The lush, green island of Ireland is rich in history that dates back to 7,000 BC, making it a wonderful place to visit. Located in the Atlantic Ocean, the island of Ireland is divided into two countries. Northern Ireland, with its capital of Belfast, is part of the United Kingdom. The southern part of the island, known as The Republic of Ireland, is a sovereign nation with Dublin as its capital city.
Places to Go in Ireland
There is plenty to see and do in Ireland, even as you venture outside of the main cities. Ireland's countryside is quite renowned and many travelers find combining a few days in Dublin with several other destinations gives them a well-rounded Irish experience. Popular spots in Ireland include:
- Cork - Cork is Ireland's 3rd largest city. This scenic city is known for its beautiful waterways and loads of bridges.
- Dingle - Located on Ireland's southwest coast, the charming town of Dingle is definitely the spot for an authentic Irish experience. Expect lots of live music at local pubs, and crowds of tourists if you visit on the weekends, especially during the summer.
- Donegal - Many call Donegal the fairytale town of Ireland. Don't miss Donegal Abbey or Donegal Castle and spend some time relaxing on the town's quiet North Atlantic shores.
- Dublin - Adult activities like visiting the Guinness Brewery and Jameson Distillery are popular options, while family-friendly sightseeing options include a visit to the Dublin Zoo. Scholars love the city's literary history involving Yeats and Joyce.
- Killarney - Here you can explore Ireland's first National Park. Killarney is a popular base for travelers due to its reputation for having the highest concentration of hotel beds in all of Ireland.
Attractions in Ireland and Northern Ireland
If you are planning a trip to Ireland, you might as well visit both countries. The convenience of going back and forth between the two countries makes travel easy. The border is rarely signposted. Sometimes you may need to show your passport at random checkpoints set up by the police.
Northern Ireland Attractions
There is a wealth of history to see in Northern Ireland. Some of the more popular attractions are:
- Navan Centre & Fort in Armagh- An ancient monument that was one of the great royal sites of pre-Christian Gaelic Ireland and the capital of the Ulaidh
- Beaghmore Stone Circles in Cookstown - Early Bronze Age megalithic stone circles and cairns
- Belfast Castle in Belfast - Beautiful castle built in 1811-1870 by the 3rd Marquess of Donegall
- Harry Avery's Castle in Strabane - An unusual-looking 14th century Gaelic stone castle in Strabane
- Devenish Island Monastic Site in Enniskillen - Considered one of the finest monastic sites in Northern Ireland with a round tower thought to date back to the 12th century.
Republic of Ireland
The are plenty of historical places to visit in the Republic of Ireland. Options in and near Dublin include:
- Dublin Writers Museum - The museum occupies an original 18th-century house and is next door to the Irish Writers' Centre. It was established to promote interest and educate visitors on Irish literature.
- Dublinia - This living history museum focuses on the Medieval history of Dublin. It is part of the city's Christ Church Cathedral.
- Irish Jewish Museum - This museum is dedicated to the history of the Irish Jewish community in Dublin.
- James Joyce Tower and Museum - The James Joyce Tower and Museum is known for being featured at the beginning of Joyce's Ulysses. Today, it houses a museum that contains letters and personal possessions belonging to the author.
- Drimnagh Castle - This Norman castle is located in Drimnagh, a suburb of Dublin. It's the only remaining castle in Ireland with a flooded moat around it.
When to Visit Ireland
Ireland isn't renowned for its great weather. It's often rainy and chilly, but the temperature does typically remain relatively moderate throughout the year.
- The average temperature is just over 49 degrees. Temperatures can dip below 40 degrees Farhenheit during the winter to as high as 70 degrees Farhenheit during the summer, though temperatures at both extremes are unusual.
- The summer months see a large accumulation of rain, but they are the months with the longest daylight hours, which are better for exploring.
The peak tourist season is considered June through mid-September. Look for prices to drop in October and November and start rising again from mid-December to mid-January.
Traveling to Ireland
Look for the best airfares at the Aer Lingus site. Also, cheap international airfare may be available if you are willing to book a charter flight, use a travel agent, or go off-season. If you're traveling to Ireland from elsewhere in Europe, consider discount airfare on Ryanair. Travelers have a love-hate relationship with Ryan Air, but you can score ridiculously cheap airfares to Ireland from other parts of Europe. Don't forget, you will need a passport to travel to either Irish land.
When You Arrive
The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are serviced by these main international airports receiving intercontinental flights:
- Dublin Airport
- Belfast International Airport (Aldergrove)
- Cork International Airport
- Shannon Airport
Smaller airports with domestic and regional services include:
- George Best Belfast City Airport
- Derry Airport
- Galway Airport
- Kerry Airport (Farranfore)
- Ireland West Airport (Knock)
- Sligo Airport
- Trains: The rail travel system is an easy way to get around. Check out the Irish Explorer Pass, which is good for unlimited travel throughout Ireland for up to eight days. For Northern Ireland, the Freedom of Northern Ireland pass is available.
- Car rental: If you choose to go off the beaten path and to remote areas, renting a car is a good idea. Always reserve ahead of time - especially if you cannot drive a manual transmission - and expect gas prices to be high. Remember that you will be driving as you do in Great Britain and in Japan- on the left side of the road.
- Taxis: For short distances, taxis are an economical option.
- Buses: Northern Ireland also has the Ulsterbus and Metro Bus, both reliable public transportation sources. Dublin has the Dublin Bus system.
Irish and English are the national languages of Ireland, but it's not uncommon to find Irish primarily spoken when you venture out of major cities into the countryside.
Be prepared for two different types of currency if you travel between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. In the Republic of Ireland, they use the Euro while Northern Ireland uses the British Pound Sterling.
Planning Your Ireland Vacation
If you spend enough time planning your holiday, and accept that the weather typically leaves much to be desired in Ireland, you will undoubtedly have a fantastic time and find it hard to say goodbye, or Slán in Irish.