July 7, 2011

0 Seven Tips for Visiting the Republic of Ireland

1.  Have a car.  Unless you want to stay in Dublin, or bus (coach) between major cities and tourist sites, a car will come in very handy.  If you do rent a car- drive on the left!!

2. Do your site-planning ahead of time.  Ireland's historic sites don't seem to be as well organized as England or Scotland's, so be sure you know your site's hours and days open.  One thing we found out halfway through our trip was that many of the sites we saw were Heritage Ireland sites.  Sadly, the first three Heritage Ireland sites we saw had no markings of being such, so we didn't know to get a membership and save some money.  One other thing we found out by chance was that Heritage Ireland sites were free on Wednesdays for the summer.  Luckily, we were already planning a couple of them that day!

3. Ask for help, suggestions, etc.  The Irish are a friendly people, and happy to show off their country.  Feel free to ask for restaurant recommendations, sites to see, or tips for...

4. Festivals!! Ireland is rampant with festivals, and there is no better way to experience another country's greatest thrills, celebrations, and events.  We were planning on attending Clonmel Day, which happens to fall during the Junction Festival.  We looked at the plays that were on for the night we were there and asked for recommendations- and saw one of the funniest plays either of us has ever seen, Cheery Wild Production's Love All!

5. Be ready to eat!  While Ireland is (very, very) expensive, the food is worth it.  From seafood to Chinese to traditional Irish to Italian, every meal we ate was wonderful.  We ate at a couple of restaurants recommended by our Rough Guide travel book, a few places recommended by our B & B hosts or locals, and many we just stumbled across at hungry moments- and they were ALL great!

6. Do some of the more obvious sites, even if you're feeling "too cool".  Blarney Castle is surprisingly pleasant and well run, and the Waterford factory is a marvel in skill and creativity.  Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula offer beautiful vistas and coasts as well as charming villages.  While we were disappointed with Bunratty, which our 1000 Places to See Before You Die book lists with Blarney as the best castles in Ireland, we found most of the more well-known sites to be quite pleasing. 

7.  Don't be afraid to venture off the beaten path- while Charleville Castle wasn't open to the public, it does have a beautiful exterior.  Cahir Castle and Jerpoint Abbey are lesser known sites, although not hidden, and there were only 2-4 other people at each site whilst we were there.  Kylemore Abbey is fairly known, but a good ways from any other sites/towns.  Despite this, it's worth the drive, as the roads through Connemara display some of Ireland's greatest landscapes. 

As the little girl on our ferry said "Ireland, YAY!"  Enjoy your trip!

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