Counting down to honeymoon: Any last-minute advice for an Ireland trip?

The newly-minted Mr and I will be heading out in a few weeks on our honeymoon. We found a great travel agent here in the states that contracts with a travel company in Ireland, and she put together a package that included everything we asked for and a few things we didn’t think of. We’re super excited, as the trip was on both our bucket lists.

We’re flying into Dublin, where we’ll stay a couple days, then we’re off to Killarney, then Galway, then back to Dublin. We will not be driving in Dublin, but we will be driving to/around the other areas. We’re booked on tours of the Giant’s Causeway, Ring of Kerry, Dingle Peninsula, a boat tour of the Skelligs (we couldn’t get landing tickets, but a ride-by tour will do just fine), and the Game of Thrones filming areas (some of which we’ll have seen on the previous tours, but that’s perfectly OK). We plan on stops at Trinity College and Newgrange, and I’m fairly sure she booked us tickets to the Merry Ploughboys one evening.

We have hop on/off tickets for the sightseeing bus in Dublin; is the zoo worth a hop off? Or are there other things we Must See while we’re in the city that are on the bus route?

We asked for the tiniest car possible, but I know that driving will be… interesting. Any tips for the cross-country jaunt, or for driving in Glaway/Killarney?

I’ve been eyeballing the weather and it’s looking perfect; in general, will we be better off with hiking boots or sneakers?

When we were recently in Germany, we were a little taken aback at the number of shopkeeps and other folks who asked us our opinion on the state of US politics. Should we expect the same in Ireland?

Anything else we should know/keep in mind? We’re pretty seasoned travelers, but this is our first trip to the island (my grandad was born there, but there is a LOT of bad blood in the family about exactly where we’re from, so I’m not going to go around proclaiming heritage or anything… at least they don’t fight over how to pronounce their last name, like my mom’s side of the family…) and we want to make sure to have the best experience possible.

As luck would have it, I have two sisters who are returning today from a two-week journey to the UK and Ireland. With your permission, I’ll share this OP with them and ask if they have any tips.

Of course!

Any must-try foods would be welcome suggestions as well. We’re fairly adventurous eaters. :slight_smile:

Visit pubs and enjoy live music!

Don’t make any deals with little green men.

No useful experience but I’ve been told tha Dublin can be shockingly expensive. Even more so than London and near Paris. No clue at all if this is true but I would welcome comments on this from those who know.

Bring raingear. Preferably the breathable kind.

Unless you’re hiking, you won’t need hiking boots. But your shoes will get wet, so bring a change of shoes, prefer water-resistant sneakers to the kind with mesh parts, and bring lots of changes of socks.

Nah, just buy a woolen flat cap to protect you from the “soft weather” in the west. Buy several. My dogs chewed up my last one and I was reduced to buying an English-made one when I was in London last spring.

The towns of Dingle and Doolin, in the west, were where we found the best live music pubs. Doolin is near Lisdoonvarna, where they make the best cold-smoked salmon I’ve ever tasted. It’s also near the Burren, a natural landscape which is the finest rock-and-flower garden in the world.

Eat lots of seafood. They’ve finally learned how to cook it. If no seafood available, you can’t go wrong with a dish of bacon and creamed cabbage with a pint of stout. And a boiled/steamed potato. The Irish can make a plain potato taste better than a Frenchman with a full kitchen battery.

I loved the Bantry peninsula in the SW, but it sounds like it may be too far south for you. At the tip, you can take an aerial cable car to (?) Island, which is filled with ruined castles and sheep, and makes for a great ramble.

If you hear there is a church or monastery or nunnery nearby with Harry Clarke’s stained glass windows, GO AND SEE THEM. He was the greatest stained glass artist (and book illustrator) of the early 20th century. Think Aubrey Beardsley decadence, but with bible scenes. I’m shocked he got away with it.

Finally — if you like poetry — take a side trip to William Butler Yeats’s tower. He lived there for years in the 1920s, it figures powerfully in his work, and it is totally cool. It was a high point of our first trip in 2001.

Oh, and congratulations on your nuptials!

If anyone gives you shit about Trump, tell ‘em you’re Canadians.

Also! Any time you see a little roadside sign saying “go down here a mile for something cool” DO IT.

For example, we were guided down a tiny lane in Connemara that led to something POWERFULLY IMPORTANT in the history of the Children of Lir. I had never heard of the Children of Lir before, and now I know all about them.

You owe it to your Irish Heritage.


— Uke, Fellow Irisher

I just got back from Ireland. Nobody asked me about politics. Everything was super pleasant. Make sure you get insurance if you rent a car - some of the roads are extremely narrow and next to thick foliage - I got scraped up a bit while allowing a tractor to pass.

If you can, go see the Cliffs of Moher. We saw Newgrange, causeway, and much more, but nothing was more breathtaking than Moher.

I also recommend ducking into a pub for food and drink. Aside from Guinness, Smithwich Red Ale is my new nectar. Carlsberg seems to be really popular as well; I tried it and it was like Stella but better. If you go through Belfast after the causeway, I highly recommend Lavery’s pub for great food in addition to drink. In general I loved the food in Ireland. I’m vegetarian and there was a plethora of delicious options. If you’re not, you’ll have even more.
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I love Ireland and have done some pretty extensive touring around the country in the last couple of years.

Personally we like to avoid crowds where possible, on that basis my number one tip is get there early. Whatever the main attraction is on a given day, if you’re there at opening, it’s often quiet, and you can get a good feel for the place/a good view.

If you’re going to Galway, hopefully that means you’re going to the Cliffs of Moher. I adore the place, it’s easily in the top 5 of my personal favourite places/sites in Europe.

I presume your Skelligs boat tour will depart from Portmagee. At the western end of the harbour is a pub, ‘Fisherman’s Bar & Skellig Restaurant’ that serves great seafood, highly recommend the cod goujons, and the seafood chowder.
Speaking of the Ring of Kerry, it may not be an option if you’re on a tour, but if at all possible visit the Gap of Dunloe, it’s a beautiful glacial valley, not far from Killarney, so if the tour doesn’t go via the Gap, take a short drive yourself.

I would recommend a stop in to the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. Even if you’re not a beer drinker, it is a great experience.

Depending upon your route between some places, some spots that might not have come up, and may be out of the way, but are well worth a visit if you can fit them in;

  • Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary
  • King Johns Castle in Limerick. Only found this one by chance, what a great Castle. If you’re driving Galway to Killarney you can hardly miss going through Limerick
    -Glendalough, in County Wicklow (only an hour south of Dublin)
  • Loughcrew Cairns, in County Meath (only an hour or so from Newgrange) It’s a challenging walk to get to, shortish but it’s perched on top of a steep hill.
  • Trim Castle (40 mins from Newgrange) Not the biggest Castle, but really enjoyed the guided tour here.

I could go on for ages. :smiley:

The one tip I’ll give you in relation to driving, if you use a GPS/satnav, they seem incapable of distinguishing between wide two lane highways, and windy single lane country tracks. Presumably because the tracks theoretically have the same speed limit, so I wound up numerous times being directed down roads little better than farm tracks. On the plus side we occasionally found wonderful little sights and spots we wouldn’t otherwise have seen.

Some things I’ve learned from annual visits over the last 18 years:

Don’t tip when buying a drink in a pub. If you eat in a pub, you can leave a small tip but it’s not generally expected. Tipping at “regular” (non-pub) restaurants is similar to in the US.

Dinner at most restaurants (not pubs) comes with potatoes and vegetables which are shared by the table.

People may talk when live music is being played in a pub. Don’t shush them.

A “pint” is a pint. A “glass” is half a pint.

People tend to drive quickly on single-lane roads, ostensibly to lessen the chance that they’ll encounter another vehicle coming the other way. If you do encounter a vehicle (I say “vehicle” not “car”, because it’s as likely to be farm machinery as it is to be a passenger car), pull to the left at the first safe opportunity. There are often pull-outs for this purpose, but in a pinch you sometimes have to make do by pulling into a ditch beside the road.

There will sometimes be herds of cows or sheep on the road. Only go around them if told to do so. Otherwise, you wait.

Yes, that’s cow shit all over the road.

If you’re near a radio at noon or 6pm, you may hear the Angelus, which is about a minute of a bell tolling. It’s polite to be quiet for this.

If you’re in someone’s home and they offer you food or drink (tea and biscuits is common), it’s polite to refuse once (“No, thank you. I couldn’t”). They will offer again and then you can accept. Some people do multiple rounds of this ritual. This can be funny to watch as the host and guest wage a battle both know will end the same way it always does.

Lots of very helpful advice, thank you!! I’m studiously taking notes over here. :slight_smile: And thank you for the congrats, Ukulele Ike!

We are indeed doing the Cliffs, and yes our boat tour will be departing from Portmagee. It’s only half the morning, so a quick stop for lunch will be perfect. We definitely plan on keeping an eye out for side trips, so we will be sure to watch for opportunities to see Clarke’s work. The windy super narrow roads are already on our radar; I’ll just keep my eyes closed most of the time. :smiley: :smiley:

What’s the general consensus on paying $10/day for the cellular coverage vice getting by with WiFi?

If you’re planning on using your phone to help navigate while you drive, I imagine that you’ll need the cellular coverage (but I may be mistaken).

Regarding tiny cars: I was in Ireland in '95, and at that point, pretty much all of the small rental cars were manual transmission. Automatic transmissions weren’t common in rentals, and were a lot more expensive. That may no longer be the case, but if you and your spouse aren’t comfortable driving a stick, you’ll probably want to double-check what you’re reserving with the car rental company.

Part of the issue with driving on the roads isn’t just that they’re narrow, it’s that there often isn’t much of a shoulder – it’s not uncommon for fences (or hedges) to be pretty close to the road on both sides. When we were there, the left side of our rental car got fairly scratched up, from many instances of having to squeeze past other cars.

Be prepared for drives to take longer than you think they should (at least, by American standards), and not just because you’re going to stop and sightsee. Narrow roads and indirect roads seemed to make things always take a lot longer to get to than we expected.

I concur with several of the earlier posters on sights like the Ring of Kerry, the Cliffs of Moher, Newgrange, Dingle, and Doolin. To that, I’d also add the Hill of Tara, which, like Newgrange, is just NW of Dublin, and Killarney National Park (near the Ring of Kerry).

If you don’t already have accommodations in Dublin, you might consider staying in one of the suburbs (like Bray or Dun Laoghaire), and taking the train into the city; that’s what we did, and it was considerably less expensive. (But, again, that’s also 20 years ago. :slight_smile: )

After we land we go to a Carphone Warehouse (there are lots of locations) and we get a SIM card from 3 ( for my wife’s unlocked iPhone. The SIM is 20 euro (at least it has been the last few years) and gives “unlimited” phone, text, and data for 30 days.

Is the bold correct? You’re going to Giant’s Causeway and heading out west? Because the Causeway is way up north, and quite honestly not worth such a detour if that’s all you’re going to see in the area.

Driving usually is’t that difficult, the hardest part for me is always in and around parking lots to remember keeping on the correct side. I’ve been told, a few times, that Ireland will not accept credit card insurance, and at least three times they refused to rent a car to me without buying their insurance.

There is plenty to see on the west coast, especially in Dingle and the Ring of Kerry. September should be a really nice time to go as well since the tourist season should be done but the weather will still be nice. If you can get a chance, at least drive through The Burren at some point, there’s some really neat landscape in the area, and very desolate.

You can refuse the optional insurance if you have a letter from your card issuer which states that the card’s insurance will cover any damage to the car. Only some card issuers will cover cars in Ireland. I know that Chase does because I got the letter when I rented a car in Shannon last year. I rented from Budget and they barely even looked at the letter.

We were over there (from the UK) just last week. Didn’t manage as many tours as you since we had family and a wedding to attend to, but still had a great time. Glendalough and the drive to it are indeed beautiful. Nearby is Powerscourt, a country mansion (house not open to the public) and extensive gardens which were fairly inexpensive to explore. I wouldn’t bother with the adjacent but separate Powerscourt Waterfall - it may be the largest in Ireland but they’ve just had a long dry spell, so not too impressive at the moment. But it sounds like you don’t have much free time left anyway.

We enjoyed the bus tour of Dublin (we took the green one, there is also a red one which costs slightly more) - both drivers we had were amusing (in a dad joke kind of way) and it’s a good way to get a feel for the attractions and history of the city. We didn’t bother with the Guinness factory as my brother has been before and felt it didn’t live up to the hype. Nor did we enter the zoo but it did look worth a visit if you like that sort of thing and don’t get a chance to go to many.

I opted out of all non-compulsory insurance for the car rental and they instead took a EUR1,500 hold on my credit card for the duration of the trip, this was described as an “excess regardless of fault (including theft)” which I take to mean if there was any damage whatsoever, I would be stuck for up to 1,500-worth of repair bills before rental insurance kicked in. But it turned out to be a good risk for us. YMMV - we’re used to driving on small roads.

Eating/drinking in Dublin is indeed expensive but not ruinously so.

We also did a short boat tour of the River Liffey in Dublin which was another good way to see some sights and learn the history. Think it was around EUR15 each.

Very jealous of your itinerary. Giant’s Causeway is about a 4 hour drive (each way) from Dublin and apparently worth going to see, but a long way for a day trip. Not a difficult drive though. And if you’re going by coach you can chill out a bit on the journey (most coaches these days have comfy seats and some even have wifi).

On wifi - it’s everywhere in Dublin (you can count on all guest accommodation having access to it, albeit possibly only in communal areas), most cafes and pubs will have it for free too. Not sure about how widespread coverage is in other parts of the country but I’d expect most places to have it. So for occasional checking of emails etc, you’ll be fine. Undoubtedly the biggest thing you will need data for is GPS for navigating in your rental car. You could look into just renting a dedicated GPS for that purpose, possible it will work out cheaper.

Have fun and good luck!

In Dublin, if you get a chance check out L Mulligan Grocer for dinner (it’s a restaurant). Great atmosphere, great food, great beer, and an extensive whiskey menu (if you are into that kinda thing)! We were there a few months ago on a trivia night.