Ireland: the Emerald Isle
They call it theEmerald Isle thanks to its endless landscapes covered in green, a green that continues to change shades. As soon as the sun comes out it becomes a beautiful bright green, when the sun hides behind the classic Irish clouds, everything becomes more tenuous. It is precisely these continuous and sudden exchanges between sun and clouds (and rain ed.) That make a trip to Ireland something magical.
Read also: How to organize a trip to Ireland
The cuts of light in the valleys of Donegal, the landscapes of Connemara, everything looks different with the sun's rays, but I assure you that it will be even more beautiful if the sun returns to illuminate the Irish landscape after a good rain. The colors will be more vivid.
With this article, as usual, I want to summarize the itinerary of my tour in Ireland, trying to be as detailed as possible and provide you with all the information to organize yourself a tour in this wonderful country.
I anticipate that my tour in Ireland was counterclockwise, touching Northern Ireland and then continuing towards Donegal, Connemara, Galway and the Cliffs of Moher. Finally, the capital Dublin. It is not, therefore, a complete itinerary of Ireland.
8 days I believe they are balanced in relation to the kilometers traveled. A full tour would take at least two weeks, maybe 20 days.
Read also: Driving on the left, 10 tips for not getting anxious
Travel to Ireland: practical aspects and costs
Here is a summary of my week in Ireland.
Period: from 2 to 9 March 2019
Total nights: 7
Flight to Ireland: used the Milan BGY -> Dublin route, a classic Ryanair flight with no frills.
Total flight price to Ireland at the beginning of March: around 300 euros round trip in two people (including seats and priority)
Documents required to enter Ireland: Currently (2019) all you need is an identity card. But I have to make a note. When I went to passport control for entry to Ireland, they asked me in sequence: document, where I was going, how long I was staying, the driving license as another document, where I lived in Spain, and finally a signature on a white sheet of paper for evaluate if it was consistent with that of my identity card.
Car: chartered through Ryanair's rental platform. Chosen the CarHire company that relies on Europcar. A tip: given the opposite guide, opt for a car with automatic transmission.
Areas of Ireland concerned: Dublin, Northern Ireland and Causeway Costal Route, Donegal, Connemara and the Galway area with the Cliffs of Moher.
Car rental cost: Paid around 100 euros for 6 days of rental including full insurance coverage. Attention: if you do this itinerary, since the rental company (at least this happened to me) might ask you which tour you will do ...going to Northern Ireland they charge you 32 or 34 (now I don't remember exactly) euro more as a tax. So my total was 134 euros.
Km traveled: about 1300
Unleaded petrol fuel cost: in March it was around 1,35 euros / l
Road signs: Great! I have never found myself uncomfortable, despite the opposite guidance. When you get off the beaten track, there may be some problems, but in principle during the whole tour in Ireland I had very few problems. It must also be said that I constantly moved with the help of the navigator, which I recommend you do.
Evening road signs: you will ask yourself the reason for an in-depth study on evening signage. Simple, I was struck by the fact that the roads have green markers (which reflect the light of the headlights) near the junctions and the correct direction of travel, while red ones where you cannot turn or for the opposite direction of travel. The streets outside the inhabited centers are not illuminated by street lamps, in this way they do not even feel the need. Very useful!
Hotel booking: on site, every afternoon before arriving at the assumed place to sleep. It is now 3/4 trips that I regulate myself in this way. It makes me more free to change the route and choose where to spend the night at the last. If you want to define the whole itinerary in advance, use -> Booking.com
Hotel costs in Ireland: excluding Dublin city, the costs are in line with those in Spain. In my case, I spent between 51 euros from the cheapest to the 84 euros in the hotel near Dublin airport. (for 2 people in a double room). The best: definitely the Waterfront Rest B&B on the Sky Road near Clifden. Without words.
Food costs in Ireland: in this case too, the expense was not excessive. Always exclude Dublin from this reasoning. For single dishes, on average I spent between 40/50 euros for dinner for two. And for those who ask me: is it good to eat? I can say that I ate very well. Just inquire with the hotel owners so they can give you some tips.
Cities touched: Dublin, Carrickfergus, Ballycastle, Derry, Bundoran, Sligo, Westport, Clifden, Galway, Doolin.
Points of interest visited:
- Carrickfergus Castle
- The Dark Hedges
- Giant's Causeway
- Old Bushmills Distillery
- Dunluce Castle
- Malin Head
- Glenveagh National Park
- Sky Road
- Dunguaire Castle
- Black Head Whitehouse
- Cliffs of Moher
Time zone in Ireland: an hour behind Spain. If it's 13pm in Spain, it's noon in Ireland.
Climate in Ireland in March: undecipherable, see photo below.
It is certainly not one of the perfect months to visit Ireland. Nevertheless, it has many advantages and some defects. Along my itinerary I found all possible weather situations, including snow falling in the Sligo mountains. When the sun comes out, it feels great and the landscapes have saturated colors. No haze. On the coasts the wind is incessant, being in March it will be rather cold.
Look on the bright side: one more reason to hang out in some Irish pub to enjoy the evening between a pint of Guinness and popular music.
Traveling in March to Ireland: spectacular. Traffic equal to 0, always flowing roads. But the really positive note is that a holiday in Ireland in March means arriving in places of interest without any tourists. It means truly enjoying where you are. Just think of Carrick-a-rede. I didn't queue. In summer, the queue also reaches a couple of hours. The perception of the place changes whether a place is crowded or not. The negative note, in addition to the weather, is that you will find some landscapes a bit bare, the trees are still in the winter phase.
Wi-Fi: we have always found Wi-Fi connection in hotels, on this front you won't have any problems.
Data connection: I haven't had any major data connection problems, except in Glenveagh National Park. Given the place in question, who cares I didn't have the connection. You just had to enjoy the view and that's it.
Route (indicative) of our journey between Ireland and Northern Ireland
Ireland travel itinerary: 8 days and 7 nights
Traveling on the road, unless you are with your car, means renting a car. Here are some articles that might interest you:
- How to rent a car: tips and some recommendations
- Traveling ontheroad: tips for a perfect car trip
Caution: visiting Ireland in this way means colliding with driving on the left. Do not underestimate this, always pay attention to driving and, especially in the first kilometers, do not be lost in thought.
I'll bring you back what my tour was. At the end of the itinerary you will find some experience to add if you have the opportunity.
Day 1: Arrival in Dublin and overnight near the airport
The last flight from Milan to Dublin arrives late in the evening at the airport in Dublin. The problem is that transport to the center is not so frequent at 23 pm, a taxi should be used but the costs would be very important. For this reason I preferred sleep near the airport, to then leave the next day to discover Ireland, leaving Dublin as the last stop. If you also have to make a similar choice, I recommend that you sleep in Glenmore House , a basic but practical hotel from which you can reach the airport with the shuttle from the Premier Inn. (2 euros the ticket). By taxi from the airport to the hotel it is 10 euros each way.
Day 2: North of Ireland to beautiful Ballycastle
Picking up the car at Dublin airport, I headed to Northern Ireland following the road to Belfast.
Caution: Dublin car rentals are almost all in a separate area from the airport. You have to wait for a shuttle that passes in front of the terminals.
Once I got my car, I drove north on the motorway to Belfast. I skipped the visit to the city, I could have dedicated very little time to it and it seemed to me a lack of respect towards a city that has a lot to say. I then moved to a little known but very interesting place: Carrickfergus with its castle, one of the first stops on the Causeway Costal Route.
To read: Discover Northern Ireland via the Causeway Costal Route
Not a cliff-top castle or an extremely peculiar one, but it is one of the oldest and worth a visit. From Carrickfergus castle in a few minutes by road I reached Whitehead, a very small town that has the particularity of having colorful houses overlooking the sea.
Finally, continuing north I finished the day in beautiful Ballycastle, sleeping at the Corratavey Guesthouse (highly recommended)
Suggestion: if you manage to get near Ballycastle before dark, I recommend you go and see The Dark Hedges in the early evening version.
Day 3: Discovering the Causeway Costal Route
With the third day of the itinerary in Ireland on the road we get to the heart. On the Causeway Costal Route are some of the country's most fascinating natural landmarks. A self-respecting Northern Ireland tour cannot fail to include Giant's Causeway, Dunluce Castle e Carrick-a-rede.
The beauty is that they are all within walking distance of each other.
The first thing I did, however, was to enjoy the shy sun that appeared on Ballycastle beach while having breakfast overlooking the sea.
Then I went back to review The Dark Hedges with the sun, which has left me dumbfounded because even now I can't figure out if I like more the gloomy evening look, or the spectacle of the cuts of light in the trees.
A few miles from The Dark Hedges is Carrick-a-rede.
To read: Carrick-a-Rede, how to visit the suspension bridge over the sea
A few more kilometers towards Derry are the Giant's Causeway and finally, why not finish the day at Bushmill Distillery!? It is one of the oldest and most famous whyskey distilleries in Ireland. The perfect stop to finish the day. So much so that we enjoyed a nice whiskey before going to sleep in Derry, a city that has experienced a rather difficult past.
To read: Visit the Giant's Causeway, the spectacular Giant's Causeway
Day 4: From Derry to Malin Head, Glenveagh National Park
As with Belfast, I didn't get a chance to delve into the history of Derry which I left for a future return to Northern Ireland. This trip to Ireland it has been designed to discover more nature and landscapes. As a result, instead of choosing to visit the city, I moved to the northernmost point of the island, that point called Malin Head. A remote place whose horizon points to the coast of Scotland.
It was us, the sea and the wind of Malin Head.
From there I then headed south, entering the heart of County Donegal, the Irish region considered the wildest. The stretch within the Glenveagh National Park is gorgeous. You travel between lunar landscapes until you get to the entrance to Glenveagh Castle.
I hadn't read anywhere else to visit Glenveagh Castle, well, trust my advice, absolutely put it in your itinerary on the road in Ireland!
From Glenveagh Castle I moved in the direction Slieve League, the highest cliffs in Ireland. Unfortunately, I was unable to visit them due to the unfavorable weather, but if you go there, put them as a fixed stop.
I therefore decided to move to Sligo, sleeping in Bundoran, discovering later that Bundoran is practically a playground that comes alive in the summer season. There are more slot machine rooms there than in all of Ireland, all giants by the way.
To read: What to see in Donegal
Day 5: Towards Sligo, via Westport to Sky Road and Clifden
Connemara plays on the same level as Donegal. The fifth day was dedicated to this spectacular stretch of Ireland where the landscapes are infinitely beautiful. Less wild than Donegal, but of a crazy green. You could spend days and days between Connemara and Donegal, experiencing this piece of Ireland as intensely as possible. Unfortunately, traveling is not that simple, times are tight and so you try to make the most of that territory in which you travel on the road. In the case of Ireland you should stop every 100 meters to take a picture, in Connemara you could also stop every 10 meters as it is fascinating.
On the fifth day I moved towards Westport, considered the best town to live in Ireland. Lying on the banks of a small river, it was really a pleasant stop.
As you descend towards Clifden you pass extraordinary places such as the spectacular Kylemore Abbey or Killary Fjord, the only Irish fjord, until you get to what it is the most beautiful road traveled on my trip to Ireland: the Sky Road.
We stopped at Waterfront Rest B&B - I recommend you stop here to sleep with a view of the sea and an incredible starry sky.
To read: Connemara: 5 places to fall in love with the Irish territory
Day 6: Clifden to Galway, continuing to the Cliffs Of Moher
If the previous one was the best day of the road trip in Ireland, this one was no different. Under a strange scorching sun in early March, I traveled the entire coastal stretch starting from Clifden, with stop in beautiful Galway. A city that transmits great serenity and harmony with a graceful and lived-in historic center full of typical Irish pubs and clubs.
The ideal stop for a lunch break and then continue towards Dunguaire Castle. Honestly not a great castle, but being set on the banks of a body of water it has its charm.
The great part of this piece of Ireland travel was seeing the feature geological conformation of the Burren. Continuing towards the Black Head Lighthouse I managed to discover a little known part of Ireland. Rock and rock only up to the small but characteristic Doolin, where I spent my last night.
From Doolin I continued towards the final stage of the itinerary: le Cliffs of Moher, as huge as they are known. The perfect show to close the last stage of Irish ontheroad.
Day 7 and 8: From Doolin to Dublin and then visit the city
Moving morning. Doolin to Dublin is about 3 hours by road. I had to drop off the car at the airport and then go to Dublin city center by public transport. I left around 6.30 / 7.00 from Doolin to arrive in Dublin at about 11, including a break at the motorway restaurant for the necessary breakfast.
The seventh and eighth days of this tour in Ireland that I am recommending to you were days of visiting the capital. Honestly, visit Dublin after seeing the rest of Ireland it is strange, perhaps it is not given the right importance. Everything is filtered by the beautiful landscapes seen in the previous days, the sight of a metropolis is a little out of place.
To read: What to see in Dublin? The 8 unmissable stages
Possible alternatives for this travel itinerary in Ireland
Unless you visit Ireland for a full month, you will have to make choices. It is not possible to visit everything, even if you tried you would not give it the time it deserves. As you have read, in my itinerary I did not plan to visit Belfast or Derry, this is because I would only have seen them in passing and it did not seem the case.
So here, when defining your Irish itinerary, if it should be longer than these 8 days I told you about, you could enter:
- Visit to Belfast: the capital of Northern Ireland has a very important past, I recommend you dedicate a day to it.
- Visit to Derry: as in Belfast, Derry was also the site of clashes and in 1972 it was the “theater” of Bloody Sunday. I invite you to read this article on Bloody Sunday to know more.
- Causeway Costal Route area: not far from Carrickfergus, on the eastern side of the Irish coast you can take the Gobbins Path (or Walk). It is a path that branches off along the coast, with some truly spectacular views (which views are not spectacular in Ireland ?!) It takes 2 and a half hours to walk and you have to book -> more info on www.thegobbinscliffpath.com.
- In Donegal: in my itinerary I went to see Malin Head, if it hadn't been for the lack of time I would have definitely done a tour in Fanad Head, located on the spit of land parallel to that of Malin (see the map to understand). Among other things, in this remote place there is the lighthouse where I wanted to sleep at least one night. Is called Fanad Hed Lighthouse. If you can do not miss it, I'm still eating my hands for not being able to sleep in it -> click here to see the Fanad Head Lighhouse .
- Also in Donegal: le Slieve League they are one of my regrets on this trip to Ireland. Due to the weather I haven't had the chance to visit them, but the highest cliffs in Europe are definitely worth a visit if you're in the area. 600 meters high is enough to make you understand that you shouldn't leave them out of your itinerary ?!
- Connemara, Achill Island: Irish nature never ceases to amaze ... as I told you, it would take a month to experience Ireland at the right pace. Achill Island is defined as one of the most romantic places in Ireland. If you are not yet studying to fill your eyes with beautiful views, well this will be another great place to get in touch with the most remote Ireland.
- Aran Islands: Fiorella Mannoia also talked about it in her “Cielo d'Irlanda” (and by the way I can't say now that that song is particularly appropriate). “… From Donegal to the Aran Islands…” the wildest part of Ireland. These islands are located off Doolin, almost opposite the Cliffs Of Moher. To find out more about these islands and go and visit them, I recommend you read this article with lots of interesting information -> click here for the article.
Recommended hotels for this trip to Ireland
The leitmotif of my Irish on the road itinerary was to prefer natural and characteristic aspects.
Then: SI to unknown villages, SI to particular accommodations and finally SI in remote places overlooking the sea (example of a Clifden hotel).
I would add that most of them were booked on the way, except for Dublin where I booked both the first and last night. Prices are for 1 night in a double / twin room.
Here are the hotels that I want to recommend:
Dublin Airport (Sword) -> Glenmore House (click for hotel) - 84 euros, col. incl.
Excellent compromise if you arrive late at the airport or have to leave early in the morning. It is a few minutes away from the terminal and can be reached by taxi at a cost of 10 euros in the evening or, during the day, by a convenient shuttle at a cost of 2 euros each way.
Value for money: 8
Dublin -> Academy Plaza Hotel (click for hotel) - 129 €
The idea was not to be too far from the center, so I opted for this hotel in the city center. Convenient and above all with the airlink (747/757) which stops exactly in front of the hotel entrance! Certainly not a very cheap hotel, but what more could you want ?!
Value for money: 8
Ballycastle -> Corratavey Guesthouse (click for hotel) - 51 €
A small house on the road to beautiful Ballycastle beach. Corratavey House was a nice find. Well-kept environment and very friendly owner. Ballycastle is also really nice. I recommend that you have breakfast overlooking the sea using the bar of the "Marine Hotel".
Value for money: 9
Derry -> Serendipity's Angel (click for the hotel) - 51 euros, col. incl.
A budget hotel, a guesthouse with rather small rooms. The strong point is the excellent breakfast with a very courteous lady. Sitting room, television on, it was like being really at home.
Value for money: 6
Bundoran -> Bank House Guesthouse (click for hotel) - 65 euros, col. incl.
Bundoran was a causal step. Like all random stops, it has some surprises. The hotel is above a pub located on the main road as well as the Wild Atlantic Way! Bundoran is basically made up of a central street, pubs and… arcades! In practice, in summer it becomes a huge playground lived by many young people who come to surf nearby.
Value for money: 8
Clifden (SkyRoad) -> Waterfront Rest B&B (click for hotel) - 70 euros, col. incl.
How not to speak enthusiastically about this place that is incredible. I found it almost by chance and I am happy to have entered and asked the lady (a French woman married to an Irishman) if she had room. It was like in the old days, the lady (very kind) showed me the room and "we accepted". Since I consider it a spectacular place, I recommend you book it directly (you can do it from the link above). You don't have to skip this hotel for anything in the world. Low cost for the place it is.
Value for money: 10
Doolin -> Glasha Measows B&B (click for hotel) - 58 €
Many suggest Doolin as a pro-Cliffs of Moher destination. In fact it is just a stone's throw from the Cliffs. It is a small village overlooking the sea, or rather the ocean, and gives you a disarming sense of tranquility. Featuring a couple of old-fashioned pubs, it is the ideal place to spend the last evening of this Irish itinerary. The hotel, or rather, the B&B is perfect. Ample parking, located outside the village, I couldn't have asked for better.
To dine recommended the McGann's Pub!
Value for money: 9