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DESTINATION IRELAND

Compact, theoretically crossed by car in less than five hours, on paper Ireland is pretty straightforward to travel around. However, due to a poor road-work, poor public transport (outside the major cities) and a non-existent rail network – Ireland is logistically demanding. In addition, Ireland is in the midst of a tourist boom – numbers have doubled in the past decade to 12 million visitors a year – placing pressure on allocation across all types of accommodations – Dublin is running at 90% plus capacity. All of this makes it absolutely necessary to plan, plan and plan all types of vacations to Ireland.

GETTING TO IRELAND

The vast majority of flights land in Dublin, but we can you pick you up at any entry point or accommodation; we also have car rental depots and every entry point.

Most flights from America used to stop in Shannon, but the vast majority now fly directly into Dublin. The number of non-stop flights from American destinations has increased greatly over the past few years, too, with airlines like Delta, US Airways, American Airlines, United and of course, our own Aer Lingus, offering a wonderful selection of flights from an ever-increasing number of cities. What’s more, when you’re travelling home to America, the pre-immigration service at Dublin airport now includes pre-customs clearance as well. This means you don’t have to collect your baggage until you reach your final destination if you have a connecting flight…bliss!

If you’re thinking of visiting us from Europe or the U.K., you’ll find that the low cost airlines have made flights to Ireland less expensive than a meal in a good restaurant.

Check online for prices from Aer Lingus and Ryanair, but look out for deals from other carriers, too. You could also consider using one of the car ferry companies, a number of which offer excellent packages for a car, driver and up to three additional passengers.

VISAS

No visas are required for visitors from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand or any EU country; just bring your passport. The Short Stay Visa Waiver Programme allows nationals of a number of Eastern European, Middle Eastern and Asian countries who have a short-term UK visa, to come to Ireland without the need for a separate Irish visa. The Programme has been extended to 31 October 2021.

Under a new British Irish Visa Scheme (BIVS), visitors from China can travel freely within the Common Travel Area, (that is, Ireland and the UK, but not the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man), using either an Irish or UK short-stay visa endorsed with ‘BIVS’. Since 9 February 2015 the Scheme has been extended to visitors from India. The Scheme operates through a reciprocal visa arrangement, whereby Ireland and the UK recognise short-stay visas issued by the other for travel to their jurisdiction.

WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT

It’s fair to say that every season offers its own benefits, and if you’re worried about arriving here and finding nothing to do…don’t! That never happens in Ireland, and this is particularly true for 2013’s The Gathering. It would be very fair to say there’s no time that’s a bad time to visit Ireland. Whether you prefer indoor or outdoor pursuits, your options won’t be limited, no matter when you decide to arrive. The climate is best described as “moderate” all year ‘round. It never gets too hot, even at the peak of summer, when temperatures seldom sneak over 80 degrees Fahrenheit, or 26 C. And while snow wouldn’t be unheard of in this country, it would be fair to say that many parts of Ireland could go years at a time without ever seeing the white stuff, and our grass stays green 12 months of the year. Every season offers its own special advantages. In the summer, festivals, summer fairs and outdoor concerts abound, right around the island. The Irish sporting calendar is also in full swing; you can find golf tournaments (including PGA events), cycling races, horse racing and of course, the truly Irish sports of hurling and Gaelic football being fiercely contested at venues all across the country. The days are long and mild. At the height of summer, it stays light until 11 p.m. and gets light again before 5 a.m. When August arrives, Irish music lovers the world over flock in their tens of thousands to whichever city is hosting the annual Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann (pronounced Flah Kee-ole noch Erin), the all-Ireland music championships.  

The onset of autumn sees the culmination of the sporting season, with whole counties ‘going mad’ if their teams are involved in the football or hurling finals.  Such is the fervour of Irish sporting fans that it would not be unusual for some of them to spray paint their car—or even their entire house!—in their county’s colours in the run-up to the championship game. This is perhaps all the more amazing when you consider that each and every team is made up entirely of amateur sportsmen. A county team could be made up of doctors, dentists, bartenders and builders, and unlike professional sports teams, each member of an Irish football or hurling team must hail from the county for which he or she plays (yes, they have women’s teams, too).Once the kids have gone back to school, the roads open up, the countryside starts to explode in a beautiful array of vibrant colours, and as the temperatures begin to drop, so too do the prices in even the finest hotels and the most cozy bed and breakfast establishments.  Autumn is a wonderful time to head west, kiss the Blarney Stone, take part in the not-to-be-missed Bunratty Medieval Banquet, explore the Aillwee caves or

go hill walking and soak in the breathtaking scenery of Ireland’s unique landscape. The Irish theatre scene goes into full swing, with both professional and fabulous amateur productions in venues from Donegal to Wexford. Speaking of Wexford, each year this seaside town in the Sunny Southeast plays host to the Wexford Opera Festival, one of the most famous in all of Europe. Bunratty Castle

During the winter months, some people opt to head to warmer climates…they don’t know what they’re missing! In every Irish city, town and village, you’ll find a B & B, pub, castle or hotel with a roaring hot open fire and an even warmer welcome. And until you’ve snuggled up next to a crackling log fire with a hot scone covered in lashings of Irish butter, locally produced strawberry jam and a big dollop of fresh cream, along with a nice hot cup of Irish tea or good, strong coffee (better still, make it an Irish coffee!)…well, you just haven’t lived. It gets dark early, so head for the local pub and grab a bite to eat before the Irish music session (called seisún in Gaelic) gets underway, then sit back and listen to the local musicians lashing out jigs and reels on their fiddles, accordions and bodhrans (a uniquely Irish hand-held drum, pronounced bow-ron).

Winter is a great time to wander around Ireland at your leisure, when you’ll find no shortage of low-cost accommodation and when you’ll still have plenty to do, including plenty of outdoor sports and activities like fishing and golfing. The vast majority of Irish golf courses remain open all year round, and green fees are considerably lower in the winter.

Spring, regardless of what the scholars say, starts in March, at least in Ireland. Quite naturally, that most famous of all Irishmen, St. Patrick, draws lovers of all things Irish to these shores from around the world. If you are lucky enough to be here on the 17th of March and you can make it to Dublin, you’ll see arguably the world’s best St. Patrick’s Day parade winding its way through the bustling streets of Ireland’s capital city. In Ireland, St. Patrick’s is not just a single day; it’s a multi-day festival with activities and festivals across the country. If you can’t make it to Dublin, don’t worry. Parades are held in just about every town that has a pulse, and there isn’t a hotel or pub  in the country that won’t be featuring special offers on food and drink, with a large helping of traditional Irish music thrown in for good measure.

FAQ – IRELAND

Currency

Republic of Ireland

The euro is the currency of the Republic of Ireland.

One euro consists of 100 cent.

Notes are €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500.

Coins are 1c, 2c, 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, €1 and €2.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, the currency is sterling.

One pound sterling consists of 100 pence.

Notes are £5, £10, £20, £50 and £100.

Coins are 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1 and £2

Credit Cards

Any credit cards that bear the Visa or MasterCard symbol will be widely accepted in Ireland. Visitors with other cards should ask in advance or check if that card is on display where they wish to use it. Credit cards are possibly the most secure and convenient method of paying for any purchases you may wish to make while in Ireland. They are particularly ideal for major purchases, and they let you withdraw cash from selected banks and ATMs.

ATMs are usually linked to international money systems such as Cirrus, Maestro or Plus.

Bear in mind, though, that many transactions incur currency conversion fees and credit cards can also incur substantial interest charges if you use them for cash advances.

Banks

Banking hours in Ireland generally speaking run from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., from Monday to Friday. Some banks in the larger towns and cities may be open on Saturdays, but even in small towns and villages, ATM cash points can be found. Irish ATM’s accept most credit and debit cards for cash withdrawals.

VAT and Tax Refunds

To be able to claim a tax refund, you must be a non-EU visitor to Ireland. Look for “Tax-Free Shopping” signs in the windows of participating stores. The vast majority of souvenir shops and major retail outlets will be participating in the tax refund scheme. To get your (sales) tax refund—which currently runs at 23 percent on most Irish goods–you must complete a valid tax refund document obtained from the retailer and present the tax refunddocument and goods to the Customs desk or designated tax refund stand upon departure from the EU. A customs officer will check the goods and validate the tax refund document. You can receive your refund on the spot at some airports. If this isn’t the case when you depart, mail the validated document to the specified address, and the refund will be issued, often in the form of a credit to your credit card.

Please note that refunds only apply to goods being taken out of the country, and not for anyservice charges incurred during your stay. In addition, VAT and tax refunds are not available to EU residents.

Food

For most of the 20th century, when people thought of Irish food, they thought ‘bacon and cabbage’ or bland porridge. If you wanted a bite to eat with your pint of Guinness, the bartender could offer you a ham sandwich, a cheese sandwich, or in the more upmarket establishments, a ham and cheese sandwich.

Those days are long gone and good riddance! Irish food, made from the most natural of locally sourced ingredients, has become the envy of the culinary world. Pubs now serve meals that could easily have come from the finest of restaurants, and as for the restaurants themselves, the most difficult decision you’ll have to make is which of the amazing beef, seafood, lamb or poultry main courses to choose.

 

Find a venue (there are many to choose from) that serves afternoon tea. You’ll be presented with a multitude of hot, freshly baked scones and outrageously delicious pastries, scrumptious sandwiches and cakes that will leave you wondering if you’ll even be bothered to eat dinner that night. Don’t worry; you will!

To promote the produce of which they are so understandably proud, many farmers markets have popped up all over the country. You can stroll around the different stands and see fresh fruits and vegetables that were still in the ground or on the vine the day before. Sample the delicious homemade cheeses and delight at the smell and taste of the loaves of Irish soda bread.

You can also check the following sources to catch up on what’s new in the world of Irish food:

www.bestofbridgestone.com – extensive list of artisan producers, plus the bestrestaurants serving their produce.

www.irelandmarkets.com – a frequently updated list of local farmers markets

www.irishcheese.ie – the farmhouse cheese-makers association, with details of even the smallest dairy producing their own brand of cheese

www.slowfoodireland.com – organisation supporting small producers, with details of social events promoting Irish food right across the country

When you’re reading over the menu, look for local produce listed in the main courses.

You’ll find starters like Dublin Bay prawns and main courses like Wexford roast rib of beef. This signifies the pride the local farmers have in the produce they supply, and the confidence the restaurant or hotel has in the food they present to you.

Try Galway Bay oysters with Guinness—you just can’t get more Irish than that! In Cork, try any of the locally produced ham. If you go to Kerry, you’ve got to try the lamb. Each area has its own specialty, so if you love your food, a trip around Ireland is a genuine gastronomic delight, just waiting to be experienced.

If you’re a visitor to these shores and you really want to impress the locals, study these different Irish foods. If you can tell your waiter or waitress that you know what’s in these dishes, you’ll immediately go up in their estimation.

Glossary of Food

Barmbrack: One of the few yeast leavened breads made in Ireland. This delicious fruited bread is normally associated as a Halloween treat, with little charms or rings wrapped in greaseproof paper and hidden inside the loaf.

Black Pudding: A thick sausage made from well-seasoned lard and oatmeal, with the addition of pig’s blood. It is served sliced and fried, often with eggs. It used to be an accompaniment at supper but is increasingly seen on breakfast plates as part of a good oldfashioned Irish fry-up.

Boxty Bread: A flat round bread, marked in floury farls and made from mashed potatoes, flour, and buttermilk, and leavened with soda.  Served hot with a goodly amount of Irish creamery butter, you might not bother looking at your main course.

Champ:  Hot mashed potatoes served with a pool of melted butter.  Each spoonful is dipped in the butter.  Go on, enjoy yourself! You can diet when you get home.

Dublin Coddle:  Traditional Saturday night supper in Dublin, this dish is said to prevent hangovers. It is made up of chunks of bacon and pork sausages, stewed with sliced onions

and potatoes and seasoned with salt and pepper and served like a thick soup.  It tastes as good as it smells.

Colcannon:  Scottish dish of hot potatoes mashed with another well-cookedvegetable (frequently cabbage or turnips) and served with melted butter.

Corned Beef and Cabbage:  Well, you’d be disappointed if it wasn’t included somewhere in this guide. Pickled brisket is slowly simmered in water.  Near the end of the cooking time, wedges of cabbage are added and everything is cooked till tender.  The meat is then sliced and served with the cabbage wedges; the broth can be reserved to use as a soup base for another meal.

Crubeens:  Pig’s feet.  The locals won’t believe you knew what that one was!

Cumberland Pie:  A two-crusted pie made with a potato and flour pastry, filled with rolls of bacon and beaten eggs.  Once baked, cut in wedges, serve and enjoy.

White Puddings:  A type of thick sausage made from well-seasoned oatmeal and lard boiled in sausage skins. Usually sliced, then breaded and fried before serving, white pudding is another staple of that wonderful meal known as the Irish fry-up.

 What Ireland is made of…

If you travelled from the northerly most tip of the island in a straight line to the most southerly point, you would have gone 486 km (just 302 miles). It’s an even shorter journey from east to west, at just 275 km, or 170 miles. In fact, it’s a bizarre and little-known fact that no matter where you are in Ireland, you’re less than 100 km from the sea!

Yet in that relatively small land mass, you will find an incredible variety of landscapes.

To name but a few:

The Burren

Stretching across northern Co. Clare from the Atlantic coast to Kinvara in neighbouring Co. Galway, the Burren is a unique limestone landscape that was shaped underneath the mighty Atlantic Ocean millions of years ago, before rising to the surface after an enormous geological cataclysm. It is a tremendously bizarre place – hectares upon hectares of silvery limestone stretching across jagged hills and rocky valleys. And yet, in the summer The Burren comes to life in an explosion of colour, as exquisite and rare wildflowers bravely spring up from narrow fissures.  One awestruck tourist staring out his car window described The Burren in hushed tones, “It’s like God grabbed every rock he could hold in his hand and scattered them here.”

You’ll also find ancient burial chambers, medieval ruins and the incredible Aillwee Cave in this landscape that looks as though it belongs on a distant planet.

Bog lands

Over one-sixth of Ireland is covered by bogs, which is a type of natural wetland whose main characteristic is a thick mat of partially decomposed plant material and highly acidic water. The conditions for bog formation are abundant in some regions of the Northern Hemisphere, and particularly in Ireland. In addition to being unique ecosystems, bogs have also been useful as a source of burnable fuel known as peat. For generations dating back as far as recorded history, Irishmen have been cutting peat into shapes like long bricks. They then stack them to dry before transporting them back home to be burned in the stove or open fireplace.  Bogs start out as slow moving rivers or ponds, which are slowly taken over by sphagnum, a genus of moss which includes more than 150 species. Cooler weather promotes bog formation, because the moss decays very slowly, sinking to the bottom of the bog while a layer of growing moss accumulates on top. This restricts the oxygen supply to the lower water, while also blocking heat. This causes the plant material to decay very slowly, which in turn leads to the water becoming highly acidic.

Mountains

The topography of the island of Ireland features hilly, central lowland composed of limestone, surrounded by a broken border of coastal mountains. The mountain ranges vary greatly in geological structure. The mountain ridges of the south are composed of ancient red sandstone, separated by limestone river valleys. The limestone valleys appear as deep green grooves that tend to run in an east-west direction. Granite is the predominant material in the mountains of Galway, Mayo, and Donegal in the west and north-west, as well as in Counties Down and Wicklow on the east coast. A basalt plateau covers much of the north-east of the country.

The central plain, broken in places by low hills, is extensively covered with glacial deposits of clay and sand. This part of the country is heavily dotted with large areas of bog land, together with numerous lakes. The island has experienced at least two general glaciations. Throughout the country, ice-smoothed rock, mountain lakes, glacial valleys and deposits of sand, gravel and clay mark the passage of the giant icebergs that once covered this section of the globe.

Communications

If you bring an I-Pad, laptop, Kindle reader or any other kind of rechargeable device with you, please remember that Ireland uses 220v power and a 3-pin plug. This means the voltage is different to that in the US and Canada, and the plugs are different even to those used in the UK. However, this problem is easily sorted out. Simply pick up a universal AC adaptor which will allow you to safely and easily recharge your electronic devices. They are available to purchase in all major airports and electrical stores. Once you arrive, you’ll find that Wi-Fi coverage in Ireland has improved dramatically in recent years. The vast majority of hotels offer free Wi-Fi access to their guests, as do an increasing number of B&B’s, coffee shops, restaurants and even pubs.

Mobile or cell phone coverage in Ireland has also greatly improved over the last decade.

In fact, Ireland has a population of four million people, and a recent survey showed there are four million mobile phone devices being used in this country. Once you arrive in Ireland and have switched on your phone, it should link automatically, through global partnership agreements with your phone service provider, to one of Ireland’s main service providers. Vodafone and O2 are the most likely to link with your phone.

Be aware that roaming charges in this country, while they have come down over the past two years due to European legislation, are still prohibitively high. Consider purchasing a ready to go (also known as pay as you go) phone from an Irish provider.

Most come with free minutes as part of the purchase price, and this could save you considerable money if you plan to make even an average number of calls while you’re here.

If you’re calling Ireland from abroad, our international code is 353. Dial your own international access code, then 353, then the Irish area code (minus the 0) and the local number. For example, the area code in Dublin is 01, and local numbers all contain seven digits. Therefore, if you were dialling the Dublin number 765 4321 from abroad, you would dial your own international access code +353 1 765 4321.

I have specific dietary requirements. Can you look after me?

If you have specific needs, please make that known to us at your earliest convenience. We will pass your exact requirements to the hotels in which you’ll be staying, and in most cases, they will be able to accommodate your dietary requests.

Set your clocks

Ireland uses Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), which is the same as London. At the end of March, we also switch to daylight savings time (although this happens about two weeks later than in America). Under normal circumstances, however, Ireland will be five hours ahead of the US east coast, six hours ahead of the central states and eight hours ahead of the west coast. Going the other way, Dublin is one hour behind France and the rest of western Europe, eight hours behind the Far East and 10 hours behind Sydney,Australia.

Recommended travel literature if you’re coming to Ireland

Freewheeling Through Ireland – Edward Enfield

Round Ireland with a Fridge – Tony Hawks

A Ghost Upon Your Path – John McCarthy

Jaywalking with the Irish – David Monagan

Best Irish movies ever made

The Commitments (1991), directed by Alan Parker

The Field (1990), directed by Jim Sheridan

My Left Foot (1989), starring Daniel Day Lewis, directed by Jim Sheridan

In the Name of the Father (1993), starring Daniel Day Lewis, directed by

Jim Sheridan

The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2006), directed by Ken Loach

The Quiet Man (1952), directed by John Ford

The Butcher Boy (1997), directed by Neil Jordan

Angela’s Ashes (1999), directed by Alan Parker

Best Irish novels ever written

Ulysses — James Joyce

Dracula — Bram Stoker

The Importance of Being Earnest — Oscan Wilde

Gulliver’s Travels — Jonathan Swift

The Borstal Boy — Brendan Behan

Amongst Women — John McGahren

Molloy — Samuel Beckett

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — C.S. Lewis

The Country Girls – Edna O’Brien

Best Irish albums of all time

Achtung Baby (1991) – U2

Astral Weeks (1968) – Van Morrison

Live and Dangerous (1970) – Thin Lizzy

The Joshua Tree (1987) – U2

I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got (1990) – Sinead O’Connor

Moondance (1970) – Van Morrison

Everybody Else is Doing It, so Why Can’t We? (1990) – The Cranberries

If I Should Fall From Grace with God (1980) – The Pogues

Loveless (1990) – My Bloody Valentine

O (2003) – Damien Rice

Why choose Ireland?

If you have to ask, it just shows that you’ve never been here. Ireland truly is a land with something for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re a surfing fanatic, a history buff, someone looking for haunted houses or horse races, a connoisseur of fine whiskey, a man or woman who is just about to get married, a hill walker, mountain climber, sailor, golfer, avid cyclist, casual jogger, song writer, aspiring singer, wannabe writer, food critic,  story teller, bird watcher, keen angler, honeymooner, amateur archaeologist, treasure seeker, thrill seeker, fan of the theatre, fan of fine food, someone seeking long-lost relations or someone looking for a good time, quiet time, crazy time, down time or all of the above. In Ireland, you can find most of these things…before breakfast! Ireland is known as “the land of saint and scholars,” and this nation is lauded the world over for its welcoming nature, its charm, quick wit and unbridled enthusiasm for life. It’s not for nothing we greet our visitors with the Gaelic phrase,

What kind of clothes should I pack?

 

Regardless of what time of the year you decide to visit us, you should know that the only thing certain about the Irish weather is that there’s nothing certain about the Irish weather! It could be cool in the morning and warm in the afternoon, or it could be quite pleasant at breakfast time, and then get blustery and showery after lunch.

Think layers—nothing too heavy and things that are easy to take off and put on without much warning, especially if you plan to be outdoors a lot. Also, there’s no point in denying it; you’re going to need an umbrella and a raincoat. It rains on average more than 200 days of the year in Ireland (some Irish people would say, “Is that all?”). In fact, there’s an old joke about an Irish farmer talking to a tourist about the weather.

The farmer points to a hill in the distance and says to the tourist, “See that hill over there? Well, if you can see that hill, that means it’s going to rain.” The tourist replies, “What if I can’t see it?” to which the farmer states earnestly, “Then it’s already raining!”

As a (very) general rule, daytime highs in the summer average about 60 F / 15 C in the northern part of the country and about 70 F / 20 C in the south. Also, it stays cooler along the coast during the summer, and milder in the winter, when daytime highs average between 40 F and 46 F / 5 C to 8 C. Spring and autumn temperatures fall somewhere between the other seasons, so you can see, Ireland never really suffers from extreme variations in temperature.

What vaccinations do I need before coming to Ireland?

Most parts of Ireland have never even seen a mosquito. No vaccinations are required.

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