How to Plan a Trip to Ireland

by  Yvonne Gordon | Apr 3, 2024
iStock/Carlos Gonzalez Moyo

It’s nicknamed the Emerald Isle because of its green fields and hills, but the island of Ireland is also home to thousands of miles of Atlantic coast. Add its steep cliffs, long beaches, ancient castles, cute villages, and rich history and culture, and you’ll understand what makes Ireland such a popular destination. Plus, it’s easy to get to, small enough to see much of in a week or two, and there are plenty of suitable bases even if you only have two or three days to visit.

When planning a trip, take into account what time of year is best to visit, how you'll get around, what you’d like to see, and the type of place you’d like to stay in, and make your plans accordingly. 

Here are some things to consider when planning your trip to Ireland:

Where To Go in Ireland

Leonid Andronov/iStock

Many people start with a day or two in the capital city, Dublin on the east coast, and then travel south to historic cities like Kilkenny and Cork before moving southwest or west to take in some of the rugged scenery of the Wild Atlantic Way

County Kerry in the southwest is known for its rugged peninsulas like the Ring of Kerry and Dingle, while to the north is Co Clare with its limestone landscape of The Burren. Galway city is a hub of live music and also a gateway for the three Aran Islands that lie offshore in Galway Bay. 


Sligo and Donegal in the northwest are known for their beaches for surfing and long walks, while the coast of Northern Ireland is home to gems like the Giant’s Causeway, an unusual rock formation, and the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge that stretches across a wide chasm.

The Best Time To Visit Ireland


The warmest weather is during the summer months, particularly in July and August, however, this is also the high season when children are on school holidays, prices tend to be highest, and accommodation is busiest, especially on bank holiday weekends. 

Look at prices and availability for April or May or after the schools have gone back in early to mid-September if being more budget-friendly is a priority and you don’t mind slightly cooler temperatures.

No matter what time of year you visit, expect rain and some wind. Always bring rain gear, comfortable walking shoes, and something warm to wear if the temperatures turn cool — which they can do, even in high season.

How To Get Around Ireland


The Republic of Ireland has a fairly decent bus network (Bus Eireann) and train system (Irish Rail) — but these are best suited for traveling between the main cities rather than visiting the attractions and sights dotted around the countryside. If you want to visit smaller towns and villages, explore remote beaches and headlands, or take in some of the big attractions that are not in main towns, hiring a car or joining a small bus tour is your best option.

If you’re using public transport for your visit, choose a base, for example, Dublin, Galway, or Killarney, and then sign up for some day tours from that location to make sure you don’t miss any of the important sights, keeping a day or two to explore within the town or city

If you’re driving, don’t forget that driving in Ireland is on the left, and speeds on road signs are in kilometers. Some rural roads can be narrow, so take your time if unsure. If you’re cycling, try to pick trails and areas that are not on main roads as space can be limited.

The Best Things To See and Do in Ireland


The Wild Atlantic Way stretches 1,500 miles from County Cork in the south to Co Donegal in the northwest (or vice versa), covering everything from historic forts and castles to beaches, cliffs, islands, and lighthouses. Don’t try to do the route all in one go — pick one area and spend a few days exploring its historic sights, traditional pubs, and local food trails.

For example, in County Kerry, you might like to spend a full day driving the Ring of Kerry or the Dingle Peninsula, stopping off at beaches, small cafes, and Wild Atlantic viewpoints along the way. Look for souvenirs such as woolens or tweeds in Killarney town and check out local whiskeys, cheeses, and crafts like pottery.

Dawid Kalisinski Photography/iStock

Also in the west, don’t miss the Cliffs of Moher, which stretch along the County Clare Coast. And if you visit County Galway, take a ferry for a day or two to Inis Mór, one of the three Aran Islands, for an insight into Irish tradition and culture. 

In Dublin city, popular attractions include Trinity College and the Book of Kells Experience, and the Guinness Storehouse, where you can find out how the famous black stuff is made before you drink a pint of it while enjoying 360-degree views of the city.

North of Dublin in Co Meath, the ancient sites in Brú na Boinne include the 5,000-year-old passage tomb at Newgrange, which you can enter on a tour. The chamber of the tomb lights up with sunlight during the winter solstice once a year.

No matter where you are in Ireland, you’ll likely often stumble upon traditional Irish music sessions in pubs in the evening — ask at your accommodation for local tips and timings.

Where to Stay in Ireland 

Courtesy of Great Lighthouses

There are all types of accommodations, from luxury five-star hotels in ancient castles, like the famous Ashford Castle in County Mayo, to comfortable mid-range chain hotels or more basic hostels.

B&Bs are found throughout the countryside and are a good affordable option with a warm welcome and a traditional Irish breakfast that will set you up for the day. 

For something more unusual, check out Great Lighthouses, where you can choose among a range of former lightkeepers’ houses that are now available as rental accommodations.

There are plenty of campsites around the coast too, for caravans, campervans, and tents. Glamping is also becoming popular and you can find all types of glamping opportunities, in everything from wooden pods in fields to luxury safari-style tents and see-through bubbles in a forest.

What Languages Are Spoken in Ireland?


English is the day-to-day language in Ireland, spoken by all of the population and an official language. Irish is recognized as the other official language, so you’ll see signage, place names, and road signs in both English and Irish. If you’re traveling in the west of Ireland, you’re very likely to pass through an Irish-speaking area, called a Gaeltacht, at some stage. Here, place names and even the road signs are all in Irish. 

What Currency Does Ireland Use?


Ireland is a member of the European Union and the country uses the euro as currency. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and uses British pounds.

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