A Guide to Ireland

Ireland is a country famed for its green landscape, friendly locals and world class beer. Rich in history, culture and natural beauty while also known for nightlife, there’s something in Ireland for almost anyone. While the capital city of Dublin certainly deserves to be seen, each region of the country boasts their own scenery and unique feel.

On this page you will find in this order Basic Info, My Top 3, Things to Do, What to Eat/Drink, Specific Attractions, National Parks, Cities and additional information.

View over Howth, Ireland

View over Howth, Ireland

Basic Info:

Language: Irish or Gaelic is the official language of Ireland. However, not very many people can speak it and even fewer use it as their first language. Almost everyone in Ireland speaks perfect English.

Currency: Euro

Weather: Temperature averages from 40 F (5 C) in winter to 60 F (15 C) in the summer. Weather is typically cloudy and often accompanied by light drizzle or rain. West Ireland (Donegal, Galway, Kerry) gets more rain than East Ireland (Dublin).

Size: Ireland is about 32,600 square miles (including Northern Ireland) or about the size of the state of Indiana.

Population: The population of Ireland is 4.6 million

Major Cities: Dublin is Ireland’s capital city and also its largest. In the Republic of Ireland Dublin is followed by Cork, Limerick and Galway. If you were to include Northern Ireland, Belfast would be second largest city.

My Top 3:

Dingle, Ireland

Dingle, Ireland

Dingle: The town of Dingle was my favorite place in Ireland. It was truly Ireland as I imagined it, lots of rolling green hills surrounded by mist. I stayed in a hostel about a 20 minute walk from town and passed farms with cows and sheep in front of the hills. Like everywhere else in Ireland, the town of Dingle has plenty to offer in the way of nightlife with many pubs and plenty of live music. It’s also home to a number of good cafes and extremely friendly locals. There’s opportunities for lots of outdoor activity, especially a variety of hiking trails also available for exploration by bike if you prefer. I came here based on the recommendation of multiple fellow travelers I met in Galway and now I’m recommending it too!

Cliffs of Moher: I’ve always dreamed of seeing the Cliffs of Moher and they didn’t disappoint. A truly amazing and unique view, they’re also characteristic of Ireland’s landscape. The pictures can speak for themselves.

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Dublin Pub Crawl: Ireland as a whole and Dublin in particular are known for nightlife. Definitely a part of the culture, going out on the town is a must. I really enjoyed the pub crawl in Dublin as it was a large group of different travelers and many of the pubs had great live music that may have been more difficult for me to find on my own. I also heard Galway Girl played live in Ireland which was a highlight for me.

Things to Do:

  • Go to an Irish Pub. As mentioned before, Ireland is famed for its night life. If a pub crawl isn’t for you make sure to sit back and relax with a pint in one pub. People of all ages frequent the pubs in Ireland all nights of the week. They are a real social hub as well as an insight to the culture, not to mention they showcase Ireland’s prized beer.
  • Listen to some live traditional music. Often linked to pubs, traditional Irish music can be found rather easily throughout most towns. Very unique and truly beautiful make sure to seek it out.
  • Watch an Irish sport. Gaelic football and hurling are two popular Irish sports. For a different experience make sure to catch a game.
  • Check out some museums. re into museums, you can find a number of art and history museums throughout Ireland to soak in some local history and culture.
  • Wander the streets. Ireland is a safe country with lots to discover by wandering around on foot. I like to explore a city on foot when I first arrive to get my bearings and stumble upon hidden local establishments.
Cork, Ireland

Cork, Ireland

  • Visit a university. There are a number of historic universities throughout Ireland with beautiful campuses worth exploring.
  • Explore local parks and nature. Everywhere in Ireland is pretty close to some gorgeous nature. Lounge in a park with the locals in the cities or get outside and explore some Irish nature on foot or bike.
  • Castles and Churches. Like most places in Europe, Ireland is home to a number of historic castles and churches that you can find in cities as well as throughout the countryside. A number of day tours include stops at various castles but you can also find them independently.
  • Take a walking tour. I took multiple free walking tours in Ireland and really enjoyed them. It’s a good way to get acquainted to a city as well as learn some history. You should tip your tour guide but it’s a relatively cheap way to have a local show you around and learn something in the process.

What to Eat/Drink:

  • Fish and Chips: A local favorite, you can find traditional fish and chips in pubs and casual restaurants while some places are dedicated solely to the popular dish.
  • Traditional Irish Breakfast: A traditional Irish breakfast is typically composed of eggs, sausage, bacon, pudding, mushrooms, tomatoes and toast with tea or coffee. In some places you can order this breakfast at any time of day.
  • Murphy’s Ice Cream: Murphy’s Ice Cream is made with milk from local Kerry cows and includes unique Irish flavors like caramelized brown bread.
  • Guinness:  Whether or not you visit the Guinness Storehouse, head to a local pub and order a Guinness.
  • Irish Whiskey: Another famous Irish beverage, some places even offer an Irish Whiskey sampler.
  • Irish Coffee: In true Irish fashion, coffee spiked with whiskey.

Specific Attractions:

Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle

  • Aran Islands: Off the coast of Galway sits this group of 3 islands. The inhabitants of the Aran Islands speak primarily Irish. You can take a day tour from Galway.
  • Blarney Stone: The town of Blarney is a close bus ride away from Cork. The famous Blarney Castle houses the Blarney Stone, which if you kiss is said to bestow you with eloquence. A ticket into the castle also allows you to walk around the beautiful gardens.
  • Carrick-a-Rede: Walk across the rope bridge on Carrick-a-Rede in Northern Ireland. This area is full of more gorgeous views of coastline.
  • Cliffs of Moher: The Cliffs are located on the west coast of Ireland but you can take day trips from as far as Dublin. Five miles long, the Cliffs provide stunning views. Make sure to try and visit on a sunny day as clouds can obstruct views.
  • Giant’s Causeway: A UNESCO World Heritage Site in Northern Ireland, Giant’s Causeway is a truly unique spectacle of basalt columns on the coast. Surrounded in folklore and history, this area makes for a very interesting, yet scenic visit.
  • Newgrange: Also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Newgrange is older than both Stonehenge and The Pyramid of Giza. A prehistoric tomb and land mound, Newgrange is more than 5,000 years old and located north of Dublin.
  • Ring of Kerry: The Ring of Kerry is a 179 km long loop through some of the most scenic views in Ireland. It is located in County Kerry with most tours starting from Killarney.

National Parks:

For nature lovers, Ireland delivers in large supply. There are national parks in every region of the country that can be explored through organized tours or individually.

Connemara National Park

Connemara National Park

  • Ballycroy (Northwest)
  • The Burren (West)
  • Connemara (West)
  • Glenveagh (North)
  • Killarney (South)
  • Wicklow Mountains (East)

 

Cities:

Dublin: Dublin is Ireland’s capital and largest city. Located on the east coast of Ireland, Dublin has a wealth of historic, cultural and just plain fun things to do.

Cork: Ireland’s second largest city, I found Cork to be a quirky place with unique and interesting things to do, like visit the city’s butter museum. Cork is located in the south of Ireland.

Galway: Galway is Ireland’s fourth largest city with around 70,000 people. Its history is somewhat different than the rest of Ireland and it can be found on the west coast of Ireland.

Galway, Ireland

Galway, Ireland

Killarney: Killarney is a town in southwestern Ireland known for medieval charm and as a good starting point for exploring the Ring of Kerry.

Limerick: Ireland’s third largest city, Limerick is located in the Midwest region. It was named to be Ireland’s first National City of Culture for 2014.

Belfast: The capital of Northern Ireland, Belfast is the second largest city on the island of Ireland.

 

Looking for some additional information on visiting Ireland? Check out these articles:

My Favorite Hostels in Ireland

A Rough Guide to Transportation in Ireland

 

 

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