Ireland is a hugely popular vacation destination for travellers from all over the world. Rolling green hills, quaint villages, scenic drives, historic castles and friendly residents make this an ideal destination, especially for English speakers on their first time abroad! Regardless of your age, travel style, budget or travel experience, there is something for everyone in Ireland.
Ireland for Travelers in Their 20’s
Ireland is a great destination for young travellers, looking to head abroad for the first time. The country is small enough that you can travel around and get a good feel for the land and the culture, regardless of how long you are able to stay in Ireland.
You’ll likely start in Dublin, the hub of Ireland’s pub culture. Home of Trinity College, with over 2,200 students, you will find a very young atmosphere and lots of budget options for lodging and eating, especially late-night kebabs, chips and curries for post-pub refuelling. Of course, a visit to Dublin is not complete without a trip to the Guinness Storehouse. Public transportation is reliable and inexpensive throughout Dublin and to the rest of Ireland as well.
Straight across from Dublin, on the West coast of Ireland, is Galway, another popular destination for visitors. Galway is a port town with colourful pubs, live music and entertainment every day. It’s a haven for students, writers, artists and others, and is a very walkable city so it’s easy to get around once you’ve arrived.
One of the most unique aspects of Irish culture is the presence of pub accommodations. About 8% of Irish pubs offer accommodation, which is a fun way to travel throughout the country. In fact, you can build an entire Ireland road trip itinerary around pubs that offer overnight lodging. Spend your days driving through Ireland’s quaint villages, stopping at scenic views, arriving at your destination in the late afternoon to enjoy a few pints, a pub meal and then just crawl right upstairs to your room for the night! This is a great option for a girl’s getaway or guy’s trip!
Ireland for Families with Small Children
For families with small children, you will be pleased to find that there is more to Ireland than Guinness and historical attractions! In fact, you’ll find plenty of family-friendly fun where ever you go in Ireland. A road trip is still a great way to see the country, but you’ll want to alter your itinerary based on how much your kids enjoy being in the car! A good suggestion is to try and find accommodation with swimming pools, so there is a reward at the end of the day!
Starting in Dublin, the Natural History Museum is free, so you can take a spin and see if any of the animals and skeletons on display are of interest to your children. Dublinia recreates Ireland from the medieval Viking days, complete with dress-up costumes for the whole family. There is also the Imaginosity Children’s Museum, and The Ark, in Temple Bar, a space dedicated to teaching art to children. Dublin also has many parks and green spaces, such as St Stephens green, where the kids can run and play. A great place to burn off energy and fight jet-lag!
Moving along towards Cork, there is the Fota Island Wildlife Park, one of Ireland’s top ten attractions! Unlike a typical zoo, the park features animals that can be left in a free-range environment to walk around freely within the park. Just an hour from Cork, the Killarney region has much to offer as well. Killarney National Park has hiking, Muckross House is a 19th-century mansion with a shop, cafe and a working farm. Kennedy’s Animal Farm is a petting zoo with river walks and indoor and outdoor playgrounds.
The Dingle peninsula is a must for any Ireland itinerary, and there is an aquarium there to entertain the kids. Dingle is a fun town for exploring on foot, and a great place to grab fish and chips for dinner.
Near Shannon and Limerick is the Bunratty Castle & Folk Park, a restored 15th-century castle claimed to be the most complete and authentic medieval castle in Ireland. Medieval banquets are held in the evenings for the public to enjoy. The Folk Park and gardens also harken back to earlier days through a restored village and gardens.
Ireland for Experienced Travelers (middle-age)
Experienced travellers with a bit more in the travel budget can appreciate some of the finer destinations in Ireland, with more upscale accommodations, world-class golf courses and, surprisingly, fine dining. There are 11 restaurants in Ireland with at least one Michelin star, including Wild Honey Inn in County Clare that was the first Irish pub to receive a star! Of course, Dublin will have a higher concentration of fine dining and luxury accommodations, but there are many gems to found in the countryside and other cities like Galway, Kilkenny and Belfast.
There are over 4,000 castles in Ireland. A popular and luxurious way to see Ireland is to stay in some of these restored castles throughout the country. You can make the arrangements yourself for each stop along your Ireland itinerary, or you can use a booking agent to arrange every last detail for you.
Ashford Castle, located in County Mayo, north of Galway, is an outstanding example of Irish luxury. This former home of the Guinness family was recently restored to the tune of $75 million, to become one of the leading hotels in the world. You’ll also have access to one of Ireland’s top spas, and outdoor activities such as falconry or horseback riding.
In the village of Adare, County Limerick, you’ll find Adare Manor, one of Ireland’s top 5-star luxury hotels. Just 45km from Shannon airport (often a good alternative to Dublin) the manor is set on 840 acres that encompass the hotel, a golf resort, villas and townhomes. Each room has a river, golf course or garden view.
While nearby Scotland is best known for golf, Ireland has its fair share of gorgeous courses as well. There are several top 100 courses within an hour of Dublin airport or Shannon airport. Playing a round of golf upon arrival is a great way to stave off the inevitable jet-lag!
Ireland for Baby Boomers
Perhaps you are newly retired or just enjoying your golden years through travel. Many seniors prefer to leave the planning and driving to the professionals and enjoy the luxury of just going along for the ride. There are many types of tour options in Ireland, from fast-paced “cover the whole country” tours to specialized tours with companies such as CIE Tours focusing on cuisine, golf or other interests. With a recent upsurge in DNA testing and genealogy research, ancestral tours of Ireland have also become very popular for those with Irish ancestry. If you have a strong Irish lineage, you might be able to track down the family estate or find the family crest. Whatever kind of tour you choose, be sure to check with the agency to make sure the activity level matches your ability. Some tours may include lots of walking on cobblestone streets, while others may focus on easily accessible viewpoints along the way.
Self-guided tours are always an option as well, however, be aware that the maximum age to rent a car in Ireland is 75, with a surcharge for any drivers over the age of 70! It is possible to do a combination of travel types, using the national bus or railway system to travel between the very walkable cities of Dublin. From there, day-trips can be booked with tour agencies.