Ireland Travel Blog› entry 1 of 100 › view all entries
Below, you will find lots of info for a trip to Ireland.
First all of all, some quick highlights of Dublin.
On a quick two/three day trip, I would spend one day in city centre visiting some of the places under A. On the other day(s), particularly if weather is nice, I would spend time on day trips outside of Dublin to any of the places under B.
A. In City Centre:
- Trinity College (must)
- Grafton St (visit Bewley's cafe-NB cafe closed at the moment)
- Iveagh Gardens
- Merrion Square
- Chester Beatty Library
- Hugh Lane Gallery
- Kilmainham Gaol (many visitors' favourite - learn about Ireland became independent)
- National Gallery, National Museuem and National Library
- St.Patrick's Cathedral and Christ Church Cathedral
- George's St. Arcade (quirky market)
Lunch in O'Neill's on Suffolk St. Pint in O'Neill's or The Palace Bar on Fleet St. Best place for traditional Irish music in evening - Cobblestone Pub, Smithfield. Fish&Chips in Leo Burdocks.
B. Outside City Centre:
- Howth (beautiful scenery, easily reached by DART suburban train)
- Dalkey/Killiney (beautiful scenery, easily reached by DART suburban train)
- Malahide (best castle near Dublin, easily reached by DART suburban train)
- Glendalough (beautiful scenery and monastic site - best visited by car or organised tour, not worth it for day trip by public transport)
- Newgrange (ancient monument - older than the Pyramids! Best visited by organised tour or car)
- Kilkenny (great castle and nice town - long daytrip, probably worth an overnight)
All of these are musts. If time limited, choose at least one.
If you have a few days in Ireland, you could visit as follows:
Without a car: Galway. Base for daytrips to Cliffs of Moher and or/Connemara. Also or instead get ferry and spend at least one night on Aran Islands. For Cliffs, you could also stay overnight in Doolin and visit Aran Islands from there too. Killarney National Park. Kinsale, Dingle. Kilkenny (can be done as daytrip or overnight trip from Dublin). Train or bus to Belfast, spend night there and do daytrip from there to Antrim Coast and Giants Causeway
With a car: Drive up to Belfast via Newgrange, Carlingford and Mourne Mountains. Tour around the coasts of Antrim (Giant's Causeway, Bushmill's Distillery), Derry, Donegal, Sligo (Mullaghmore, Ben Bulben), Mayo (Westport, Achill Island), Galway (Connemara), Cliffs of Moher, Dingle, Ring of Kerry, Beara Penninsula, Glengarrif, Killarney, Kinsale, Kilkenny, Wicklow inc Glendalough.
That was a quick summary. There follows a lot more detail and some other ideas. At the end, I give my opinion and details on places such as Temple Bar, Guinness Storehouse and Cliffs of Moher that many people want to visit while in Dublin.
Things to see and do
I just want to point out a few places that I particularly like in Dublin and Ireland, that you may not find highlighted in your guidebook. I also give some other tips which I hope you find useful. This is a bit of a detailed guide. If you just want a quick guide for a quick 1/3 day trip to Dublin, see: http://www.travbuddy.com/travel-blogs/113341/ For a quick guide for a week in Ireland, see here: http://www.travbuddy.com/travel-blogs/113382/
If you have come to live in Ireland and not just visiting as a tourist, you will find lots of useful info here:
Get the DART train (see here for timetables) to Howth and/or Dalkey. Howth is a lovely fishing port. See here for more information. Dalkey is a lovely village and again has some nice bars. A small castle. Other worthwhile places to go on the DART are Dun Laoghaire, Killliney, Bray and Greystones.
Also Malahide. You can visit Malahide Castle there. See
http://www.malahidecastleandgardens.ie/. It is also a very nice little town on the sea.
Try also Herbert Park in Ballsbridge - about two km from city centre - possibly my favourite park in Dublin. Walk around the streets surrounding it too. Try walking the area around St.Patrick's and Christ Church up towards Guinness Brewery. There are some very nice churches, a great atmosphere and history. Be careful where you go though as it not all nice and may not be the safest at times, particularly at night. Nothing too bad but just be careful.
One unusual and maybe ghoulish site in Dublin is St.Michan's Church. You can the crypts where some famous people are buried. I have not been there myself yet but supposed to be very interesting.
Another place I have not been but visitors always tell me they find very interesting in it itself and for learning about history of Ireland is Kilmainham Jail:
If the weather is nice, you should definitely try to get to Glendalough or Powescourt Estate in Enniskerry. These should be in your guidebook.
If you like museums, try the National Gallery, Hugh Lane Gallery, Chester Beatty Museum - all in the city centre.
Of the places in the Guidebook, I highly recommend Trinity College, Merrion Square and Stephen's Green. Try a stroll also along the Grand Canal. Visit the Iveagh Gardens, if you can find them - they are behind the National Concert Hall on Earlsfort Terrace.
You may also be interested in free walking tours of Dublin. Many visitors I have met have done this and recommend:
See these two companies - the first one is Irish owned and operated, I understand, by an active couchsurfer:
Go to Temple Bar if you want to meet tourists. It can be way too touristy at times but do try the Porterhouse pub:
Traditional Irish music can be heard in the St.Oliver St.John Gogarty's in Temple Bar every afternoon and evening. See http://www.gogartys.ie/music/.
I'd try to avoid Temple Bar at weekends, particularly late in the evening, unless drunken Stag and Hen Parties are your thing.
Try a stroll also along the Grand Canal.
One new activity in Dublin sounds interesting:
And another recent initiative also sounds interesting and brings you to parts of Dublin that many tourists and even Dubliners do not know:
Places to stay
One place I can recommend to stay in Dublin is the Number 31. It is pretty expensive but location is great and is very representative of the best of Dublin. See http://www.number31.ie/
At the cheaper end of the scale, friends of mine have stayed in this hostel and found it good. The area is not the best but it is very convenient.
Places to eat:
Concerning places to eat, it is best to eat your main meal at lunch, it is usually much cheaper. You should be able to get a good main course filling meal for 10-12 euro. Many of the pubs serve this.
Try O'Neills on Suffolk Street, Cafe en Seine on Dawson Street, the Old Stand at the corner of Wicklow St. and Exchequer St. You should try a Fish and Chips takeaway and the best place to try this is Burdock's on Werburgh St. (no seating) - near Christ Church and St.Patrick's Cathedrals. They have now openend a place in Temple Bar, which has seating. See: http://www.leoburdock.com/
Beshoff's have a few branches around the place (including one in Howth) and I recommend them too.
You should also eat or at least have a coffee in Bewleys Cafe, Grafton St. Good for full Irish breakfast too. This is a tourist site in itself:
NB: Currently closed for reburishment as of March 2015 until later in the year. See website for updates.
At the expensive end of the scale, Roly's Bistro in Ballsbridge (near Herbert Park mentioned above) is very good and does a very good value lunch see http://www.rolysbistro.ie . I can also highly recommend Aqua Restaurant in Howth - see above about Howth. The village of Dalkey (see above) is also reputed for its fine restaurants - most at the expensive if not very expensive end of the scale.
For a good snack and excellent apple pie and cappuccino, I recommend Brewbakers on South Frederick Street, just off Nassau Street, between Dawson and Kildare Streets.
Another great place to eat - not expensive by Dublin standards, a bit hipster central but with great food at reasonable prices and interesting selection of craft beers is Green 19 on Camden St. - http://green19.ie/
Getting to from airport:
For getting to and from the airport, it depends on how many of you there are. If less than three, I suggest you get the Aircoach which costs 12 euro return per person. See here. If three, either Aircoach or taxi. If more than three, taxi. A taxi should cost about 25 to 30 euro each way (for the taxi, for up to four people - maybe a bit more if you have lots of luggage). If you are on a budget, there are cheaper local buses (16 or 41) but this may not be best option unless you are already very familiar with Dublin or have a lot of time to find things out. If taking a local bus, you must have the exact change or buy the ticket in advance. You can do this in the airport. For further information about public transport to the airport, see: http://www.dublinairport.com/gns/to-from-the-airport/by-bus-or-coach.aspx
The City Centre is small enough to walk around. If you want to go further, best in general to stick to the DART train as mentioned above. It really is worth taking especially on the southside of the city, just for the journey itself as it is along the coastline with some nice views, spectacular between Dalkey and Bray and then out to Greystones. Buses can be OK but the traffic is bad and they can be slow and the timetables are renowned as the greatest work of fiction. Also, you must have the exact change to buy your ticket on the bus. On the other hand, you can buy tickets in many newsagents, convenience stores (Spar, Centra etc).
Also if you are going to be in Dublin for a while, you can now buy a LeapCard, valid on all forms of public transport in Dublin, similar to the Oyster Card in London:
There are now many bike stations around the city centre and this is a good and cheap way to get around. See:
When to come
You do not come to Ireland for the weather and no matter when you come, there are no guarantees as regards the weather. Even in the middle of summer, it can be just 15 degrees and raining. If it's sunny and over 20 degrees, people start to faint and everybody talks of the heatwave. It does not get very cold but it is often very windy. Given the choice, I would come in April/May or September/October. I would tend to avoid November and particularly January. Not so much for weather reasons as for the fact that the days are very short and if the weather is bad, it can be very dark and depressing. December pre-Christmas can be fine as the Christmas festivities are in full swing. Note however that Christmas Day and the days afterwards are very family oriented and there is not necessaarly much activity on the streets. So unless you have family you will feel very bored and lonely. On Christmas Day itself, the country is completely closed down. There is no public transport whatsover and even the pubs are shut.
Much as I love Dublin, all is not rosy here. Things to be prepared for that it can be dirty with lots of litter, the traffic is very bad. Leave plenty of time for the trip back to the airport. Also leave plenty of time for getting through airport security etc. In general, it is safe, perhaps safer than most cities, but there are increasing levels of crime and drug use. Tourists are not normally affected by these but be aware and be careful where you go, particularly at night.
Getting out of Dublin
Reluctant as I am to recommend that you leave Dublin, I suggest that if you are coming to Ireland for more than two or three days, you should leave it for some time. Dublin is a very nice city but what makes Ireland special is the beauty of its landscapes and the friendliness of its people. The only problem is that it is difficult to travel in Ireland without a car. If you are pressed for time, it might make more sense then to stay in Dublin and travel to local scenic locations such as Howth or Killiney. I will write a separate blog about where to go, if and when I have time. Quickly though, I would say that everywhere is nice though all around the coast is in general nicer than the interior of the country.
This is a very good site for info on transport options around the country: http://getthere.ie/
If you do not have use of a car, I recommend taking the bus or train to either Galway. Killarney, Westport, Kilkenny or Sligo. From these places, you will have to walk, cycle, take a tour or take local buses to get into the beauty of the countryside.
Galway is a nice city well worth visiting especially if you intend to head on to Connemara, the Cliffs of Moher or the Aran Islands. It can be very hard to get around outside of Galway city to see the scenery without a car or doing an organised tour.
Westport is a nice town. Killkenny is very nice and has a castle, Sligo can be nice too. Near Sligo, the town of Strandhill is worth staying - it gives an example of the wild Atlantic coast and has some places to stay and eat.
The town of Killarney is very touristy and tacky but the landscape around makes up for it all and is easily accessible even without a car.
If you do have use of a car, I recommend the same areas and also Connemara in Co.Galway, Donegal, Southwest Cork, Kerry, or the Northern Coast of Antrim. I also highly recommend the Aran Islands - these should be in your guidebook.
Another city worth visiting is Belfast - could be done as a daytrip from Dublin.
Another place not too far from Dublin that makes a very easy two-day trip or even one day particularly if you have a car, is Carlingford. One of the nicest small towns in Ireland, the sea, mountains, lovely scenery in general, some nice pubs, an adventure centre. Everything really.
Cork city is nice too but again it is not necessarily the best place to go to see scenery. When people speak of the beauty of Cork, they are often referrring to West Co.Cork which is wonderful but is a long way from Cork city and very challenging to get to or around without a car.
If you have a car and you have time, you would probably be interested in driving the Wild Atlantic Way, or at least some stretches of it.
For getting around Ireland by train, see www.irishrail.ie Can be cheap if booked by advance. For getting around by bus, see www.buseireann.ie, www.citylink.ie, www.gobus.ie and www.aircoach.ie Buses are quite cheap. Most buses and trains have free wifi.
Getting to Ireland
There are many options. Most people fly now as fares have come down substantially in recent years. If you have plenty of time, it can be fun to take a ferry from Wales, Liverpool or Le Havre in France. Not good if you are subject to seasickness though!
You can get ferries to many entry points in Ireland - Dublin, Rosslare, Cork and Larne.
Details of train/ferry services from UK to Ireland:
Details of bus/ferry services from UK to Ireland:
Update October 14: Megabus are now offering a number of services from UK to Ireland inc. the London-Dublin route for very low fares. Well worth checking out:
For flying, check out prices on Aer Lingus, Ryanair and Aer Arran. Depending on what country you are coming from, other airlines (eg Cityjet, FlyBe, British Airways, Air France, Lufthansa, Etihad, Emirates, American Airlines, United, Delta) may have competitive prices. Given the choice, I would always choose Aer Lingus even if it is a little dearer than Ryanair. While Ryanair must be admired for the way it has shaken up the airline industry, and I have always found it very punctual, it is not always the cheapest and even when it is, the service is not as good as Aer Lingus. The main disadvantage of Ryanair is that many of the airports that it uses are located many, (often very many) kilometres away from the city that Ryanair claims that the airport serves. For example, Charleroi Airport which Ryanair advertises as Brussels or Brussels South is nowhere near Brussels. It also uses London Stansted (STN) as its main base in London. Given the choice, I would not use any airport in London other than Heathrow (LHR) or London City (LCY). The fare from Stansted with Ryanair would want to be at least 50 euro cheaper than the fare with Aer Lingus from Heathrow or any airline from LCY before I would even consider it. The time and expense of getting to Stansted from Central London is just not worth it otherwise.
Don't forget too that Dublin, while I think it is the centre of the universe, is not the only entry point. You can easily fly into Shannon (SNN), Cork (ORK) or either of the two airports in Belfast - City (BHD) which would be my choice or International (BFS). There are other airports too. In fact, if you intend to rent a car and just visit scenic Ireland, any of these airports is probably better than Dublin.
Don't forget too that you can buy one way flights now. So you can mix and match your airports and airlines, eg. fly into Dublin with Aer Lingus and fly back from Cork with Aer Lingus or Ryanair or Aer Arran.
Some photos and videos are attached. I hope to add more and more information as soon as possible.
Other useful info
1. See also this very useful information on the couchsurfing site, which contains plenty of great information and links:
2. There is free wifi in airport and on most buses and trains in Ireland. A lot of cafes, restaurants, pubs etc also have.
3. Time in Ireland is same as UK, ie UTC in winter, UTC+1 in Summer. It is usually one hour behind France, Germany, Italy, Spain etc. and five hours ahead of New York.
4. Electrical sockets are same as in UK. If coming from continental Europe or North America, you will need an adapter for your devices.
4. Currency as in many European countries is the euro. If you intend to visit Belfast, Giant's Causeway though, GB pounds are in use in those areas.
5. WE DRIVE ON THE LEFT.
6. If you rent a car in Ireland (Republic) and intend to drive into Northern Ireland, you should inform the car company when you rent it and you may have to pay an insurance fee. And vice versa. Otherwise your insurance may not be valid outside of the jurisdiction you rented the car in.
7. if you intend to visit Ireland, please remember that you may need a visa, if you are not from EU or North America. Note also that Ireland (and the UK) are not in the Schengen area so even if you have a visa for the Schengen area, this is not valid for Ireland or the UK.
My views on some places many people want to go to while in Dublin
1. Temple Bar. Well worth visting during day and can be fun at night. However it can be a tourist trap, expensive and not necessarily representative of Dublin or Ireland and I do not recommend on weekend evenings. You will find very few Dubliners there. The music you hear there can be very touristy too, not authentic. There is a range of pubs, restaurants, cafes etc along George's St, Aungier St, Wexford St and Camden St heading south from city centre.
2. Guinness Storehouse. Yes, it is worth visiting but it is expensive and it is not the working brewery. Given the price, I would be inclined to skip, particularly if on a budget.
3. Cliffs of Moher. These are a long way from Dublin. I can understand that people want to go there but doing so from Dublin is a very long daytrip. I don't think it is worth it as a daytrip from Dublin. If you do want to go, head to Galway first, spend a night there, visit the cliffs the next day and then stay in Galway another night or if time limited, come back to Dublin that night. You can get bus directly between Dublin City Centre or Dublin Airport and Galway.
4.Wicklow. Wicklow town is very nice but not a highlight. Co.Wicklow is beautiful but can be difficult to access and even more so to get around without a car. Same applies to Wicklow National Park. Unless you have a car, or a lot of time, you can get DART train to Bray or Greystones in Co.Wicklow and do some nice cliff or hill walking there with very nice views of mountains. You can also get bus 44 to Enniskerry and visit Powerscourt Gardens. Otherwise, you can do an organised day tour to Glendalough and other sites in Co.Wicklow. Glendalough is really beautiful.
5. Belfast and Giant's Causway Belfast is not a highlight of the country. It is interesting and quite different to Dublin. I would not call it beautiful. It was an industrial, Victorian city. It's a good base to do a day tour to Giant's Causeway etc from. Much better than Dublin for this. The Giant's Causeway can be done as day tour from Dublin but it is a long day, with very many hours spent on a bus.
6. Cork City Cork city is nice but nothing special and particularly if time is limited, I would not go there. If you do go to Cork city, I would suggest staying in nearby Kinsale rather than Cork City, or at least do a daytrip there. A lot of people will tell you that Cork is really beautiful but they are referring to County Cork, particularly the western part of the county. This is really beautiful but to get to and particularly, to explore, a car can be a necessity. The western part of the county can be a good one or two hours from Cork city, even with a car.
7. Phoenix Park: This is very nice but it is very big. It is too big to walk around. You really need a car or a bicycle to get around it. I think you can rent bikes in the park but I'm not sure of details.
Some other of my reviews:
Some other reviews of places I've stayed in around Ireland are here: