Ireland Travel Tips (things to know before you go)

Living in Dublin for a year back in 2003 is one of our favorite travel memories. Being able to spend so long in Dublin gave us a great chance to get to know it and learn about the things to do through the eyes of a local.

It’s no secret the Irish are known for their hospitality and the love of a pint of the black stuff, Guinness. Many nights we spent in a cozy traditional Irish pub built of character, and filled with live music whilst digging into a hearty meal.

Man holding a glass of Guinness beer
Craig enjoying a pint at the Guinness Brewery

Whilst Ireland is famous for having one of the best pub scenes in the world, that’s not all it’s got going for it.

It also has spectacular coastal and countryside scenery, charming towns, historic castles, friendly people, and lots of interesting history.

The best way to see Ireland, and the way we did it, is to self-drive. It’s not a big country, and navigating the roads and towns is relatively easy, although signage is not the best in the world by anyone’s standards.

1. Spend Time in Dublin

People outside a pub in Dublin
The temple Bar in Dublin

Most visitors arrive and exit out of Dublin, and we recommend you spend a few days walking around and getting to now this city. It’s not a big city by world standards, but it’s big on energy, history, and atmosphere.

Click here to see all our insider tips on things to do in Dublin. These were our favorite experiences had during our time living in Dublin.

Our Dublin Favorites include:

  • The Guinness Storehouse
  • St Stephens Green
  • Trinity College
  • Dublin Castle
  • Phoenix Park
  • Guinness Lake and Wicklow Mountains
  • Endless great pubs!
  • Temple Bar District

There are SO many pubs in Dublin, but our list showcasing 10 of the best Dublin pubs and bars is a good place to start. One pub we forgot to mention on that list which is a locals favorite is The Stag’s Head.

Dublin is also a very walkable city – another reason we loved it so much.


2. Visit the outer Suburbs of Dublin

The view from Killiney Hill in Dublin, Ireland.
The view from Killiney Hill in Dublin, Ireland.

Dublin has many great outer suburbs that are worth visiting for a taste of local living. Our favorite was of course our student village, Rathmines, that was full of great bars and Irish pubs.

Donnybrook and Ballbridge are two of the more affluent suburbs in the South of Dublin, and are worth a leisurely stroll to see some of Ireland’s finest Victorian architecture. Shrewsbury Road in Ballsbridge is the 6th most expensive road in the world.

Dalkey and Killiney is where you may run in to celebrities such as Bono and Enya, who have homes in these upmarket neighborhood’s by the sea. You can reach these towns by the DART, the Dublin Area Rapid Transit (train service).

And Howth is a small fishing village popular for the climbing of the 171m high hill on Howth head, is located an easy train ride to the south of Dublin.

3. Road Trip Northern Ireland

a castle
Belfast Castle. Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland is part of Great Britain and offers a unique perspective to Southern Ireland. We would often visit on short road trip from Dublin.

Belfast was a city we loved to return to. Click here for full in-depth tips on a Northern Ireland road trip


Head north and visit Belfast and do a black cab tour. It will give you an up close and very personal look at the history of Ireland’s struggles and the incredible painted murals. Belfast is much less touristy than Dublin and has a nice Botanical Garden.

And take a tour of the impressive City Hall.

Giants Causeway

Check out the Giants Causeway and the rugged Antrim Coast which has views all the way to Scotland on a clear day, before heading south-west to Donegal.

4. Places to visit on an Ireland Road Trip

Doolin, County Clare - Ireland photos on our blog!
Doolin, County Clare


One of our favorite towns on the west coast was Doolin, a small town with charm and a great live music scene in some of the coziest of Irish pubs. And close by are the famous Cliffs of Moher.

Galway and Connemara

Galway is a fun town with a great vibe and being a university town has a great student atmosphere. It’s a a slower pace than Dublin but big enough to keep you entertained for a day or two.

It’s also very walkable and has a nice central square and provides for easy access to the Connemara.

A highlight of our road trip was The Connemara Loop which had incredible rugged scenery and is not to be missed.

Dingle Peninsula

Dingle Peninsula - Ireland Pictures on the blog!
Dingle Peninsula

Other scenic highlights for a road trip is the Ring of Kerry and The Dingle Peninsula. We actually preferred the Dingle Peninsula over it’s more famous counterpart, but if you have the time drive both.

And the town of Dingle is wonderful set right by the ocean with cozy pubs and great food.

West Cork

West Cork Coast - Ireland photos on our blog!
West Cork Coast

The West Cork region and Mizen Head also provided for more of Ireland’s spectacular famous scenery. And the city of Cork is also worth a day or two as an alternative experience to Dublin and Galway.

Kinsale and Kilkenny

Heading back up the east coast we found Kinsale a charming little fishing town by the sea with classic Irish pubs and eating options to die for.

Further up the town of Kilkenny is worth a visit. Go check out the well known Kilkenny Castle and enjoy a pint of Kilkenny, our favorite of all the Irish beers and one of our top three in the world.

NOTE: If you don’t want to self-drive in Ireland, check out this 8-day tour of Ireland Craig recently did with Globus, a leader in group travel.

5. Visit a Castle in Ireland

Ireland is almost as well known for it’s castles as it is for it’s pub culture.

Some of our favorite’s were Kylemore Abbey on the west coast, Dublin Castle, Malahide Castle, and of course the famous Blarney Castle.

6. Drink in a Pub and Enjoy Irish Music

Man standing outside the entrance to a pub with two wine barrels
Craig at The Brazen Head, Dublin’s oldest pub

No trip to Ireland is complete and you won’t get a better understanding of the Irish culture unless you spend some time in their pubs. Going to Ireland and not drinking a pint in a pub is like going to Sydney and not seeing the Opera House.

Ireland has a pub on almost every street corner and one in between.

Back in Dublin see our post on 10 of the best Dublin pubs and bars for some ideas, or just find a pub in whatever street or town you are in and enjoy the craic.

7. See a Hurling or Gaelic Football Match

Hurling match Dublin Ireland
Hurling match in Dublin

One of the best live sporting matches I have ever seen was the semi-final of the All Ireland Gaelic Football match between Donegal and Armagh in Croke Park, Dublin

The stadium was a sea of brightly colored orange and green jerseys, and the team flags madly waving in the crowd were incredible. The atmosphere was electric with fans screaming and cheering with every play of the ball.

It was a great cultural sporting experience and highly recommended if you get the opportunity.

8. Eat Irish Style

Beef & Guinness Stew on a plate
Beef & Guinness Stew

When we lived in Dublin we were meat eaters. Not too sure how we’d go now being vegetarians, but Irish food is delicious and hearty.

Some of our favorites were potato and leek soup, bacon and cabbage, Guinness or Irish stew, and of course potato.

Each dish you order will come with three varieties – mashed, baked, and boiled. The Irish don’t want you forgetting about those famine years.

Facebook Fan Suggestions for Ireland

People walking along the street with colorful shopfronts
Westport is a charming west coast town
  • The most obvious thing is go to the Guinness Brewery and have a pint, overlooking the city.
  • Definitely the Cliffs of Moher, the Blarney Castle, and Killarney Lake.
  • Yeh the Guinness brewery is awesome, I did a sham rocker tour of southern Ireland, loved everything I saw and did. I would say you must talk to as many locals as possible, they rock! Don’t kiss the Blarney stone, people pee on it! Definitely go to the west coast and see the cliffs of Mohr.
  • Bunratty Castle for a feast and a show.
  • I wouldn’t normally advocate hitchhiking, but my sister and I did this all around south and West Ireland and met so many wonderful people. Especially loved walking through the Gap of Dunloe, near Killarney. With the soft golden light, tumbling stone ruins and green fields, it really felt like a leprechaun could jump out at any moment.
  • Wicklow Mountains! And the library at Trinity College, one of the most beautiful libraries I’ve seen…
  • Before you have the pint at the Guinness factory, make sure you buy the dark Guinness Chocolate bar in the gift store. Then go up, have your pint and eat the chocolate – most amazing flavors ever.
  • My Suggestions (in no order): Cliffs of Moher, Blarney Stone, Giant’s Causeway, Murals in Derry and Belfast, Guinness Brewery, and hit up a pub in each and every city you stop in along the way for music and conversation.
  • Cliffs of Moher and the Burren
  • All of the above, plus: Rock of Cashel, Newgrange, Mizen Head (Cork coast), Connemara, stay in a farmhouse at least a couple of nights, & don’t spend too much time in Dublin — get out into the rest of the country.

More Posts About Ireland

Plan Your Trip to Ireland

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Tours in Ireland

45 thoughts on “Ireland Travel Tips (things to know before you go)”

    1. Hi Debbie,

      Ireland is one of our favorite destinations for sure. The people, the scenery and the atmosphere is all great. Glad you like the tips and hope you get to move it up the list real soon.

  1. Holy awesome-sauce!! This will be a great resource for us. We get to spend a few days in Dublin before we venture out to County Meath. That Guinness stew looks delicious. Cheers!

    1. Hey Pete,

      You will have an awesome time in Dublin and your other destinations. Jealous actually, after writing that post it brings back so many great memories. Enjoy.

  2. That sounds absolutely wonderful. Too bad about the blarney stone being peed on. I have to absolutely plan a trip to Ireland. Love the pictures too.

  3. I loved Ireland but I wish I had known about the literary pub crawl when I was there. That sounds like so much fun! I recommend Gallagher’s Boxty House in Temple Bar for some delicious boxty.

  4. Help!! i want to plan a trip to Ireland, the only thing i know is that i will fly into Dublin. I have 10 days and i want to see castles, moher cliffs , fishing villages , pubs etc… the typical im sure. I think i would like to stay in B&B’s and for sure a night in a castle and maybe a cottage. It will be a self guide trip. Does anyone know where i should start and average cost of a ten day trip?

    1. Is anyone going to comment here? πŸ˜€ This person could be us!!! Although we have been there already it was too short and we spent too much time in the car! Now we are going back for 11 days THERE and bringing good friends! This person asked all the questions we have in our heads!!! I think we ll go the Dublin to the west route this time….

      We ll check back soon!!! Love your blog and site!!!! Thanks much!!!!

    2. Hi Melodie,
      I’m not sure if I am too late with this but I came across this website when I was doing some research for my own and I think they may be of help to you :

      Then if you are in my neighbourhood we would love to see you avail of some of the many activities we have to offer in the West of Ireland :

      Happy travels – and don’t forget to pack a rain jacket, but sunglasses too πŸ™‚

  5. My closest friend and I will be traveling to Ireland in Sept, it was not on my bucket list to see, but flights into Dublin were the cheapest. By far much cheaper than flying into Italy. We decided to say a week there and explore the Emerald Isle, now I’m very excited to see the Isle. We are staying in one castle and B & B’s along the way. Just a little nervous about driving on the wrong side of the road, but that too will be part of the adventure. As a chef I am hoping to dine where the local dine, I know how to cook fancy foods, and don’t really want to eat it. I love good home cooking, eating in dives and tasting the real foods of countries. So where to?

    1. You will have such an amazing time Juanita. Ireland is so beautiful. Don’t worry about the driving, you’ll get used to it quite quickly. Just take your time with it. The roads aren’t too busy over there either.

  6. GAH!! This just gets me SO EXCITED to go this summer! And I’m glad to see that the three cities (Dublin, Galway, and Cork) I’m staying in have made the list

    1. I’m just hoping I can do it all via bus since I’ll be alone and I’m not even old enough to rent a car! haha

      1. Hi Bethany,
        Yes those 3 cities are the largest in Ireland so have good bus or train connections. It’s all linked by motorway now so travel times have been dramatically reduced as well. There is a bus company called Citylink who cover all 3 destinations.
        Happy Travels πŸ™‚

    2. I loved all 3 cities, but Cork is special. Check out the pub An Bodhran Bar 42 Oliver Plunkett Street, Cork. It’s amazing for craic and live music. Also, if you like beer, the Franciscan Well brewery / pub on North Mall. Wonderful!

  7. I loved Galway when I was there. By pure coincidence, I arrived just as Galway Arts Festival was beginning – awesome with music concerts lunchtime and evening, buskers, art and photograph galleries, street parade and a whole lot more.

    As an optional full day excursion from Galway, I was torn (time wise) between a circular tour of Connemara, which you cover in the excellent piece above, or The Burren, an alpine landscape in County Clare, South of Galway bay. This trip included a stop in Doolin and a visit to the cliffs of Moher. Highly recommended
    but (the Burren) not mentioned in your article. Lovely country, Ireland.

      1. The photos online of the Burren do not do it justice. I am so happy to have gone. Galway Tours has a great day trip from Galway City to the Cliffs of Moher for 25 euros. It goes through the Burren and lunches in Doolin. I highly recommend it. I’m pretty sure it’s the one Jon Dunn references.

    1. I wanted SO much to go, alas we were there in November and the weather was more than a bit blustery! There were wind advisories throughout our trip, and we were unable to make the ferry ride out. I will definitely do it next time over, though!

  8. Hi! I am trying to plan a trip to Ireland with my sister. We were thinking about going in March for St. Patricks day, Would March be a good time to go? I know it is not as warm as the summer and probably not as touristy, but we want to experience the real traditional Ireland whether and St. Patricks day. Do you recomend this as a good time to travel there?

    1. Sure! PAddy’s Day is awesome in Ireland. Just plan ahead for the dates around March 17 as it will be busy and things will be booked. It doesn’t matter too much about the weather in Ireland is its generally always wet and cold!!

  9. Just found your blog via Pinterest. Such great info. Question: where are the best places to stay for lodging? We would love to stay in a b&b or a hostel. The goal is to stay in Dublin but hopefully travel out and around the island. We aren’t going until next summer and it will be just my daughter and I (so I don’t want to stay in a dangerous area). Thank you!

    1. There are lots of great hostels in Dublin. The closer you are to the city the better. There won’t be any hostels in the dangerous areas. It’s been years since I stayed there so can’t recommend a place for you in case its changed

  10. I had the pleasure of going to Ireland, three times ,each time was a delight. I would certainly recommend the country to anyone.

    1. Cold and wet are most days. I learned quickly to not wear jeans that drag or touch the ground…the water wicks up quickly and it is miserable! As for dress, leggings and skinny jeans are common. Do dress in layers, take an umbrella or rainjacket and a scarf. Also a crossbody purse is a must, and guys should carry wallets and phones in front pockets. Enjoy your adventure!!! Ireland really is magical!

  11. I had no desire to see the Burren, until I was there. Oh! My! It is so beautiful and rugged. The photos online do it NO justice. I highly recommend the Galway Tour Company’s day tour to the Cliffs of Moher from Galway City. It is inexpensive and AMAZING, and takes you through the Burren and stops for lunch in Doolin for lunch. A fabulous day that gets you back to Galway City in time for dinner and an evening in Galway.

  12. If you have the time, go to Donegal. Slieve League cliffs are amazing as is Glenveagh Castle and National Park. The Inishowen Penninsula is beautiful with Malin Head and some ancient fort sites. Horn Head is also gorgeous as is the whole coast, really. Very charming towns that don’t see many tourists, so we were practically celebrities in the pubs! Lol. It really is worth the drive and so few people go.

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