Ireland, though not a massive country, never ceases to fascinate with its captivating coastlines, scenic country roads, and rich historical cities, leaving visitors longing for more. To ensure you get the most out of your Irish adventure, we’ve solicited recommendations from an array of local experts, including food critics, photographers, librarians, and tour guides.
Embark on a legendary mountain expedition
Walking or hiking is an excellent way to experience the real Ireland. John G. O’Dwyer, author of 50 Best Irish Walks, says he’s still discovering new trails and intriguing stories after 30 years of exploring. One of his preferred trails leads to Coumshingaun, a hidden lake in the Comeragh Mountains of County Waterford, purported to be the hiding place of 18th-century highwayman William Crotty’s loot.
For a longer trek, O’Dwyer proposes St. Finbarr, a spiritual 22-mile journey in County Cork. This off-the-beaten-track trail traverses four mountains and three valleys, culminating at the heritage site of Gougane Barra.
Sample authentic Irish cuisine from a food truck
Ali Dunworth, a food writer, points out that Ireland’s casual food scene has significantly evolved. Food trucks, pop-ups, and shacks are now delightful spots to savor traditional pub food, freshly caught seafood, and hot toasties filled with farmhouse cheese. Dunworth’s personal favorite is Misunderstood Heron, a food shack with an enchanting view of Connemara’s Killary fjord.
Explore a castle by kayak
Ireland’s landscape is dotted with castles, from luxurious five-star hotels like Ashford Castle to rustic towers amidst cattle fields. Marnie Corscadden, owner of Ballyseede Castle, recommends visiting Cloughoughter Castle in County Cavan, a dreamy fortress situated on a tiny island, accessible only by boat.
Try your hand at golf in Donegal
While golf in Ireland might conjure images of famous courses like Old Head and Adare Manor, travel writer Fionn Davenport suggests that Donegal’s exceptional yet often overlooked links are worth exploring. He recommends Rosapenna and Dunfanaghy, both nestled along Sheephaven Bay on the Wild Atlantic Way.
Immerse yourself in the charm of traditional pubs
Quincey Fennelly, the managing director of Wicklow Wolf Brewery, recommends experiencing the genuine Irish pub culture at places like Doheny & Nesbitts in Dublin and Harbour Bar in Bray, County Wicklow.
Dabble in the Irish language
Manchán Magan, author of Thirty-Two Words for Field, encourages visitors to learn a handful of Irish words to gain a unique perspective on nature and life. Irish language schools like Oideas Gael and Oidreacht Chorca Dhubhne offer beginners’ courses for those interested.
Witness puffins in their natural habitat
Between May and July, puffins flock to locales like the Saltee Islands in County Wexford and Skellig Michael in County Kerry. Photographer Valerie O’Sullivan encourages visitors to capture these “clowns of the sea” in action.
Discover Trinity’s hidden gems
Helen Shenton, librarian and archivist at Trinity College Dublin, suggests visiting the college’s Old Library, home to the ninth-century Book of Kells. This summer is particularly special as the last of the library’s 200,000 books are being relocated ahead of a significant renovation.
Experience Ireland on a bicycle
Ciaran Cannon, a member of parliament for Galway East, says that the country’s quiet roads and welcoming locals make it an ideal place for cycling. Greenways like the Royal Canal and Limerick offer a relaxing way to see the Irish countryside.
Pól Ó Conghaile, the travel editor of the Irish Independent and author of Secret Dublin: An Unusual Guide, contributed to this article. Follow him on social media.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Ireland Travel Guide
What activities can I enjoy when visiting Ireland?
There are numerous activities you can enjoy when visiting Ireland. These include mountain hiking, exploring the countryside on a bike, visiting historic castles by kayak, playing golf on scenic courses, and sampling Irish cuisine from food trucks.
Can I learn the Irish language during my visit?
Yes, you can learn the Irish language during your visit. You can take a beginner’s course at language schools such as Oideas Gael in Glencolmcille, County Donegal, or Oidreacht Chorca Dhubhne in County Kerry.
What kind of food can I try in Ireland?
Ireland offers a range of delicious food options. Food trucks, pop-ups, and shacks are excellent places to sample traditional pub food, fresh seafood, and toasties (grilled sandwiches) filled with farmhouse cheese.
Where can I play golf in Ireland?
There are many golf courses in Ireland where you can play. For less crowded and equally stunning links, consider visiting Donegal. Specifically, Rosapenna and Dunfanaghy are highly recommended.
Where can I see puffins in Ireland?
You can witness puffins in their natural habitat in places like the Saltee Islands in County Wexford and Skellig Michael in County Kerry, particularly between May and July.
Can I visit historic sites in Ireland?
Yes, Ireland is filled with historic sites that you can visit. Notably, you can visit the Cloughoughter Castle in County Cavan, which is situated on a small island and can be accessed by kayak. Also, don’t miss the ninth-century Book of Kells housed in the Old Library at Trinity College Dublin.