#1 You can’t ‘Do Ireland’ quickly: The single biggest mistake you can make when holidaying in Ireland is to try and take in too much in too short a time. Just because we are a relatively small island doesn’t mean you can “do Ireland” in a hurry. We regularly see visitors try to do this and it often ends up with the visitor travelling more than they need to and not having a stress-free holiday. If your vacation time in Ireland is short, it is always best to plan to only take in a few highlights.
#2 Plan your visit. Know our geography: If you were in the United States and were going to visit, for example, New York, Las Vegas, Boston and San Diego as part of a 14 day break – you might be a little crazy in the first place (!), but you definitely wouldn’t try to do them in that particular sequence. Even if our distances are far shorter, don’t try to do something similar in Ireland (many do!). Know where you want to visit and plan your route carefully. Travel times can often take longer than the distances might suggest, particularly on secondary roads and coastal routes, and you really don’t want to be spending most of your days driving or being driven. For a good route planner, visit www.TheAA.ie – their route planner is on the top right of their homepage. It will give you travel distances, travel times and the route details between any two or more Cities/Towns. It’s also never a good idea (anywhere!) to rely solely on a Sat Nav system and, if using, the ‘fastest’ route is the mode to select rather than the ‘shortest’, as the latter can sometimes take you via very small country roads.
#3 Plan the Visitor Attractions you want to visit in advance: Plan your ‘Must See | Must Visits’ in advance. Three easy-use websites are:
#4 Don’t stay in one location if travelling distances: If you want to take in a lot of Ireland, it is always a good idea to consider staying in more than one City or Town location, reflecting your interests. Our Cities are Armagh, Belfast, Cork, Derry, Dublin, Galway, Kilkenny, Limerick, Lisburn, and Waterford. We’ve also wonderful rural, seaside, lakeside and riverside towns – too numerous to mention by name!
#5 Consider your arrival airport or seaport: In the same way as you choose the place you stay to suit your interests, choose your point of access similarly (if you have a choice). For instance, if you are arriving from the United States or Europe and intend renting a car and touring the West of Ireland then Shannon Airport may suit you best. In this way you are not arriving into a City and you can therefore become familiar with driving on our roads and on the left hand side. If your primary destination is Dublin, then Dublin Airport or sea ports are obviously your best arrival points.
#6 Drive Safe: As above, driving throughout Ireland is on the left hand side of the road. For road safety advice in the Republic of Ireland visit the Irish Road Safety Authority website at www.rsa.ie. When visiting Northern Ireland there are some rule and signage differences and the rules of the road there are the same as the United Kingdom.
#7 Weather, Weather, Weather! Someone jokingly said that the difference between Winter and Summer in Ireland is that the rain is warmer in Summer! It’s not true…but it has been known to rain in Ireland (!!) and happily this is what provides us with pure waters and the rich pasturelands which in turn helps to make the quality of our food ingredients very special. Ask an Irish Taxi Driver and they will tell you there is no such thing as bad weather, just unsuitable clothing …and that’s the truth. We have one of the world’s mildest climates with few extremes, but our weather can change from warm to cold or dry to wet within any given day. It’s therefore always advisable to bring layered clothing and plan for the possibility of a shower.
#8 There really is no bad time to Visit Ireland. It just all depends on your travel preferences. The Summer months (June/July/August) are considered high season for visitors and it is busier. The weather is warmer, the evenings are brighter, there are more activity options, lots of festivals and almost all Top Attractions are open. Autumn and Spring are both fringe-seasons for travellers. The weather is mild and nature presents Ireland in all its colours. There is always lots to do. Most visitor attractions are open and there are some great festivals and plenty of activities to experience. Winters are cooler and it is the low season for visitors (but to savvy travellers it is also known as the ‘best-value’ season!). You get to see nature at its most impressive. Walk a beach or watch the waves crash against the cliffs along the Wild Atlantic Way. Exhilarating! Enjoy cosy restaurants and warm, luxury accommodation. Most top attractions are open, there are plenty of activity options and our cities are still buzzing by day and night!
#9 Go and Get Lost – at least once. For sure, attractions like The Giants Causeway or Trinity College – the Book of Kells are famous icons and well worth visiting. However, you will also be rewarded if you break away and seek out some hidden gems – perhaps a quiet seaside resort or a lakeside town or a national park or a small visitor attraction.
#10 Donkeys, Thatched Cottages and Leprechauns. Do your research. Ireland is very different to the images of old. If we see a donkey or an old thatched cottage we nearly stop ourselves to have a look! In Ireland today, what you will come across, especially if you do your research or ask a local, are fun festivals; traditional music sessions; top entertainment, great activities from golf and horse riding to surfing and scenic walks; superb shopping; great attractions and wonderful restaurants. And, instead of seeking out Leprechauns with their pots of gold, we just do the National Lottery – although we are still never sure which gives us the greatest chance of riches!