a stop you should make!
A colorful building, vibrant streets. We stopped on a sunny day, and everyone was on. Tables were in the streets. I recommend staying and getting something to eat
Check out the Muchross house, Ross Castle and take a walk on top of the waterfall.
Note If you’re on the ring of Kerry note the direction you’re going you want to go the opposite way it starts. Basically go backward on it.
Drive up to see Tralee their bus stop is a bus bench. And it’s kind of cool to see vibrant central cities town of the county.
Ireland is a place you should explore, it is welcoming and you can always find a pub! You should definitely try their food! I couldn’t believe the amount of Americans came into subway! Don’t just do the tourist things explore off the map and out of the travel book. But if you do get yourself a travel book, the one I felt did off reading the best was Lonely Plater road trip of Ireland.
Don’t forget Ireland climate is rainy, so don’t let the rain keep you from going out to the Aran islands or doing anything! Chances are the rain will go away in 5 mints. There are museums and churches, attractions to see in every place. Except for villages that have a store, a church, and a pub! Ireland is part of the EU, so they use Euros this1’s and 2’s are coins, not paper! Make sure you use the coins. Also, the tax is in the price!
My biggest thing out of this post is…
Do see the countryside of Ireland, the rolling hills, and the cost, but spend a day in the city, see the small towns, don’t just stay on the road or in Dublin. Don’t worry about the rain, and don’t ask for leprechauns!
If you’re reading this and you’re from Ireland, I hope I did it justice! If you have suggestions of towns or places that I didn’t mention comment below!