A land of literary greatness, folktales, incomparably romantic landscapes and legendary good times, Ireland is an unsung hero when it comes to fantastic European destinations ripe for exploration. Drink in the atmosphere, hubbub and culture of Dublin, the splendour and sea air of Galway or strike out in your walking boots and revel in thkie beauty of the countryside – there’s so much to love in Ireland, whatever you choose you’ll end up leaving a piece of your heart there (and returning again and again to check on it). Luckily, we’ve got a great selection of luxury holiday homes in Ireland that make the perfect home-from-home – and they’re just as welcoming as you imagine.
From the craggy cliff tops overlooking dramatic stretches of beach to the lush mist-swirled landscapes flecked with crumbling castles, Ireland’s sensational scenery is no secret. Many visitors return again and again to absorb its raw natural beauty. This country’s compelling history is also a big draw: you can walk in the footsteps of Vikings, scale Anglo-Norman towers and learn about the nation’s literary greats. Whichever county you end up in, you’ll encounter a warm welcome in some of the oldest pubs in the world. Settle in for authentic folk music, storytelling and, of course, a pint of Guinness.
- Trinity College, Dublin – Examine the ancient Book of Kells in the College Library.
- Blarney Castle – Kiss the Blarney Stone to get the ‘gift of the gab’.
- Cliffs of Moher – See bracing Atlantic vistas from O’Brien’s viewing platform.
- Wicklow Mountains – Walk the wild and desolate pathways of the granite-hewn peaks.
- Guinness Storehouse – A rite of passage for any stout-loving visitor.
- The Wild Atlantic Drive – Drive this epic route for jaw-dropping ocean views.
- The Rock of Cashel – Visit one of Ireland’s most iconic medieval sites.
- Aran Islands – Explore this cluster of isolated, frozen-in-time islands.
When to Visit?
There’s a reason why the Emerald Isle is so green: rain! Fortunately the weather here can be very changeable, so although you might have a wet morning, there’s also a good chance you’ll have an afternoon bathed in sunshine.
The rugged west coast often has windy conditions blowing in from the Atlantic. For the highest chance of dry weather, April is your best bet. December and January are the wettest and often the coldest months, while July and August tend to be the warmest. Visitors should come prepared for all conditions – at any time of the year. Summer is busiest for tourists although Ireland rarely seems crowded. Winter months see the days get dark in the afternoon and some attractions close early.
- Airport: Flights to Ireland land in Dublin airport, Cork airport, Waterford airport or Donegal airport.
- Public Transport: It’s fairly easy to travel by public transport between the bigger towns in Ireland but the smaller villages are often only serviced by buses once or twice a week. If you’re heading out from Dublin, the train is a great way to see the countryside and it tends to be significantly quicker.
- By bike: Seeing Ireland’s spectacular countryside by bike can be a fantastic experience for those brave enough to take a chance on the variable weather. Main roads do get busy with lorries so save the cycling for the quieter, more rural lanes. Bike hire is sporadic in the countryside; book ahead or bring your own wheels
- Taxis:Taxis in Ireland are identified by their blue and yellow roof sign, and will easily get you from A to B. If you’re in Dublin, Cork, Galway or any of the larger centres, you’ll be able to hail one down on the street. In the smaller towns, you might need to wait at a taxi rank or call for a local cab. All taxis in Ireland are metered
- Hiring a car: Hiring a car gives you the flexibility and freedom to reach the most remote and tourist-free places in Ireland, where public transport won’t go. Pick up a rental at Dublin Airport where Avis and Hertz are represented.
- If you find yourself at the Rock of Cashel, save time to see some even more mysterious monoliths in the vicinity. In the hilly countryside of Tipperary are the extraordinary Timoney Stones, over 200 seemingly randomly placed rocks scattered amongst the cattle-filled field. A visit to these unexplainablemegaliths makes for an interesting detour
- Another oft-overlooked but exciting day-trip is to see the seabirds and pre-historic sites of Dursey Island, on the southwest tip of Cork. The journey out here – via a cable car that traverses open sea – is a memorable one. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself sharing your sky-high carriage with livestock; islanders use the service to transport sheep and cows too.
- To discover a flourishing secret plot, resplendent with 500 year-old roses, make your way to the pretty and little-known Altamont Gardens, on the banks of the River Slane in County Carlow. This lush patch includes an Ice Age glen, a bog garden and an arboretum with a stunning triumvirate view of the Wicklow, Blackstairs and Leinster Mountains.
- A bad case of sibling rivalry led nobleman Earl Belvedere to construct the so-called Jealous Wall – a wall so high that it blocked off his view of his brother’s nearby house. Built haphazardly with little care in the details, this folly is a fascinating add-on to the Belvedere House estate in County Westmeath.
- Ever wanted to go where the locals go? In Dublin you can get in on the Irish craic at the macabre-named John Kavanagh’s Gravedigger pub, located just south of the Botanical Gardens. John Kavanagh founded it in 1833 to service the gravediggers from the nearby crematory and its interiors remain almost unchanged to this day. Service is friendly and the Guinness is top notch.
A holiday in Ireland is an excellent choice for families with plenty that appeals to all ages – adults included. We know that family holidays work best when activities fit the bill for everyone so we’ve come up with a list that will keep both kids and adults happy, whether you’re going for a weekend or for a few weeks.The great Irish outdoors are a boon for little visitors. Activities such as horse riding and dolphin-watching are perfect for nature lovers, while surfing, bike reading and kayaking will fulfill mini thrill-seekers’ requirements. Budding history buffs can fill their quota at Anglo-Norman battles sites and Viking trails; little imaginations will run riot as they hear the fantastical folklore associated with these locales.If bad weather threatens to dampen spirits, head inside – Ireland has lots to offer when the infamous rain-soaked mist descends. You’ll be the most popular parents on the planet when you take the kids to Butler’s Chocolate experience in Dublin, and this will give you the energy to charge around some of Ireland’s finest castles such as Huntington, Blarney and Donegal. Here are just a few suggestions to smooth the path for a fun-packed family adventure in Ireland.
The Best Family Activities in Ireland
- The countryside and landscapes of Ireland offer an abundance of adventures for the whole family to enjoy, from nature hikes through valleys and woodland to bike rides and exploring Ireland’s eye-opening and exciting history with castles and archaeological sites that are bound to fire up younger imaginations.
- Fancy taking a trip on something a little more unique? Dartfield Horse Museum gives the kids the chance to ride through some parkland, or if they don’t fancy that they can enjoy looking at other farm animals or take a ride in a trap with mum and dad.
- Boyne Valley Tour is the kind of guided tour that’ll have the kids spellbound from start to finish. Heading out into Ireland’s Ancient East, you’ll discover the tales and myths from 5,000 years of fascinating Irish history.
- But it’s not just the inland landscapes that’ll have the whole family spellbound! Ireland’s coast is rugged, dramatic and full of adventure, from boat trips to investigating rock pools and everything in between.
- Want to take a trip to see some of the world’s biggest beasts? Cork Whale Watch will take you and the family out on the hunt for behemoths, and though it’s not guaranteed you’ll see one there’s always the chance of basking sharks and dolphins too.
- Staying on the water (but water that might be a bit less choppy), Irish Adventures off the whole clan the chance to paddle around Dingle Harbour in a kayak, where they might even meet a friendly dolphin named Funghi.
- If your kids are sport mad, there’s a ton of new sports they could pick up during their Irish break – head to Croke Park in Dublin and see if you can’t catch some hurling or Gaelic football.
- Experience Gaelic Games runs days in Galway and Dublin where everyone can try their hand at a brand new sport.
Read Full Guide: Best Kids Friendly Holiday Activities in Ireland
Castles that the Kids Will Love
- Blarney Castle is easily one of the popular castles in Ireland, so if you go don’t expect to have the place to yourself. Much of its popularity comes from the famous Blarney stone (don’t forget to kiss it!) but the 60 acres of floral gardens make for a relaxing walk too.
- Bunratty Castle in south-west Ireland is only seven miles from Shannon airport, but its real appeal lies in the fact that you and the family can enjoy an authentic medieval feast in the banqueting hall, complete with medieval music and goblets of wine (or something a bit softer for the kids).
- Perhaps better suited to older kids who love their reading, the James Joyce Tower in Sandycove is one of a number of Martello Towers along the Irish coast and houses a museum dedicated to one of Ireland’s best-loved writers.
- Cahir castle in Tipperary is great if you’re bringing up a would-be knight or princess, who’ll love exploring its turrets, dungeons and winding passageways.
You’ve made a great choice if you’ve decided to travel to Ireland as a group; the unique rewards of holidaying with friends in the Emerald Isle are many. In fact, many of the activities on offer here are naturally tailored to a group. What’s more, Ireland’s culture of music and storytelling usually over a pint of Guinness or a warm glass of whiskey, lends itself easily to the type of shared experiences that make holidays so memorable.Ireland’s incredible scenery means that the days are easily filled with a range of outdoor activities, whether a sedate barge trip along the canal routes of County Kildare or a refreshing hike along the cliff tops of the Ring of Kerry. And with the fascinating sense of history that pervades the ancient castles, cobbled streets and ruinous forts, you and your friends will come away from Ireland feeling enriched and recharged.
Adrenaline-Fuelled Activities in Ireland
- A boat trip makes for a great way to explore Ireland’s dramatic coastline, and it can be as easy-going or as pulse-pounding as you like. It’s not just tours, either – you can take your pick from activities such as whale watching and fishing to give your adventure that extra dimension.
- The Killary Fjord Boat Tour takes in some of the majesty of the Killary fjord over a 90-minute excursion, and if you’re lucky you might even spot some dolphins frolicking in the waters.
- And if you want to get to grips with you animalistic side, falconry is still alive and well in Ireland. Taking in a demonstration is all well and good, but there’s opportunities to try this ancient and noble pursuit for yourself. Just try not to make any movements that might identify you as a small mouse.
- Ireland’s School of Falconry is found in the impressive Ashford Castle near Galway, and it’s the perfect place to learn about the history of falconry and even take a hawk out for a fly yourself.
Read Our Complete Guide: Best Things To Do in Ireland
Laid Back Activities to Enjoy in Ireland
- If taking to the water appeals to you but you’re not quite sold on risking a voyage out to sea, there’s plenty of other waterways throughout the country where you can kick back and relax, including miles of beautiful canals and serene lakes surrounded by rolling hills and majestic mountains.
- Try a half-day excursion with Barge Trip, where you can take a boat down County Kildare’s relaxing Grand Canal and over the impressive Leinster Aqueduct. Just make sure you’ve got enough every to open and close those locks!
- There’s plenty to see in the Irish countryside – in fact, there’s so much the real problem might be knowing where to start. Luckily, there are loads of tour companies who can arrange just the sort of trip you’re looking for.
- Finn McCool’s Tours offer trips to see many of Ireland’s foremost attractions, and fantasy fans will revel in the Game of Thrones tour, which takes in some of the show’s iconic filming locations.
- And of course, it’d be criminal not to enjoy a pint or two while you’re over in Ireland. The scope and style of Irish pubs is almost limitless, from funky city centre bars to the warm and welcoming embrace of a classic country pub – there really is no excuse not to indulge!
- And if you like your pubs with a little extra history, try Sean’s Bar on the banks of the River Shannon. It boasts over 1,000 years of history and regularly hosts music nights that feature local talent.
One of the highlights of going to any new country is getting acquainted with the local cuisine and Ireland is no exception. Variety is a key part of the Irish eating experience: humble home-style fare, farm-fresh organics and upmarket gourmet dining are all in abundance. Look out for food markets and festivals too – all part of Ireland’s culinary heritage.
As an island, seafood plays a big part in Ireland’s cuisine. Dublin and Galway in particular are ideal cities in which to sample fishy delights such as cockles, mussels, lobster and Dublin Bay prawns. Oysters are another popular catch – try some at the Galway Oyster Festival in September.
Ireland’s green pastures provide protein and vegetables for many hearty dishes too such as Irish stew and the famous colcannon (creamy mash and cabbage). For breakfast, the dish of choice if the ‘full Irish’, a fry-up that commonly includes black and/or white pudding, a potato farl and yeast-free soda bread.
Drinks-wise, it’s hard to avoid Guinness and (particularly in Cork) Murphy’s stout, though Irish whiskey, which is currently undergoing a major resurgence, is another superb option.Explore Our Recommendations: Best Foodie Experiences in Ireland
The Best Restaurants in Ireland
- The wonderful Copper Hen is found in the charming port town of Waterford. It’s an informal but delightfully rustic restaurant above a pub, and prides itself on whipping up amazing dishes that don’t cost the earth from traditional Irish ingredients.
- O’Dowd’s Seafood Bar & Restaurant looks out over Roundstone Harbour and is a top choice for experiencing the very best and freshest seafood from Ireland’s west coast.
- While Irish cuisine has a reputation for being tasty and hearty, there’s still plenty to choose from if you fancy some high-end eating. Loam in Galway provides Michelin starred haute cuisine at its finest, so go for the tasting menu if you really want to treat yourself.
- Want to see what else is on the Ireland’s culinary platter? The Courthouse Restaurant in the small Leitrim village of Kinlough serves a delicate and delicious fusion between Irish and Mediterranean cuisine – definitely different, and definitely not to be missed.
Irish Dishes You Have to Try
- For fans of seafood, Dublin bay prawns are well worth searching out, especially in the city from which they take their name. OK, so they’re technically langoustines, but slather them in parsley butter and they’ll be the best you’ve ever tasted.
- It might be a bit of a cliché, but Irish Stew is still one of the best comfort foods out there. Make sure it’s made with mutton, comes with soda bread as a side, and dig in.
- Not one for the faint-hearted this – crubeens are boiled pigs feet traditionally eaten as an accompaniment to a pint, and while you might think you’d need a few drinks before trying one out they’re actually incredibly tasty.
- For those with a sweet tooth, barmbrack is a sweetened bread full of raisins and candied peel. Traditionally a treat on Halloween, it’s now found throughout the year due to its popularity.
The Best Foodie Activities in Ireland
- Of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to Ireland without having a whiskey or two. Teeling Whisky have been distilling whiskey since 1782, and have just opened a Dublin distillery where you can take a tour and, naturally, try a sample or two.
- Also in Dublin, the Tapas Trail is a great way to enjoy a snapshot of the city’s foodie delights – it takes three hours and stops off at three restaurants where you’ll enjoy a bite to eat and a glass of wine.
- The Kitchen in the Castle in Howth offers a range of great cookery classes that aren’t just limited to Irish recipes. Try your hand at Moroccan, Italian or some seafood specials, and kick back afterwards and enjoy your efforts with your fellow chefs.