Ireland is a land of incomprehensible beauty where beauty and serenity, laughter and music come together, wrapped up in myths and legends, and sprinkled with fairy dust and little people. Last year, when I returned from Ireland after attending the TBEX Europe 2017 conference held at Killarney, someone asked me about my experience. This is what I said,
The Emerald Isle feels like an old friend who greets you with warmth and, love no matter when you drop at his place. He’ll always welcome you with a big smile and best food. Most importantly he’ll treat you like you are at home.
That’s how this inside-out beautiful windswept land makes you feel. The Island has a long, rich history and a modern, progressive Eurozone economy. This unique combination makes it a tourism magnet. No wonder 10.65 million visitors visited Ireland in just ten months of 2017. Ireland may be 47 times smaller than the size of India but it packs a punch when it comes to delighting its visitors. Here are the things you should know before you visit Ireland:
When to Visit
With mild temperatures and frequent showers, you can visit Ireland at any time of the year. Best, perhaps, are the months of March to May and September to November, as the weather isn’t as cold as during the winter months. However, you can save a lot of money by visiting Ireland during off-season months – October, November, December, January, February, March.
What to pack
Ireland is known for being very green, and that means plenty of rain! Rainfall has become a part of Irish life. The weather conditions can change quickly in Ireland. One minute it’s sunny and warm, the next minute it’s pouring rain. Therefore come prepared and bring along plenty of warm and rain clothes like a sweater, scarf, hat, rain jackets and umbrella, even if it’s summer. Ireland is all about walking, so don’t forget to pack a pair of comfortable shoes.
What to see
Don’t try to see everything in one trip. Pick a few sections and go slow. Be realistic with your itinerary. The coastal roads are quite windy and narrow, so you have to go slow. What looks to be an hour on the map can actually take up to 3-4 hours if you make a few stops for photos. Choose your area of interest and stick to it.
- Popular Towns and Cities: Dublin city, Cork, Galway, Belfast, Derry/Londonderry, Killarney
- Less Well Known Cities and Towns: Kilkenny, Sligo, Kinsale, Armagh, Westport, Waterford, Limerick
- Scenic Routes: The Ring of Kerry, The Dingle Peninsula, Donegal, Cliffs of Moher, the Burren, Giant’s Causeway, Connemara
- Castles: Blarney, Malahide, Ross
- History: The Hill of Tara, The burial monuments at Carrowmore, County Sligo, Grianan Fort in County Donegal, The National Museum and Trinity College in Dublin
Where to eat & drink
Ireland was once infamous for its food but now you get the freshest produce right from the island itself. Here are some of my favourite places to eat and drink:
- Dublin: Aqua Restaurant in Howth, Dalkey Duck in Dalkey, Merry Ploughboy, Malahide Castle and gardens, Angelinas Restaurant, the Church, Guinness Storehouse and Temple Bar
- Killarney: Celtic Whiskey Bar & Larder, Murphy’s Bar, The Brehon, John M Reidy, Muckross Garden Restaurant, the Shire
- Dingle: The Boatyard restaurant, Murphy’s Ice cream, Dingle Distillery
- Kerry: Treyvaud’s Restaurant, Celtic Whisky Bar & Larder, O’Neills The Point Seafood Bar
- Further reading: Food trends in Ireland
Where to stay
You’ll always find a space to spend a night in Ireland, as there are more than 3,500 places to stay across Ireland, including Irish Home B&Bs, hotels, guest houses, self-catering, hostels, camping, glamping, pods etc. I stayed at the following places
Aghadoe Heights Hotel, Killarney
A luxury five-star hotel & spa overlooking the Lakes of Killarney and Aghadoe Church and Cemetry. The service, food, facilities, location…everything was top notch. Don’t you feel special when you get personal attention? And, that explains why it has won over thirty awards in recent years. What impressed me the most about Aghadoe Heights Hotel & Spa was its gold standard personal service. I always felt welcomed and well taken care of whether it was at the restaurant, gym or concierge. Kudos to Trish Covarr – Director of Sales and Marketing and her team for doing such a stellar job.
One caveat: it is slightly away from the heart of the city. But the panoramic views straight from your window more than makes up for it.
Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links, Dublin County
Tucked away in a quiet corner of ‘The Velvet Strand’, one of Ireland’s most stunning stretches of uninterrupted coastline – the historic Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links was once the family home of the Jameson Dynasty. It’s tastefully done, the lawns are great, rooms are well furnished and comes with a great view, in-house bars and restaurants serve delish food. When staying here don’t miss their award-winning Spa and two award-winning Restaurants – 1780 and the Jameson Bar. The best thing about this hotel is its location. You step out of your door and find yourself on the Spansa Beach, a 5 miles long pristine sandy beach perfect for sunrise jogging or romantic sunset stroll. The hotel is well connected to the neighbouring picturesque fishing villages of Malahide and Howth. Also, Dublin City Centre and Grand Canal Dock are less than a 25-minute drive away.
If you want to explore unique Irish accommodations and restaurants, try Ireland’s Blue Book, which is a collection of Irish Country House Hotels, Historic Manor Houses, Castles and Restaurants located throughout the island of Ireland. I couldn’t personally experience it but heard very good things from a friend who stayed with them.
What currency to carry
Euros to use in Ireland and the Pound Sterling for Northern Ireland
How to get around in Ireland?
There’s a LOT to see and do in Ireland. And, to make the best of your time, it’s better to rent a car.
Do I need a Visa to visit Ireland?
You do not need an entry visa for Ireland if you are a passport holder of the US, most European Countries, or any of these countries. However, Indians and Chinese can utilise the British Irish Visa Scheme (BIVS) to obtain a single visa for both the countries. Make sure to apply 2-3 weeks in advance. Sometimes they take a lot of time to revert.
How to stay connected?
Buy a local SIM. Preferably a data card that allows unlimited internet and local calls for a limited period. I bought Tesco Prepaid for 15 Euros, which gave me unlimited calls, message, and 10 GB data. Europe roaming was promised but it never worked for me.
TravelWiFi Ireland is another good option if you are only looking for a personal WiFi hotspot
Keep these things in mind, let your heart beat in time with the Celtic rhythm, learn the histories and tales of ancient castles, pick up some Irish words, swim, surf, fish, trek, dance and drive your way along this enchanting land. Sláinte!
Interested to know more about Ireland, don’t forget to read:
Have you ever visited Ireland? If yes, I would love to hear from you.
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I was in Ireland to attend TBEX Europe 2017 where I was a featured Speaker. I was hosted by Tourism Ireland. Everything expressed above is based on my personal experience and conversations I had in the country. Images used are either shot by me or provided by Ireland Tourism with due permissions