Let’s take a Holiday: Ireland
Can I just be real with you for a min… please? There are few things that I deeply love. Like in soul crushing, can’t get enough of, dream about all day long, kinda love. It’s deep and it’s real.
One of these things is what I consider my true heart felt home, Ireland.
My love affair started in College when I was lucky enough to study abroad, then it continued with Andy and I traveling over there for a Thanksgiving adventure, and since then, we have tried to make it back every other year. We have fallen head over heels with that magical green isle.
If you are even remotely thinking about taking a trip there…. do it! Don’t consider it, just go. From the moment you step off that plane, you heart will no longer belong to you. Today I am going to give you my top tricks, hints, and secrets to discovering the best trip you will ever take!
Are you ready? Just in case I haven’t convinced you… take a look at this:
Ok, here we go: Ireland A to Z
A. Do your research! Buy guide books, read blogs (I’ll share my favorite later), and google! It will get you excited plus it will help you narrow down to what is important to you. Our favorite guide book is this one.
B. Pick you way of Travel: There are so many ways to see Ireland, you have to pick what’s your pace, whether in a big tour or on your own. Our favorite way to travel is to self drive, which means we rent a car and travel on our own speed. When we go next October, we are using Tenon Tours to book all our travel needs. Definitely check them out! You can also just fly by the seat of your pants and make a plan once you get there, but know that in the summer months it will be harder to find decent places to stay on a late notice.
C. Stay in B&Bs. If you want an authentic experience, don’t stay in hotels. You can meet really lovely people, ask them what their favorite things to do in that city are, and eat an amazing traditional Irish Breakfast. There is nothing really like it. This site is the best for finding great B&B’s! If you are using vouchers, you will want to book your stay with them before you actually travel, otherwise this site is great to find a place to rest if you are just traveling on a day by day basis.
D. Pack for all different kinds of weather: Depending on what time of year, you may get sun and rain in the same day so make sure you pack an umbrella and a jacket. If you need more help on what to pack, check out these great posts by a Dublin resident, Emily Westbrooks, and her Styled In Ireland series.
E. Be prepared to Eat, Drink and be Merry. Eat the local fare… yes, that also means black and white pudding (don’t google, just try), amazing pastries with locally made butter and jam, tea, fresh caught fish and chips, etc… get out of your comfort zone and try the food. Chances are it is all local, freshly made and so good!
F. Drink what the locals drink: Some of the best beer, cider, and liquor comes from Ireland, plus it actually tastes better there. Guinness is actually so much better in Ireland! Tour the brew houses and distilleries. The Guinness Factory in Dublin is beautiful and you get a free pint at the top. Learn how to properly pour a Guinness as well, we Americans haven’t quite figured that out yet :).
G. Do Touristy Things: While in Ireland, make sure you see some of the touristy type things. They are touristy because they should be seen, but definitely try and sift through what is too touristy and what is worthy of your time. Some of our favorites are: The Cliffs of Moher, the Guinness Factory, Trinity College, Bunratty Folk Park (see picture below), and of course, the Blarney Stone.
H. See some Not so Touristy Stuff: There are a lot of places that aren’t really well known, but are worth seeing, like the Aran Islands, the Ring of Kerry, the Muckross House, Adare Manor (see picture below), the Rock of Cashel (this is our favorite)!
I. Dublin: This is it’s own category because it deserves one. Give yourselves at least 2 days for Dublin if not more. There is so much to see and do. My favorite blog about most things Dublin and Irish life is From China Village. Emily writes an amazing blog and put together a fantastic guide called Delightful Dublin. Seriously, I couldn’t give more useful advice than to follow her guide. While you are there and before you go follow @LovinDublin, @FrenchFoodieinD and @Rua_Ruth on Twitter for more tips on Dublin life, restaurants, fashion and more. The best way to see Dublin is to see it from a local’s eye. My favorite bar in Dublin is Market Bar. Check it out!
K. Don’t be afraid to take public transportation. The Luas in Dublin is great as well as the public buses. When you can, take these, it will save you the headache of driving and then you can truly enjoy your nights.
L. If you are driving, get a good map. We use one that has great points of interest including all Castles, so while we are driving, if we want to see a Castle we just pull over and see it. We found this folly wall by doing just that (see below).
M. Make sure you get a tax rebate card: as a tourist you don’t have to pay taxes on anything (except food and drink)!
N. Listen to the radio: you will hear songs that you won’t ever hear in the US.
O. Make sure you have your electronics on the right voltage: my straightener died the first day and I had to rock the curly hair the rest of the trip.
P. Shop Locally: Go into locally owned stores and buy your souvenirs there. Stay away from the “popular” stores that sell “Irish fares”. If you want something meaningful, buy locally made gifts, jewelry, and more. My favorite store is Avoca,think an Irish Anthro. They have beautifully made woolen blankets and clothes. My favorite jewelry store is in Galway, where the original Claddagh Ring was made. Those souvenirs will mean more than just some some touristy t-shirt.
Q. Talk to the Locals: Whether in a pub, the store, or at a B&B. One of our favorite nights in Dublin was when we sat at the bar and talked to the bartender for hours about his life, Dublin, and his favorite spots in Ireland.
R. Make sure you go to at least on pub with live music at night: There is nothing like listening to traditional Irish music in a pub.
S. Take Lots of Pictures: This really goes without saying, but really, take as many as you can. Make sure your batteries are charged every night, mind died in the middle of Dublin once, it was tragic.
T. Don’t be afraid to go off the Beaten Path: Some of the best things we saw where when we decided to take a side road, or stop in for tea in a little local pub, or eat in a non- touristy looking restaurant. We had one of the best dinners just by asking a local where they like to eat.
U. Be Respectful of places you visit: A lot of the ruins in Ireland are old churches and monasteries, with beautiful gravestone markings. Feel free to take pictures, but remember you are just a visitor.
V. Charge things in dollars, not Euros if you can: otherwise there will be a conversion fee from your bank.
W. Call your banks and Credit Card companies before you go: You will just want to give them a heads up that you are going out of the country, otherwise they will think someone stole your information and will shut off your cards.
X. Make sure you have your passport on you at all times!
Y. Don’t exchange all your dollars to euros: Most of the time you don’t need cash because everyone takes debit and credit cards (even better if your CC doesn’t charge you foreign transaction fees) but you will want some change for taxis, the bus and for toll roads.
Z. Finally, If you don’t get to see everything, that is ok! You can always return, we have and we just keep going back.
Hope to see you across the pond!
And if you need to know my suggestions for international flying, check that out here!