Ireland was a really fun country to visit. If you are planning a trip to the Emerald Isle here’s what I learned:
Irish Weather and how to dress
The weather changes very quickly. You must dress appropriately and have a coat/raincoat available. Umbrellas are probably only good for Dublin. Everywhere else they would have blown away with the first gust of wind. (I went in the Spring.)
I am so glad we bought waterproof hiking shoes. You need them because there will be a lot of walking and the weather changes so quickly that you will get wet some time, be prepared.
You must bring a raincoat. Not a fashion one but a nice all weather raincoat with a nice hood. Look for products from North Face, Columbia or Marmot. They have different weights for different seasons and you will come to love yours. Umbrellas are pretty much useless with all the wind.
I ended up buying a wool hat. You might want to bring one or get one because one minute it will be warm but the next minute the wind will blow so hard that your ears will hurt. Or bring cotton balls.
For dinner most people don’t dress up. You might want to bring a nicer shirt or pants so you are not eating dinner wearing hiking clothes but you don’t really need fancy clothes, nice pants and collared shirts are fine. Of course if you are staying at a castle they might have different dress codes. Check their websites before leaving.
Remember that you don’t go to Ireland because of the weather so don’t let it stop you from enjoying your holiday. Remember that “there is no such thing as bad weather only improper clothes.”
Because of the crazy weather I suggest you take Airborne or Emergen-C or something similar and some cold medication. You are not supposed to go through the four seasons in one hour and your body will not like it very much. I didn’t get sick but felt that my body was fighting a cold after a particularly windy day. Some rest, lots of water and vitamin C helped.
Where to Stay
In Dublin we stayed at the Schoolhouse Hotel. It is just outside of downtown. Because we were there for only a couple nights walking back and forth was a little far. If your time is short I recommend you get a hotel right in the middle of town. However, I really did like this hotel. It was in a nice residential area. They restored and preserved the charm of an old school. The rooms are very nice, the restaurant good and very cool.
For the rest of our stays, except for Malahide, we stayed in B&Bs. I looked at a map of Ireland, did research on what places I wanted to visit and then looked for lodgings on Booking.com. I was really happy with all the places we stayed. In Ireland don’t bother staying anywhere but in B&Bs, they are awesome. I wish I had stayed in a castle but it didn’t work out this trip but I don’t think the hospitality could have been any better.
We stayed at the Castle Country House B&B. It was a great introduction to the warm Irish hospitality. Pierce was so welcoming and the breakfast was amazing. There is a lovely tower on the property. It is in a small village so there isn’t much to do near but a good stopping point if you are going to the Rock of Cashel after Killerney.
For the Ring of Kerry we stayed at The Grove Lodge Guesthouse in Killorglin. It was only about half a mile from town and we had a great hostess who shared her expertise with us and took a sincere interest on us.
In Galway we stayed at the Claremount House B&B. Anna was like a mother to all her guests. Every time we came in she sincerely greeted us and wanted to make sure we were doing well. She also had the best croissants and scones. Yum!!
In Navan we stayed at the Meadow View B&B. It is very convenient for County Meath. The hostess was welcoming but very business like. I was able to one evening just watch some tv downstairs while my husband napped upstairs.
Finally in Malahide we stayed at the Grand Hotel. It was okay. A large hotel without much of a soul or charm but great for a conference and with beautiful views of the bay.
One suggestion is after finding a B&B you like you should contact them directly for booking. Booking sites charge them a 15% fee and small businesses enjoy passing the savings on directly to the consumer. Finally some B&Bs do not take credit cards so be prepared to pay for your stay with cash.
This was probably the thing that scared us the most about Ireland. However, it was fine once we got used to it. One suggestion that everyone gave and we are glad we followed was to get an automatic transmission car. It is hard enough getting used to driving on the left side of the road, without also having to learn how to shift with the left hand.
I would highly discourage anyone from driving in Dublin. It is very easy to get around on foot or by public transportation and parking seems to be really scarce. So just get the car and drive out. The motorways are busy, wide and very much like the freeways here. But it is also the first time you are driving a new car on the wrong side of the road, so they are nerve wrecking.
We also got the Super Collision insurance. I don’t know how much we would have to pay for the damages to the car (car got scratched) but I was glad we did it. It was one less thing to worry about. This was the first and only time we took any insurance, we usually just use the insurance from our credit card. We didn’t have any accidents or broken windshields or flat tires, just a few scratches from low hanging branches on very narrow roads.
The roads outside of Dublin are very old, narrow and winding. You will have to stop to let other cars pass, some times you will have to back up to a wider area, other times the other driver will do it. I found that every one was so courteous on the road that it was never a problem. There will be sheep and cows on the road at times too, just be patient and careful. Some roads are insanely winding and you will be hoping no one coming down and that your car won’t stall. Some bridges are not wide enough for two cars and you will have to wait for a bus to pass While this all sounds so different, people are so nice that it is not really a challenge, just part of the charm of Ireland.
The roads also don’t have shoulders, they are usually surrounded by vegetation or stone walls. Sometimes they get so narrow that you don’t think a car can get through but miraculously it happens.
We rented a small economy car. If we had taken our children with us we would have to rent something a bit bigger and it would have been fine. You don’t need the smallest car but it sure helps. I wouldn’t want to drive my big SUV in Ireland.
Have fun, it is not really that bad. Greece was far worse.
Food in Ireland is fantastic. We did not have one bad meal and they were all very reasonably priced. I thought that the food would have been like in England, but we were pleasantly surprised.
We ate in some beautiful restaurants, one inside an old church, another was an old school. We ate in pubs and golf clubs, sandwich joints and a fun pizza place and in some trendy restaurants.
Most places have an early bird menu special. I don’t think we paid more than 20 Euros for a 2 or 3 course meal. We never left the table hungry and most often we left very full and couldn’t finish it. I suggest that you ask your B&B host where to eat. All of them gave us great indications and at great prices.
Breakfast in Ireland is plentiful. Even if all you ask is for a continental breakfast, you will be given yogurt, fruit, cereal, breads, biscuits in addition to juices, coffees and teas. Irish breakfast is great: eggs, bacon (more like ham), sausage, black and white pudding, tomatoes and mushrooms. I absolutely loved the black pudding. It has a lot of grain in it and it tastes like kibbeh. Just don’t think what it is. Other times I had poached eggs on toast with salmon or bacon.
Because we always had so much for breakfast we usually just stopped at a supermarket and got a sandwich. Tesco has a great selection of sandwiches that are really fancy, chips, fruit and pastries for a really good price.
I really enjoy going to a supermarket whenever I travel. I even went to Aldi. I missed the Aldi at my hometown and wanted to compare it. It was the same but they had some great West Cork yogurt that I wish we could get here. We also bought our kids the required Mars chocolate bars and lots of Cadbury’s chocolates. We also got some random candies and some shortbread.
I don’t usually buy much while on vacation. We always buy a Christmas ornament and there were plenty of those in Dublin. In Dublin there is a multitude of souvenir stores that carry everything you might want to buy. While you will find souvenirs all over the “touristy” sites, they are not as plentiful or varied as in Dublin. So I suggest you get some things there. We did buy our kids some t-shirts. I also got a beautiful wool scarf and hat. We got our daughter a pendant with a shamrock in the middle of it and she loved it. We bought some cute key chains and my husband got an Irish Tin Whistle. My son wanted a soccer jersey and we found some for really good prices. They also have several shirts from Irish teams that play Gaelic Football or Hurling that would make interesting gifts for a sports fan.
If you like modest clothing, Ireland is a great place to shop. Because of the weather their clothes are pretty conservative but still very fashionable and it appears that the prices were reasonable.
I know some people go crazy over the crystal but remember most of it is made in Croatia nowadays and you can get it at your HomeGoods store for cheaper. I only buy things that are unique that I cannot ever find at home.
We usually like buying a watercolor or prints from the places we visit but instead I bought my own paints and I want to paint pictures of some of the places we saw. So I will be making my own souvenir this time.
Have fun in Ireland. If you have been there leave your own suggestions below.
Now I have to start planning my next trip to Spain and Morocco.