I have officially booked my flight for my Ireland trip at the end of July/beginning of August. I'm planning to rent a car and do a self-driving tour of the country for 10 days. I've checked out some travel books from the library to help plan an itenerary, but thought I'd check here too... Does anybody have any recommendations of things to not miss?
I'm operating under the huge assumption that you like drinking in pubs, live music, and walks in the mist. That said:
Dublin and environs
1. Trinity College, Dame Street, Grafton Street, St. Stephen's Green: you can walk all around these parts of Dublin 2 in a morning. While in TCD you can visit the Book of Kells (2 pages visible at any one time) and the beautiful library (not to be confused with the Lecky Library, which is a horrible Brutalist monstrosity that smells of damp). If you walk up from the College and up Grafton Street with its fancy shops, buskers, and dancing children (very sad phenomenon), you will reach Stephen's Green. You can do a quick clip around or get a sandwich and sit by the pond and watch the swans. On the far side of the green, there is a row of homes that display the most beautiful Georgian architecture, Walking west, you'll get to Dame Street, which is a long commercial street and the fastest way to the two Church of Ireland Cathedrals.
Pubs in the area: Davy Byrne's (where Leopold Bloom had burgundy and a gorgonzola sandwich), The Duke, O Donoghue's (good music)
2. Christ Church Cathedral/St. Patrick's Cathedral/Chester Beatty Library/Queen of Tarts
The C of I has two cathedrals quite far up off Dame Street. St. Pat's is Gothic and was clearly wrested away from the Catholics; Christ Church is a bit more modest but still grand. Both have stellar choirs and it's worth finding out when Evening Prayer is sung. Near Christ Church is the Chester Beatty Library, which is one of my favorite libraries in the world. They have rare manuscripts, a large art collection, and the architecture is stellar. There's a good tea room in there, too, and a nice book shop. However, my best recommendation for this area is Queen of Tarts. They're open for breakfast, lunch, and afternoon tea, and I can recommend the chicken and stuffing sandwich and the Queen Victoria sponge or lemon meringue tart. I go here every time I'm in Dublin.
Pubs on the way: O'Neills, The Stag's Head
3. Great Georges Street
There are a couple things in the area: the arcade, which is full of little shops and things, and the George, a giant purple gay bar.
4. Temple Bar
This is (or at least, was) a sort of touristy hipster part of the city, with boutique hotels and shops and lots of facial piercings on the locals. One place to hit up after bar time if it's still there is Rasher Byrne's, which specializes in sausages on a roll. There was one thing called the Spicy but Nice, which wasn't terribly spicy but very nice indeed.
Pubs: I haven't been to Temple Bar much recently and I'm sure there are better places to go, but I have a soft spot for the Front Lounge, which was a great place to pregame before the George (see above). The last time I was there it had gotten a little tatty, but there's lots of natural light and it's a nice spot for an afternoon G&T.
5. O'Connell Street and environs
North of the Liffey, you can see all the major sites of the last couple hundred years of Irish history: the Exchequer, the GPO, the Spire, the Pro(visional) Cathedral. Your guidebooks have better and more accurate information on these spots than I do. I rarely ventured north of the Liffey when I lived in Dublin, but it's always worth checking out the Winding Stair, which is a great second hand and rare book shop. I believe O'Connell Street hosts a farmer's market once a week, too.
6. Howth Head
I'd advise going to Howth Head because you get stellar views of the sea if the weather is fine. There's a walk you can do and a really amazing seafood place called Iskander's (not cheap, but worth it). Under the DART station stop there is a pub called the Bloody Stream, where you should go because it's called the Bloody Stream.
7. Day/afternoon trips: Malahide, Dalkey
Malahide has a nice beach, and that's what it has to recommend it. Dalkey is a cute little town and not very touristed, so you can drive up there and find a pub to spend a couple hours. It's got a lovely seaside feel to it.
Music venues: If you like contemporary music, Vicar Street is the place to go. You'll want to book in advance. For live traditional music, just pick up one of the free weekly guides and find something. All the big acts go through larger venues, so you'll find local musicians and smaller names in the pubs.
Restaurants: when I was in Dublin I was a student, so I ate a lot of sandwiches. I can still recommend a couple of places: Beshoff's or Leo Burdocks for fish and chips (either is good), and the horribly named Café Mao, which has really quite good pan-Asian food and was my special-occasion place of choice. The place where I used to eat breakfasts is now shut, but ask your hotel or B&B proprietor and have a Dublin-style cooked breakfast at least once—although if you're in a B&B you'll probably get one anyway. It's a shame the Bewley's on Grafton Street is now shut, because it was the best place to have brown scones and tea and people watch.
Stay tuned for County Wicklow.
Not a huge amount I can add to Badger's comprehensive guide so far other than to say if you like walks and fancy seeing Dublin in a slightly different way try this Dublin Statue trail - http://h2g2.com/approved_entry/A72319737
Badger - Wow - thank you for the detailed suggestions! I really appreciate the insider's scoop on where to eat. I'll definitely make a note of all the places you mentioned. I was planning to see the two cathedrals, but I'll make a point to go for the evening prayer while I'm there. I love libraries, so I'm glad to see your recommendation of the Chester Beatty Library. I'm just going to save your whole post and take it with me!
Thanks Vertandor - that looks like a fun tour! I always wonder about the story behind the statues when I travel.
In Dublin you can't miss St. James's Gates Brewery, home of the Guiness Draught. Even if you don't drink (if you do, you can also visit Jameson Distillery in Dublin), take the tour and get up to the Sky Bar. It provides amazing peripheral views of the entire city. Also, one of the best meals we had in Dublin was at the restaurant there.
Roadtrip can't-miss stops are Galway -great small town, full of pubs and great people-, the Cliffs of Moher -south of Galway- and if time permits, The Blarney Stone. As you make your way up to the Cliffs of Moher and Galway driving on the West Coast (gorgeous scenery) a must stop for lunch or dinner is Monks Pub & Seafood Restaurant in Ballyvaughan (you won't regret it.)
Have a great trip. Ireland is a beautiful country!!
Thanks Peruvian - I do drink, so I will be sure to check out the brewery. Thanks for the tip on the views. I have two nights planned in Oughterard, just outside of Galway and am planning to stop and explore the Cliffs of Moher on the way there from Dingle. I'll make a note about Monks Pub!
I leave on Sunday for the trip... I'm pretty excited! Still working out how best to pack when changing location so frequently. I'm used to being in one place for the duration of a trip.
It sounds like you did a driving trip too - how was that? I'm still trying to wrap my head around the idea of shifting with my left hand...
Yes, drove through the entire country. Amazing trip, but shifting with my left hand was a bit awkward, specially the first couple of days!!
Originally Posted by Shanisol
If you're in Galway town, check out the Róisín Dubh. It's a pub with excellent live music; occasionally, very big acts (Solas, for example) will come through there. It's a very nice establishment even when there isn't music. Sorry I flaked on the Wicklow installment, but it sounds like you'll be heading on the N1 so it would be out of your way anyway. Have a good time!
PS: when we were driving, I found the following chant very helpful: fence, fence, bush, tree, sheep, fence, fence. The roads are narrow and you might find yourself very close to any of the following I listed.
I will be in Wicklow briefly - I'm planning to go to Powerscourt Gardens and Glendalough. Then drive into Kilkenny for the night.
Originally Posted by Badger
I'm committing it to memory now.
Originally Posted by Badger
I am really enjoying this thread...We are heading to Ireland in September...flying into Shannon, touring, and flying out of Dublin. I will definitely take advantage of the Dublin suggestions for the trip's grand finale. (Thanks!) Now, I am wondering if anyone has any tips to get things started. We will be spending a couple of days in Ennis before traveling the countryside. Any recomendations for sights, sounds, or tastes in Ennis? :-)
BTW...Suggestions about vegetarian friendly dining in Ireland will be greatly appreciated.
You won't need to worry too much. Vegetarianism isn't an alien concept there, even though you might (in smaller villages) need to ask them to put something together for you. Most places can do a vegetarian version of the full breakfast, which is more than enough food to get you through most of the day; popular grab and go sandwiches include egg salad, cheese and salad, and cheese and coleslaw (don't knock it); and many of the carvery-type restaurants are happy to put together a plate of vegetable sides. Dublin has loads more options because of its cosmopolitanism and growing immigrant populations, and there were at least two vegetarian-only restaurants when I was a student there. I can't remember their names so I'm not sure if they're still open, but both were in the environs of Great Georges Street. As I recall, Galway and Cork both had good options as well.
Originally Posted by Grandcache