One of the great pleasures of a destination wedding is that you’re able to experience more than just a lovely party but a taste of a new country or city too. It’s like a mini-vacation, often made even more special by the events and experiences laid on by the couple both before and after the big day. But what about your downtime? If you’ve travelled quite a distance to be there, you’ll probably want to make the most of every minute. Of course, if you’re attending a destination wedding in Ireland, staying longer is always your best bet. There’s so much to see and do! But, while I’d always recommend tagging an extra week or even just a few days on top of your plans, that’s not always possible. Here are my top tips for how to see the best of Ireland over a wedding weekend.
Destination Wedding in Dublin
If you’re a guest at a destination wedding in (or near) Dublin, you’re already off to a great start. Being closer to Ireland’s largest international airport will cut down on travel time and give you more hours to explore. Dublin city is also a fantastic destination on its own, with plenty of attractions, no matter your interests. There are also many attractions within a 1-3 hour drive, perfect for a day trip. In fact, the biggest challenge is keeping my list of how to see the best of Ireland over a wedding weekend in Dublin short and sweet!
- Stroll around Dublin’s Georgian squares, stopping into the Little Museum of Dublin, before enjoying a picnic lunch on St Stephen’s Green.
- Take a tour of the Teeling Whiskey Distillery or the famed Guinness Brewery to taste Ireland’s favourite tipples.
- Visit the Kilmainham Gaol, one of the city’s top historical attractions. The guided tour is excellent. If you enjoy modern art, IMMA is directly across the road, or stroll through the beautiful Irish National War Memorial Gardens on the banks of the River Liffey.
- Trinity College is another signature Dublin attraction. To see the Book of Kells in the Long Room, be sure to book ahead online.
- Take in a performance at the Abbey Theatre, which was co-founded by WB Yeats. Be sure to enjoy a pre-theatre dinner at one of the city’s fine eateries first!
- Enjoy the craic at a Dublin pub. Most tourists want to experience the nightlife at Temple Bar – try Palace Bar here for a more authentic experience. Of course, you’ll find fine establishments all over the city – don’t be afraid to ask the locals for their favourite!
- If you don’t have time for a full day trip, head for Howth, a gorgeous fishing village with a castle and a ruined abbey to explore, as well as coastal hikes and cliff walks to enjoy.
- For spectacular scenery, head for Glendalough and the Wicklow Mountains. Forests, glacial lakes, moors and cliffs – it’ll take your breath away.
- If you’re prepared to go further afield, many of Ireland’s most iconic attractions are within 3 hours’ drive, including the Cliffs of Moher, Blarney Castle, and Giant’s Causeway.
Destination Wedding on the West Coast of Ireland
The West Coast of Ireland is another popular choice for destination weddings in Ireland, especially for those coming from America. This is thanks to Shannon Airport offering direct flight routes between Ireland and the US. The Wild Atlantic Way has some really incredible Irish destination wedding venues, and is also a favourite for tourists, making it easy for you to see the best of Ireland over a wedding weekend in Galway or along the West Coast of Ireland.
- No trip to the West Coast would be complete without visiting the famous Cliffs of Moher, the country’s top tourist attraction. If possible, visit after 3pm in summer to miss the coach tours and be sure to bring a jacket as the weather can be a bit unreliable!
- A visit to Galway is a must! Expect colourful buildings, a picturesque harbour, street performers, live music, vibrant pubs, and great seafood. Be sure to stop into McDonagh’s, the best fish and chip shop in Galway, which has been open since 1902.
- Take a drive around Connemara National Park to enjoy its rugged mountain and lakeside scenery. Stop for pictures or follow one of the suggested walking routes (all start at the Visitor Centre). They vary in difficulty but all are worth it for the views!
- Take a ferry to Inis Mór, the largest of the Aran Islands. Here you can hire a bike to explore the island. The landscape is dramatic, and there’s a wealth of plant and bird life, as well as a much-loved colony of seals. Don’t miss the prehistoric Dún Aonghasa fort.
- Drive the Ring of Kerry, one of Ireland’s most spectacular scenic routes. Panoramic Atlantic views, picture-perfect villages, craggy islands – the route has it all, and takes around 3 hours if you drive it non-stop. (Although I would recommend giving yourself plenty of time to stop and see attractions like Skellig Michael, Killarney, and the Gap of Dunloe.
No matter where the destination wedding venue that you find yourself as a guest, Ireland gives you plenty of opportunities to get out and see the countryside, explore unique towns and villages, and meet the locals! So do make the extra effort of hiring a car – you’ll be glad you did!
Slán go Fóill,