What to do in Ireland?
August 7, 2008 12:04 PM   Subscribe

What not to miss on a trip to Ireland?

I've recently been forcibly ejected (read: dumped) from a 6 year relationship. Realizing that being drunk all the time is turning out to be a short term solution at best, I want to get away and spend 1 or 2 weeks in Ireland. What kinds of things should I pack into my itinerary?

Some potentially relevant things about me:

- I'm 23 and male.
- I prefer slower paced cities and rural areas over big cities. I'm probably looking to spend a day, maybe 2 in Dublin.
- I'm especially interested in history and art.
- I'm doing this soon, like within the next month.
- Within reason, cost is not a concern.

Also welcome are opinions on whether it's even a good idea to go on a solo trip after being romantically eviscerated.
posted by saraswati to Travel & Transportation around Ireland (25 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Then you should totally check out Cork.

All around Cork are ruins, standing stones and whatnot, most are accessible by car; Blarney Castle and the Rock of Cashel are relatively nearby.

Mizen Head is just outside of Cork (the southern most tip of Ireland), as is Kinsale, a port town that's quite a popular detaway destination for the residents of Cork city proper.

Cork is where most immigrants from Ireland sailed from, so check out Cobh Heritage Centre.

Cork is a very artsy kind of city, and a very "walking" city. There are lots of little art galleries and parks and the like tucked away among its winding streets. The Cork market is also absolutely worth checking out.

You should be there right around the time of the Cork Folk Festival, which draws some of the biggest names in Irish traditional music. Be sure to check out some of the acts. Tell everybody at the Spalpin Fanach that I said hello!

You can also go up into St. Anne's church in Shandon, and play tunes on the church bells. Don't be a dork like me and play "O Canada"; the bells can't play sharps or flats.

And most of all, have some fun!
posted by LN at 12:26 PM on August 7, 2008

Best answer: Solo trips after romantic evisceration are highly recommended.

If you like slower paced cities, come to Cork. We'll buy you beer. You can do the whole city on foot and there are fun things to do here. We have the Crawford Gallery and a fairly new museum at UCC in a building designed by IM Pei. We also have expanses of countryside and castles and stuff.

Everyone else will tell you to go to Galway. By all means, feel free. Personally, I hate it. It's been totally touristed up, but it works for a lot of people. It's very, uh, Disney Irish.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:40 PM on August 7, 2008

Best answer: I went when I was 24 for a month-long circuit of the country (taking buses from town to town, working off of the Lonely Planet/Let's go books). I went alone, but quickly found travelling companions in the hostels I stayed. My own personal goal was to see live traditional music in the bars at each town I visited, a fairly easy thing to accomplish! My favorite stops were:

1) Derry/Londonderry: Definitely go to Northern Ireland. This town has very friendly folks (both from North and the Republic, being on the border) and is a bit less intense than Belfast.

2) Donegal: This northwestern section of Ireland is dramatically beautiful with a rocky coastline and desolate green rolling hills.

3) Westport: A small west-coastal town, with a bar owned by a former (current?) Chieftain. I stayed in a cozy hostel in a barn just outside of town. The hike up Croagh Patrick is great for a day trip.
posted by pjenks at 12:45 PM on August 7, 2008

cliffs of mohr (!!!!!!!!!!!!)

i spent 6 months in cork. it's city, but it is "slow city". if you do go there be sure to see the cathedral, which really is amazing.

honestly, even the "touristy" towns have some seriously cool stuff to see and do off the beaten path, especially if you like ruins and "old shite."
posted by misanthropicsarah at 12:56 PM on August 7, 2008

I'm no expert, by any means, but I passed through Killarney a few years back. When I was there, two friends and I walked up to see the Torc Waterfall. While that was pretty cool in itself, we then just kept walking along the water to find the source. Four hours later we were up on top of some little mountain and could see forever.

It was a really beautiful hike, great exercise and total solitude. If nature's your thing and you just enjoy wandering around all day with no real purpose whatsoever, this gets my suggestion.
posted by BirdD0g at 1:02 PM on August 7, 2008

I'd avoid Galway City itself, but the surroundings are beautiful.

Other areas I know and love would be Sligo, Donegal, the Antrim Coast, Mournes, Enniskillen (again not the town but the surrounding area is beautiful).

Belfast isn't exactly fast paced and you should definitely come check us out. If you are driving head round Strangford Lough.

one thing though...

Realizing that being drunk all the time is turning out to be a short term solution at best
You do realise you are coming to the wrong country!!! (only kidding, sort of)
posted by twistedonion at 1:07 PM on August 7, 2008

Best answer: Kinsale is very near Cork, and is very walkable -- and is sort of the epicenter of the Irish culinary revival. I absolutely fell in utter love with Kinsale. I recommend hitting up Deko's Cycles to rent a bike for the day.

While in Dublin, I recommend a hotel called "Number 31" because it's fairly modest in price, is within walking distance of most of the things you'll want to see, and has really interesting rooms (half of the hotel is a Georgian era townhouse, and the other half are the stables; the hotel is owned by an architect who did the Georgian townhouse rooms in period style and the stable-converted rooms in a modern style).

If Dublin Castle still has the underground archeological exhibit, try that.

My sources say this may be closed, but if you hear of a Cajun restaurant in Dublin which is owned by a guy named Liam and has a palm reader -- GO. Liam is the aforementioned palm reader, and at the very least, his "reading" will be fuel for a hell of a wild conversation.

And yes, solo travel to recover from heartbreak is the best thing. (shoot, I'd be going to Ireland myself if I could afford it - my budget is confining me to Philadelphia instead.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:11 PM on August 7, 2008

Best answer: On the last point, I think it's a great idea to go travelling after being romantically eviscerated. I'd make a point of seeing something totally different to what you know and being somewhere that's gentle on you so that you have the space and time to suit yourself.

In general, if you can rent a car, I'd do that. Travelling in Ireland takes a lot longer than you'd imagine for the distances, and I don't know about you but I'd rule out buses for that reason, and while the train journeys are lovely, the lines don't really join up enough outside Dublin so you could end up backtracking a lot.

Seconding Westport in Mayo - I'm living there right now and as a Dubliner, I'm experiencing a very pleasant kind of culture shock. There's tons of outdoorsy stuff to do (hiking, cycling, surfing, kayaking, etc) and if you're not it's that (and I'm not really), it's a really beautiful town with plenty of traditional music in lovely pubs, a gorgeous town centre mostly free of big high street shops, bourgie enough to serve most needs but not too snobbish, and even the tourists are kind of gentle here. There's a train three times daily from Dublin, and if it's within budget, the Ardmore Country House is a really lovely, friendly hotel with a great restaurant serving lots of seafood and tons else besides. If you're driving, take the coast road out to Leenane and Clifden - there's a spectacular length of landscape that's melancholy and damp and totally, gorgeously Irish.

I'd also recommend West Cork - especially Allihies, or Eyeries or Castletownbere (which has a nice contemporary gallery nearby). The whole Beara Peninsula is astonishingly gorgeous and the towns are small and sweet.

Clare is beautiful and the Burren landscape is something near-unique. Around Doolin (a very touristy little town but still beautiful) is good, and the Lazy Lobster restaurant there is awesome, as is the Doolin Craft Centre, which serves tasty lunch.

Kenmare in Kerry is in the middle of tourist central but it's a great town, with a fantastic secondhand bookshop and a great wine shop, and lots of nice places to eat. Not too far a drive to/from the Beara Peninsula.

I'm going to be lazy and link a comment I made before about places in Cork and Dublin, but if you're feeling tender, dramatic countryside sounds a lot more fun than a ton of time in cities.
posted by carbide at 1:20 PM on August 7, 2008

As far as castles go, I liked the one in Cahir the best. The Rock of Cashel wasn't my bag. Seek out music. Doolin is really good for that. If you do the Ring of Kerry do it backwards, i.e. clockwise.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:43 PM on August 7, 2008

Get thee to Dingle.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:14 PM on August 7, 2008

I had a great time recently camping on the coast in Wexford with friends. Nothing gets you back into your element like hanging out in the middle of nowhere with nothing but ocean and a few farms here and there.

Achill Island also charmed the hell out of me when I went in '05. The views of the Atlantic ocean are gorgeous and it's like taking a trip back in time. If I'm not mistaken (feel free to correct me, natives), The Pirate Queen's castle is nearby over in Clew Bay.
posted by arishaun at 2:23 PM on August 7, 2008

Newgrange and the Burren.
posted by gudrun at 2:43 PM on August 7, 2008

Go west! See the hills in Connemara, Cliffs of Moher, Kylemore Abbey, the Aran Islands, the Burren, and head north to Donegal. It's all obscenely pretty.
posted by kirstk at 2:49 PM on August 7, 2008

Go to Puck Fair and see a goat get crowned king if your dates overlap.
posted by jamesonandwater at 4:03 PM on August 7, 2008

If you'll be in the north, I loved watching the breakers roll in at Port Rush. Giant's Causeway was great too.
posted by bonobothegreat at 4:31 PM on August 7, 2008

Best answer: Newgrange/Knowth (history and art at the same time!)

If you're interested in history, and especially (but not only) if you have Irish ancestors who emigrated during the Famine era, check out the Dunbrody Famine Ship in New Ross (southeast Ireland, near Waterford.) It's a recreation of a famine ship (the one the Kennedy patriach came across on, in fact-- it was funded by the JFK Trust) and you get to go aboard as they walk you through the harrowing conditions for immigrants of the time.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 5:00 PM on August 7, 2008

If you make your way up to Northern Ireland, go see Giant's Causeway.
posted by chiababe at 6:37 PM on August 7, 2008

Best answer: Drink Guinness. It tastes completely different in Ireland. Different as in so much better.
posted by nihraguk at 11:19 PM on August 7, 2008

Best answer: There is a particular B&B in Kerry I really enjoyed and would highly recommend.

It's WAAAAAY out on the tip of a peninsula overlooking the skelligs, across the road from a little beach inlet. Down the road from a chocolate factory (which gives tours with samples!).
There's an oooollld graveyard & church ruin behind the place, and the wife goes an amazing breakfast, and up the (rather treacherous) hilly road into the nearby town is some great seafood in the backroom-restaurant of a pub on the docks.

Ashford Castle in Mayo is amazing, though expensive.

Cliffs of Moher are a must-see. If you drive through The Burren, there's a cave that's open for tourists - a very very wee ickle Carlsbad Caverns of our own.

In Dublin, make sure to get out of city centre and onto the coast. If you take the Dart (that's the Dublin Area Rapid Transit train - rapid being a relative term) sit on the left hand side going south, for amazing coastal views. There's a great church in the center of Monkstown (the stop before Dun Laoghaire), and Dun Laoghaire harbour itself has a tourist centre right beside the Dart Station. The views from the train to Killiney Beach are lovely. Going north on the Dart will get you to Howth, a harbour with big fishing boats and restaurants with nice views.

In Wicklow, Brittas Bay has a nice beach, where we've had seals come up very close. Glendalough is pretty, with the ruins of a monastery set in the woods. Devils Glen has some nice woody hiking.
posted by InfinateJane at 4:16 AM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

P.S. - I didn't say this, but Irish girls (compared to American girls) can be very easy to talk to, friendly, and are MUCH less adverse to the friendly snog or two...chatting a couple up might be just the thing to perk up your spirits. ;)
posted by InfinateJane at 4:20 AM on August 8, 2008

If you drive through The Burren, there's a cave that's open for tourists

That's not the cave with the bear above the entrance is it (because in the caves is a pit where a bear slept like 1,000 years ago)? If so it was awful but a must visit. Pure Father Ted. I'll not spoil it but the finale was hilarious.
posted by twistedonion at 12:06 PM on August 8, 2008

Here it is, Ailwee Cave. For caves I'd recommend The Marble Arch caves in Enniskillen.
posted by twistedonion at 12:11 PM on August 8, 2008

Great, looks like you've decided you're up for Ireland and, it looks like, Cork. Anyway, I'm perfectly sincere in my invite: contact me via my blog in my profile or drop me a MeMail and we'll pub you up and whatever else you need.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:13 PM on August 8, 2008

Recently returned from Ireland, and while Ashford was amazing when I went about three years ago, as recently as April I was deeply disappointed. I felt as though the Westport Hotel in Westport was much better, and much nicer and better maintained. We stayed in the same rooms at Ashford as we had three years before and literally nothing had changed. In fact, the menu at dinner was almost identical too. However, I was told that the hotel had recently been sold (at the time, a few days before we arrived) to new Irish investors who were eager to revitalize it. Things may have changed.

I am partial to Westport since many of my family still live there. Castlecourt Hotel and Westport Hotel are both good, and relatively affordable, options. The pub at the Castlecourt is good on some weeknights for meeting locals, and the nightclub attached to the Westport is also good on weekends. Matt Malloy's is the pub owned by the Chieftan, as recommended above. I like Matt Malloy's, but you really can't go wrong with any of the pubs in Westport center. There's a younger place called Cozy's that is really good for meeting younger locals (that's where I generally go with my cousins when I am there). Dinner at Il Vulcano is a must do, really good Italian food. There was another restaurant that was definitley missable but I am forgetting the real name of it (something like Sol Rio? It was on the second story of a building). Croagh Patrick (called the Reek by locals) is a great climb and really provides amazing views and great photo opportunities. At the foot, check out the Murrisk Famine Memorial, and stroll down to the beautiful stone abbey a few steps away. Neat photo opportunities and beautiful stonework.

Enjoy yourself, get out, meet new people, and just have fun!
posted by MeetMegan at 11:50 AM on August 9, 2008

twistedonion, that's the one! Mr. Jane and I loved it - it was just..so...Irish... such an "ah sure, isn't it grand and all about the bear" air to it...totally worth it.

And do you happen to know if if WAS where the Father Ted "I don't be-LEEEVE it!" episode was filmed?? I'd be so chuffed if it was.

posted by InfinateJane at 4:03 AM on August 13, 2008

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