Ireland, filled with rolling green hills, stupendous rocky cliffs, majestic castles, a rich history and the friendliest people you are likely to meet. It really is a country that is as vibrant as it is enchanting, and one which should be on your bucket list.
If ever you’ve toyed with the idea of planning a trip to the Emerald Isle, but aren’t sure where to start, we’ve put together a bit of information to help kickstart your prep.
When to visit
Between June and August is European summer which means that beautiful warm weather will be the order of the day – which also makes it peak season. More crowds mean more queues, but at least you’ll have the best weather to explore one of the world’s most pleasant countries.
December to February is winter which brings with it freezing temperatures and some rainy and windy weather. While this doesn’t sound pleasant, don’t underestimate the beauty of the Emerald Isle during the festive season. Just be clever about what you pack, and you’ll be fine.
If you visit during Spring (between March and May) or Autumn (between September and November) you’re bound to encounter rain – but don’t worry, the rain won’t last long and the sun will be out before you know it.
St. Patrick's Day, the country's largest annual event, takes place in Dublin on March 17. The festival is a free event that features fireworks, films, music, art exhibits, a treasure hunt and a parade. Cork also holds a free St. Patrick's Day festival that lasts five days and features street theater and music performances. Celtfest is an annual festival held in March by the University College Cork that features Celtic music and art. The Dublin Fringe Festival takes place each year in mid-September. The event, which is comprised of 20 venues, spans two weeks and showcases visual arts, comedy, theater and dance. In October, the Cork Folk Festival takes place, giving you a taste of Irish, Gaelic and Scottish folk music - featuring pipe bands, mandolin players and fiddlers.
Where to visit
The capital of Ireland filled with the kind of elegance and charisma you might read about in novels. With medieval castles and cathedrals, and spectacular modern architecture in between, Dublin is the perfect blend between old and new. A trip to Dublin isn’t complete without stopping by a traditional Irish pub and trying out a Guinness or two.
AnneMarie McCarthy said it best when she noted that “Dublin is the best of everything, with the cosmopolitan variety of a big city and the beating heart of a village.”
Just inland from Ireland’s southwest coast, Cork is a university city with its centre on an island in the River Lee, connected to the sea by Cork Harbour. Home to the Blarney Castle (where you’ll find the infamous Blarney Stone – a block of Carboniferous limestone built into the battlements of Blarney Castle, which, when kissed, endows the kisser with a lifetime of eloquence) Cork is well worth a visit.
There’s so much to see and experience in Limerick. Medieval castles and churches give the city a grand feel, while the pubs crawl with lively locals and students who are all craving just one more pint of Guinness. The Hunt Museum boasts a collection of pieces from history's most important and influential artists, while the Foynes Flying Boat Museum will marvel visitors of all ages with its whimsical flying machines.
Galway Bay is a large bay on the west coast of Ireland, and is a magical place. Most famous for its unique traditional sailing craft, the Galway Hooker, there’s plenty to occupy sailing enthusiasts. Sailing can be arranged at the Galway Bay Sailing Club, or you can take a boat trip from Rossaveal in Galway, or from Doolin in Clare to the Aran Islands, at the mouth of Galway Bay. Why not consider a day trip to the Aran Islands – a genuine highlight on the Wild Atlantic Way – where you’ll experience breathtaking cliffs and spectacular coastal views.
At this point you’ll be forgiven for not knowing which of the above places to visit first. The great thing to note is that it is actually possible to cover all of the above places (and more) in a space of around two weeks if you book with a reputable travel operator with the know-how of what to cover, when, and for how long. Insight Vacations is one example who has a “Country Roads of Ireland” trip which will cover the above highlights (and Londonderry, Kilkenny, Ballygally and Belfast) in 12 days - taking you through ruined castles, quiet lakes, natural wonders and enchanting coastal routes. The bonus of travelling with them is that you’ll have access to a whole host of signature experiences that you would not be able to organise yourself, such as VIP priority entrance to the Book of Kells and a guided walk though Trinity college with a University insider in Dublin.
Ireland at any time of the year is beautiful, and will provide more than a fair share of spectacular moments (and good ‘ol Irish charm) that you’ll treasure well beyond your trip.