What to see in Ireland?
May 21, 2008 5:19 AM   Subscribe

Driving through the northern half of Ireland next week, does anyone have any suggestions on castles, sights, breweries, or distilleries that we shouldn't miss?

We're renting a car in Belfast on the 27th of May, and driving around Ireland with only a vague route of Belfast->Galway->Dublin and back to Belfast on the 1st of June.

Obviously we're going to the Guinness Brewery, and the Cliffs of Moher, but I was wondering if any Mefites had any other suggestions of great places to see that might be somewhat along the way.

We have no hostels booked other than in Belfast and Dublin, so there's definitely room for variations of the route. I don't think we'll have time to get down to Cork and more southerly points, but suggestions for there are welcome as well!

Oh, also, will a US car charger for an iPod work in a European car? Or do they have different voltages in their cigarette lighters? Do they even HAVE cigarette lighters? Thanks in advance!
posted by Grither to Travel & Transportation around Ireland (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The Guardian had an article on the delights of County Leitrim recently which looks kinda on the way from Belfast to Galway. Not been there myself but if it's "oirishness" you're after, could be worth a day.
posted by jontyjago at 5:37 AM on May 21, 2008

Take the time to go north out of Belfast and visit the Bushmills Distillery and taste the most divine nectar ever made by man. I think you might need to book in advance if you do decide to go there.
posted by worker_bee at 5:37 AM on May 21, 2008

Dunluce Castle
Wikipedia entry
posted by spasm at 5:58 AM on May 21, 2008

The Giant's Causeway is worth checking out, if you're willing to go a bit out of your way. Galway is great for music, as well as history. If you get a chance to walk along the beach, walk all the way to the end of the beach walk and kick the wall. It's apparently good luck. Try to get out to the Aran Islands, if you get a chance, they are wild and beautiful. There's a ferry that will take you there.

Coming back to Dublin, mind yourself on the road - the highway winds through quite a few townlands on its way back to the dual carriageway, and during rush hour, this will be a looooong drive. One thing I used to love to do was keep an eye out for standing stones and ogham stones in farmer's fields. They're more common than you think, and if you show a little respect for the farmer whose land they're on by asking permission, you might be able to inspect them up close. Here's a map with some of the bigger ones on it.

Heading from Dublin to Belfast, check out Newgrange, Tara and Knowth, all important megalithic standing stone or ring stone sites.

Another handy trick is to pull into a town, go into a pub and ask the publican what he recommends by way of sights to see. They'll sometimes point you to things the main tourist maps and guides won't mention.
posted by LN at 6:02 AM on May 21, 2008

THe route I would take would be the coastal route from Belfast... so head out towards Carrickfergus (there's a castle there, nothing special but it is pretty complete), up through Larne and along the coast. A couple of hours will take you to Dunluce Castle, the rope bridge and the giants causeway are all round there (as well as Bushmills distillery). You could then head on to Coleraine, down through Derry (maybe stay there for the night?) Donegal then Sligo (I love Sligo, beautiful area to drive through) Couple of hours from Sligo should get you to Galway. A really nice hotel just outside Galway (bit pricey but nice boutique sort of place, lovely rooms) is www.thetwelvehotel.ie

After Galway I'd just head straight across to Dublin, as LN says, keep an eye out for the ring stones, I also love that part of the country for all the dry stone walls. On the way back up to Belfast you really should head towards Warrenpoint then the Mourne Mountains and Silent Valley. Then head up Strangford Lough, it's a really beautiful place. Stop in at Mount Stewart, really nice National Trust gardens. You'll then be heading back towards Belfast and should drive up the Newtownards road passing Stormont. Closer you get to Belfast you will pass some of the loyalist murals and probably see masses of wood lying everywhere as they get ready for the bonfires.

If you are out for the night in Belfast I'd check out The Empire Music Hall, maybe Laverys or Auntie Annies (if you are of the indie type) or Stiff Kitten if you like clubbing. Cathedral Quarter is also turning out to be a great spot in Belfast at the weekend.

Have fun
posted by twistedonion at 6:43 AM on May 21, 2008

It's been about 15 years, and granted most of my time in Belfast was *cough* blurry, one of the places that stood out was The Crown. (Sorry about the annoying Bushmills ad).

Enjoy your trip! One thing that struck me about Northern Ireland (again, 15 years ago) was that it was NOT a traditional tourist destination. As an American, I was a bit of a novelty.
posted by suki at 6:51 AM on May 21, 2008

Just a note that driving in Ireland takes forever. The distances are short, but it takes awhile to get from point A to point B. Find out if you can return the car in a different city than you rented it. Ditch the car in Dublin and take the train back to Belfast.

I'd skip the Waterford factory, which everyone suggests you should visit. The tour is interesting, but it's not worth a full day on a short trip to Ireland. It's too far South to make it work for your trip.

Two things we really loved when we visited in November were renting bikes on one of the Aran Islands and hiking in Killarney National Park. We'd spend a week in Dublin for the Dublin Marathon so it was great to get out to the quiet countryside. (Killarney can be tough, because there's a lot of tourist stuff which can annoy.)

Also, we had no problem emailing the B&B's suggested in the Rick Steves Ireland book and getting accommodations. Generally, we emailed the night before and found rooms easily. We were traveling just after the tourist season, while you're smack in the middle. Rooms may be a bit more of a challenge.
posted by 26.2 at 7:00 AM on May 21, 2008

Response by poster: Awesome answers so far, thanks everyone! Anyone have any ideas on the iPod thing?
posted by Grither at 7:09 AM on May 21, 2008

Oh, I forgot to mention, there's an awesome pub in the town of Drogheda, Co. Louth, near to Newgrange. It's called Peter Matthews', but the locals call it McPhail's. Go there for some great traditional music. But watch out, the pub is teeny and often crowded.
posted by LN at 7:16 AM on May 21, 2008

Connemara, an area north of Galway, has always been thought of as being particularly pretty, especially the town of Cliffden. Nearby is the highly picturesque Kylemore Abbey, but that's a pretty decent tourist attraction.
posted by LionIndex at 7:38 AM on May 21, 2008

Newgrange is a can't miss. It's absolutely stunning. I don't know how much of the North you're planning on exploring, but Derry City is a really great place - loads of political history, if you're into that sort of thing, and good pubs throughout.

Galway is great, and there's about eleventybajillion B&B's there, so it shouldn't be a problem booking there on short notice.
posted by pdb at 8:00 AM on May 21, 2008

Oh, also, will a US car charger for an iPod work in a European car? Or do they have different voltages in their cigarette lighters? Do they even HAVE cigarette lighters?

Didn't use an ipod, but the cigarette lighter charged my GPS no problem. From my research before my trip, I gathered (but wasn't 100% sure) that the outlets are the same as in the states.

As for Ireland, I loved Killarney National Park, but it'd be a bit of a drive for you to get out there if you're trying to stay in the north part of the country. I second what everyone's saying about distances taking longer to drive than you'd expect (though the fancy highway they've got now helps a lot).
posted by inigo2 at 8:08 AM on May 21, 2008

2nding the ipod 12v cigarette adapter compatability. Shouldn't be a problem. In the North, the Giants causeway and the Bushmills distillery are fantastic sights. On the whiskey tour, be sure to put your hand up for the tasting session at the end. Drivers need not apply... They give a free drink with the tour for everyone too- be sure to try the Distiller reserve, which is only available there.
On the very North Coast at Castlerock (a village)-Don't forget to check out the Mussenden Temple, which lies in the grounds of Downhill Estate (now a National Trust property) the temple is a great sight- if you pass by the 12 Apostles cottages (old basalt workers cottages for the estate) come calling at #10- i'll get you a pint of the black stuff!
The road from Belfast to Dublin is a good one now (small toll), so don't worry about that- no horse and carts, dirt tracks, or the like. 2 hrs easily. Some the forest parks are amazing- Glennariff and Gortin for example. Finally, be warned that Dublin can be incredibly expensive the closer you get to the center. And try not to to cry when you see the Northern gas prices- try to wait and fill up over the border. HTH
posted by Joe Rocket at 9:07 AM on May 21, 2008

Newgrange is a can't miss. It's absolutely stunning.

What he said.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 11:00 AM on May 21, 2008

If you're a whiskey fan, the Jameson Distillery tour in Dublin was much more enjoyable to me than the Guiness tour.

When they ask you at the beginning who wants to be involved in a bit of fun at the end - PUT YOUR HAND UP. Trust me on this.
posted by Admira at 3:07 PM on May 21, 2008

If the pub is still there in the town of Bushmills, stop in for a pint, and ask for a nip of the "mountain dew".
posted by gnz2001 at 3:31 PM on May 21, 2008

Ah yes, Bushmills Distillery for sure. And you can walk over from there to the Giant's Causeway, takes about 1 hour each way if I remember right, but then a surprsingly long time to get from the top right down to the end of the causeway. Be warned, there aren't that many places to eat in Bushmills in the evening - in fact you might be better eating in the pub next to the causeway and ordering a cab back. But there is a cracker of a place to get a full Irish breakfast right in the centre of town to recover from the local stuff the night before. Don't miss the potato bread.

And the Crown in Belfast is great, go early and get yourself a booth. Its popular with locals so arrange your visit before the post-work rush.

And of walking is your thing this is a great website. Have fun, beautiful place.
posted by cluck at 3:52 PM on May 21, 2008

Another vote for Newgrange and another for the Aran Islands. The Burren is also rather interesting.

I really liked Killarney National Park (and the Dingle Peninsula, which is nearby), but your trip's so short that you probably won't be able to fit that piece in. (Not so much the driving-- Galway to Killarney to Dublin is only a few hours longer than Galway to Dublin-- but just having the time to enjoy the places you do go.)
posted by EmilyClimbs at 9:00 PM on May 21, 2008

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