Visiting Ireland is one of the joys of travelling in this side of the world. Blessed with incredible natural scenery, lively cities, fascinating history and extremely friendly people, a trip to the Emerald Isle is one that will be remembered for years to come. For such a small country, the Republic of Ireland has so much to offer travellers and one could easily spend months traversing around and feel as if they’ve barely scratched the surface.
So whether you’re keen to while away sipping Guinness in a cosy country pub, visit some of the most wild and stunning natural scenery in Europe or explore some dynamic and exciting cities, this Ireland travel guide will help you plan the ideal trip to the Emerald Isle catered to your wants and needs.
Planning an Ireland Route
As a relatively diminutive country, you would be forgiven for thinking that planning a route through Ireland would be easy. However, Ireland has so much to offer visitors that if you’re only able to set away a short amount of time, it can be tricky to map out the ideal itinerary that checks all the boxes on the Emerald Isle.
Whether you’re spending a week and want to visit Dublin and the highlights on the Ring of Kerry or you want to plan an epic road trip along the entirety of the Wild Atlantic Way, the guides below will help you plan the perfect itinerary that will suit your wants and travel style!
Places to Visit in Ireland
Ireland has a wealth of incredible places to visit. From the international and metropolitan vibes of Dublin to the wilds of County Donegal and everywhere in between, Ireland has something different to offer around every corner. If you’re looking for some specific area guides for your trip to the Emerald Isle, then the articles below should help to point you in the right direction.
Dublin & Surrounds
The Republic of Ireland’s capital city of Dublin is a bustling and vibrant city that excellently merges both modern and historic sites. An absolute joy to explore, there is so much to see and do in Dublin that it is so worth it to carve out a few days of your itinerary to dedicate to exploring the Irish capital.
Not only does Dublin have a lot to offer, but there is a lot to explore immediately surrounding the city so it can be very much worth taking a day trip or two. The guides below will help you plan out your time in Dublin and the surrounding area to ensure you have the best time possible.
Counties Cork & Kerry
Located in the southwest of Ireland, County Cork and County Kerry are some of the most popular places to visit in the entirety of Ireland. Home to some of the country’s most beautiful natural scenery, iconic driving routes and the Republic of Ireland’s second-largest city, this is a great area of the country to head to for first-time visitors to the Emerald Isle.
As the beginning (or ending) point of the Wild Atlantic Way and home to such driving routes as the Ring of Kerry and the Slea Head Drive, County Cork and County Kerry are perfect for those looking to explore Ireland’s wild natural scenery at its best. However, if you’re looking for cool cities, quaint towns and historic castles to take in, you’ll find them here as well!
Situated in west-central Ireland, County Galway is one of the most incredible places to visit in the entire country. Galway City has a small-town feel with the amenities of a large city and it is an excellent jumping-off point for exploring some nearby iconic sites – such as the Cliffs of Moher, the Aran Islands and the Connemara Peninsula.
There’s a lot to see and do in County Galway beyond the city so it can be worth taking the time to explore the rural areas as well as the urban. You’re sure to be blessed with interesting culture, gorgeous scenery and quaint towns as you wind your way through County Galway.
Counties Mayo & Donegal
Located on the northwest coast of Ireland, the counties of Mayo, Sligo and Donegal don’t get near the amount of attention from international visitors as counties further south.
This really is a shame as they have so much to offer visitors. From some of the most beautiful beaches you’ll experience in your lifetime to charming small towns to true jaw-dropping natural sites, this is the area to visit in Ireland if you want to get a bit off the beaten path and avoid large crowds of tourists.
County Donegal is a fantastic place to visit if you want alternatives to the popular sites like the Cliffs of Moher and the Ring of Kerry drive – visit the Sleave League Cliffs and drive the Inishowen 100 instead.
Similarly, County Mayo offers a lot of interesting history and gorgeous pastoral escapes. From bustling Westport to the laid-back nature of Achill Island, consider a trip to these lesser-visited counties to get a holistic experience of the Emerald Isle.
Though this Ireland travel guide focuses on the highlights and sites in the Republic of Ireland, it is easy to tack on a trip to Northern Ireland as a part of your itinerary.
Northern Ireland is gorgeous and full of interesting places to visit where you can really take time to learn about the modern history of the island of Ireland. From exploring cities like Belfast and Derry to seeing the highlights of the Causeway Coast, consider visiting Northern Ireland on your trip to the Emerald Isle.
Best Time to Visit Ireland
What time of year should you plan your trip to Ireland? Is there a season that’s better to visit than others? In general, this really depends on what you’re after. Ireland experiences a relatively temperate climate where it doesn’t get too cold, however, it never really gets all the warm either. And obviously, there are variations and anomalies throughout the year, you can count on weather averages when it comes to planning out your trip.
The summer months of June through August are going to be the most popular times to visit Ireland. If you’re visiting in the summer, make sure to plan well in advance when it comes to booking things like accommodation and a rental car and things can book out quickly. You also will have some serious crowds at more popular places to contend with.
On the other hand, this is where you will get the most consistent good weather – such as it exists in Ireland. Expect long days with late sunsets (as late as 10PM) and average highs of around 18-20°C (64-68°F). Of course, always ensure that you prepare for rain – it is Ireland, after all!
Conversely, winter in Ireland can be dark, grey and cold. Expect highs to average around 9°C (48°F) and lows to clock in just above freezing. While it isn’t an everyday occurrence, there is also always a possibility of snow. Expect short days in the wintertime, as well, with sunset happening at around 4PM in December. This is something to keep in mind if you’re planning a trip around maximising activities.
Winter sees the fewest visitors so this can be a good time to visit popular sites with a fraction of the crowds, however, some places that are tourist-centric will close or have limited hours in the off-season.
Visiting Ireland in the spring and autumn can give you the best of both worlds. The days aren’t as short and the temperatures are mild. Expect high temperatures to average about 12-14°C (54-57°F) and prepare for plenty of rain by packing a good, waterproof jacket and some sturdy shoes.
The shoulder seasons don’t see crowds to the same level as in the summer months, however, they will still be busier than in the winter.
Cost of Travelling to Ireland
A key factor in planning any trip to the Emerald Isle is going to be your budget – how much is this epic trip going to cost? While Ireland certainly isn’t the cheapest destination to visit in Europe (particularly Dublin) it doesn’t have to break the bank if you know where and how to spend your money.
The guides below will help give you an understanding of the prices in Ireland and allow you to prepare the ideal budget for your trip!
Transportation in Ireland
So how do you plan to get around while visiting Ireland? Well, if you’re travelling independently and are keen to head to rural areas outside of the major cities, you are likely going to need to rent a car.
While Ireland does have a good bus and train system that connects some major areas, you’re going to be able to get the most out of your trip if you hire a car and self-drive.
Keep in mind that Ireland – like the UK, Cyprus and Malta – drives on the left side of the road so this is something to adjust to if you’re not used to it. However, it’s not as daunting as you may think and it only takes a minute or two behind the wheel to get the hang of it.
Ireland is also covered with small, narrow country roads. Keep this in mind when mapping out driving times – it takes a lot longer to drive shorter distances than you may be used to! However, you will find that the vast majority of drivers on the roads are patient and courteous so just take your time and be observant.
If you want to hire a car in Ireland, we suggest browsing through RentalCars.com. This platform aggregates all prices on car hire across major rental companies, ensuring you can get a great deal.
Planning a trip to the Emerald Isle is a wonderful experience and it’s sure to stay alive in your memories for decades to come. Whether you can only go on a week-long whistle-stop tour or have several weeks to explore deeply and at your leisure, hopefully, this Ireland travel guide has helped point you in the right direction. One thing is for certain, a visit to Ireland is never a bad idea.