Travelling to Ireland, north and south, has never been easier with so many flights available to both major and minor airports as well as ferries to the east coast ports. Direct flights to Dublin from Europe and the UK are frequent, and flights also come into other airports, such as Cork, Shannon, Belfast (two airports), Galway, and Ireland West Airport Knock.
Ferries from Scotland, England, Wales and France dock at the east coast ports of Larne, Belfast, Dublin, Dun Laoghaire, Rosslare and Cork. All take cars, so you can decide on how to travel onwards into Ireland.
The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are under different jurisdictions, though they belong to the same landmass. Northern Ireland, whose capital is Belfast, is a part of the United Kingdom and the pound sterling is its currency. The Republic of Ireland is a sovereign country with the euro as its currency and Dublin as its capital.
There is a train service in Ireland, which in Northern Ireland links Belfast to Derry City in the northwest, and also to Dublin in the south, and in the Republic links Dublin with Cork, Limerick and Tralee. Dublin also has a rapid transit system, known as the DART.
The best way to discover everything Ireland has to offer is by car, unless all you want is a city break. Distances are not extensive but roads other than the few motorways hark back to the old days of country driving: scenic but slow. When planning a journey, don’t try to drive too far in one go or there may be little time left for sightseeing that day.
Car hire is readily available at airports and in major cities and towns. Ensure you have your driving licence at all times.
This is particularly the case if bringing your own car, as it is a legal requirement, and make sure it is accepted as a legal document before you travel. Having the right car insurance is absolutely essential, so ensure that you are fully protected when bringing your car into Ireland. Detailed road maps are indispensable. Ireland is not a large country but it has a lot of roads and it is easy to get lost in the countryside if working from a small map with mainly major routes shown.
What to See
Visitor attractions in Ireland are amazingly varied and there is something for everyone. Many people come for the incredible scenery, such as the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland or the mountains and west coast views in Donegal or Mayo. Watching the sunset in the west over the Atlantic Ocean and knowing there is no land beyond until you reach America is a stunning experience.
Drive the Ring of Kerry in the southwest, or go sailing in West Cork and visit the gourmet seaside town of Kinsale for classic Irish food.
Dublin, Cork, Derry and Belfast have rich histories to explore. The legacy of the troubled times is fading and finding the cities renewed and vibrant, with theatres, music, museums and the ever present ‘craic’ to delight the visitor.
From food festivals to music events, castles to country house hotels, the genuine warmth and welcome of the Irish remains in the mind forever.