Are you planning a trip to Ireland? Read on for some intriguing reasons to choose Ireland for your next holiday, plus inspiration for planning your trip to the Emerald Isle.
When I think about Ireland it’s as if a magic comes over me. The thought of deep green rolling hillsides, quaint villages, (like those I’m familiar with in England) and ghosts. grand dynasties and Irish music makes me search for Ireland vacation packages which take in beautiful and historical places of interest.
I’ve visited Ireland once and can’t wait to return. In fact for me there are many reasons for planning a trip to Ireland because it’s just so different to everything West Australian.
We’re thinking of a trip to Europe at the end of this year and Ireland is very much on our bucket list of countries to visit, so we’ve been doing a little research to get the excitement going for our Ireland itinerary, and I hope you might be inspired too.
Why visit Ireland? Reasons to choose Ireland for your next holiday.
For me the very thought of Ireland conjures up ancient legends, ruined castles, magical myths and dramatic scenery that changes every few miles.
I’ve seen photos of plunging cliffs, brooding mountains, emerald green pastures, spooky bogs and sandy beaches, and in my minds eye I’ve eaten fish and chips served piping hot in a paper bag while sitting outside a quaint Irish pub drinking a pint of Guiness.
In fact, tick – I’ve already done that in Cobh, Ireland but more of that later 🙂
So what intrigues me most about visiting Ireland on holiday?
When planning a trip to Ireland, what is it that really gets me interested?
It’s the diversity of Ireland which I think is so appealing and this is one of the main reasons for choosing Ireland for a holiday, But then there’s that magical ingredient that’s wrapped up into Irish hospitality and the Irish brogue and laughter too.
Already I can vouch for the amazing and charming Irish hospitality.
We spent time in County Cork when our Ireland trip itinerary on a Sea Princess World Cruise included a stop in Cobh where the hospitality was amazing.
The ship was met with a town bedecked with colourful flower arrangements. Plus, Irish and Australian flags were flying in celebration of their Australia day recognising the strong ties between Cobh and Australia.
Everyone was so friendly. There was live music in the pubs and there might even have been dancing in the streets later on in the day. People stopped to say hello and when the ship sailed we made our way on deck to look down on a band and the townsfolk who had all gathered to wave Sea Princess goodbye.
It was quite emotional as we heard the band play …
“When Irish eyes are smiling, the world seems bright and gay, the lilt of Irish laughter can take your troubles away,”
… and we moved slowly out of the harbour and waived goodbye to what had been the most wonderful day where we were shown such magical Irish hospitality and fun for life.
Heritage towns and villages
Ireland is choc-a-bloc with pretty as a picture towns and villages which aren’t museums but which are like living history. The sort made for movie screens or picture postcards and biscuit tins. Dingle, Adare, Kenmare, Cobh and the list goes on.
Here’s an article with dreamy photos about 5 Towns and Villages you should visit in Ireland by Hand Luggage Only.
Castles in Ireland
Castles – oh so many that I’d like to visit and photograph. Gothic, stately, maybe haunted. I want to see them all and conjure up stories suited to my writerly imagination about brave kings, feisty knights and beautiful maidens. I want to visit the dungeons and shiver-me-timbers, shudder in awe about the dastardly days gone by.
According to this article about The Best Castles to see in Ireland, there’s no shortage.
In fact there are approximately a thousand castles spread throughout the island. Many are in ruins but you’ll definitely want to see a Medieval castle or two while you’re there. If you are not into abandoned ivy clad ruins then you could choose one with rooms intact with royal furniture, or perhaps even stay in a castle? I know I want to!
The Blarney Castle
I’ve heard that the 15th Century Blarney Castle in County Cork is one of the most visited castles in Ireland and famous for the Blarney Stone. The legend says that if you kiss the Blarney Stone you’ll be granted the ‘gift of the gab’ or eternal eloquence. I’ve just noticed that Blarney Stone = BS which could amount to being gifted the art of talking something quite different!
Interesting facts if you’re planning a trip to Ireland
Did you know that Lismore Castle was once home to Sir Walter Raleigh who is said to have introduced the potato to Ireland?
I didn’t know that Cahir Castle in County Tipperary featured in the opening scenes of the film Excalibur – loved that movie.
Here’s a fascinating fact that I never knew ..
Before the Age of Discovery, The Dingle Peninsula was believed to be the edge of the known world. Dingle is the most westerly point in Europe and amazingly this area has the largest concentration of ancient monument inIreland and incredible scenery. The drive around the coast is chic-a-bloc with museums, ancient sites, photo opportunities and walks. Let’s Go!
There are so many natural wonders in so small an island.
I’d love to see The Cliffs of Moher that soar 200m above the Atlantic Ocean, or maybe drive along the wild Atlantic Way. I’d like to visit Skellig Michael which is home to a 6th century monastery, and drive along the Healy Pass in Cork for views of mountains, lakes and the picturesque Beara peninsula.
In her post Unique Things to do in Ireland, Janet says that driving the Healy Pass in Cork is one of the must-do’s if you’re visiting Ireland.
“It’s Ireland as you always imagined it, dreamed it or saw glimpses of in the movies. The winding road that connects Cork with Kerry is known as the Healy pass and is one of the most beautiful parts of the country.” Janet says.
Ireland has an abundance of ancient monuments, so you won’t be disappointed by either its natural wonders or it’s historic man made edifices.
In the article 21 of the very best things to do in Ireland by The Planet D, Dave and Deb suggest visiting Kylemore Abbey in Connemara, County Galway.
“A mere hundred and fifty years old it was originally built as a private residence for a wealthy doctor from England and then as an estate for the Duke and Duchess of Manchester in 1909.
In 1920, the Irish Benedictine Nuns purchased the castle after fleeing Belgium in WWI.”
Or how about …
“The Poulandrone Portal Tomb located in the Burren which dates back to 4200 BC and 2900 BC.
Up to 22 adults and 6 children were placed in this ancient tomb. Tall stone slabs guard the portal supporting a giant capstone.”
The Planet D
Castles to stay in Ireland
I was checking out CIE Coach Tours and saw that they include some of the best castles to stay in Ireland.
Dromoland Castle is now a luxury 5 Star Hotel. It’s about 53km from the famous Cliffs of Moher, a must see if you’re visiting Ireland.
Dromoland Castle is one of the most famous baronial castles in Ireland. It was the ancestral home of the O’Briens, Barons of Inchiquin, one of the few native Gaelic families of royal blood. They are direct descendants of Brian Boroimhe (Boru), High King of Ireland in the 11th century, renowned for his defeat of the Danes in 1014.
Medieval Ashford Castle was founded in 1228 by the Anglo-Norman de Burgo family. It has survived over seven centuries. Donated to the Irish government by the Guinness family in 1915, it was bought and turned into a hotel by Noel Huggard in 1939.
Dunboyne Castle Hotel
Dunboyne Castle was once home to The Butlers of Dunboyne. The original Castle on the Dunboyne Estate was destroyed during the Cromwellian invasion of Ireland as a result of the family’s refusal to convert to Protestantism. The Georgian house of today, which is now a hotel, was completed in 1764 by Drogheda architect George Darley.
The last of the Butlers to reside in the Castle was the 22nd Baron of Dunboyne John Butler, Catholic Bishop of Cork.
Cabra Castle Hotel
The original Cabra Castle dates back to 1699. There are ruins which still stand on high ground above the Wishing Well – not far from Cromwell’s Bridge.
The castle, and the land surrounding it, is believed to have belonged to the O’Reilly Family until it was confiscated in the mid 17th Century by Cromwell’s orders and given to Colonel Thomas Cooch, grandson to Sir Thomas Cooch K.C. who had migrated to Donegal in the 17th century having been granted 1,000 acres by James I.
The Royal Marine Hotel
The Royal Marine was built in 1863 but dates back to 1828. This luxury hotel looks more like a castle. The hotel was purchased by William Dargan, builder of the first Railway in Ireland between Dublin and Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire).
The Royal Marine Hotel has hosted Heads of State, Kings, Queens and celebrities including Frank Sinatra, Laurel & Hardy and Charlie Chaplin. The British Queen Victoria visited Ireland via Dun Laoghaire and enjoyed a 16 course breakfast in the hotel shortly after arriving. The Irish freedom fighter Michael Collins is believed to have hidden out in Room 210 with his partner Kitty Kiernan.
There’s something so jolly and quaint about an Irish pub – and let’s not forget the music too. To hear the strains of an Irish jig wafting from the door of a pub is an inviting signal to go in.
The readers and writers amongst us will of course love the literary side of Ireland, and funnily enough this might include visiting a pub or too for writerly history. In the post Top 10 things to do in Ireland and Northern Ireland from National Geographic, I read that …
“Many literary figures have called Dublin home, and all had a favorite pub where they spent a great deal of non-writing time … Revolutionary leader Michael Collins drank at The Old Stand, and James Joyce drank at Davy Byrnes as a student, later setting an episode in Ulysses in the pub in which Leopold Bloom has a Gorgonzola sandwich and a glass of Burgundy. In this UNESCO City of Literature, visitors can also take in the Dublin Writers Museum and the James Joyce Centre; take part in Bloomsday (June 16) festivities that follow events in Joyce’s Ulysses; visit Oscar Wilde’s statue reclining on a boulder in Merrion Square; and attend the Dublin Writers Festival in May to catch up with current authors”.
Songs, Merriment and Much Laughter in Cobh
So back to our time in Cobh, which really started my love affair with Ireland.
As Cobh came into view from Sea Princess it seemed as if there was terrace upon terrace of colourful houses all stacked up on top of each other rising up the hillside.
Standing prominently at the top was St Coleman’s Cathedral, its Gothic spire towering above the town. Even with the dark cloudy skies and dull light the town looked colourful and inviting.
We walked up an impossibly steep street leading from the quay past a row of multi-coloured terraced houses that looked as if they were built on top of each other and later I found out that these are known in the town as The Deck of Cards.
From Cobh harbour millions of Irish people migrated to the New World and I learnt that Cobh was the embarkation point for many Irish people seeking new lives ‘down under’, many of whom were sent from Spike Island to the (then) penal colonies for petty crimes.
Cobh was also the last port of call for The Titanic.
The Titanic Experience
The Titanic Experience is an interactive museum which takes you back to the fated journey of the Titanic, and I think this is a must-do if you are visiting Ireland.
When you buy your ticket you’re allocated one of the 123 passengers who embarked on the Titanic from Ireland bound for America and suddenly everything becomes very real.The experience takes you in a virtual way through embarkation, then into replicas of First Class and Third Class cabins, and a dining area complete with menus.
Finally you are taken into a room where it seems as if you are on a lifeboat on that fated night.
It was eerie to watch a 3-D visualisation of the ship sinking and heartbreaking to read that 8 members of the band had played on throughout the emergency to the last.
I can’t wait to return to Ireland for a more in-depth holiday to see the sights, stay in a castle or two and drink a few pints of Guiness.
How about you? Have you visited?
Ireland Vacation Packages
From the research I’ve been doing I found a company called CIE Tours. I was looking specifically for coach tours and CIE seems to offer some of the best Ireland vacations. The tours range from guided group holidays in luxury coaches, to custom group holidays, self-drive tours, private driver holidays and independent travel holidays.
I like that they also cater for solo travellers. There are some departures where the single supplement is lower and the Tour Director is always available to make sure you don’t feel alone. Also, I’m told the seating arrangement in the bus and at meals ensures everyone mingles so nobody feels alone or left out.
From looking at the brochure there’s a great Ireland road trip itinerary selection, and on group holidays you can expect to visit a variety of attractions and perhaps stay in a castle or two. So check out the brochure to choose your holiday options and get going on your Ireland travel itinerary.
For people who don’t like group tours, CIE can also help you organise self-driving tours or chauffer-driven tours to fit your requirements exactly.
CIE have 85 years’ experience running tours, and have thousands of clients who can vouch for their service level.