Where is the "real" Ireland?
February 28, 2009 8:38 PM   Subscribe

Ireland Filter: Going to Cork (via Dublin) for 10 days in May. How do I see the "real" Ireland?

I know what the guide books say, but would like to hear about things to do, places to stay, things to see from locals or seasoned travelers. This is my first time out of the U.S. so I'd like to do it right.
posted by doppleradar to Travel & Transportation around Ireland (15 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Hurling is big in that part of Ireland. I've seen hurling on TV, and if I were going to Cork, I would try to go to a game.
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 8:41 PM on February 28, 2009

Come hang out with us! We're in Cork city. We'll take you to Nancy Spain's and Shandon Church and the English Market and a traditional music pub night if you like.

Please be careful with your "real" requirement. There's plenty of shite for tourists that you want to avoid, sure, but if you're looking for leprechauns and Paddy O'Oirish characters dotting an emerald countryside, not so much.

Contemporary Ireland is, well, very contemporary in day to day life. You can't move for lattes, iPhones and sushi here these days. If you're looking for traditional Ireland, music is the best preserved and most vibrant current day example of this outside the Gaeltacht. Which is also bursting with lattes, sushi and iPhones, but in Irish.

Having said that, the scenery here is stunning and West Cork and Kerry are the best places to see it. Consult Dochara.com for itineraries including the Ring of Kerry, and ask on the boards about how to link this up with a Cork visit. They are super nice (I know the lady who's hobby it is to rescue misguided tourists there) and will help you out.

We're away the first few days of May but we're always happy to buy a pint for visiting Mefites!
posted by DarlingBri at 9:18 PM on February 28, 2009 [3 favorites]

Whatever you do, take DarlingBri up on their offer! I went to Ireland for about 5 days a few years back, and it was the best 5 days ever, mostly because I was hanging/staying with locals (an hour outside Dublin in a little town). I remember having a conversation about how Americans make friends (I was there for a friend's wedding, I had met them through work), and a local friend-of-a-friend was all "you Americans...you make friends though school and through work...blah! You're so boring!" So I said "Well, how else are you supposed to meet people?" He replied with, "Hang out with us, you'll see how to meet people."

We did and it was the best five days of my life. Moral of the story: hang out with DarlingBri. (NO PRESSURE, DarlingBri! :)
posted by AlisonM at 9:48 PM on February 28, 2009

The real Ireland is the Irish people, so yeah, hang out with DarlingBri and go to the pub for a music night.

That said I still get tears in my eyes at the memory of the West Cork and Kerry coast. Inhumanly beautiful, the sea and sky.
posted by rdc at 10:58 PM on February 28, 2009

Are you spending time in Dublin? I have a few suggestions if you are (I'm from there).

My favourite travel experiences in Ireland have been travelling around the coast of Galway and Mayo by bicycle and by hitch-hiking. Not sure of your style of travel though, so this might not appeal to you.

Generally I have found going to fairly small towns and villages a nice way of meeting people who are friendly and interested in chatting to you.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 7:41 AM on March 1, 2009

One of our biggest regrets from our visit to Cork is that we skipped the butter museum. Three years later, we still shake our fists and wonder why, oh why, didn't we go to the butter museum?

Make sure to pick up a GAA jersey or two, even if you don't make it to a match. Wearing my Kilkenny Cats jersey has prompted many a conversation with Irish ex-pats here in the states.

Don't worry about being touristy. Avoid the obvious tourist traps (Waterford crystal, Belleek pottery) unless you're really interested in the subject matter (Guinness brewery, Middleton distillery). If you're going to be out in some of the smaller towns/cities, check ahead to see if they have a ghost tour or walking tour or something.

If you can make time, hit up the Aran islands. Standing in an ancient hill fort overlooking the sea makes you feel like you're at the edge of the world.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:55 AM on March 1, 2009

We didn't rent a car in Ireland and instead traveled on the trains. It allowed us to meet plenty of people and chat for a bit with them.

If you go into a pub and it's full of tourists - leave. Somewhere there's a nice pub full of locals - and Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale.
posted by 26.2 at 8:59 AM on March 1, 2009

I'd have never thought touring the Waterford Crystal plant would be "real" but this might change things...
posted by the christopher hundreds at 9:11 AM on March 1, 2009

Clarification: Sadly, DarlingBri is not Irish, and neither is Mr. DarlingBri. (I'm a long-expatriated American and he's from London.) But we do live here, and are more than willing to extend hospitality to visitors from anywhere. I'm not sure how much street cred that gives me by AlisonM's (wise) standards...

The Butter Museum is next to Shandon Church, so that's easy to add in and a great suggestion. You can send robocop is bleeding a butter postcard!

I also like the Titanic museum in Cobh. Plus the train ride out there is only 20 minutes and the view is stunning. It's one of the prettiest train rides in Ireland; the other one is Dublin > Belfast.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:12 AM on March 1, 2009

Some good suggestions already.

GAA match. If possible get to a match in Croke Park for the atmosphere (and be sure to be wearing a Dublin jersey). Check the fixtures closer to your arrival.

Visiting the Gaeltacht, as DarlingBri suggested, is a great idea. Ring in Waterford would be en route between Dublin and Cork. Though if possible you should visit the West. The Aran Islands, Connemara, Kerry, West Cork, the Burren in Clare are all good. If you want to avoid other tourists then somewhere like Innis Boffin (off the coast of Clare) would be a good spot, very much Ireland as it used to be. I think there might be a half marathon on there in May (with all of 80 entry places already filled) so it might be booked out.

You could also go to a Ceili (dance). You can find a list of nationwide scheduled Ceilis here. Again, you'll need to wait closer to the time, but you are bound to find something near where you'll be.

What time in May are you arriving? The beginning of may has the bank holiday weekend, so there will be lots of things going on in towns across the country. I'm sure there will be a few Fleadhs (traditional Irish music festivals) and any of them would be great fun as basically every pub will have live music all day. I think the Punchestown Horse Races are on that weekend as well if that's your type of thing - it's a pretty authentic Irish experience.

How are you travelling from Dublin to Cork? Renting a car or using buses/trains/luck? If you have a few days in Dublin then Wicklow is worth visiting. You can use public transport to get to somewhere popular like Glendalough (the food in the hotel is very good and a nice reward after a long walk), or drive to a quieter less popular spot where you probably won't meet many others in your 2-3 hour walk. Powerscourt waterfall is another popular spot, but I much prefer walking Maulin Hill, starting from Crone Wood, as you get an amazing view of the waterfall and the Wicklow mountains and it feels a lot more isolated. Then you can treat yourself to lunch in Johnny Foxes which, while very 'touristy', serves one of the best pints of Guinness and does superb seafood (go for lunch though and avoid the "Hooley" nights which cater for busloads of tourists, and preferably midweek when it's not packed to the rafters).

One thing I can highly recommend is staying in one of the Hidden Ireland Guest Houses. We stayed in one for a weekend a few years ago and it was fantastic. They are old Estate Houses that now offer rooms and food and price wise they are not too bad at all - especially as it is such a unique experience. We stayed in Ballinkeele House a few years ago in Wexford (between Dublin and Cork). If you opt in for dinner all the guests sit at the same table in the dining room and eat from a set menu. The food we had was delicious and the openness of the hosts and friendliness of the other guests made it an unforgettable evening.
posted by Elmore at 12:35 PM on March 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh, and for trad music check out Comhaltas. Again, bound to be something on somewhere near you.
posted by Elmore at 12:57 PM on March 1, 2009

Darlingbri forgot to mention that we also have a dog.

I'm just gonna strongly urge you not to get from Dublin to here by plane. You'd get gouged on the luggage anyway and you'd miss out on the train. Which, incidentally, you get from Heuston Station, which in turn has a shuttle bus from Dublin Airport (way cheaper than a cab). Or if you're actually stopping in Dublin en route, it provides a nice excuse to get the rather nice tram to Heuston from several points north of the river in the city centre.

Oh, and if you're a fan of Starbucks, get one before you get on the train. The only one in Cork's at the airport you shouldn't be visiting. :)
posted by genghis at 4:28 PM on March 1, 2009

The only eastern European restaurant I saw in Ireland was Gospoda in Cork. I missed the butter museum, but enjoyed the Cork Jail and an exhibit about Irish feminism at the university museum.
posted by brujita at 7:50 PM on March 1, 2009

i'll second getting the train down instead of flying - book your ticket online here, and you'll be happy you did. It's pricier, but dublin airport can be a total pain in the ass to get to, wait in, and travel through.
posted by kev23f at 8:13 AM on March 2, 2009

sorry I missed this. I would simply add that the Sheep's Head peninsula was my utter favorite whenever I wandered west of Cork.

Do they still do Cheili's at the Aras on the Mardyke on Wednesday nights?
posted by Wilder at 8:51 AM on March 6, 2009

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