A friend and I recently visited Ireland for four nights to get a mix of their history, natural beauty and city life. It was a short trip – just four nights – but was such a fun trip where we got a true feel for the culture, people and took in the beautiful scenes. Having just spent time in both Dublin and Cork, here’s a look at our Travel Guide, which covers a lot of ground in a short period of time.
You’d be remiss to visit Ireland and not spend a few days in their most thriving city, Dublin. It’s as cosmopolitan as any other major city but has quaint touches such as Georgian architecture, pubs dating back hundreds of years and beautiful parks.
Where to Stay:
The Shelbourne. The Shelbourne is considered the best hotel in all of Dublin, and having just stayed there, we can see why. It’s centrally located in city center, meaning you can walk to nearly all the sights worth seeing in Dublin, and it’s the definition of what a five star hotel should be. You feel pampered from the second you walk through the door because of the staff, the concierge is wonderful and goes above and beyond to make reservations and suggestions for you, and the building is home to some of Dublin’s most momentous historic events. The food and drinks as well as the amenities the hotel has to offer are top rate. Read our post on our stay at The Shelbourne here to learn more.
What to Do:
Chester Beatty Library: This free museum is a treasure within Dublin and worth visiting even if you only dedicate 20 minutes to the vast collection of religious artifacts, prints and books.
Book of Kells and Trinity College: Any trip to Dublin would be incomplete without visiting Trinity College and the Book of Kells. First you walk through the cobblestone campus of Trinity College, one of Ireland’s best research colleges. Then, see the world’s most famous medieval manuscript, the book of Kells, and learn about its history. End the trip with a walk through the Old Library, which was my favorite part of the visit. This beautiful hall houses some of the most famous works in the world dating back hundreds of years, and each aisle is lined with the bust of a great author. I literally could have spent hours in the Old Library perusing the titles.
Run in St. Stephen’s Green: If you decide to stay in the Shelbourne, there is a beautiful public park just across the street where we went running each morning. It’s delightfully green and lined with bright yellow daffodils. Swans and ducks swim in the lake in the middle of the park, so you get some beautiful scenery while getting a workout in.
Guinness Storehouse: Ireland is synonymous with their famous beer, and the Guinness Storehouse is a shrine to the beer company’s history. Housed in an actual working factory, this museum of sorts gives you the download on how beer is made, Guinness’s history and founder and other fun facts. You’ll also learn how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness and get a complimentary glass of Guinness to enjoy one their rooftop bar, Gravity Bar, that has some of the most stunning views of all of Dublin. Book tickets online ahead of your trip and give yourself two hours to get the full experience. Booking online will save you 30% on the ticket price.
Shop on Grafton Street: Dublin’s most famous high street and shopping district is Grafton Street. It has shops ranging from Ted Baker to Marks & Spencer and is just a two-minute walk from the Shelbourne. Meander down Grafton Street on your way to the Book of Kells and Trinity College, as it’s on the way. Just remember to give yourself some time to stop into the shops.
Day Trip to Cliffs of Moher: Dublin is pretty close to Ireland’s scenic Cliffs of Moher, which is something not to be missed on a trip to Ireland. We will chronicle the tour we did, and highly recommend, later on, but be sure to put this high on your list and to dedicate a day to it. You can also do Galway for dinner and drinks on the way back. The city is known for its nightlife and is pretty near to Dublin.
Where to Eat and Drink:
One Pico: This Michelin-star restaurant turns out delicious food in an upscale but unpretentious atmosphere.
Afternoon Tea at the Shelbourne: Afternoon tea is an institution in all of the U.K. and the Shelbourne’s Afternoon Tea is the best of the bunch in Dublin. Be sure to make your reservations well in advance of arriving, as they book up very early. Our suggestion is to have breakfast, do some sightseeing and book a 3 p.m. seating for afternoon tea. If you skip lunch that day, you will have enough tummy real estate to enjoy all of the wonderful sandwiches and desserts. Each seating is two hours long and includes unlimited tea. You can read more about our afternoon tea here.
Temple Bar: Temple Bar is an entire area of town dedicated to pubs and live music. Yes, it’s touristy, but it’s also a ton of fun. We went to Temple Bar after dinner one night with the intention of stopping in for “just one drink” so that we could say we experienced it. Famous last words. Hours upon hours later we made our way back home. We spent most of the night at a pub actually called Temple Bar, which had a great live band, stiff drinks and lots of fun Dubliners.
O’Donoghues: This famous pub is known for local musical acts swinging by for impromptu jam sessions. The pub is very large and attracts a good crowd of locals and workers in the area looking for happy hour. After 9, a circle of local musicians forms in the front bar and play traditional Irish music together.
Just a few hours from Dublin, Ireland’s second city is well worth a visit during a trip to Ireland. Cork is the perfect launching point to explore Ireland’s majestic Ring of Kerry and other parts of the countryside. Ireland has lovely rail and bus systems complete with Wifi which make getting from Dublin to Cork a breeze. Cork itself is full of great bars, live music and shopping.
Where to Stay:
The Maryborough Hotel & Spa: Set in a beautiful 18th Century country house, The Maryborough is the perfect spot for a luxury getaway. It’s just a bit outside of Cork, meaning you can get to the bars and restaurants of the city within 10 minutes, but honestly, we preferred to stay at the estate. From the beautiful furnishings that preserved the look of the building in its heyday, mixed with modern luxuries, including a state of the art spa and gym, we relished our time at The Maryborough. Its restaurant is top notch, and the grounds are a lush green that give you every bit the escape you picture when heading to Ireland’s countryside. Here’s a separate post on our stay at The Maryborough.
Where to Eat & Drink:
Bellini’s: Set inside the Maryborough Hotel, this restaurant has a delightful menu filled with locally-sourced ingredients. The flavors are complex and the presentation is impeccable. You can read more about our meal at Bellini’s in our write up of our stay at The Maryborough later this week.
The Oliver Plunkett: This two-story bar is an institution in Ireland. Both levels have live acts playing. The upstairs was more our scene. A young Irish singer sang cover songs while we danced and sipped whiskey. It’s a fun, light-hearted atmosphere with stiff drinks.
Crane Lane: If you’re looking for live music, this place is the spot. It’s massive, with a bunch of different rooms with different acts going. Some are indie, some are more traditional Irish. The crowd is young and fun an the drinks are really inexpensive.
What to Do:
The Ring of Kerry: One of the highlights of our trip was exploring Ireland’s Ring of Kerry, which is a TK. You are spoiled for views the entire time, whether it’s cliffs off of the Atlantic Ocean, lush farmlands, old castles, waterfalls etc. We felt that the Ring of Kerry encapsulated everything in our minds when we thought of what Ireland would be and look like, and it actually exceeded those expectations on every front. We booked a bus tour with Paddywagon tours, but there are a number of tours to the Ring of Kerry to choose from.