A land of literary greatness, folktales and romantic landscapes, Ireland is our unsung hero when it comes to fantastic European destinations. 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 the beauty of the countryside. There’s simply so much to love about Ireland, so if you’re thinking about planning a trip here, we’ve got a great selection of luxury holiday homes in Ireland that provide an excellent base to explore it all.
Why visit Ireland?
From the craggy clifftops 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 time and time again to absorb the country’s natural beauty, but its compelling history is also a big draw. Here, you can walk in the footsteps of Vikings, scale Anglo-Norman towers and learn about the nation’s literary greats. However, one of our favourite things about Ireland is the warm hospitality of its people – whichever county you choose for your Ireland holiday, you can’t pass up a visit to some of the oldest pubs in the world. Settle in for authentic folk music, storytelling and, of course, a pint of Guinness.
What are the top places to visit in Ireland?
- 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 is the best time to visit Ireland?
There’s a reason why the Emerald Isle is so green: rain! Fortunately the weather here is very changeable, so although you might be hit with a wet morning, there’s a pretty good chance it’ll give way to an afternoon bathed in sunshine. The rugged west coast in particular experiences 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 coldest months, with darker days meaning some attractions close early. July and August tend to be the warmest and busiest months, though Ireland rarely feels crowded. However, no matter what time of year you visit, you should come prepared for all weather conditions.
Ireland travel: how to get around
- Airport: Flights to Ireland land in Dublin airport, Cork airport, Waterford airport and 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 faster.
- 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 a little busy with lorries, so save the cycling for those quieter, more rural lanes. Bike hire is sporadic in the countryside, so book ahead or plan to bring your own wheels.
- By taxi: 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.
- By car: Hiring a car gives you the flexibility and freedom to reach the most remote and tourist-free places in Ireland – the ones where public transport won’t go. Pick up a rental from Avis and Hertz at Dublin Airport.
- If you find yourself at the Rock of Cashel, you’ll want to visit some of the even more mysterious monoliths in the vicinity. The hilly countryside of Tipperary is home to the extraordinary Timoney Stones, which see over 200 randomly placed rocks scattered among the cattle-filled field.
- Don’t miss the chance to see the seabirds and pre-historic sites of Dursey Island, located on the southwest tip of Cork. The journey out here – via a cable car that traverses open sea – is already a memorable one. You may even find yourself sharing a sky-high carriage with livestock, as islanders use the service to transport their sheep and cows too.
- To discover a flourishing secret plot, filled with 500 year-old roses, make your way to the Altamont Gardens. Situated 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 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.
- Looking for a touch of the macabre? John Kavanagh’s Gravedigger pub, located just south of the Botanical Gardens, was founded in 1833 to service the gravediggers from the nearby crematory. Its interiors remain almost unchanged to this day, combining with friendly service and top-notch Guinness to make this a great afternoon visit.
Things to do with kids in Ireland
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 quick weekend or longer stay.
The countryside and landscapes of Ireland offer an abundance of adventures for the whole family to enjoy.
- Boyne Valley Tour is the kind of guided tour that’ll have young ones spellbound from start to finish. Heading out into Ireland’s Ancient East, you’ll discover tales and myths taken from 5,000 years of fascinating Irish history.
- If your kids are sporty, allow them to participate in Experience Gaelic Games runs days. Located in Galway and Dublin, they allow everyone to try their hand at a brand new sport.
- Got a little animal lover on your hands? 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 flight yourself.
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. Though it’s not guaranteed you’ll see one, there’s always a chance of spying sharks and dolphins too.
- Irish Adventures offers the whole clan the chance to paddle around Dingle Harbour in a kayak. You might even meet a friendly dolphin named Funghi!
- 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 splashing about in the waters.
Looking for more ideas? Read our full guide: Best Family Activities in Ireland
Relaxing activities 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, taking in miles of beautiful canals and serene lakes surrounded by rolling hills and majestic mountains. Try a half-day excursion with Barge Trip, where you’ll cruise down County Kildare’s relaxing Grand Canal and over the impressive Leinster Aqueduct.
There’s plenty to see in the Irish countryside too – in fact, there’s so much that the real problem might be knowing where to start! Luckily, there are plenty of tour companies who can arrange just the sort of itinerary you’re after, including, Finn McCool’s Tours. Fantasy fans will revel in their Game of Thrones tour, which takes you around some of the show’s most iconic filming locations.
And of course, you have to take some time 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. And, if you like your Guinness with a touch of history thrown in, try Sean’s Bar on the banks of the River Shannon. It boasts over 1,000 years of history and regularly hosts music nights featuring local talent.
Best castles to visit in Ireland
- Blarney Castle is arguably the most popular castle in Ireland, with much of that coming from the famous Blarney stone (don’t forget to kiss it!). Its 60 acres of floral gardens make for a relaxing walk too, but don’t expect to have the place to yourself – this is a top tourist spot!
- Located in southwest Ireland, Bunratty Castle allows guests to 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), this immersive experience is sure to please the whole family.
- Perhaps better suited to older kids who love their reading, the James Joyce Tower in Sandycove is one of a number of Martello Towers situated along the Irish coast. It also houses a museum dedicated to the much-loved Irish writer.
- Cahir castle in Tipperary is great if you’re bringing up an aspiring knight or princess – they’ll love exploring its turrets, dungeons and winding passageways.
Best foods to try in Ireland
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 dining 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 rich culinary heritage.
- For fans of seafood, Dublin bay prawns are well worth trying – especially in the city from which they take their name. While they’re technically langoustines, 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 you can try. Order yours with mutton and soda bread on the side for an authentic experience that warms you from the inside out.
- Crubeens are not one for the faint-hearted. These boiled pigs feet are traditionally eaten as an accompaniment to a pint, and while you might need a few drinks before trying one out, they’re actually incredibly tasty.
- For those with a sweet tooth, barmbrack is a sweetened bread packed full of raisins and candied peel. Traditionally enjoyed as a treat on Halloween, it’s now sold throughout the year due to its popularity.
- 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 – samples included! Check out our blog for a full list of the top foodie experiences in Ireland.
Now that you’ve read our Ireland travel guide, are you ready to start booking your Ireland holiday? We’ve got a whole collection of castles, cottages and holiday homes in Ireland to explore. And if you’re still unsure, feel free to contact our concierge team – they’ll be happy to help you at every stage of the planning process.
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