“The landscape in Ireland is just… I’ve never been to such a beautiful place with the lakes and ocean and everything.” – Travis Fimmel
“I feel more and more the time wasted that is not spent in Ireland.” – Lady Gregory
Why visit Ireland
We always wanted to see Ireland. In novels and travel articles, we read about this emerald-green island, the friendly Irish people, Irish music, dances, and famous beer. Finally, we bought a two-weeks-long guided group trip to Ireland. Starting from Dublin, our group traveled counterclockwise to Belfast, Londonderry, Galway, Killarney, and flew home from Shannon airport in Limerick.
In Dublin, one of the highlights on the tourists’ itineraries is the Guinness Storehouse located on the Guinness Brewery property. The Brewery is in the industrial part of Dublin, in the area which does not appear attractive. However, the entrance to the Guinness Storehouse looks welcoming.
The guided tour takes the visitors through several floors of that beer museum. After the tour, we advise you to take another look at the various exhibits and read the explanations.
Probably, the best part of visiting the Guinness Storehouse (judging by happy faces of visitors and bursts of loud laughter) is the stop at the bar on the top floor. Show your ticket to the bartender and get two free glasses of Guinness.
The bar walls are all glass, and while sipping your beer, you can enjoy the 360 degrees of Dublin. Even people who do not like Guinness (it is too bitter for me) might enjoy a glass of fresh beer. It really tasted better at that bar, than after it was imported across the world in cans or bottles.
Did you know that it should take almost two minutes to pour Guinness properly? That the temperature of beer should be 43 F (6 C)? Everyone thinks that Guinness is black, but in fact, its color is ruby.
After Dublin, our next stop was at Castle Ward House and Gardens. It is the eccentric 18 century estate which was built on the rolling hillside. You will see two architectural styles right from the outside. The front of the house (facing the lawn) is constructed in the Classical tradition. The back of the mansion (facing the lake below) – in the Gothic style. You might feel that it was built by a by-polar architect.
The inside of the mansion looks bizarre, as these two styles continue throughout the interior. It was constructed according to two different tastes of its’ owners, husband and wife. Tourists have fun crossing the middle line and traveling from Gothic to Classical and back. At some point, you might start feeling like an asylum patient or a time traveler.
Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland. The most exciting part of our stay in Belfast was visiting the place called Titanic Belfast Experience. This unfortunate ship was built in the Belfast shipyard. Several years ago, the Titanic exhibition toured around the United States. We attended it when it came to South Florida. That exhibition was very informative and cleverly organized. However, it pales in comparison with the Titanic Belfast Experience.
Where else will you see the actual length of the Titanic? The architecture of the building and the exhibitions will take your breath away. The visitors are transformed 100 years back. It is a must-see attraction.
As you know, Ireland is more famous for its’ rains rather than sunny weather. If you are lucky to wake up on a sunny day in Belfast, visit the Botanical Garden. In addition to enjoying attractive winding trails among the trees and flowers, you will be able to see lots of local people who came to this park (entrance is free) to get a suntan and fresh air.
Giant Causeway is on the northern seashore of Northern Ireland. It is the area with thousands of interlocking basalt columns. These unique rock formations reminded us of Devil’s Postpile National Monument in California. Both are an amazing natural phenomenon. But besides being formed from the basalt columns, these natural wonders are completely different. Devil’s Postpile is in the mountains. Giant Causeway was “built” in the sea.
Londonderry or Derry. Walking on the well-preserved medieval city walls, you will have views of the old town on one side and the river and contemporary buildings on the other side. This walk is even more fascinating at night when the medieval walls are lit from below.
The walk is not very long, just under one mile. You will be amazed by how wide these old walls (built in 1619) are. They are about 27 feet across – enough room for all the promenading tourists and locals.
One of Ireland’s most spectacular sights is Cliffs of Moher. The sea cliffs are located in the north-western area of Ireland, on Atlantic ocean, and run for almost ten miles. Plan to spend a day or two in that area. The views are incredible. We hiked there on a sunny day and could see the Aran Islands which were about 12 miles away from our viewpoint.
We had a choice to buy the overpriced tour to Kylemore Abbey ( a Benedictine monastery) from our guide or to purchase the same tour through the hotel. We chose the hotel’s deal since they charged much less.
The bus driver gave us a lot of information during the hour-long drive to the Abbey. You will be impressed from the first moment you see the Abbey.
Instead of taking a shuttle bus from the entrance to the visitor center and Victorian Walled Garden (the largest walled garden in Ireland) you can walk through the woods towards the garden. It will take just a few minutes.
Many tourists visit the Blarney Castle to kiss the famous Blarney Stone. It is said that if you kiss the stone, you will receive the “gift of gab” (eloquence) and will never hesitate what to say. Because of this “legend”, all tourists stand in a slow-moving line to get a chance to lie down under the stone, kiss it, and be photographed doing it.
We didn’t care for this touristy activity, but thoroughly enjoyed the views of the surroundings from the castle windows. It is the park around the castle and the castle itself that should be the main attractions.
Our group had the last dinner in Ireland at the Bunratty Castle, close to Limerick. If you are familiar with the Renaissance Fair (the event held in different US cities), you will recognize many similar elements: actors dressed in medieval costumes, the crowning of the Earl and Lady, offering of a goblet of mead.
But the difference was that our farewell dinner was held in a real castle, not on the fairgrounds. The tapestries we saw on the walls could be 200 years old. Even if the costumes of the actors were made recently, they looked genuine.
The food was delicious and served with wine. The professional singers performed old Irish songs in solos, duets, trios. The actors spoke with the real (not fake, like at the Renaissance fairs) accents. A great event to start or to finish your trip to Ireland.
Where to sleep in Ireland
(select accommodation from the best hotel booking sites)
- HotelsCombined.com (Compare all the top travel sites in one simple search)
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- Booking.com (Over 2,119,000 hotels online. Hostels. Apartments. Motels)
- Priceline.com (Find a lower price, you’ll get a refund 100% of the difference)
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- Travelocity.com (The price match guarantee. Free changes & cancellations)
- Expedia.com (Sign up for member prices and you could save 10% or more)
- Agoda.com (Guaranteed lowest price on hotels, resorts,
hostels, homes & more)
- HostelWorld.com (Stay in a hostel and meet the real world, not the tourist brochure)
Book your flight to Ireland
Best time to visit Ireland
You can visit Ireland at any time of year. The best months to travel – March to May and September to November.
Why do you think Ireland is famous for its incredibly green grass? The country even has a nickname – Emerald Island. Yep, you guessed it – lots of rain. Prepare yourself to encounter rainy weather.
We were lucky when we traveled to Ireland in June. During the two weeks of sightseeing all around this country, we had only half a day of very light drizzle in Dublin. Even our guide was surprised by that dry spell.
Please! Don’t count to be as lucky as we were. Bring raincoats, rain ponchos, umbrellas – you will be glad you did!
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