There is this magical feeling to Ireland that all visitors should experience. The combination of Ireland’s beautiful scenery, powerful history and legends, and the intriguing culture and fascinating people, draws visitors from all over the world.
Picture yourself strolling along secret beaches, visiting ancient castles and forts, exploring tranquil villages and watching the wild Atlantic Ocean from spectacular cliffs. Enjoy the warm welcome of the Irish people, listen to their stories, soak up traditional music and enjoy a taste of quality food and drink. Sounds like the Ireland you’ve always imagined? Here are some tips to help you find the authentic myth & magic of Ireland.
Follow these 5 tips to plan an Irish journey of discovery that will bring moments of magic, moments to treasure and experiences you want to return to again and again!
1. Travel off the beaten path
Our first recommendation is to explore beyond the main routes, explore Ireland off the beaten path. Every color of green that possibly sits on an artist’s palette inspires Ireland’s other name – the Emerald isle. You’ll find yourself on winding lanes with grass growing in the middle, and too narrow for cars to pass. Colourful wildflowers growing along the roadsides, encourage photo stops. Wandering sheep in search of green clover create the only traffic jams.
The countryside is dotted with ring forts, standing stones and other mysterious remains from an ancient Ireland ruled by celts and kings. The lush, rolling hills are criss-crossed by old stone walls that harken back to centuries of country life. You might even see a farmer cutting turf from the bog.
Travel on along meandering coastal roads with hidden coves, rock cliffs and golden beaches. And when you stop for lunch in one of the picturesque villages, you will surely meet friendly locals looking for a chat. A great conversation starter: ask for directions!
Off the beaten path in Ireland 1) grass growing in the middle of the road, and colorful Montbretias along the roadsides 2) Road block Irish style, sheep wandering a narrow mountain road, county Kerry 3) History and scenery combined, Uragh Stone Circle, Beara Peninsula
2. Explore the Wild Atlantic Way
The Wild Atlantic Way coastal road stretches along Ireland’s western and south-western seaboard. This spectacular drive will take you along routes that ring great peninsulas and tiny tracks that reach out into the ocean.
You’ll want to stop often to watch the huge Atlantic waves crash, to walk along beautiful beaches, visit ancient sites or take in the views whilst standing high above the ocean on cliffs that are amongst some of the highest in Europe. The magnificent seascapes will take your breath away.
Explore small settlements and quaint towns along the route and experience the warmth of the local people. In the west coast’s remote regions you’re most likely to hear the Irish Gaelic language. “Fáilte romhat isteach” tells you that you’re most welcome here. It is in these Gaeltacht areas that traditional language, customs, crafts and folklore are very much alive today.
1) The famous Cliffs of Moher seen from the Atlantic (credit: Melanie Nelson) 2) Windy costal road on the Beara Peninsula, Wild Atlantic Way 3) Explore the many lighthouses along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. Pictured: Valentia Island lighthouse, Ring of Kerry
Read more about the best places to visit along the Wild Atlantic Way in this blog post: 7 Wonders of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.
3. Experience local
Although Ireland’s bigger cities like Cork, Galway and Dublin have a lot to offer, it can get quite busy and touristic. Our advice, stay in smaller towns and villages on at least a couple of nights during your Ireland trip. A local B&B or small boutique hotel and pub grub in the evening, are meaningful alternatives for chain hotels and expensive restaurants. It is the best way to experience the warm welcome of the Irish people.
After your daily travels, the next adventure awaits. Check in to a traditional pub, enjoy fresh seafood and authentic dishes, and a pint of Guinness. Discover that the Celtic heritage is still alive today by listening to the Irish language, songs and stories. You might even be treated to a traditional Irish music session that we like to refer to as “Trad”. A late afternoon conversation that starts with “Where are you from?” often ends late at night.
As Irish poet and wise man William Butler Yeats once said, “There are no strangers here, only friends you haven’t met yet”. William was right.
1) Many cozy pubs and restaurants to choose from in Kenmare, county Kerry (credit “my dad”) 2) Traditional Irish music session in a local pub (credit Failte Ireland) 3) Colorful pub front in Sneem, Ring of Kerry
4. Take it easy
When you’re planning your trip to Ireland, you probably have a long bucket list. You’ve done your research, and there’s an overload of ideas from family and friends who have travelled here before. If you truly wish to experience the myth and magic of Ireland, then avoid packing everything into one trip.
Make sure to build in time to enjoy the unexpected, the hidden treasures that lie off the beaten track. Don’t rush, take a step back, and take your foot off the accelerator. Rush hour in Ireland simply means waiting for sheep or cattle to cross the road.
Take time to see that rainbow, watch the border collie herd sheep, and hear the waves crashing onto the cliffs. Enjoy all the breath-taking moments that cross your path. It’s the unexpected moments that will make your Irish vacation unforgettable. You can always come back again!
1) Take time to sit down, relax, and truly enjoy the views of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way (credit: Melanie Nelson) 2) When visiting the famous Cliffs of Moher, give yourself enough time to do (part of) the incredible cliff top walk 3) Slea Head Drive, Dingle Peninsula. This is just one of many beautiful beaches along Ireland’s coast
5. Hire a private driver
Last but not least, hiring a private driver will ensure that you will experience the very best of Ireland. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the incredible scenery, history and culture Ireland has to offer. You’ll be treated to the most scenic drives, historic wonders, inspirational places (pubs and other) and hidden gems off the beaten track.
A private driver can navigate the backroads and knows the best places to go to avoid the tourists and the buses. You can customize your adventure and travel at your own pace rather than following the itinerary of a large group. It’s a fun way to find the Ireland you’ve always imagined!
A private driver/guide will take the stress out of the driving, show you the best spots off the beaten path, but most of all …. it is fun! 1) Exploring Ireland with a group from the US, photo taken at Kylemore Abbey 2) Ladies day out. Top right: Ester from Kerry Experience Tours 3) On tour with Kathy and friends. Middle: Kathy from US based travel agency K Travels. Right: Gerrit from Kerry Experience Tours
About Kerry Experience Tours
For a truly local experience in one of the most charming and warm cultures in the world, Kerry Experience Tours will show visitors the most magical parts of Ireland. On offer are private day tours and multiday tours, tailored to suit your wishes. Enjoy the most scenic drives, spectacular land and seascapes, historic wonders, inspirational places, and hidden gems off the beaten path, completed with background information and stories.
The Emerald Isle is enjoyed best in the hands of experienced tour guides, who will personalize every trip to what guests want to see. Kerry Experience Tours is run by Gerrit & Ester, who made their dreams come true by moving to this beautiful, enchanting country. Since 2007 they run the touring company together, sharing their passion for Ireland with others. Their aim is for you to enjoy the absolute best Ireland has to offer, creating memories that last a lifetime.
Join Kerry Experience Tours and find the Ireland you’ve always imagined.