As a very proudly-Irish destination wedding planner, one of the best things about my job is welcoming visitors to my home country – often for the first time – and giving them an unforgettable experience of céad míle fáilte, or Irish hospitality. Of course, there are always lots of questions about the best travel tips for Ireland, and I’m happy to share everything I’ve learnt from years of travelling the length and breadth of the Emerald Isle. There’s SO much to see and do here, not to mention spectacular scenery, picturesque villages, vibrant cities, and over 30 000 castles! While there are almost as many guidebooks available, you’ll often find the best advice comes from the locals. Here are 8 of my best travel tips for Ireland!
Check out flights to other airports. Dublin Airport is Ireland’s biggest international airport. However, it’s not the only one! You’ll also find international flights to and from Cork, Shannon, Knock, and Belfast. It’s definitely worth checking out which flights are available. This is especially true if you’re attending a destination wedding, as it might help you save on travel time – time you can use to explore your destination instead!
Spend time in Dublin but don’t stay there the whole trip. I find that visitors to Ireland tend to go one of two ways. Either they arrive in Dublin and immediately exit or they limit themselves to the city. The best option is to do both! Even if you only have a short time, there are lots of wonderful places close to Dublin (or even in the Dublin suburbs, accessible by the DART train). The city itself is very walkable and easy to get around, but there’s a lot concentrated in a small area! Whether you’re interested in history, architecture, music, literature, shopping, or food, you’ll find lots to explore. And don’t just stick to the well-trodden tourist path. For example, while the Long Library and The Book of Kells at Trinity College is a must for book lovers, there are some other gorgeous libraries in Dublin, as well as MoLi, the literary museum that also acts as an intimate city wedding venue.
Take a road trip. It is possible to see a lot of Ireland using public transport, but the best way to explore it at your own pace, including all those amazing off-the-beaten-track gems, is to rent a car and self-drive. Head north, south, east, or west – every part of the country has amazing scenery and sights to see. But do take your time, ideally spending a couple of nights in each place, and giving yourself plenty of opportunity to stop along the way. Do bear in mind that the country roads can be narrow and winding and that we drive on the left hand side of the road in Ireland. It doesn’t take long to get used to, though!
Get an e-toll tag with your rental car. If you do spend any time driving across Ireland, you’ll often find yourself coming to a toll road or bridge. Some of these need to be paid for in cash at petrol stations or you can go online. But the easiest way to manage tolls is to get an e-toll tag for a small extra charge when you pick up your hire car, which will also allow you to pass through without having to queue.
Accept that it will (almost certainly) rain. Many people look for the best time to visit a destination based on the weather. But in Ireland, it can really be four seasons in one day, all year round. Rain is just a part of Irish life, so the best thing to do is embrace it! Pack lots of light layers, including a waterproof jacket and umbrella, as well as a good pair of waterproof walking shoes.
Go early or late if you’re visiting the Cliffs of Moher. The cliffs are Ireland’s top tourist destination and they’re definitely worth a visit. The scenery really is as spectacular as it looks in all the photographs! But they can also be horribly crowded. The best way to enjoy them is either to arrive by 8.30am or after 4pm, when the tour buses from Galway and Dingle have already departed.
Get an OPW Heritage Card. If you’re planning to see lots of Irish cultural attractions, you’ll find it both economical and convenient to pick up a Heritage Card (available from all Office of Public Works tourist sites and soon to be available online too). It includes free admission to dozens of heritage sites across Ireland, including castles and national parks. (If you’re staying in Dublin for most of your trip, you may find that the Dublin Pass is a better option.)
Talk to the locals! Irish people are extremely friendly, so don’t be shy about striking up a conversation. Not only will it give you an insight into the culture, it’s the best way to get recommendations for where to eat and drink! Irish pub culture is all about chatting with strangers and partaking in a bit of banter and storytelling. It’s all about the craic! If you’re staying at a hotel or B&B, the staff will also be only too happy to make recommendations and share some of their stories with you.
Most importantly, don’t try to cram it all into one trip! It’s impossible to see and do everything, and you’re better off enjoying fewer places at a leisurely pace. Plus, it gives you a great excuse to come back!
Slán go Fóill,