Your quick guide to a holiday packed with breath-taking scenery, friendly locals and even friendlier pubs. Here's what not to miss while in the Emerald Isle.
1 | Head West for dramatic scenery and incredible culture.
With so many national parks and iconic sights, you'll be spoiled for choice. The Cliffs of Moher top everyone's must-do list, but don't miss the equally stunning Connemara National Park in County Galway and idyllic Strandhill in County Sligo.
Further south, the Ring of Kerry might be Ireland's famous drive, but we recommend the Dingle Peninsula for some of the country's most beautiful beaches. Quiet seaside Dingletown has a number of fantastic little places for lunch, or later, a pint and bit of traditional music.
HOT TIP: Perched right on the ocean in the little seaside town of Strandhill, Voya Seaweed Spa is a must-do for any bath junkie or indulgent partner (you can book baths big enough for two). The lovely staff haul fresh seaweed from the ocean, add essential oils, and fill lovely private baths. Bonus: The Irish-made seaweed products make perfect souvenirs!
2 | Don't miss the traditional music.
Irish pubs are imitated the world over for a reason. There's nothing quite as warming as a pint and a tune. Often traditional sessions are informal, with local musicians dropping in and out throughout the night — in fact, if you're feeling brave yourself, you could offer to join a tune. You might hear fiddles, a bodhrán (traditional drum), tin whistles, guitars and more. And as you'll hear, the more, the merrier!
HOT TIP: Galway is known for its fantastic music scene. Our favourite pub has to be Tig Choili: This place is well known for having some of the best traditional sessions in the county. While you might initially feel like you’ve fallen into a tourist trap, once the locals show up, you’ll know you found a gem. Sessions every night.
3 | Ireland has quite a foodie scene — indulge!
Ireland might be famous for its hearty stews, buttery scones and million ways around a potato, but modern Irish cuisine is some of the best you'll ever taste. Ingredients are incredibly fresh and you'll find a real emphasis on local and Irish sourcing. On top of that, Irish chefs are doing great things with influences from all over the world. If you think you like a curry, you've nothing on the Irish!
After the traditional experience? Here are the major stars:
SODA BREAD: Depending on the recipe, it might include dried fruit, honey, a few grains, or even a dash of Guinness. It's always eaten the same way though — piping hot and with lashings of butter!
TRY IT: An Fear Gorta, The Tea & garden Rooms, Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare
IRISH STEW: A deliciously weighty meat stew laced with onion, potatoes, carrots, a hearty broth and plenty of fresh herbs.
TRY IT: The Brazen Head, 20 Lower Bridge St, Merchants Quay, Dublin
BOXTY: A delicious potato pancake fried in a delicious amount of butter.
TRY IT: Gallagher's Boxty House, Temple Bar, Dublin 2
4 | The North is well worth a visit.
With fascinating history and dramatic scenery, plus a hearty influence from English, the Northern counties are well worth a visit. Walk the wonder of the Giant’s Causeway, an area of about 40,000 hexagonal interlocking slabs of rock emerging from the sea and take the Giant’s Causeway Coastal Route for jaw-dropping coastal scenery. Visit Belfast for lively nightlife, delicious dining and to retrace a bit of the island's turbulent history.
HOT TIP: The Crown Liquor Saloon is the famous Belfast pub most visitors call into, but around back you'll find Fibber McGee's, our pick for guaranteed night of great music and craic (oh, that's fun in Irish!)!
5 | Don't miss Dublin's seaside villages.
With so many fascinating sights in the city itself, it can be tempting not to venture further afield. But make your way to the seaside villages of Howth, Bray, Dun Laoghaire or Greystones — or better yet, walk the coastline between them — and you'll be well rewarded with a quieter pace, charming cafés, inviting pubs and a real slice of Irish living.
HOT TIP: Walk the coastline from Greystones to Bray and reward yourself with a pint. There's no better way to pass an afternoon.