So for anybody who knows me, you’ll know I’ve basically been a broken record ever since I’ve returned from Ireland. I’m sure my friends and family are pretty sick of my non stop blabbering at this point but go figure, everybody I know suddenly wants to visit Ireland!!
When my family visited, the hardest thing was trying to condense all my favorite parts of the country from a whole semester into one week. I think I did because they absolutely loved Ireland so I thought I would share my favorites!
Ok, first things first, you HAVE to road trip it. It’s a little daunting at first, because you will probably spend your first day trying not to die while maneuvering the narrowest roads you’ll probably ever drive on, but don’t worry! Once you get the hang of it, it’s nothing but STUNNING. Plus, everybody has fun road trip stories. Ours involve completely knocking off our side mirror and a flat tire with 5 hours of the drive left to go 🙂
So here are all my favorite places, all doable in a week!
Ok, I think I’m slightly biased toward Cork because that’s where I spent my five months in Ireland. But I promise you, Co. Cork does not disappoint!
Through our timeshare, we stayed in a lovely resort nestled in the forrest overlooking Kinsale Bay – MacDonald Kinsale Hotel & Spa. The location was just perfect – 2 minutes from Kinsale town, 15 minutes from Cork airport, and 30 minutes from Cork city.
Cork City is a great base for day trips around Co. Cork. There’s not a whole lot to do in Cork city itself but the pub scene definitely makes up for it, which I miss soooooo much. Don’t tire yourself out too much to ensure you’ve got time to hit up some of Cork’s pubs!
- Franciscan Well – they’re famous all over Cork for their craft beers (so so so good!) and they’ve got a heated really cozy beer garden in the back where you can enjoy your beer and super delicious wood fired pizza. If you visit, you HAVE to get either the Chieftain or Rebel Red (I swear, they’ll turn any beer hater to a beer lover, as they did to me). Super popular with locals.
- Rising Sons – also another craft beer brewery with great beer and in my opinion, even better wood fired pizza
- Oliver Plunkett – if you’re looking for the whole Irish cultural pub experience, this is your place! It does cater more to the tourists than locals but we’ve always had a great time here. The do live music every night and it’s different every night, from traditional Irish music with Irish dancing to classics – make sure to look up the music schedule for the week! I took my family here their first night and despite the jet lag and tiredness, my mom was dancing for hours and this was her favorite memory from the whole trip 🙂 From my experience, weekend nights are far livelier with way more dancing and singing if that’s your thing.
Kinsale is suuuuuuch a charming little town. You’ll quickly notice than most Irish towns consist of very cute & colorful facades. You shouldn’t need more than half a day here. It’s a great little town to just walk around and eat some super fresh seafood – some of the best mussels I’ve ever had!! Walk or drive up to Charles Fort where you can get beautiful views of the bay and Kinsale in the distance. If you’ve time, definitely drive up to the Old Head of Kinsale too. The views are spectacular!
COBH (pronounced ‘Cove’ – so don’t embarrass yourself!)
So, fun fact. Cobh was the last port of call of the Titanic before it sunk, which is what it’s famous for! There’s a Titanic museum here, which was the original ticketing office where the last passengers waited to board. The tour takes you on the same experience a passenger would’ve gone through, very well done & informative! Again, you don’t need to spend more than half a day here but its a lovely seaside town just to walk around. One of the prettiest Irish towns, in my opinion! Don’t forget to look for your pot of gold at the end of Cobh’s rainbow row!
You know you want to kiss the Blarney stone. Just go do it. Visit the Blarney Woolen Mills on your way out to stock up on your woolens – it is THE largest shop in Ireland so you won’t find a better selection.
Ok, so this isn’t your typical Irish tourist must see. Heard of the Ring of Kerry? Skip it. The Dingle Peninsula is better. Both the peninsulas are parallel to each other but the Dingle Peninsula is far less touristy and is just beyond spectacular! One of my all time favorite scenic drives in Ireland.
Stop at Dingle town on your way and do not leave without getting Murphy’s ice cream – a local Dingle ice cream and one of the best ice creams you’ll ever try! Also, if you have time, take a boat ride to see and play with Dingle’s most famous resident – Fungie, the dolphin. He’s been hanging out with the locals for over 30 years now and well, locals describe him as a complete nut job.
Tip: Do the Slea Head Drive to the head of the peninsula. Park your car and then hike the rest to the very tip… and just sit and stare. Because that’s all you’ll want to do when you get to the end! Try to head back around sunset, stopping at Inch Beach on the way back and catch it in all its sunset perfection.
CLIFFS OF MOHER
This is an obvious one. You can’t see Ireland without doing the Cliffs of Moher. They’re famous for a reason.
CONNEMARA NATIONAL PARK
This is my second most beautiful place in Ireland, after Dingle. The landscape is very different to the rest of Ireland – its more bare and mountainous but SO gorgeous. Stop at Kylemore Abbey; its such a pretty abbey tucked in the middle of the mountains on a lake and it’s got a very interesting history. Also, it’s worth doing a mini hike from the visitor center – takes about an hour to do the smallest loop and you still get to walk through the landscape and get some pretty amazing views from the top.
You could drive for hours through this landscape and if you’re starting to get tired, don’t worry, there’s plenty of sheep roadblocks to keep you entertained, literally. The Connemara sheep seem to have more free reign than your average Irish sheep.
You CANNOT visit Ireland and not spend at least one night in Galway! Even the locals keep coming back, it’s that fun! It’s atmosphere is just AMAZING. It’s basically a huge street party every night. There is not a single time of day you will not find street musicians somewhere. Once the sun sets, add some street dancers into the mix. Most of the time, we don’t even feel like entering the pubs because the street scene is so lively.
Ok, so Dublin isn’t actually one of my favorite places. But if you feel like you can’t visit Ireland and not see Dublin, the Guinness Storehouse is pretty cool. Also, definitely hit up Temple Bar area and see Trinity College to see the Book of Kells.
JAMESON WHISKEY FACTORY (Middleton)
In my opinion, a way cooler tour than the Guinness Storehouse – much more personalized and smaller! It was so informational. Also, lots and lots of whiskey tasting. But the real reason I love this place is because their fish & chips is by far THE BEST fish & chips I’ve had in all of Ireland. They’re the only place that does it with a whiskey batter and omg, it makes all the difference! If you don’t particularly like whiskey, go to this place just for the fish & chips!
If you have time, take a ferry to Inis Mor of the Aran Islands. There’s only one ferry going and coming so make sure you find out the timings. The island is so pretty and it kinda feels like the Irish version of the Mediterranean. The best way and really the only way to see it is to rent a bike and just get lost on the island. It’s one of my most memorable days in Ireland. It’s one of the few places in Ireland where Gaelic is still widely spoken.
So those are my favorites! Condensing all of my weekend trips into one week was so hard but I think I did it! Hope you fall in love with this country and it’s as much as I did. As they say in Ireland, it’ll be good craic.
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