This 'Emerald Isle' is a lush place of medieval castles, exquisite lakes, majestic mountains, battered coastlines and sweeping, unspoilt
country landscapes - the perfect holiday destination for outdoor folk who have been well waterproofed.
Attractions range from quaint fishing villages to sophisticated culture in Dublin, from prehistoric sites
to the Guinness brewery, from dance-tastic live music to zany traditional festivals, and then there are the
activities, not just drinking and hiking but cycling, mountain biking, horse riding, spectacular driving routes and even surfing are on the options list.
The locals are amiable (apart from the leprechauns, obviously, who cause endless trouble) and there are not too many of them (a good number of them are either in London or New York), so Ireland
is a place where you really
can get away from it all.
Ireland is in the EU (European Union) and has used the Euro as currency since 2002.
Ross Castle, Killarney, County Kerry
- The roads are often in poor condition, so if you go self-drive,
go slowly or go 4x4. Or both.
- Ireland is not cheap, particularly alcohol, and you can be overcharged in touristy places
where some restaurants and hotels fleece unwary tourists.
- The weather is often wet, but wait a moment and it'll change.
Best: May - September.
Worst: December- February (cold, dull grey skies, rain, wind and short daylight hours, though the temperature rarely falls below freezing).
The southeast of Ireland, where Dublin is located, is the driest part of the country.
Current Dublin temperature and time.
Minimum worthwhile stay, not incl. flights: a long weekend, in and around Dublin.
Max: up to 3 weeks if you want a quiet, countrified get-away-from-it-all
kind of holiday.
Dublin Cathedral, Ireland
Things to do
Dublin, the capital is a lively, beautiful Georgian city with great culture, impressive architecture, history up to the shillelaghs and wild pubs. See Dublin guide.
The Ring of Kerry standing stones, County Kerry.
After sophisticated Dublin most tourists head straight for the wild reaches of County Cork and County Kerry in the southwest, a spectacular area of mountains, lakes, dramatic coastline and apparently endless rain (270 days a year on average). Killarney National Park is the most scenic spot in Kerry and includes the Ring of Kerry. Kerry is the #1 tourist destination inIreland.
The famous Moher cliffs walk over the Atlantic Ocean, County Clare
Moving north up the Atlantic coast to County Clare, hikers should stroll the Moher cliffs (photo above), various castles and the Burren
in County Clare, an extraordinary limestone range
with a unique floral habitat.
The luscious Aran Islands, across
the mouth of Galway Bay, are where you can see rural Ireland as it was
centuries ago; the traditional way of life of the Aran islanders
has not been subject to modernisation and Irish is still spoken
there. You can reach the islands by ferry from Galway.
Kylemore Abbey, County Galway
County Galway is Ireland's least populated region (except during the superb Galway summertime festivals - such as the Oyster Festival - when the area becomes party central), and Connemara is the heart of it, with a wonderful
landscape of moorland and mountains and still supports pockets of
Clonmacnois, County Offaly, is home to a fascinating early monastic site.
Literary buffs will want to continue north into County
Sligo and visit Yeats country including the famous Ben Bulben
and the grave of the great poet.
Glendalough lies in a pretty valley
in County Wicklow and is the well-preserved site of an early Christian
settlement and includes a round tower and St Kevin's Church and
many ancient crosses.
Ireland's County Wicklow National Park and the Round Tower.
Walking: Ireland is brilliant walking
country and there are 2,000 miles of unspoiled, marked trails such as
the Ring of Kerry and Wicklow Way.
- Ring of Kerry, a spectacular 112 mile (179 km) circular walk on ancient paths passing through tiny villages. County Kerry encompasses many more superb walks in a lush landscape of mountainous peninsulas.
- Wicklow Way is an 80 mile hike (128 kms). It's easy to get to and offers scenery ranging from from mountains, lakes, glacial valleys and mountain streams to forests and farmland. Wicklow Way starts in Dublin's south suburb of Rathfarnham and heads southwest across the Dublin, through the hill country of County Wicklow and ends in the tiny village of Clonegal.
Fishing: You can fish almost anywhere
along Ireland's vast coastline and in the many rivers and lakes
e.g. Lough Derg, Erne and Gill. Fishing permits cost IR£5
but you need a national licence for salmon and sea trout.
Mountain biking: Hire bikes are available.
You can mountain bike in the great walking areas, hills, rough tracks or dedicated areas such as Ballinastoe, Coillte mountain in Co. Wicklow.
Mountain-climbing: Mt Gabriel on the
Mizen head Peninsula, Hungry Hill on the Beara Peninsula, and Croagh
Patrick near Westport.
Climbing Ireland's highest mountain, Carrauntoohil, County Kerry.
Horse Riding: all kinds of horsey holidays
are on offer, and all utilising quiet, pretty trails and beaches,
many in the south-west. Or...for a truly ethnic experience what
about a horse-drawn caravan holiday!
Sailing/kayaking: very popular round
the west coast, especially between Cork Harbour and the Dingle Peninsula,
the coast north and south of Dublin and on the larger lakes.
Windsurfing: Steady year-round wind
and good waves make this sport popular too.
Surfing: try the waves in Easkey in
County Sligo, Castlegregory and Barleycove on the
Mizen Head Peninsula.
Self-Drive Inland Boating: Ireland
has over 400 miles of navigable rivers, lakes and canals that you
can explore by yourself with minimal instruction on a narrow boat,
with plenty of moorings and marinas en route.
Or take go on a cruise boat a let someone else do the driving.
Scuba: Yes, strange but true! From
March to October hardy divers explore the rocky coasts and colourful
fish courtesy of the Gulf Stream.
Six Arches Bridge, County Kerry.
Hotels in Ireland range from luxury to shabby but all get busy in the summer season so book ahead. Hostels are
popular, as are B & Bs and a chain of 26 Irish Youth Hostels known as An Oige.
• Cars: Ireland is not massive, the road network is good, buses often inconvenient and train routes very limited so this is one of those few destinations where a rental car is the way to go, even if signposting is negligible and potholes common. Book cars ahead, preferably in your own country where prices may be less extortionate.
• Buses: there's a fair network of mixed private and public buses, at low cost too, but slow and erratic.
• Irish Rail trains are pricey and focused on the Dublin
• Cycling is fine for tough bikers with tough bikes who don't mind skies full of water and roads full of holes. Cycles can be carried on buses and most trains.
Bike rental is available in various locations and guided tours are also on offer from Cycling Safaris and Go Ireland.
If you plan to bike the west coast head from south to north, with the prevailing winds.
And our last stop in Ireland, it's a pub of course and there'll be Guinness awaiting, to be sure...
* June, Music in Great Irish Houses Festival, mostly Dublin, plus
counties Wicklow and Kildare. Excellent.
June, Eigse Carlow Arts Festival, all kinds of music and street
June, Galway Pride, parades, fancy dress and general hard partying.
* July, Galway Arts Festival, all kinds of entertainment at this
Aug, Waterford Spraoi Street Festival
Aug, Muff Festival, wild and wacky 3 day street event.
* Aug, Puck Fair, a bizarre 3 day event.
Aug, Kilkenny Arts Festival, set in superb surroundings.
* Aug, Rose of Tralee International Festival, a massive party celebrating
Aug, Fleadh Cheoil, huge all-Ireland music competition, music everywhere,
Clonmel, County Tipperary.
Sept, Galway Int. Oyster Festival, with fun events of all sorts.
End of Oct, Cork Jazz Festival, 4 days
*Mid Oct-early Nov, Wexford Opera Festival, small but perfectly
some specific dates see: Eng'