Travel guide to Ireland
Planning a trip to Ireland
The Emerald Isle is a lush land of deep history and broad smiles. Celts, Vikings, Normans, and the English have all trod this country's verdant slopes, leaving behind ancient ruins as well as a rich and varied heritage.
Steeped in strong religious beliefs and scattered with the broken remains of vast medieval abbeys and monasteries, Ireland is home to literary giants, Guinness beer, and stupendous music.
Although Dublin is alive with museums and some of Europe's greatest nightlife, a visit to Ireland is really about the countryside: the gorgeously green rural landscapes and the friendly welcome waiting in each small town.
Transatlantic airfare is not cheap. However, there are some great packages that bundle air, rental car, and B&B vouchers and make a trip to Ireland one of the great bargains of European travel—especially now that the ongoing economic crisis has brought prices on food and such back from sky-high levels to within a modest budget...
NYC – Shannon
7 days: air, car, B&B
Glasha Meadows, Doolin
Newgrange & Monasterboice
- Planning your time: Spend at least a week in Ireland—10 days if you can swing it. I say give Dublin a day or two tops and make sure you budget a few days for exploring the Irish countryside—particularly County Kerry and neighboring County Clare on Ireland's west coast.
- Rent a car: Ireland is one country where renting a car makes a lot of sense—even if you have to get the hang of driving on the left.
- Consider a package: One of the greatest bargains in travel are the air-car-B&B packages offered by Sceptre Tours (www.sceptretours.com) with which you get all three big ticket items taken care of for one lump sum (as low as $719 per person).
- Trip-planning FAQ: How to plan everything, from airfares to lodging options, sightseeing to dining, trip costs to researching your Irish heritage.
Irish travel topics
Although Ireland is part of the British Isles and the people speak English, drive on the left, and even eat fish 'n' chips, Ireland is most emphatically not part of the United Kingdom. (Except, confusingly, the bit called Northern Ireland.)
The Irish fought long (some 750 years) and hard for their independence from the British crown, and most of Ireland been its own country since 1921. We call this the Republic of Ireland, and it includes the 26 counties that make up most of the island.
Six counties in the north of Ireland, however, did not throw their lots in with this new country, and hence are still part of the U.K.
Northern Ireland's decision to stay with the United Kingdom was far from unanimous. The pro-U.K. residents (mostly Protestants of British descent) and pro-independence ones (mainly Catholics of older Irish lineage) are constantly at odds over the future of this corner of the Emerald Isle, fighting heated battles on both the political and paramilitary fronts (though, thankfully, increasingly less so of the latter in recent years).
These "Troubles" have come to a head in numerous terrorist attacks, mainly centered on Belfast and other Northern Ireland cities (plus a few in London)‚ though, again, those have been on the wane for a while now.
Though it appears that a delicate peace has finally been achieved, details are forever being hammered out, and both sides must continue to court approval from their supporters.
Ireland remains a land divided.
Round Ireland on Four Wheels - How to spend a week in Eire from $719, including airfare, countryside B&Bs, and a rental car...
The Post-Modern Pot o' Gold - Ireland's Heritage Card can save you as much as €157 on sightseeing at 80+ sights—€10.50 even if you hit only the top five. But some of Ireland's best sights are well off the beaten path...
Bed, Breakfast, and Beyond - How to pick the right Irish B&B—whether it be a farmhouse cottage, country manor like this one, or modest modern home in town—and where to find alternative cheap lodgings in Ireland...
Top 10 Irish Castle Hotels - From the Dublin suburbs to the wilds of Western Ireland, some of the most gorgeous medieval castles have been converted into hotels—and double rooms start at €89...
Of Pub Grub and Toasteds and Cakes Made of Guinness - On navigating the dangerously expensive waters of Ireland's culinary scene with the aid of a good, strong pint...
Digging for Your Irish Roots - No, not potatoes—though those are yummy. Today we'll share the best resources for tracing your Irish heritage...
Tours & Activities: Viator.com, City-Discovery.com, Gadventures.com
Sightseeing passes: Dublin Pass, Heritage Card
B&Bs: Bandbireland.com, Booking.com, Bedandbreakfast.com, Venere.com, Airbnb.com, Hiddenireland.com, Irishcottageholidays.com
Hotels: Booking.com, Venere.com, Priceline.com, Hotels.com, Hostelworld.com
Agritourisms: Irishfarmholidays.com, Bandbireland.com, Discoverireland.com, Nischa.com
Rental villas & apartments: Rentalo.com, Vrbo.com, Interhomeusa.com, Homeaway.com
Hostels & campgrounds: Hostelworld.com, Hostelbookers.com, Hostelz.com, Hostelmania.com,
Packages: Sceptretours.com, Cietours.com, Bmit.com, Celtictours.com
Airfares: Momondo.com, Vayama.com, Kayak.com, Cheapflights.com, DoHop.com, AutoEurope.com, CheapTickets.com, CheapOAir.com, Priceline.com, Hotwire.com
Airports: Shannonairport.com, Dublinairport.com, Corkairport.com, Belfastairport.com
Trains: Raileurope.com, Irishrail.ie, Bahn.de, Railfaneurope.net, Seat61.com
Car/RV rentals: Autoeurope.com, RentalCars.com, AutoSlash.com, Orbitz.com, Expedia.com, Travelocity.com, Momondo.com, Vayama.com, DoHop.com, Kayak.com