The experts’ guide to Ireland

March 30, 2012

Europe

Ireland is comprised of 32 counties with 26 in The Republic with 6 in Northern Ireland. Each has a rich history and plenty to offer visitors.

Image via NASA Goddard Photo and Video

It’s a shame then that most opt for the most obvious tourists spots before enjoying a Guinness in Dublin. If you’re planning a trip to the Emerald Isle then we have some great advice from some wonderful bloggers who have been there and done it all before.

So next time you visit and get off the plane at Dublin Airport, don’t forget to explore beyond the immediate and discover more of the real Ireland with these fantastic suggestions.

Jody Halsted from Ireland with Kids

When I am contacted by families planning their first trip to Ireland I recommend they get out of Dublin and head to the Southwest part of the country.  Killarney is one of the most kid-friendly towns in Ireland.  Dozens of bed & breakfasts happily play host to families, serving thin Irish pancakes along side the full Irish breakfast.  One of our favorite B&Bs is Mystical Rose.

Image via Arrr!

Surrounding Killarney are dozens of incredible sites and activities.  Killarney National Park is over 25,000 acres of wide open spaces perfect for biking, walking or taking a ride in a jaunting cart.  Not far from Killarney, along N22, is Kennedy’s Pet Farm where children can get close to cuddly puppies, goats, deer and bunnies.  Indoor and outdoor play areas guarantee plenty of kid friendly active play.

Of course Killarney makes a great base for some of Ireland’s “must do” activities: a ring of Kerry Tour and day trips to Dingle, the Cliffs of Moher, the Rock of Cashel and Bunratty Castle.

Corey Taratuta from Irish Fireside

Image via Irish Typepad

I always recommend spending a few days in some of Ireland’s inland counties. Most visitors only pass through the inner parts of the Emerald Isle on their way to coastal destinations, so those who take the time to stop are treated to some often-missed treasures.

In County Kilkenny, you can eat your way through a lovely artisan food trail. A tour of nearby County Carlow’s gardens bursts with color any time of year but is especially vibrant in spring and summer. The ancient royal sites in County Roscommon once rivaled the Hill of Tara in importance. The County Fermanagh lakelands are a joy by land but a true adventure by boat.

Dave Coates from Travelwyse

Northern Ireland has a lot to offer outside the city limits. If you’ve reached the North via Belfast, you’re in luck. You can take the coast road through Antrim, on a good day one of the most beautiful drives in the country, never more than a few yards away from the Irish Sea.

Image via TS Drown

Once you’re up there you ought to talk a walk around the causeway coast. I’ve been round many’s a time in all kinds of weather, occasionally in the same day. If it’s sunny, grand; if it’s chucking it down, it’s one of the most spectacular stretches of landscape in Ireland. No matter what time of year you go, bring a raincoat.

While you’re in the area, you could always pop round to Bushmills distillery. If your game happens to be golf, you’re only minutes away from Royal Portrush itself, oft-frequented by our own Rory McIlroy. The course also has one of the most fun/challenging pitch and putt courses I’ve ever been round. Finally, head round to Portstewart for a selection of the best ice cream shops in the world. As ever, bring a coat.

Have you discovered some hidden wonders in Ireland? Tell us about them in the comments section below or come chat to us on Twitter @Travelwyse. 

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  • Greendragon

    My biggest pieces of advice – slow down and you can’t see everything. It’s a whole country, and a week or two isn’t going to allow you the time to see it ALL, no matter how much you want to. Plan as if you are coming back – you will, it’s addicting. Choose a couple bases, and explore them, and the areas around them. Find a pub and go a couple nights, you’ll get to know the patrons and feel welcomed. Enjoy Ireland, don’t fly through like a Green Blur.

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