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Rick Steves Best of Ireland
By Rick Steves
By Pat O’Connor
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- Trade Paperback $24.99 $30.99 CAD
- ebook $16.99 $21.99 CAD
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Hit Ireland's can't-miss sights, bites, and history in two weeks or less with Rick Steves Best of Ireland!
- Strategic advice from Rick Steves on what's worth your time and money
- Two-day itineraries covering Dublin, Kilkenny, Kinsale, Kenmare and the Ring of Kerry, Dingle Town and Peninsula, County Clare, Galway, Aran Islands, Belfast, Portrush, and the Antrim Coast
- Rick's tips for beating the crowds, skipping lines, and avoiding tourist traps
- The best of local culture, flavors, and more, including insightful walks through the most interesting neighborhoods and museums
- Trip planning strategies like how to link destinations and design your itinerary, what to pack, where to stay, and how to get around
- Over 350 full-color pages with detailed maps and vibrant photos throughout
- Suggestions for side trips to Valley of the Boyne, Wicklow Mountains, Rock of Cashel, Cobh, Blarney Castle, Connemara and Mayo, Bangor, and Derry
Experience Ireland's legendary warmth and beauty for yourself with Rick Steves Best of Ireland!
Planning a longer trip? Pick up Rick Steves Ireland, an in-depth guide perfect for spending more than two weeks exploring Ireland.
THE BEST OF IRELAND
Map: Top Destinations in Ireland
THE BEST OF DUBLIN
THE BEST OF KILKENNY AND THE ROCK OF CASHEL
THE BEST OF KINSALE
THE BEST OF KENMARE AND THE RING OF KERRY
THE BEST OF DINGLE TOWN AND PENINSULA
THE BEST OF COUNTY CLARE
THE BEST OF GALWAY
THE BEST OF THE ARAN ISLANDS
THE BEST OF BELFAST
THE BEST OF PORTRUSH AND THE ANTRIM COAST
THE BEST OF THE REST
Designing Your Itinerary
Map: The Best of Ireland in 2 Weeks
Before You Go
Travel Strategies on the Road
Flung onto the foggy fringe of the Atlantic pond like a mossy millstone, Ireland drips with mystery, drawing you in for a closer look. You won’t find the proverbial pot of gold, but you will treasure the engaging and feisty Irish people. Irish culture—with its unique language, intricate art, and mesmerizing music—is as intoxicating as the famous Irish brew, Guinness.
The Irish revere their past and love their proverbs (such as “When God made time, he made a lot of it”). Ireland is dusted with prehistoric stone circles, beehive huts, and standing stones—some older than the pyramids. While much of Europe has buried older cultures under new, Ireland still reveals its cultural bedrock.
Today’s Ireland is vibrant, cosmopolitan, and complex. The small island (about the size of Maine) holds two distinctly different Irelands: the Republic of Ireland (an independent nation that’s mainly Catholic) and Northern Ireland (part of the United Kingdom, roughly half Protestant and half Catholic). No visit is complete without a look at both.
Want to really get to know Ireland? Belly up to the bar in a neighborhood pub and engage a local in conversation. The Irish have a worldwide reputation as talkative, musical, moody romantics with a quick laugh and a ready smile. Come join them.
THE BEST OF IRELAND
In this selective book, I recommend Ireland’s top destinations—a mix of lively cities, cozy towns, and natural wonders—along with the best sights and experiences they have to offer.
The biggie on everyone’s list is Dublin, the energetic, friendly capital of the Republic of Ireland. But there’s so much more to see. The island is dotted with Celtic and Christian ruins, cliffside fortresses, and prehistoric sites. Brú na Bóinne’s burial mounds are older than Stonehenge. There’s the proud town of Kilkenny, the historic Rock of Cashel, colorful Kinsale, and two peninsula loops: the famous Ring of Kerry and the more intimate Slea Head Loop near Dingle. Youthful Galway is a good launchpad for dramatic scenery: the sheer Cliffs of Moher (in County Clare) and craggy Aran Islands.
In Northern Ireland, historic Belfast sheds light on the political Troubles that once bitterly divided this country. The lush Antrim Coast delights visitors, with fun-loving Portrush serving as a handy home base.
Beyond the major destinations, I cover the Best of the Rest—great destinations that don’t quite make my top cut, but are worth seeing if you have more time: the region of Connemara and the town of Derry. When interesting sights or towns are near my recommended destinations, I cover them briefly, to help you enjoyably fill out a free day or a longer stay.
To help you link the top sights, I’ve designed a two-week itinerary (on here), with tips for tailoring it to your interests.
Christ Church Cathedral sits atop Norman crypts and anchors the historic heart of Dublin.
The friendly pulse of this vibrant city is best felt in its many traditional pubs.
The Ha’ Penny Bridge, just beyond the inn, replaced ferries and charged locals a half-penny toll.
Turreted Dublin Castle was the center of dominant English control in Ireland for almost eight centuries.
The popular Musical Pub Crawl introduces Irish traditional sessions to tune-loving travelers.
Monastic scribes copying scriptures painstakingly created the Book of Kells during the Dark Ages.
Grafton Street is a pedestrian shopping mecca, inviting for a stroll on a sunny day.
The ruins of the Rock of Cashel are the most evocative sight in Ireland’s interior.
Waterford’s crystal craftsmanship draws enthusiastic visitors from around the world.
Colorful shop fronts and unpretentious pubs line the medieval streets of Kilkenny.
Kinsale, long a historic port, has a fun, fresh look.
Cobh’s docks once creaked with Titanic passengers and US-bound emigrants.
Walking tours transform Kinsale’s back lanes with tales of former maritime glory.
Serene Staigue Fort, dating from the Iron Age, lies 10 minutes’ drive off the Ring of Kerry.
Visitors to sheep ranches can observe shearing and shepherd-dog training.
Muckross House hosted Queen Elizabeth I and attracts garden lovers today.
Kenmare offers a respite from crowds and a base for exploring the Ring of Kerry.
A bodhrán drum, sold at Dingle’s music shops, helps keep the beat in traditional Irish music.
The cute town of Dingle delights travelers.
Fungie the dolphin is a playful ambassador for boat tours around Dingle harbor.
Early Christians gathered on the peninsula at holy places like the Gallarus Oratory.
Art Nouveau stained-glass artistry adorns Dingle’s convent chapel of Díseart.
The 650-foot-high Cliffs of Moher drop dramatically into the Atlantic.
Dunguaire Castle, standing sentry beside Galway Bay, offers memorable castle banquets.
The little crossroads of Doolin sports lively trad music sessions in steamy pubs.
In the Burren, the Poulnabrone Dolmen is a tomb built 5,000 years ago.
Banners for the original 14 Norman founding “tribes” of Galway grace Eyre Square.
Picnickers along the River Corrib soak up sun and ambience.
A youthful international college population energizes Galway’s pedestrian corridor.
Proud Irish step dancing is fun to watch in Galway’s music pubs.
Walls of jagged limestone define winding lanes across Inishmore’s windswept interior.
Islander-owned minivans greet travelers at the dock and scoot them efficiently around Inishmore.
About 1,200 years ago, devoted pilgrims flocked to Inishmore and rest now near the Seven Churches.
The small isle of Inisheer sees fewer visitors and offers peaceful solitude to modern hermits.
The high-tech Titanic exhibition tells one of history’s most famous stories.
The stately Victorian grandeur of City Hall hints at former Industrial Revolution wealth.
The historic Crown Liquor Saloon offers private snugs in which to enjoy your mellow pint.
Rural craftsmanship is kept alive in simple village dwellings at Cultra Folk Park.
Pleasant Portrush thrives on summer crowds exploring the scenic Antrim Coast.
Hikers and birdwatchers thrill to the lofty Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.
Dunluce Castle perches on a sea stack accessed by a strategic bridge.
Colorful and passionate (often political) murals decorate Derry’s buildings.
During the Troubles, this sign marked a popular gathering point for speakers to address crowds.
Connemara’s rugged vistas attract painters, naturalists, hikers, and photographers.
Prim Westport makes a good stop or a home base when exploring Connemara.
Approach Ireland like a veteran traveler, even if it’s your first trip. Design your itinerary, get a handle on your budget, make advance arrangements, and follow my travel strategies on the road. For my best advice on sightseeing, accommodations, restaurants, and transportation, see the Practicalities chapter.
Designing Your Itinerary
Decide when to go. Travelers in “shoulder season” (April, May, Sept, and Oct) experience smaller crowds, mild weather, and the full range of sights and fun. Peak season, June through August, offers longer days and better weather, but larger crowds (especially in the cruise ports towns of Dublin, the Cobh region, and Belfast). Prices, crowds, and temperatures drop off-season (Nov through March); city sightseeing is generally fine, though in towns, some sights have shorter hours or shut down.
No matter when you go, expect rain. Just keep on traveling and take full advantage of “bright spells.”
Choose your top destinations. My itinerary (on here) gives you an idea of how much you can reasonably see in 14 days, but you can adapt it to fit your own interests and time frame. Bustling, rollicking Dublin is a must for its museums, street scene, and nightlife. Music lovers follow their ear to pubs playing live traditional music. The top musical towns are—in this order—Dingle, Doolin, Galway, Westport, and Dublin. Foodies favor Kinsale, but won’t go hungry elsewhere.
Historians choose among sights prehistoric (such as the Boyne Valley, the Burren, and the Dun Aengus cliff-edge fortress), medieval (Rock of Cashel and Glendalough), and modern (from the independence movement in Dublin to the Troubles in Belfast). Seekers of nonstop beauty visit the Republic’s rugged west coast—the Dingle Peninsula, Ring of Kerry, Cliffs of Moher, and Aran Islands—and Northern Ireland’s scenic Antrim Coast. Photographers want to go everywhere.
If you have time to explore only one idyllic peninsula, choose the Dingle Peninsula over the more famous Ring of Kerry. If you want to include both, this book will help you do it efficiently and enjoyably.
Draft a rough itinerary. Figure out how many destinations you can comfortably fit in the time you have. Don’t overdo it—few travelers wish they’d hurried more. Allow enough days per stop: Figure on at least one to two days for major destinations.
Staying in a home base—like Galway or Dublin—and making day trips can be more time-efficient than changing locations and hotels. Minimize one-night stands, especially consecutive ones; it can be worth taking a late-afternoon train ride or drive to get settled into a town for two nights.
Connect the dots. Link your destinations into a logical route. Determine which cities you’ll fly into and out of; begin your search for transatlantic flights at Kayak.com. All direct flights from the US to Ireland land in Dublin, low-key Shannon (good for cautious drivers), or Belfast.
Decide if you’ll travel by car, take public transportation, or use a combination. For the efficiency and freedom, I recommend driving. You won’t need a car in big cities (park it), but it’s ideal for exploring the countryside, stopping wherever you like.
If relying on public transit, these destinations are easiest—Dublin, Dingle, Galway, Aran Islands, and Belfast—using a combination of trains, buses, taxis, and minibus tours, plus a flight or boat to the islands. Trains don’t cover the entire island, and bus travel is slow due to multiple connections and/or frequent stops.
Allot sufficient time for transportation in your itinerary. Whether you travel by train, bus, or car, it’ll take a half-day to get between most destinations.
To determine approximate transportation times between your destinations, study the driving chart (on here) or check Google Maps. To look at train and bus schedules in advance, go online (www.discoverireland.ie, select “Getting Around”). If your trip extends beyond Ireland, check Skyscanner.com for intra-European flights.
Give yourself some slack. Every trip, and every traveler, needs downtime for doing laundry, picnic shopping, relaxing, people-watching, and so on. Pace yourself. Assume you will return.
Ready, set... You’ve designed the perfect itinerary for the trip of a lifetime.
Run a reality check on your dream trip. You’ll have major transportation costs in addition to daily expenses.
Flight: A round-trip flight from the US to Dublin costs about $900-1,500, depending on where you fly from and when.
Car Rental: Allow roughly $250 per week, not including tolls, gas, parking, and insurance. Rentals are cheapest if arranged from the US.
Public Transportation: For a two-week trip, allow about $250 per person for buses and trains. Because Ireland’s train system has gaps, a rail pass probably won’t save you money, but buying train tickets online in advance can save as much as 50 percent.
- "The country's foremost expert in European travel for Americans."—Forbes
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- "Travel, to Steves, is not some frivolous luxury—it is an engine for improving humankind, for connecting people and removing their prejudices, for knocking distant cultures together to make unlikely sparks of joy and insight. Given that millions of people have encountered the work of Steves over the last 40 years, on TV or online or in his guidebooks, and that they have carried those lessons to untold other millions of people, it is fair to say that his life’s work has had a real effect on the collective life of our planet."—The New York Times Magazine
- "[Rick Steves] laces his guides with short and vivid histories and a scholar's appreciation for Renaissance art yet knows the best place to start an early tapas crawl in Madrid if you have kids. His clear, hand-drawn maps are Pentagon-worthy; his hints about how to go directly to the best stuff at the Uffizi, avoid the crowds at Versailles and save money everywhere are guilt-free."—TIME Magazine
- "Steves is a walking, talking European encyclopedia who yearns to inspire Americans to venture 'beyond Orlando.'"—Forbes
- “…he’s become the unofficial guide for entire generations of North American travelers, beloved for his earnest attitude and dad jeans."—Outside Magazine
- On Sale
- Nov 14, 2023
- Page Count
- 384 pages
- Rick Steves