Ireland surprised me so much – the natural beauty was unlike anything I could describe. Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Coast with its farmlands and ruins was right out of a fairy tale.We were there for a wedding, but decided to extend our stay. We squeezed much of the country into a five day tour, but can’t wait to go back.
While Ireland certainly has something for everyone, our we set our sights on castles, coastlines, ruins and pubs. I’ve recapped our Ireland trip below with an Ireland Travel Guide – specifically for those looking for the best photo opps. Broken down into five categories: what to see, where to stay, where to eat, what to pack + what to know.
THE IRELAND TRAVEL SCHEDULE
1 travel day there (red eye from JFK)
2 nights in County Cork (could have stayed much longer!)
2 nights in Dublin
1 night in Drogheda for the wedding at Bellingham Castle
1 travel day back
WHAT TO SEE IN IRELAND
Blarney Castle – this not so secret castle is certainly worth the stop. Not only is the medieval castle open to tour, the grounds have stunning stables, a mansion, caves and expansive gardens. Leave yourself 4 hours to see everything, as the line to kiss the Blarney Stone is easily an hour and a half. The town around Blarney is a stunning residential neighborhood. If time permitted, I would have loved to stay the night. Don’t miss the whipped ice cream on your way out – it’s amazing.
Cashel – a short 20 minute drive from Blarney, Cashel is the perfect halfway point on the way to West Cork County. The Rock of Cashel is a spectacular. Half ruins from the 13th century, the walls still stand but the arched domes are dripping. The cemetery that surrounds the church is perfect for photos as it overlooks rolling farms and fields of Irish cows. You can take a guided tour or walk the grounds alone, but don’t miss the faded original fresco protected inside the cathedral. You don’t need more than an hour to visit the Rock of Cashel, but the town is super cute if you want to stay.
Bantry House – this was one of our personal faves because it’s still owned by the family (and they live there, too!). The house sits just above Bantry Bay, so the drive along the coast to its gates is gorgeous. You can book a stay in the manor, or just pay to walk the grounds and do the self-guided house tour. The gardens are massive and the family is constantly working to return them to their original splendor. You get to walk through the first and 2nd floors of the house with super helpful guidebooks citing the origin of each piece of art or furniture. The staircase in this place was insane (and almost haunting) as it split between levels and jogged from side to side. There was so many interesting details in the house, but we were asked not to take photos. Sorry! FYI – there’s a super cute tea room inside the house, perfect for lunch.
Dunboy Castle and Puxley Manor – this is the perfect end point for your West Cork road trip. Puxley Manor is this INSANE castle that had fallen to ruins, and up until 10 years ago, you could still hike around inside. Then the Manor was purchased to turn into a hotel, and tons of renovations had been completed. When we saw it, there was a new roof and electricity with all the windows replaced. Apparently, they’ve run out of money and are hoping to sell. It’s definitely worth seeing, even if you can’t get past the fence. There’s a shipwreck out front and pristine bay views. Directly across the street is Dunboy Castle, which is truly in ruins from the 1600’s. You can hike + climb all over them and read up on the haunted history.
DUBLIN (+ areas north)
Dublin Castle – this was our favorite part of Dublin. Definitely do the guided tour that takes you underground to see the original viking wall and what’s left of the original moat. You also get access to the castle’s chapel, which is no longer religiously sanctioned and not open to the public. I LOVED the current art exhibit set within the castle’s government apartments. They were modern interpretations of historic bust sculptures. The tour also gave lots of great history – like how Ireland is the only country to have elected a female president twice in a row, with one serving a second term. 💕 [City Hall is across the street and just gorgeous. The bathrooms downstairs are really nice, too.]
Trinity College – this campus is the OG Ivy League. There are a few entrances you can funnel in, but the main gate is worth seeing. Ivy glad stone buildings, cathedral and stunning library. The tennis courts are gorgeous, too.
Guinness Storehouse– the city’s claim to fame, the history behind the factory and how it got it’s land is the best part. Let’s just say, Guinness got the world’s best lease agreement ever.
Malahide Castle – north of the city, but totally worth the trip. Malahide was obviously where the locals hang out on the weekends. The sprawling grounds are open to the public and everyone was picnicking, playing soccer, and strolling with little ones. Tour the castle, which was owned by the Talbots for 800 years, for access into all the private bedrooms and haunted quarters. It’s a quick and super entertaining tour. The gardens go for acres, and the gift shop had the best shopping we found in Ireland.
Listoke Distillery Gin School – I’m a gin and tonic girl. At Listoke, you can make your own gin and learn how it’s been made in Ireland for centuries. We didn’t make it to Listoke, but from the pictures, it’s at the top of our list next time.
WHERE TO STAY IN IRELAND
The Castle – Townshed– words cannot describe the love I have for this hotel. It is an authentic castle, sitting safely in a cove off Irelands Wild Atlantic Coast. Set up as a bed and breakfast, the host family has been running it for seven generations. The interior is decorated exactly as you’d want a castle to be, while still being entirely modern and cozy. Just over $120 USD a night, breakfast was cooked to order every morning. They give you a key and you have free fun of the castle during your visit. Quinn and I plan to return to The Castle every couple years. I imagine our fondest memories will be made at the castle.
The Alex Hotel– recently renovated, this is a designers dream. The interiors were SO cool, the hotel was super clean and the service was great. They even left fancy dessert in our room because I mentioned Quinn’s birthday. Dublin as a whole is really small, so the location is great. You can walk to everything within 20 minutes. If you do have a car, parking is only $15, which I thought was super reasonable.
Stephen’s Green – we didn’t stay here, but I popped in and loved it. The neighborhood was my favorite in Dublin, filled with lush parks, non-touristy restaurants and markets. The interiors are gorgeous and totally Instagram worthy.
WHERE TO EAT IN IRELAND
Mary Ann’s Pub– the best meal we had in Ireland was here, just a few doors up the road from The Castle in County Cork. The owner is the sweetest man who was very into American politics. The muscles (get the appetizer size) were the best I’ve ever had and only six euro. We went two nights in a row.
Lucky Duck– the most beautiful meal we had in Ireland was at the newly opened Lucky Duck. Owned by the same restaurant group that apparently owned all the cute restaurants in Dublin, they refurbished a condemned building and it is oh-my-goodness gorgeous. Comprised of four stories, we ate on the top floor in the library room. Their book collection was lust worthy and I would have stolen them if they fit in my purse. Since it was our only free night in Dublin, we tried everything and lingered for hours. The branding was on point and so was the service.
777 – apparently Mexican food is having a moment in Ireland, and this place was the cutest. Go on Sunday when everything is $7.77.
Wilde – easily the most Instagrammable restaurant I’ve ever seen, make your reservations early for this place. Go for brunch for the best lighting.
Peruke & Periwig – come for dinner and drinks. It’s the exact level of cool and Irish you want in a restaurant. Very much meatpacking district and speak easy vibes.
WHAT ELSE TO KNOW IN IRELAND
The entire country of Ireland is 4.25 million people – that’s half the size of the San Francisco Bay Area.
Dublin is very small and I wouldn’t need to stay for more than three days to see everything.
Temple Bar is the hip spot for music and drinks.
Last call is 12:30, so drinking starts early.
If you rent a car, get something small. The roads are narrow and windy, so something compact makes the drive easier.
Diesel and Petrol are about 10 cents different per liter, but Diesel will get you better gas mileage.
You pump before you pay at gas stations.
Have Euro coins ready on motorways, as you’ll pass through toll stations as you travel north or south of Dublin. The charge per car is $1.90.
Tipping is discretionary, but expected at restaurants and in cabs.
Uber works great all over Ireland!
Sundays are sleeeeepy, if you’re planning to do anything on a Sunday, make sure it’s open ahead of time.
Congratulations to Sean + Drew on your spectacular wedding! We’ll never forget it + couldn’t be happier for you both. so excited for future travels together. 💕 To those wondering, the wedding was hosted at Bellingham Castle (not open to the public unfortunately), but was an experience we’ll never forget.