Writers wax lyrical about Ireland’s spectacular scenery: ever-changing landscapes, splendid seascapes, purple moorlands, monastic ruins, enchanting lakes, towering fortresses, and vast, spreading patchworks of fields in every shade of green. Our Ireland travel guide features five itineraries throughout the land. The itineraries are paced to enjoy the scenery and wonderful people this magnificent country. The best of Irish bed and breakfasts; sumptuous country house hotels; self-catering houses, cottages, and apartments; Dublin’s finest hotels; an eclectic mix of unique places to stay . . . believe every word you read about the beauty of the Emerald Isle. Our list of Ireland hotels includes all of these variations of Ireland lodgings and range in price from the moderate to the extravagant. However it’s the warmhearted friendly people that make a visit to Ireland truly special.

Select a region in , or choose one from the map below:


Ireland



General Info and Resources

Itineraries:

To keep you on the right track, we have created driving itineraries covering the most interesting sightseeing. If time allows, you can link the four itineraries together and travel all around Ireland. Each itinerary explores a region’s scenic beauty, history, and culture, and avoids its large cities. Along the way, we suggest alternative routes and side trips (indicated in italics). At the beginning of each itinerary, we suggest our recommended pacing to help you decide the amount of time to allocate to each region. Do not try to see all of Ireland in a week—this is frankly impossible. You will enjoy yourself much more if you concentrate on a smaller number of destinations and stay for at least a couple of nights in each, rather than spending most of your precious vacation rushing from place to place. The capricious changes in the weather mean that often what appears sparkling and romantic in sunshine, appears dull and depressing under gathering storm clouds. If the weather is stormy, find a nice place to stay with good company. Once the rain clears, there is much to see.



Airfare:

Karen Brown’s Guides have long recommended Auto Europe for their excellent car rental services. Their air travel division, Destination Europe, an airline broker working with major American and European carriers, offers deeply discounted coach- and business-class fares to over 200 European gateway cities. It also gives Karen Brown travelers an additional 5% discount off its already highly competitive prices (cannot be combined with any other offers or promotions). We recommend making reservations by phone at (800) 835-1555. When phoning, be sure to use the Karen Brown ID number 99006187 to secure your discount.

Another option is to visit Flight Reservations under the blue Travel Tools tab on all of our web pages. Here, you will find a myriad of prices from different air carriers.

Europe now has several low-cost air carriers, the largest being Ryanair, offering excellent prices for air travel within Europe. If you are traveling long distances across Europe it might be advantageous to look into flying rather taking the train.



Car Rental:

Readers frequently ask our advice on car rental companies. We always use Auto Europe—a car rental broker that works with the major car rental companies to find the lowest possible price. They also offer motor homes and chauffeur services. Auto Europe’s toll-free phone service, from every European country, connects you to their U.S.-based, 24-hour reservation center (ask for the Europe Phone Numbers Card to be mailed to you). Auto Europe offers our readers a 5% discount (cannot be combined with any other offers or promotions) and, occasionally, free upgrades. Be sure to use the Karen Brown ID number 99006187 to receive your discount and any special offers. To check prices or reserve a car click on Auto Europe under Travel Tools.



Currency:

The unit of currency in Northern Ireland is the pound sterling, while in the Republic of Ireland it is the euro. The two currencies do not have equal value.

An increasingly popular and convenient way to obtain foreign currency is simply to use your bankcard at a seemingly ubiquitous ATM machine. You pay a fixed fee for this but, depending on the amount you withdraw, it is usually less than the percentage-based fee charged to exchange currency or travelers’ checks. Be sure to check with your bank or credit card company about their fees and necessary pin numbers prior to departure.

Many establishments accept one or more credit cards. If possible, pay using your credit card as the exchange rate is usually quite favorable. Paying by credit card reduces the need to carry large sums of cash and thus reduces potential loss in the case of theft. Keep a record of your credit card numbers at home as well as with you separately from your cards in case of loss or theft. Also, it is a good idea to contact your card issuer and inform them of your travel plans.

 



Driving:

It is to the countryside that you must go, for to visit Ireland without driving through the country areas is to miss the best she has to offer. Driving is on the left-hand side of the road, which may take a little getting used to if you drive on the right at home, so avoid driving in cities until you feel comfortable with the system. If your arrival city is Dublin, do not pick your car up until you are ready to leave for the countryside. A valid driver’s license from your home country is required. Your car will not be an automatic unless you specifically reserve one. Petrol (gasoline) is extremely expensive. In the Republic, people usually do not use road numbers when giving directions: they refer to roads as where they might lead to (e.g., the Cork road). To add to the confusion, new road signs quote distances in kilometers, while old signs are in miles. The Irish seem to use neither, always quoting distances in the number of hours it takes them to drive. The distances in Ireland are not great, but often the roads are not great either—though they are getting a lot better. Plan on being in a traffic jam every time a road goes through a town. Roads and motorways around Dublin are nearly always congested. Estimate your journey on the basis of an average of 30 miles (about 50 kilometers) per hour. The types of roads found in Ireland are as follows:

MOTORWAYS: The letter “M” precedes these fast roads, which have two or three lanes of traffic either side of a central divider. Motorways are more prevalent in Northern Ireland though they are becoming more common between larger towns in the Republic.

NATIONAL ROADS: The letter “N” precedes the road number in the Republic, while in Northern Ireland, the road number is preceded by the letter “A.” They are the straightest and most direct routes you can take when motorways are not available.

REGIONAL ROADS: The letter “R” precedes the road number on maps, but their numbers rarely, if ever, appear on signposts. They are usually wide enough for two cars or one tractor. Off the major routes, road signs are not posted as often as you might wish, so when you drive it’s best to plan some extra time for asking the way. Asking the way does have its advantages—you get to experience Irish directions from natives always ready to assure you that you cannot miss your destination—which gives you the opportunity of asking another friendly local the way when you do. One of the joys of meandering along less traveled country roads is rounding a bend to find that cows and sheep take precedence over cars as they saunter up the middle of the road.



Electricity:

The voltage is 240. Most hotels, guesthouses, and farmhouses have American-style razor points for 110 volts. If you are coming from overseas, it is recommended that you take only dual-voltage appliances and a kit of electrical plugs. Your host can usually loan you a hairdryer or an iron.



Shopping:

Prices of goods are fairly standard throughout Ireland, so make your purchases as you find items you like, since it is doubtful that you will find them again at a less expensive price. The most popular items to buy are hand-knitted sweaters, tweeds, crystal, china, and hand-embroidered linens. Value Added Tax (VAT) is included in the price of your purchases. There is usually a minimum purchase requirement, but it is possible for visitors from non-EU countries to get a refund of the VAT on the goods they buy in one of two ways: 1. If the goods are shipped overseas direct from the point of purchase, the store can deduct the VAT at the time of sale. 2. Visitors taking the goods with them should ask the store to issue a VAT refund receipt. A passport is needed for identification. On departure, before you check in for your flight, go to the refund office at Shannon or Dublin airport. Your receipts will be stamped and they may ask to see your purchases. You will be given a cash refund in the currency of your choice.



Tourism:

The Irish Tourist Board (bord failte) and Northern Ireland Tourist Board are invaluable sources of information. Outside Ireland, they have combined their organizations under the auspices of “Tourism Ireland.” They can supply you with details on all of Ireland and, on request, specific information on accommodation in homes, farmhouses, and manors; and information on festivals, fishing, and the like. The easiest way to contact them is via www.tourismireland.com. You can also reach them by phone as follows:

Australia: (0)2 9299 6177

Canada: (800) 223 6470

Great Britain: 0800 0397000

New Zealand: 0 9 977 2255

USA: (800) 669 9967



Weather:

It has been said that there is no such thing as climate in Ireland—only weather, and no such thing as bad weather—only the wrong clothes. This is because the changes in conditions from day to day, and even from hour to hour, seem greater than the changes from one season to the next. The Atlantic Ocean and the air masses moving east give Ireland very little seasonal variation in temperature, producing mild winters and cool summers. The ocean’s influence is strongest near the coast, especially in winter when areas bordering the sea are milder than those inland. Coastal areas, particularly in the west, also have less variation in temperature between day and night. Even when it rains, and it does, it never pours—it’s just soft Irish rain that keeps the isle emerald. The best thing is to be prepared for sun and sudden squalls at all times.



Cooking Classes:

We have all experienced the incredible cuisine offered at many of Ireland’s fine hotels, inns and bed & breakfasts. Through the daily preparation of the offered breakfasts, lunches, afternoon teas, suppers and dinners, your hosts have perfected their menus, presentation and culinary skills. From family style meals to full-service restaurants, often what we sample as a guest are some of our most memorable dining experiences.

Wonderfully, many hosts/chefs of the places we recommend in Ireland have introduced cooking classes (cookery classes) for guest participation.  The programs vary from day classes to week-long stays; most are “hands on” requiring that you don an apron and test your own culinary talents and many include instruction not only in the kitchen but at the markets, bakeries and butcher where you will learn of local products that both influence and define the regional specialties.  These Irish cooking classes allow us to challenge the “chef” in all of us.

 



Long Term:

Historically our research in Ireland has focused our evaluation of properties based on their traditional overnight accommodation. However, many properties we recommend, in addition to rooms rented on a nightly basis have an apartment, a cottage or even a manor that they offer on a long-term rental basis.  Often these accommodations do not offer the same services as the traditional overnight rentals.  Many, for example, are termed “self-catering” which basically translates to “limited service”: breakfast may or may not be included; maid service may be provided once a week as opposed to daily; heating charges may be additional based on your usage, and in some cases (although, these are ones we don’t usually include) it may even be necessary to provide your own linens.

Historically our research in Ireland has focused our evaluation of properties based on their traditional overnight accommodation. However, there is so much information you will want to consider before committing to a long term vacation rental that we have encouraged the Irish hotels, inns and bed and breakfasts that we recommend to share information on long term rentals. It almost seems more important to understand just what you are renting in Ireland when you commit to a rental of a week as opposed to a one or two night reservation.



Wedding Facilities:

Ireland with its diversity of regions offers every desirable setting and venue for a memorable wedding. Ireland also offers a wealth of fabulous inns and hotels to host your wedding, your reception and offer romantic overnight accommodation for your guests and your honeymoon. andnbsp; andnbsp;