Kylemore abbey visiting Ireland

8 Travel Tips for Visiting Ireland

This post was most recently updated on December 14th, 2020

1. Be Brave And Rent A Car

If you’re coming from North America like us, you can’t imagine how narrow the roads really are. We affectionately referred to them as the bike paths.

Our first mistake though, was letting our car rental company upgrade us to a larger car. Bad idea!

Even this car was too large for certain roads.

For some reason, Ireland has a ton of roundabouts. Knowing this ahead of time, we watched a few YouTube video’s about other driver’s mishaps. Besides being hilarious, this helped us a bit for driving the roundabouts.

Plus driving on the opposite side of the road made things even more interesting. This is where having a navigator certainly comes in handy.

We also found out when we were searching car rental places in Ireland that most of the cars are manual. For us, paying the extra for an automatic was a life saver.

I was in charge of signalling and letting Jerry know which lane we should be in. While he tried to drive the narrow roads without hitting anything.

In the end, we still wouldn’t have traded our experience and freedom we had by renting a car. This is most definitely the way to go. You’ll get to discover more of the out of the way places that a bus or train can’t go.

2. Stay At A Few Airbnb’s

Staying at the Airbnb’s was definitely one of the highlights of our trip! There is no better way to get a feel for the country than staying with one of the locals in their own home.

We had a private cottage at one, and even a castle at another. It’s completely true what they say about the Irish. Their hospitality and sense of humour can’t be beat.

Also it’s a great way to get caught up on your laundry if you’ve been travelling for a while. We made sure to look for accommodations that included a washer and dryer about every 5 days.

Some of our favourite Airbnb’s were Peter’s Castle in Galway, and Riona’s cottage near Killarney. Click here to get up to $129 off your first stay with Airbnb.

A medieval castle over 600 years old
Riona’s cosy cottage

3. Ring Of Kerry

The Ring of Kerry is a circular driving route in the south western part of Ireland. Driving along here you’ll find even more amazing scenery around every corner.

The drive is 179 km long all together. We loved all the woolly sheep we’d see high on the hills.

Torc waterfall

The Ring of Kerry is also where you’ll find Killarney National Park, Ross Castle and Molls Gap. We took a side trip around Skellig Ring. An even more white knuckle kind of drive, but totally worth it.

You won’t find any tour buses on this road. And for good reason! At some points I wondered how our car would make it through the narrow openings. But this is one of the reasons we were glad we had rented a car. The view is amazing!

We only had time for a day in the area. But if you have longer, there are places to stay on the Skellig Ring. Plus a delicious seafood restaurant called The Moorings that’s worth checking out.

4. Cliffs Of Moher And The Burren

The Burren in Western Ireland will make you feel like you’ve landed on the moon.

The Burren

Over near the Burren are the Cliffs of Moher. If you don’t have a lot of time in Ireland, make sure to get out of Dublin to see these famous cliffs.

There are plenty of tour companies that you can arrange a day trip to go see them. Buses galore were lined up while we were there.  The trip will be approximately a 3 hour bus ride each way.

After viewing the Cliffs, we went underground to see the Doolin Cave, home of a 23 foot stalactite. This would have taken years to grow that size, since a stalactite is known to grow at a rate of 10 centimetres every thousand years. Unreal!

5. Castles And Mansions

Ireland is known for their abundance of castles. They say there are over 1000 spread out on the island. One of our favourites was the Kilkenny Castle.

A symbol of the medieval town

In southern Ireland you’ll find the Bantry House and Gardens. It’s an 18th century mansion with incredible architecture. I was ready to move right in. With a view like that out over the water, who wouldn’t want to.

You can stay there for the night, or take one of their day tours. We had amazing 20 degree weather when we were there. Perfect for strolling the grounds after.

People that we met kept telling us how it rains a lot in Ireland. But I guess we came at the right time.  In April we had nothing but sunshine and warm temperatures every day for two weeks.

Bantry House
Bantry Gardens

Also another one of our favourites was the Powercourt Estate and Gardens. Just the gardens alone are worth a visit. It’s about an hour drive south from Dublin. This would be a great idea for a short day trip out of the city.

Powercourt Estate
Powercourt Estate Gardens

6. Dinner In A Pub

Your trip to Ireland wouldn’t be complete without experiencing dinner in a traditional pub. On most weekends you can hear the traditional Irish music playing.

This is where we would often hear Irish Gaelic being spoken. And we noticed all the road signs in Ireland included English and Irish Gaelic written on them.

The Irish stew was perfect with soda bread and a Guinness while these guys entertained us.

7. Visit The Walled City

Londonderry (also called Derry) is a walled city built in the 1600’s. And the only city left in Ireland with a wall completely around it.

We visited the Tower Museum first to learn some of the history of Londonderry.  It was one of our favourite attractions in the city.

You hear the story of the city from its origin to the present day. The tour was much more than we expected. Very fascinating!

Troy Hall, our BnB for the night
Jerry walking around the wall

8. Giants Causeway

In northern Ireland there are thousands of unusual hexagonal-shaped pillars. They are all located at a World Heritage Site called Giants Causeway.

A guide takes your group out to the rock formations. Then you can return at your own leisure. And if you’re feeling up to the climb, there are 4 hiking trails for a view up higher.  We could have spent the whole day there. The views are unbelievable!

Believed to be the result of an ancient volcanic eruption

We had an amazing 11 days driving around Ireland. If you ever get the chance to go, definitely rent a car. There are so many unique, out of the way places to see that you wouldn’t get to discover otherwise.

11 Days wasn’t quite enough time to make it completely around Ireland. Three weeks would be perfect. It just gives us another reason to go back and visit the Emerald Isle again.

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  1. Rachel Ennis

    I like the sound of staying in that Tower House. I’ll have to look it up. Might be on the cards for later in the year.

    1. Kimberley

      It was definitely one of the highlights of our trip! Ireland is such a beautiful country. You won’t regret it!

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