Ireland Travel Guides and Tips

A driving tour of Ireland’s countryside, lushly green and dotted with sheep and castles, will leave no doubt about the origin of the country’s nickname, “The Emerald Isle.”

Practically the entire country has beautiful scenery, but some special highlights include the dramatic sea cliffs of the west coast and the beaches near Sligo, home to the beloved poet W.B. Yeats.

The Giant’s Causeway, a formation of stone columns resulting from volcanic activity, is a popular sight. Visitors to the Northern Ireland destination can walk along the cliff-side formation to the sea, where the uniquely shaped rocks and crashing waves promise beautiful pictures for even the most amateur photographers.

No trip to Ireland would be complete without a visit to the Blarney Castle near Cork. Legend has it that an old Celtic goddess with the “gift of gab,” meaning that it has the power to turn anyone who kisses it into a skilled and charming liar, blessed one of the stones in the castle.

The stone can only be reached by ascending a steep stone staircase and leaning precariously out of a window, though, so those with a fear of heights may have to remain honest.

Ireland’s capital city, Dublin, boasts world-class architecture and museums. The sumptuously illustrated manuscript of the Book of Kells, which illuminates the Biblical gospels, will be a draw for those with an interest in rare books or history.

Fans of James Joyce, arguably Ireland’s best-loved author, can retrace the steps of the characters in his most renowned book, Ulysses, which is so detailed and precise that Joyce famously said it would be enough to re-create the city again if it were to disappear.

Eccles street, Davy Byrne’s pub, George’s Quay, and the National Library can all be found using the book’s descriptions.

A less intellectual option is a tour of the Guinness brewery, where beer enthusiasts can learn about the history and making of the famous beer and enjoy a pint while looking at top-notch views of the city from the highest floor of the brewery building.

Perhaps the most fitting way to round out an Ireland travel trip is with a few pints in a local pub, either in Dublin or the countryside. Guinness, Smithwick’s, and Killian’s Irish Red are all popular beverages throughout the nation. Ireland is also fond of whiskey, of course. Though they are not as renowned as Scotch whiskeys, Irish blends such as Bushmills, Tullamore Dew, and of course the old standby of Jameson’s will all satisfy whiskey enthusiasts.

The next morning, a full Irish breakfast will be just the thing to bring you back to life. After you enjoy a healthy platter of blood sausage, eggs, potatoes, fried tomatoes, and good Irish brown bread, you will surely be in good shape for another day’s exploration–or at least a happy nap by a roaring fire. If you want to impress the chef, ask for a pot of tea instead of coffee. But be ready to engage in a thorough discussion of the proper methods of tea brewing–the topic seems irresistible to most Irish people.

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1. Eyewitness Guide Book to Ireland

Nobody should go to Ireland without a copy of the Eyewitness Guide Book to Ireland. After comparing numerous Ireland travel guides, this one quickly rose to the top of our favorites. It’s easy to read, it’s bursting at the seams with information you actually want to know, and it contains more photos than any other Ireland travel guide we’ve seen. Readers will learn about everything from the history of Ireland to the inside scoop on of all the popular tourist attractions. The only disadvantage we found is the steep price tag (we paid around $40 for it).

2. Rick Steves Ireland 2007

Many travelers choose Rick Steve’s Ireland travel guide as their “bible” during their stay on the Emerald Isle. What makes this book so satisfying is its heartfelt, conversational writing style. It’s written from the eyes of a fellow traveler who understands what it’s like to travel with both high expectations and a low budget. It’s also a relatively small book, which means it can be easily carried during your trip. The cons? Not many. However, some may consider the almost complete lack of pictures a disadvantage.

3. Dublin Secrets

We realize that we’re “tooting our own horn” here, but failing to recommend Dublin Secrets in this article would be like cheating you. Written by a student who lived and studied among the locals for four months, this charming little book reveals secrets about traveling Ireland that you won’t find anywhere else.

Dublin Secrets contains an abundance of insider tips, helpful advice, and fun suggestions for the traveler who wants to save money, travel comfortably, and experience the REAL Ireland.

Get a copy of Dublin Secrets, but remember that it should not be used as the sole resource for your trip. It’s not designed to be an exhaustive guide, but rather an insider “conversation” from one friend to another filling you in on everything the regular travel guides missed.

One cool feature of this book is that it is available online for instant download as an eBook. It also includes free access to the unedited diary the author kept during his Ireland travels, as well as the author’s mobile phone number in case you have any additional questions.

Here’s what local Irishwoman Sheila R. said of Dublin Secrets: “Very informative and chatty and witty…well worth having…a must for every traveler to Ireland.

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