January 9, 2019 5:50 PM   Subscribe

Help! We're going to Ireland for the first time. We'll be in Dublin for an event lasting 5 days at the end of the trip, and we'll want to explore Dublin a bit before that, too. Let's say 3 days. If we can, we'd like to stay in a single place in the city for all that. That leaves us with 4-5 days. Should we look into heading outside of Dublin--maybe somewhere smaller, cheaper, and more scenic--after we arrive? If so, where?

I'd strongly prefer no driving (it's not vacation if I'm driving!). Also I'm not sure I'll be fit to drive after being awake for so many hours, let alone on the other side of the road.

We like:
cozy places to write
cold weather
traditional Irish music
history (earlier is better, although my partner also likes maritime history) and archaeology
just hanging out and wandering around, visiting grocery stores and whatnot
potentially something farm- or cooking-related?
cool geology and science (I don't think Giant's Causeway up in Northern Ireland is in the cards, but we'll see)
trains and ferries

We're not into:
serious hiking (strolling yes! hiking no)

I've gotten wonderful travel suggestions from AskMe in the past, so I hope you can help me out figure out where to go and how to manage it. I'm doing my reading, but I'm really clueless about Ireland.

So: Should we do this?
Where should we go? What should we do and where should we stay?
And how do we get there from Dublin Airport? (If everything goes smoothly, we'll arrive just before noon on a Wednesday.)
posted by wintersweet to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I flew to Shannon and Left from Dublin. We would have been very happy if we never went to Dublin and the eastern part of the country. It was smaller and quaint. We just loved Doolin(famous for their music) and Dingle and all of the south west.

We rented a car and went from BnB to BnB.
posted by beccaj at 6:01 PM on January 9

I would definitely head to another city after you arrive and stay there for one or two nights! We took a bus to each city we visited. That was not only affordable and easy, but it was some of the best sight-seeing on the whole trip. (I personally love just sitting back and watching things go by.) Once you're on the bus, you just sit back and relax. We reserved tickets in advance but some folks just got on the bus and paid the bus driver in cash.

I thought Galway was totally spectacular. It had tons of music and street performers and the medieval architecture and streets are gorgeous. I also enjoyed walking around Cork, though we had a hard time finding music there (or anything to do after 8pm). That's also the Blarney Stone location if you're into that. I visited Dingle for the day and took a bus tour which I was surprised to love.

When I was prepping for my trip I read a bunch of other askmeta suggestions that described a lot of the towns. Those were really helpful and helped me pick which places to go. Have so much fun! It's gorgeous and we met a ton of nice, fun people!
posted by sweetjane at 6:37 PM on January 9 [3 favorites]

Ireland is a lovely place with lovely people so you're sure to have a good time, regardless of what you do and where you go! I had so many great conversations with strangers, so don't be afraid to chat and ask people for their advice. I didn't have a car but got around fine on foot and by train. I know so many great spots require a car but the good news is that there are also plenty that don't!

I'm not into nightclubs either but found pubs very pleasant and low-key when not too crowded. I definitely recommend this hotel, one of my favorites anywhere in the world. I enjoyed the Archaelogy exhibits at the National Museum of Ireland, which happen to be free! The gift shop has a nice selection of "classy" souvenirs, too, like jams and books and pretty wool scarves. EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum was excellent and unexpectedly moving.

I also enjoyed visiting Galway, which is a quick 1.5 hours away from Dublin by train; I just walked up to the counter and bought my tickets, which were very affordable. Three days there would be enough as it's super walkable with tons of cute shops and restaurants. I learned it's known for its music scene, and can attest to this as I got a spontaneous invite to a show. I had a blast and will always remember this!

From Galway, I also went on a day-long bus tour to the Cliffs of Moher and some other historic sites; the bus picked people up from various hotels. Yes, this spot ist super touristy but absolutely worth it! Both foreign tourists and locals alike felt the cliffs were a must-see, and I'm glad I listened. Words and even photos can't describe how stunning they are. Of course, there are other stunning spots that more secluded but those are harder to get to.
posted by smorgasbord at 6:44 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]

how do we get there from Dublin Airport?

a quick 1.5 hours away from Dublin by train

There is a bus that will take you directly from the airport to Dublin Heuston Station if you decide to travel by rail.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 7:10 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]

Take this with a grain of salt because the last time I was in Dublin was 1989 but we stayed with a relative of a friend who lived out in Bray, which was an easy train ride from Dublin (on the DART line). I remember it being quite charming and quiet. From Bray you can take a bus to Glendalough and visit the stunning monastic ruins and go for a hike.
posted by kaybdc at 7:23 PM on January 9 [4 favorites]

Kilkenny ticks your history, food, and traditional music boxes. I thoroughly regret only spending one night and half a day there. It's a beautiful city with plenty to look at and visit. It looks like you can get there by train from Dublin.

We stayed at the Kilkenny Ormonde which was fine but the beautiful traditional pub at the Hibernian down the road had us wishing we'd stayed there instead.
posted by firstdrop at 9:47 PM on January 9

The Dublin Museum of Natural History is kind of a meta-museum in that it's like a museum of a Victorian natural history museum - two floors of Victorian taxidermy, if that is your thing. The Book of Kells is fine but it tends to be busy, and my overwhelming memory is of trying to peer at the open page for that day over the heads of like 15 French teenagers.

In terms of getting around the city, we mostly used taxis while we were there (including to and from the airport). There's an app you can use to get a taxi, and the app also allows you to pre-book airport taxis.
posted by terretu at 12:13 AM on January 10

I agree with smorgasbord that Galway is your best bet as far as other towns to see. It has the best (used and new) bookshop in Ireland (Charlie Byrne's). You can take a day trip to the Aran Islands there. In fact, it would be very easy to get a bus to Galway from Dublin airport and then a bus back to Dublin City Centre.

Taxis in Dublin are convenient but expensive. It's worth taking at least one, though, because the drivers are always fun to talk to. At the airport (only) you can buy a tourist's LEAP card for 19 euro, which gets you free public transportation for three days after the first use. So you could buy a card, go to Galway, and on your return to Dublin have 3 free days of public transport. FYI and easy to remember, the city buses that go to the airport are the 747 or the 757

I think you can do a lot in and around Dublin. Kaybdc's suggestion of Bray and Glendalough is great. There's a coach from Busáras (central bus station) to Glendalough and the DART line to Bray is close by at Connolly station. Another great day trip is Newgrange/Knowth/Dowth. These are the large megalithic complexes in the Boyne valley and are among the oldest and most impressive megalithic sites in Europe. The National Museum of Ireland has lots of amazing bronze and iron age artifacts--bog bodies, gold lunula, a spectacular mace head made from flint carved with a spiral.

Kilmainham gaol tour is fantastic. Do not miss it. A great way to learn how Irish independence happened and what it cost in terms of lives etc.
posted by Morpeth at 3:48 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]

Belfast and the Antrim coast or Galway and the Atlantic Coast are both good options. Without a car, you may want to book a bus tour to make the most of your time in either place. Seconding Kilmainham Gaol. If you do make it to Belfast, take a black cab tour for more rich history.
posted by soelo at 8:00 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]

To me, Dublin feels like any other city, so unless you have a particular interest in Joyce or just like hanging out in cities, I think an extra 3 days would be better spent seeing more of Ireland. Traveling by bus or train is not difficult, and even if you're just hopping from Galway to Sligo to Donegal or suchlike, you'll get a lot more of the things on your list than you will in the big city.
posted by rikschell at 9:08 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]

I loved the National Museum of Ireland. You might also consider visiting Glasnevin Cemetery if you enjoy history, though it’s a bit out of the city center and focuses more on recent history / after the War of Independence.

The thing about traveling around Ireland is that there seems to be a few circuits that tourists go on, and in most cases that means going from city to city or town to town... I’d say that less is more. Spending a few days in Killarney or somewhere else out west like Dingle might be more relaxing (and definitely more stroll-like and not hiking-intensive). There are the Traditional Farms in Killarney which might be more of a family activity but could also be pretty interesting since you’re interested in farms.

Also, Dublin is totally walkable so I don’t know that you would necessarily need a taxi. There are also buses everywhere.
posted by gemutlichkeit at 1:10 PM on January 10

I went to Ireland for the first time in 2017, loved it! No matter what you do, you'll have a great time - the people are so friendly. We were told to avoid Dublin but I'm glad we didn't as it was great, so many old buildings and history. First, I highly recommend the Hop on, hop off tour bus. In retrospect, we would have used this on the first day and gotten a 2 day pass, instead of walking around 5 miles in a daze from jet lag on the first day. The bus gives you a comfy overview of the whole city, and you can hop off and back on at any time during their operating hours, which would be a perfect first day intro while jet lagged. We really enjoyed The Jail (get tickets beforehand, it sells out), Trinity College/The Book of Kells (also get tickets before hand) and go earlier in the day; Brazenhead pub – Ireland’s oldest pub, crowded but nice, good food and drink. Meh: Guinness Storehouse – it was just too crowded the day we went (and line was over 1 hr). All on the hop on/off bus tour. There are several other places on the tour that we just didn’t have time for! The Cliffs of Mohr are truly jaw-dropping gorgeous. We drove the the Dingle peninsula - there are bus tours - and it was beautiful. Really enjoyed the prehistoric Beehive huts - not sure if the tour bus stops here though, they're on some guy's farm. There are a lot of ancient prehistoric sites in Ireland - we missed New Grange and want to go back for that. Galway - beautiful, quaint, historic. We went to Crane's bar for music and opted to see the storyteller beforehand, even though it cost a few euros, but it was totally worth it, and one of the highlights of the trip. The traditional music was excellent and free. In Meath (near Dublin) we enjoyed the Trim Castle, where they filmed Braveheart. Have fun!
posted by j810c at 8:41 PM on January 10

oh! I should have added "alcohol" to the "we're not into" list! so no worries on missing the Guinness Storehouse, ha.
posted by wintersweet at 11:11 PM on January 10

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