Tourism Ireland has invested a lot of money into marketing Ireland as a destination over the last few years and it has every reason to show off the scenery, many cultures and unique towns. With the explosion of hit TV show ‘Game of Thrones’, Northern Ireland has provided the perfect landscape to bring the countryside of Westeros to life.
Ireland is quite lucky to be a small island in which you can take a good couple of weeks to circumnavigate. You need a starting point and I would suggest up in the North. Northern Ireland offers two main airports. Belfast International (40 minutes away from Belfast) and George Best airport (5-10 minutes from the city centre). Both offer public transport in to the city. Belfast has had a troubled past, but this makes it an interesting place to visit. Head to the Ulster Museum or jump in a Black cab tour to get the ins and outs of what it was and is like to live in Belfast. It was a town which thrived during the large cruise ship building era and is now has a museum of the most famous boats, the Titanic.
Now from Belfast there are a few ways in which you can travel around Ireland. The first is the train network. This is fairly limited to where you can actually get too. For more information click here for Northern Ireland and here for Southern Ireland. The next option is via coaches. This option will get you to a few of the smaller towns not accessible by train and there are a few bus companies to choose from. You can turn up to the bus station and they will usually have a spare spot for you. Over public holidays and special events, I would recommend booking in advance. The third way of travelling around and the best if you are planning to see everything in a couple of weeks is by car. Head to the Useful websites story to find the best deal.
Located about an hour and a half drive from Belfast is the World Heritage listed Giants Causeway. There are daily coach tours which visit the Causeway and will stop at the Bushmills whiskey factory for a tour as well. Most tours include a quick stop at the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge where you get your chance to brave the heights and walk across a narrow footed bridge to abandoned castle ruins. Take a packed lunch on the trip if you want to save some money.
Heading round further you will pass through the city of London-Derry or Derry, depending on who you are talking too. Beyond here is the area known as Donegal. There are no big towns located here, only meek countryside villages where the local pub is the living room of one of the local’s house. A quaint little town I visited was Rathmullin and I would recommend stopping off here for some local hospitality. This is where I have tasted the best Guinness. The coastal road continues its way down to Sligo, a surfing village located on the West Coast. A detour inland will take you to Enniskillen and the Marble Arch Caves.
The next city on your agenda should be Dublin, home to the most famous alcoholic brand in the world, Guinness. Even if you don’t like the taste of Guinness, it is highly recommended to do a tour of the Storehouse. The hands on museum is split over 7 levels and provides an insight into the branding, how Guinness is brewed and it will allow you to try your hand at pouring and tasting your own Guinness. The view from the top is an added bonus, allowing you to get a perspective on the size and layout of Dublin. More information can be found here.
Kilmainham Gaol is one of the largest unoccupied jails in all of Europe. You may remember it from scenes of Michael Caines’ 1969 movie - The Italian Job, along with many others. It was once home to the 1916 Easter uprising prisoners. The entry fee is 7 euros for an Adult and it is open from 9.30-18.00. Click here to find out more information.
Back in the city centre and you will find Trinity College, home to the book of Kells. Tours are available and can be booked through here. Be careful as you wander through the hallways as this is a notorious spot for pick pockets to hang out. You don’t need to spend all your time indoors in Dublin though. The Temple Bar area provides light entertainment from street performers to the thousands of tourists which visit the area on a daily basis. Every two doors will seem like it’s a new pub and it generally is. Be prepared to spend more on a pint here than you would in other parts of the city.
Directly west of Dublin is the town of Galway. The cobbled streets surround an icy cold creek which leads into the bay and thus creating a working marina. As with anywhere in Ireland, there is an array of pubs which offer live music every day of the week. During July, the Galway Arts Festival has a mix of comedy, skits, shows and live music for everyone to enjoy. Located about an hour and a half outside of Galway are the Cliffs of Moher. These are the most visited natural attraction in Ireland and are a breathtaking sight to behold. Day trips from Galway start from around 25 euros and will take in a few stops along the way. It is a good idea to look at the weather forecast as it is an area known for sea fog to come in and block the view.
The coast line between Limerick and Cork give way from the rolling grassy hills to make way for some more mountainous, rugged landscape. This area is a mountaineer’s delight with Ireland’s highest peak – Carrauntoohil – providing a good starting base. The peak is only 1083 metres above sea level, but the walk can be a little tricky in the weather conditions.
Don’t be put off if you cannot understand two Cork people talking to each other, some Irish have trouble understanding them. Cork is a mixture of culture and architecture from throughout the years. It is the third largest city in Ireland with a population of around 120,000. The streets are quite relaxing to walk through with an array of little shops and bars along the way to keep you hydrated. Cork even has a museum dedicated to Butter. Click here for more information on the Butter Museum.
Only 25 minutes outside of Cork via train is the town of Cobh. Cobh (pronounced Cove) was the last docking place for the Titanic before the fatal sinking. The town has a small homage to the Titanic and a lovely little main street with colourful houses.
20 minutes the other side and you will find the Blarney Castle. This is your chance to kiss the Blarney stone, a practice thousands of visitors have done so before. You will need to do this upside down, but there are guides at the top to help you. There is also a tips basket they encourage you to donate, usually around 1 euro. The grounds around the castle are well kept with lushes trees and winding pathways. Make your way to the fairy garden and walk down the stairs with your eyes closed to make a wish that will come true.
I hope that gives you a few ideas of traveling around Ireland. Feel free to contact me for any further information. Be sure to tag your photos on Instagram with #itchyfeetescapades