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We were fortunate enough to spend 16 days travelling around all of Ireland in June and July 2019.
We designed a route, rented a campervan and set off on what proved to be a pretty epic journey!
Our route took us around the entire country, starting and ending just outside Dublin.
As Cazzy is from Ireland herself, we have already visited a number of Northern Ireland’s best sites over the years.
However, neither of us were prepared for just how breathtakingly beautiful the rest of Ireland is; and it’s safe to say that our Ireland vacation is one of the best adventures we have been on to date.
If you’re planning a trip to Ireland this year (which you 100% should be) then hopefully this full-on Ireland travel guide will help you with everything you need to know.
Including the best places to visit right through to some of our favourite Ireland travel tips.
Whether you are travelling to Ireland alone, or backpacking with a group of friends, this should be a one stop Ireland guide to help you on your way.
So, without further ado, let’s get started ...
The island of Ireland is made up of 2 countries. Northern Ireland uses Pound Sterling (£) and Ireland uses the Euro (€).
They speak English all across Ireland. There are also a number of Gaeltacht areas where they predominantly speak Irish.
They use the standard Type G plug socket, the same as you will find all across the UK.
Standard travel vaccines are advised for trips to Ireland. If you are from the UK, then you may have received almost all of these during school education. For other countries, this will vary. Here's a list of recommended vaccines for visiting Ireland.
You will find ATMs all across Ireland, with numerous different banks. They are all fine to use and generally highly reliable. To get the best exchange rates and avoid hefty charges from your bank at home, you should get a travel card before you visit. We always use Revolut, Monzo or Starling regardless of where in the world we go, as they offer the best exchange rates. If you can’t access these, then perhaps a TransferWise debit card would work well. I use them for getting paid in foreign currencies, however their card charges you fees to use it, whereas Revolut, Monzo and Starling do not.
The best places to go partying in Ireland are the big cities; notably Belfast, Dublin, Galway, Cork and Kilkenny. In these towns and cities you will find live music every night of the week and even some bars open till the early hours. As well as this, you will find traditional Irish bars literally EVERYWHERE in Ireland. However, if you want big nights of drinking and live music, the villages and towns tend not to liven up until the weekend.
If you’re from inside the EU, then your regular sim should work for free in Ireland. Cazzy and I are on O2 sims and we had great data connection almost everywhere we went. If you’re visiting from outside the EU, then I’d recommend picking up a local sim as they are pretty cheap and you could even then use it if you plan on going to other EU countries. Both in Northern Ireland and Ireland, you can get these sims from local shops in all towns.
You don’t have to tip in Ireland, however 10% is the customary rate if you do wish to. Some bars and restaurants will add it onto the bill as an option.
Christianity is the dominant religion all over the island of Ireland. In the Republic of Ireland, Catholicism is more widely spread, but in Northern Ireland there is an almost 50/50 split between Protestant and Catholics.
Where do we begin!? Ireland has a very rich history, stretching back hundreds of years when invaders first came to the shores from Britain. The British have had a tumultuous relationship with the Irish for a long time, particularly throughout the late 20th century. This period, often called The Troubles, saw a number of atrocities committed on both sides as the IRA fought for a united Ireland and the British fought to maintain control. In 1998, the Good Friday Peace Agreement was signed which formally recognised Northern Ireland as a part of the UK and the rest becoming the Republic of Ireland. Even today, however, Northern Ireland is highly divided, with many wanting to join Ireland and the rest wanting to remain a part of the UK. It would take too long to divulge the full history here, but it’s worth familiarising yourself. I recommend reading more here, here and here.
Ireland is, generally speaking, a very safe country to visit. That being said, you should exercise common sense to avoid getting yourself in trouble. This includes not flashing money out and about in busy cities and not being out drunk late at night on your own. Also, if you are planning on driving in Ireland (more on this below) then take it careful on narrow country roads when it is dark or wet. Also, avoid upsetting any drunk locals by calling them Brits or referring to Derry as Londonderry.
With so many incredible spots, the only problem you’ll have with planning your trip is deciding where to travel in Ireland!
Ireland is without a doubt one of the most beautiful countries in the world; filled with rolling hills of green and breathtaking castles.
Personally, my favourite part of the country is the western coast where all along it you are greeted with dramatic cliffs and crashing waves.
But to help you with planning a rough route, here’s a quick look at my 10 favourite places to visit in Ireland.
Dublin is by far Ireland’s most popular city for tourists, with millions flocking here every year, regardless of whether they are on a calm family holiday or an outrageous stag do.
Attractions such as the Guinness factory and Temple Bar are among Ireland’s most visited attractions, and this city definitely lives up to the hype!
It can be a little pricier than other parts of Ireland, but if you only have a few days to spend in Ireland, then it’s a good choice.
There are tour companies offering day trips to many great sites outside of the city, so it’s a good place to base yourself for a few nights.
This is perhaps my favourite town in all of Ireland.
Because the nightlife is so much fun!
Every night of the week, the dozen or so bars in town are pumping out traditional Irish music; and the atmosphere was better than anywhere else we visited.
It’s hard not to love live music and the packed-out bars and pubs are so alive with craic.
Also, in the day time you have many of Ireland’s best things to do located right on your doorstep, such as the Gap of Dunloe and the Killarney National Park.
I’ve been to Belfast a number of times now, and each time have found new fun things to see and do.
I’m particularly fond of this city around Christmas time, when they open the Belfast Christmas markets.
The whole city is lit up with decorations and lights and it’s such a cosy place to stroll around with a nice hot cup of coffee in hand.
In the summer it’s another great place to be, with an array of bars and clubs located all across the city; as well as attractions such as the Titanic Quarter and Cathedral Quarter.
The number one reason people head to the small town of Blarney is to visit Blarney Castle and kiss the Blarney Stone.
Well, yes this certainly is a great experience, as it's one of the Ireland’s most mythical sites, shrouded in myths and legends dating back hundreds of years.
As well as this, the town itself is quaint and lovely, complete with local bars and restaurants and narrow streets to explore.
The Dingle Peninsula, as a whole, is really lovely and I would recommend it as a place to spend a relaxing few days away from the stresses of everyday life.
The Main town of Dingle is filled with shops and restaurants, as well as some of the best fish & chips joints you’ll find in Ireland.
It has the feel fairly typical seaside town and you could really unwind and take it easy here.
Aside from the main town, the peninsula offers some of the best views you'll find in Ireland, particularly out on the western tip near Coumeenoole Beach.
Inch Beach is another really unique spot on this peninsula and well worth a brisk, windy walk.
Once again, if you are looking to escape and unwind for a few days, then Doolin is a perfect choice.
It’s a small village, which can’t have more than a few hundred people living there.
But what they do have is a small strip in town with 4 or 5 real traditional pubs; we visited Gus O'Connors and found it to be lively and packed full of tourists all enjoying the great food and live music.
From the village, it’s possible to walk all the way to the Cliffs of Moher, following a path that go the whole way along the coast.
On the way, you also pass by one of my top 5 best castles in Ireland: Doonagore Castle.
Finally, it’s from Doolin pier that you can take day trips across to the Aran Islands.
If you’re looking for buzzing nightlife and typical Irsh charm, then Galway is another top choice, aside from Dublin and Killarney.
When we visited, the weather was amazing and we enjoyed a number of pubs and beer gardens all throughout the town.
When the sun's out, the Latin Quarter is literally packed full of people either drinking or listening to live street performers.
Further on up, you’ll also find Eyre Square another great spot for Irish bars.
Aside from drinking, Galways has a lot more to offer, and we really enjoyed the hour or so walk along the seafront taking us all the way from Galway to Salthill.
Kilkenny is a great place to visit, especially if you want to head out of Dublin, but don’t have enough time to visit the western coast.
It’s a Norman town, with the castle and many of the buildings dating back more than 800 years.
The Kilkenny Castle and the grounds around it are the best attraction, and I recommend stopping off here and having your lunch on the big lawn next to the castle.
There are other great things to do in Kilkenny as well, including visiting the cathedrals, the abbey and a whole array of small shops and pubs that line the cobbled high street.
The Causeway Coast is easily one of the top 5 places to visit in Ireland, as it’s home to many of Northern Ireland’s best attractions. Including Dunluce Castle, Bushmills Distillery, The Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge and, of course, the Giant's Causeway.
If the weather is clear and calm, then there are few better places to be in Ireland than the Causeway Coast.
From there, you can also head across to Derry, or down to the Dark Hedges.
Read Also: The Best Things To Do In Northern Ireland
As a whole, county Donegal is one of my favourite places to visit in Ireland.
The landscape up there is very different to other parts of Ireland, and the barren rugged countryside makes for awesome hiking and road tripping.
Some of my favorite spots in Donegal are the Slieve League Cliffs, Lough Derg and Malin Head.
There are also some great wild camping spots here, notably Lough Derg and Mullaghderg Beach.
As well as some of Ireland’s best castles, such as Doe Castle and Lough Eske Castle.
Next time we visit, I fully intend on spending more time around Glenveagh National Park, one of my favourite national parks from across Ireland.
There are incredible experiences to be had all across Ireland.
There are famous sites to visit all across the country, many of which are located well outside of the popular tourist towns and cities.
Well, by having our own campervan, we visited the entire country from south to north and east to west, and along the way kept track of all of the best things to see and do in Ireland.
Here’s my top 10 (in no particular order) ...
The Cliffs of Moher are Ireland’s biggest tourist attraction outside of Dublin.
Why do you think that is?
Well, it’s because they are awesome!
They rise up 700 feet above the water and are such an impressive site on a clear day.
Best of all, you can walk all the way along them to the town of Doolin if you wish; just be careful as the path gets very busy during peak times.
That’s why we got there early, as by 10am the cliffs are packed with people and you don’t get the same experience.
Arguably Northern Ireland’s best attraction, Giant's Causeway is a geographical phenomenon that has amazed people for generations.
It has also brought about a number of myths and legends, notably those about Finn the Giant who once lived there, and who’s chimney stack you can still see smoking some days.
When you visit for the first time, I recommend paying to get the audio headset so you can learn more about the causeway on the walk down.
After you’ve walked over them and caught some really cool photos, head further round and then right up the mountain to the top of the cliffs.
The views from up there are awesome and well worth the climb.
I would say that the number one thing to do in Ireland is to hire a vehicle and drive yourself around Ireland.
Most of the best things to see and do aren’t in the towns and cities, but are instead located by the coast in hard to reach places.
Well, having a car or campervan gives you complete control over where you go and what you do and will allow you to experience Ireland to the max.
We rented a campervan with Spaceship Rentals and had the most amazing time ever!
You can read more about our epic 16 day Ireland road trip here.
The Gap of Dunloe is perhaps Ireland’s most magical spot; a 6 km long valley that takes you through some truly awe inspiring scenery.
What I loved most was that the farther you travel through it, the more the landscape seems to keep on changing.
It looks almost entirely different from one end to the other, making it a pleasure to walk in both directions (which you’re going to need to do!).
If you head there nice and early, you can get there and back in a couple hours and then head into Kate Kearney’s Cottage for a spot of well-earned brunch.
Some of my favorite memories from Ireland is our time spent in old-fashioned Irish pubs listening to Irish music late into the night.
I’ve always been a big fan of Irish music, but nothing beats listening to it in person.
Typically, pubs are more likely to have live music on Friday and Saturday night; unless you are visiting a big city like Dublin or Galway when you should find it most nights.
If you choose to rent a vehicle and drive yourself around, you’ll soon discover that Ireland is filled with beautiful loughs.
For years now, Cazzy has been campaign with her family to Lough Derg in Donegal, arguably one of Ireland's most scenic spots.
However, if you just drive around the country you will find large, secluded loughs everywhere, many with possible wild camping spots.
To find out more, you can read this guide Cazzy wrote on wild camping in Ireland.
Kissing the Blarney Stone is perhaps one of the most famous things you must do in Ireland.
Located not far outside of Cork, Blarney Castle is a 570 year old castle shrouded in myths and legends, most notably those about the Blarney Stone.
There are numerous tales on how the Blarney Stone came to be at Blarney Castle, and you can learn all about these on your way up through the castle to kiss the stone.
Regardless of which tale you believe, you cannot deny the magical gift of eloquence that it bestows upon all that kiss it.
From a distance, the Rock of Cashel is possibly the most breathtaking castle in Ireland.
For hundreds of years it served as the seat of the kings of Ireland, and it is certainly worthy of such a role.
Over the years, the Rock of Cashel grew in size, but the oldest remaining parts of the site date back as far as the year 1100, making it more than 900 years old!
From the inside, a lot of it has fallen into disrepair, but is still well worth a walk around.
Ireland has a number of national parks and we were lucky enough to pass through a number of them on our road trip.
My favourites being Wicklow, Killarney, Connemara and Glenveagh.
What’s nice is that each of them is unique in it’s own way and it’s great taking time to go for a walk through them wherever possible.
I first started learning about Irish history in 2015 when Cazzy first took me to Ireland to meet her family.
I quickly learned that the Irish have a VERY lengthy and tumultuous history with the English. After years of conflict and violence the country was split in two (Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland), but the drama didn’t stop there.
Northern Ireland has a rich history with regards to the Troubles that followed.
It’s an intense and recent history that’s very important and you can see real life examples of what it was like in cities like Belfast, Derry and Dublin.
Really, Ireland is a great country to visit at all times of the year.
As the seasons change, the landscape changes with it and you can expect to find a whole another country.
However, if you're looking for warm weather and clear skies, then the best time to travel to Ireland is in the Summer months of June to August.
We visited in June/July and the weather was absolutely amazing almost the entire time; we had clear blue skies and excellent views wherever we went.
The shoulder months of April/May (Spring) and September/October (Autumn) might also be nice as well, however, you're more likely to have a lot of wind and rain during your visit.
If you are happy to put up with much colder weather, then Ireland can be nice and snowy in December and January.
This is also when it’s the cheapest time to visit Ireland as most tourists won’t be there.
That being said, a lot of Ireland’s best attractions won’t be open either.
The only thing I will say is this … Ireland is famously unpredictable when it comes to its weather.
Though we had excellent weather in June and July on our visit, it is just as likely that you visit in this time and its wet and windy the whole time.
Similarly, weather can change from one hour to the next with mist descending out of nowhere and then clearing as if it was never there.
It’s all a part of the mystery that makes Ireland what it is.
Seeing as both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are in the EU, you can visit either country without hassle if you also hold an EU passport.
If you are from outside of the EU, then your visa requirements will differ.
You have two main options for getting into Ireland, these are:
The 2 main airports that you will likely be flying into are Dublin and Belfast.
Typically speaking, these have the most available flights and are cheapest.
Especially if you are entering from another European country and book your flights with Ryanair.
If you are flying in long haul, such as from America, then chances are it will be Dublin or Belfast that have the cheapest flights.
That being said there are a number of other airports in Ireland to fly into.
Though they may be a little pricier, you can then save money on getting buses across the country if that’s where you plan on spending a weekend; for example in Galway or Cork.
To find the cheapest flights into Ireland, I recommend using Skyscanner.
In the “To” box, you can select “Ireland (IE)” and it will tell you which airports offer the cheapest deals.
Be aware, however, that this will not include Northern Ireland. For that you will need to search for “Northern Ireland (UK)” separately.
It is possible to drive over to Ireland by ferry, and there are a number of ports up the coast.
Personally, I’ve taken the ferry from Liverpool to Dublin before, as well as the ferry from Rosslare to Pembroke.
Each of them takes no more than a few hours and the weather is typically pretty cold.
I always book my ferry crossings to Ireland using Direct Ferries.
When it comes to getting around Ireland, you’ve got a few main options, these include:
By far your best option for getting around Ireland is to hire a campervan and drive yourself around.
Not only does this give you complete flexibility over your schedule, it also means you get to wild camp in some pretty cool places!
There are a variety of campervan companies you can choose from, but we recommend Spaceships Rentals and you can check out our review of them here.
If you would rather, just can rent a car you’ll be happy to hear there are lots of budget car rental companies in Ireland.
A good place to start your search is with Rentalcars.com.
Buses travel between major cities all across Ireland and there are a variety of different companies to choose from.
You can find links to all major cities from the airports, but also connections from city to city. These buses will be comfortable, air conditioned and generally have WiFi.
Local buses for day trips within cities and getting around are also common and easy to use.
The bus network in Ireland is quite well established and to find your way from A to B, I suggest you head to a local tourism office for advice.
There is a tourism office in almost every little town in Ireland, so you’ll always find someone who can help you with Ireland bus routes.
Tours in Ireland are the most common way to get around for lots of visitors.
Whilst I’ve never done a tour myself, I know there are a wide range of tour companies and the tours in Ireland are generally quite high quality and great value for money.
You can opt for group tours or pay a little extra for private tours. I suggest using GetYourGuide for all your tour needs!
The train network is quite established, but it’s more expensive, and I wouldn’t rely on it to get everywhere.
I’ve never actually used the train, but you can get all the information and prices you need on the Irish Rail Network website. It is a good way to get around towns.
For more information, check out Cazzy’s blog post on getting around Ireland.
Regardless of how you plan on getting around the country, you’re probably wondering where to stay in Ireland. Well, here you go!
If you’re planning on hiring a campervan in Ireland, then you have two main options when it comes to accommodation.
There are campsites located all across Ireland, and even in peak summer months you should be able to call up on the day and book somewhere to stay that same night.
To find campsites when we were travelling across Ireland we mostly used a guidebook from Camping Ireland.
Alternatively, if you don’t have a guide book, you can use websites such as:
You can expect a pitch in a typical caravan site to set you back between €20 and €30 per night.
One of the best things about having your own campervan or motorhome in Ireland is the opportunity to wild camp.
There are awesome wild camping spots located all across Ireland; any of which are online, but most of which you can discover yourself!
For more info, check out this guide Cazzy wrote on wild camping spots in Ireland.
If you’re planning on getting around Ireland by bus, train or car, then you will find tonnes of great hotels, hostels and B&Bs all across the Emerald Isle.
Great sites for finding the best places to stay in Ireland include:
A mid-range double hotel room or Airbnb stay will set you back anywhere between €50 and €80 per night.
A single bed in a hostel dorm room ranges from €15 to €25.
Generally speaking … wear warm clothes!
Even if you plan on visiting in the summer months, you can never guarantee clear weather, so take warm clothes, like jeans and a jumper, as well as a waterproof coat.
If you are visiting in colder winter months, then make sure you take plenty of warm comfy clothes, especially if you plan to be out walking in the national parks.
That being said, in the summer months the weather can also be very nice, so take some shorts and t-shirts or dresses with you to make the most of it.
If you’re by the coast when the weathers nice, then you’ll see lots of pale Irish people walking down the beach with their t-shirts off; this is because everyone makes full use of the hot weather when it does arrive!
If you want to experience good old fashioned Irish cooking, then the best place to go is a traditional Irish pub.
Here, you will find a number of homemade classics, with my favourite being Irish stew.
If you can, the best way to enjoy Irish stew is with a few pieces of wheaten bread, which is a type of bread only really made and sold in Ireland and is much stodgier than regular bread.
On that note, Ireland sells a few different types of bread that you don’t really get elsewhere; including potato bread and soda bread.
Aside from these few classics, a lot of the food you’ll find in Ireland can be found elsewhere in Europe, particularly the UK.
This includes typical pub grub like bangers & mash, fish & chips and lasagne.
If you’re heading out for a busy day of sightseeing, then a good way to start your day is with an Irish/Ulster fry.
This consists of a variety of things including bacon, sausage, beans, potato bread, soda bread, mushrooms and tomatoes.
As you’d imagine, its with alcohol that Ireland really comes into its own!
Their two big specialities being Guiness and whiskey (not spelt “whisky”, that’s Scottish).
If you ask me, then Guinness really isn’t all that, and I would much rather have a nice cold pint of cider, which is also becoming extremely popular now across Ireland.
If you’re a fan of whiskey then you will love Ireland as most bars tend to have at least half a dozen to a dozen different varieties on sale.
You will also find large distilleries located all across Ireland, including the Bushmills Distillery next to the Giant's Causeway.
There are a number of smaller homegrown distilleries cropping up, such as the Slane Distillery at Slane castle.
When you're planning a vacation in Ireland, then there’s all kinds of online tools out there that will help make your trip ten times better.
Here’s the online websites and applications that we used when travelling Ireland:
Ireland certainly isn’t the cheapest country to visit, but nor is it the most expensive.
Here a rough overview of how much things typically cost in Ireland.
If we include the full cost of the rental into our overall expenditure, then here’s how much we spent overall for 16 days around Ireland:
€1400 (or €87.50 each/per day)
As a rough breakdown, per day this included:
Obviously, on some days we spent more on eating out, but on the other days we cooked for ourselves so only spent money on groceries.
First up, yes, it is legal to fly a drone in Ireland.
That being said, there are a number of rules and regulations in place that you need to follow; as set by the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA).
The biggest thing that you need to know is that you must register your drone before legally being allowed to fly it there.
Registering it is relatively straightforward, and you can find the simple 2-step process for doing so on this page here.
DO NOTE: It took 5 weeks after registering for the paperwork to get shipped to me.
In this paperwork is a small sticker that you are meant to attach to your drone, to show that it has been registered properly.
I’m not sure how long it’s meant to take, especially if you live further afield than England, like me; so I advise registering as far in advance as possible before you are due to arrive.
When in Ireland, you will need to follow a number of regulations involving how far you can fly it, how high you can fly and where you can legally fly it.
You can read all about up-to-date Ireland drone laws here.
What’s nice is that Ireland is filled with incredible drone spots. Here were 5 of my favourite spots for filming with a drone in Ireland:
If I could advise you of just one thing when planning a trip around Ireland, it would be to find a way to drive your own vehicle.
I can honestly say that the best part about seeing Irealand are the in-between moments.
Sure, many of the towns and cities are lovely, but if this is all you see then you are truly missing out on the best sites Ireland has to offer.
It is so liberating having complete control over your schedule and your day-to-day itinerary, and you will find hidden villages and pubs that you’d otherwise be unable to explore unless you have control over where you travel to.
I’d highly recommend renting a campervan from Spaceships Rentals, but if you don’t like the idea of camping or want a smaller vehicle, then I’m sure renting a car would be equally as amazing.
A good place to start your search for that would be something like Rentalcars.com.
Other than that, if you have any other questions and think I’ve missed anything from this ridiculously in-depth Ireland travel guide, then just drop a comment below!