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Frommer's EasyGuide to Ireland 2017

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Meant to be carried with you as you travel, this highly portable, concisely-written 288-page book introduces travelers to one of the world’s most richly rewarding destinations. It includes all of the nitty gritty details one needs to plan a trip, from hotels and restaurants to try, to savvy tips on the best ways to get around the country. But British author Jack Jewers, who has been writing guidebooks to Ireland since 2006 (and is the proud grandson of an Irishwoman), also provides an affectionate and insightful take on Irish culture and history that will greatly enhance your trip to the Emerald Isle. The book is:

* Completely updated every year and printed in large, easy-to-read type.
* Packed with helpful maps, including a full-color fold-out map
* Precise about pricing, with Euro and British Pound (for Northern Ireland) amounts listed for every attraction, restaurant, hotel, nightspot and shop in the guide—so there aren’t any nasty surprises.
* Filled with information on the fascinating culture, history, art history and cuisine of Ireland that will make your visit richer
* Laden with no-holds-barred reviews, which will introduce you to the country’s most authentic lodgings (hotels, B&B’s, castles), eateries, museums, historic and nature sight so you can

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1 THE BEST OF IRELAND

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The Best of Ireland

Tiny, and with ever-changing scenery, Ireland is an addictive place to explore. Within a few miles you can travel from plunging cliffs and flat pastureland to towering mountains and gloomy peat bogs. You can spend the night in ancient castles or state-of-the-art spa hotels, dine on fine Irish cuisine or snack on crispy fish and chips served in a paper bag. The sheer number of sights, little villages, charming pubs, and adorable restaurants and shops can be overwhelming—that’s why we’ve put together this list of some of our favorite places and things to do in Ireland. We hope that while you’re exploring this magical country, you’ll find a few of your own.

The best Authentic Experiences

Seeing a Traditional Music Session at a Proper Irish Pub: While there are plenty of shows for the tourist crowd, nothing beats the energy, atmosphere, and authenticity of a genuine small-town traditional music session. Buy a pint, grab a seat (preferably one near a smoldering peat fire), and wait for the action to begin. We’ve listed some of the best places in this book, including the Long Valley in Cork (see p. 133) or Gus O’Connor’s and McGann’s in little Doolin, County Clare (see p. 188).

 

2 IRELAND IN CONTEXT

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Ireland in Context

These are trying times for Ireland, as it reels from an ongoing economic crisis and struggles to find political equilibrium. But Ireland will bounce back; it has been through worse. The complex history of this small country has conditioned its people to be resilient, and there is something to be said for the Irish spirit, for the ability to find humor in the darkest of places. Every new crisis brings fresh jokes alongside the rage. Every new leader is a target for general hilarity. And while nobody in the country would tell you there is not work to be done, you get the distinct impression that the people—if not the politicians and the bankers who got them into this mess—are ready to do that work.

A Brief History

The First Settlers    With some degree of confidence, we can place the date of the first human habitation of the island somewhere after the end of the last ice age, around the late 8000s b.c. Ireland’s first colonizers, Mesolithic Homo sapiens, walked, waded, or floated across the narrow strait from what is now Britain in search of flint and, of course, food.

 

3 SUGGESTED ITINERARIES

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Suggested Itineraries

Ireland is such a small island that you can cover a lot of ground in a week and feel quite at home within two. Even with the best of intentions and all the energy in the world, you’ll never see it all on a short visit. However, with a few long days and a savvy attitude, it is possible to see a sizable chunk of the island in just a week. The suggested itineraries over the next few pages will help you get the most out of this extraordinary and varied country—no matter how long you have to see it.

How to See Ireland

Let’s get one thing straight: You don’t have to rent a car to see Ireland. If you want to see some of the major towns and cities, and those parts of the countryside that can easily be reached on tours or public transport, then don’t bother renting a car. However, if your ideal Ireland involves wandering through the countryside, visiting small villages, climbing castle walls, hailing history from a ruined abbey, or finding yourself alone on a rocky beach—you effectively cannot do those things independently without a car. Out of the main towns, public transportation exists, but it’s slow and limiting. Every major town has car-rental agencies, if you decide to explore by car.

 

4 DUBLIN

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Dublin

For such an ancient town, Dublin is doing a pretty good job of not showing its age. Despite its stony gray appearance, the Irish capital is actually one of Europe’s most youthful cities, with the average age of its population somewhere around 36 years old. It’s growing rapidly, too—a full 50% more people now call Dublin home than did in the year 2000, and almost a third of Ireland’s entire population now lives in the greater Dublin area. This is by far Ireland’s most cosmopolitan city, and its most diverse; at times it feels more like a modern European city than it does the Irish capital. Edgy bars and cafes buzz alongside pubs that have stood for centuries, and chic boutiques are snuggled into the medieval precincts of the old city. It’s yours to discover afresh—and even if you think you know what to expect, you’re almost certain to be surprised by what you find.

Essentials

Arriving

By Plane    Aer Lingus (www.aerlingus.com;  081/836-5000), Ireland’s national airline, operates regular, direct, scheduled flights between Dublin International Airport and numerous cities worldwide. Direct routes from the United States include Boston, Chicago (O’Hare), New York (JFK), Orlando, and San Francisco. American Airlines (www.aa.com;  1800/433-7300), Delta (www.delta.com;  800/241-4141), and United (www.united.com;  1800/864-8331) all fly direct to Dublin from at least one of those same cities. From Canada, direct flights are operated by Air Canada (www.aircanada.com;  1888/247-2262). From Australia, Qantas (www.qantas.com;  13-13-13 from within Australia) flies to Dublin with a change in London or Dubai. Air New Zealand (www.airnewzealand.co.nz;  080/0737-000) flies to Dublin, changing in San Francisco or Los Angeles and then London. Most major European airlines have direct flights to Dublin.

 

5 DAY TRIPS FROM DUBLIN

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Day Trips from Dublin

Driving in or out of Dublin along the big, bland motorway, it’s easy to dismiss the region immediately surrounding the city’s urban sprawl. However, you’ll find plenty to do within a half-hour drive north, south, or west of Dublin. Rural landscapes, ancient ruins, stately homes—some of Ireland’s most iconic sights are surprisingly close to the city. And while it’s possible to see any of them on a quick day trip, some fine hotels and restaurants in the area reward visitors who opt to stay overnight instead.

North of Dublin, you’ll find the remnants of ancient civilizations at prehistoric sites Newgrange and Knowth, while the nearby green hills of the Boyne Valley hold the long-lost home of early Irish kings. To the west, Kildare is Ireland’s horse country, with a couple of handsome stately homes and interesting historical sites that also make this area worth checking out. South of Dublin, the Wicklow Mountains rise from the low, green countryside, dark and brooding. A beautiful region, dotted with early religious sites and peaceful river valleys, the hills also make a good starting point if you’re heading on to the south of Ireland (see chapters 6 and 7).

 

6 THE SOUTHEAST

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The Southeast

Dramatic coastline, misty mountains, and evocative historic monuments characterize the lush counties south of Dublin. The area also has a distinctive, musical dialect, peppered with unique words and phrases—remnants of the ancient Yola language that was once spoken here. The three main tourist centers of the Southeast—Waterford, Wexford, and Kilkenny—are close enough together that you could use any as a base for exploring the region by car. In only a few minutes, you really start to feel like you’ve left the city behind and entered the real countryside. But “city” is a relative term out here: Waterford, the biggest town in the region, has a population of just 46,000.

Essentials

Arriving

By Bus    Bus Éireann (www.buseireann.ie;  01/836-6111) operates direct service several times a day from Dublin’s central bus station (Busáras), into Kilkenny, Wexford, and Waterford. The journey to Kilkenny takes upwards of 2 hours; to Wexford and Waterford, closer to 3.

 

7 COUNTY CORK

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County Cork

The largest of Ireland’s counties, Cork is also one of its most diverse. It encompasses a lively capital city, quiet country villages, rocky hills, picturesque beaches, and long stretches of flat, green farmland. Here, modern tourism (this is where you find Blarney Castle, after all) meets workaday Irish life, and somehow they manage to coexist gracefully. St. Fin Barre founded Cork in the 6th century, when he built a monastery on a swampy estuary of the River Lee, giving the place the rather generic Gaelic name of Corcaigh—which, unromantically, means “marsh.” Range beyond Cork City to visit the pretty harbor town of Kinsale, famous for spearheading Ireland’s gourmet food scene in the ’90s and ’00s; the storied seaport of Cobh in East Cork; or the barren beauty of Cape Clear Island in craggy West Cork.

Essentials

Arriving

By Plane    Cork Airport, Kinsale Road (www.corkairport.com;  021/413-131), is served by Aer Lingus and Ryanair, and a handful of other budget airlines. Now Ireland’s third-busiest airport, after Dublin and Belfast, it has direct flights to and from several European countries, including nine cities in the U.K. and seven in France. However, it has stopped running any scheduled flights to other airports within Ireland.

 

8 COUNTY KERRY

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County Kerry

Known for rolling green fields, vibrant little towns, and craggy ocean vistas, County Kerry is one of those places visitors to Ireland always have at the top of their lists. Charming villages like colorful Kenmare and bustling historic towns like Killarney make perfect stops on any Irish tour. Its peaceful green valleys are just what you hope for when you come to Ireland. Unfortunately, this cuts both ways: With massive popularity come massive crowds of tourists. The height of summer is incredibly busy here—if it’s peace you want, ideally, you should hit these hills in the late spring or fall. But there’s an antidote for even the busiest times: Should you find that the tour-bus traffic on the Ring of Kerry is getting to you, simply turn off onto a small country lane, and within seconds you’ll find yourself virtually alone in the peaceful Irish countryside.

Essentials

Arriving

By Bus    Bus Éireann (www.buseireann.ie;  064/663-0011) operates regularly scheduled service into Killarney and Dingle from all parts of Ireland.

 

9 COUNTIES CLARE & LIMERICK

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Counties clare & Limerick

North of County Kerry, the west coast of Ireland charms and fascinates with a varied and stunning landscape. From County Limerick’s lush, emerald-green farmland edging the Shannon River, you can head north to County Clare’s vast and breathtaking Cliffs of Moher and the lunar landscape of the extraordinary Burren National Park. However far you go, there’s something wonderful to catch your eye. County Clare is a wild and beguiling county, with landscapes full of high drama and majestic beauty. This is where Ireland begins to get wild.

Essentials

Arriving

By Plane    Several of the big airlines operate regular scheduled flights into Shannon Airport, off the Limerick-Ennis road (N18), County Clare (www.shannonairport.com;  061/712-000), 24km (15 miles) west of Limerick. Although not as busy as it used to be, due to many of its short-haul routes having moved to Cork, Shannon is still one of Ireland’s major points of arrival and departure for transatlantic flights.

 

10 COUNTY GALWAY

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County Galway

For many travelers to Ireland, Galway is the farthest edge of their journey. Part of the reason they draw the line here is because the depths of the county look so forbidding—with its bleak bogs, heather-clad moors, and extraordinary light—they think that it must be the end of all that’s worth seeing in Ireland. It isn’t, of course, but Galway is just far enough west to escape much of the touristy bustle of Kerry or Cork. And that’s a compelling part of its attraction—here you can climb hills, catch fish, explore history, and get away from it all in the Irish countryside. With its misty, mountain-fringed lakes, rugged coastline, and extensive wilderness, County Galway is a wild and wooly area. And yet, nestled just outside its most dramatic and unkempt part—the windswept, boggy expanse of Connemara—is one of Ireland’s most sophisticated towns. Though small, Galway City has long been a center for the arts, and the winding, medieval streets of its oldest quarter have a seductively bohemian air.

 

11 NORTHWEST IRELAND: MAYO, SLIGO & DONEGAL

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Northwest Ireland: Mayo, Sligo & Donegal

The strikingly beautiful landscape of Galway segues into the strikingly beautiful landscape of southern Mayo without any fanfare. Like Galway, Mayo is a land of dramatic scenery, with rocky cliffs plunging down into the opaque blue waters of the icy sea. If you head farther north, you’ll reach the smooth pastures of County Sligo, the classic landscape that inspired the great Irish poet William Butler Yeats. The main appeal here is not its towns, which tend to be functional farm communities, but the countryside itself. Though the region is dotted with fairy-tale castles and mysterious prehistoric sites, its biggest gift to the visitor is tranquility.

Essentials

Arriving

By Bus    Bus Éireann runs daily bus service to Sligo Town from Dublin, Galway, and other points including Derry in Northern Ireland. It provides daily service to major towns in Mayo. The bus station in Sligo is on Lord Edward Street.

By Train    Trains from Dublin and other major points arrive daily at Westport in Mayo, and Sligo Town in Sligo. The train station in Westport is on Altamont Street; about a 10-minute walk from the town center; in Sligo it’s on Lord Edward Street, next to the bus station.

 

12 NORTHERN IRELAND

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Northern Ireland

The vibrant and beautiful six counties of Ireland still under British rule are all the more fascinating for their troubled history. At their epicenter is Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland—a curious combination of faded grandeur and forward-looking optimism. Belfast boomed in the 19th century as prosperity flowed from its vast textile and shipbuilding industries. The 20th century was not so kind to the city, which spent decades in decline, but it is now forging a new identity, complete with an artsy, edgy underbelly. Out from Belfast you’ll find medieval castles, beautiful coastlines, and some truly spectacular natural wonders—all within easy reach of the city.

Essentials

Arriving

By Plane    Belfast has two airports: Belfast International (www.belfastairport.com;  028/9448-4848) and George Best Belfast City Airport (www.belfastcityairport.com;  028/9093-9093). From the U.S., United Airlines (www.united.com;  1800/864-8331) runs one regular, direct flight between Belfast and New York City’s Newark International. Aer Lingus (www.aerlingus.com;  01/814-1111), British Airways (www.ba.com;  189/0626-747 in Ireland, or 084/4493-0787 in the U.K.), and EasyJet (www.easyjet.com;  084/3104-1000) operate regular scheduled flights from Britain to Belfast. In the summer, Virgin Atlantic (www.virgin-atlantic.com;  1800/862-8621) and Thomas Cook (www.thomascookairlines.com;  0800/107-3409 from the U.K. only) fly a few direct flights between Belfast and Orlando, Florida. You can fly direct to Belfast from several European cities.

 

13 PLANNING YOUR TRIP TO IRELAND

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Planning Your Trip to Ireland

Chances are you’ve been looking forward to your trip to Ireland for some time. You’ve probably set aside a significant amount of hard-earned cash, taken time off from work, school, or other commitments, and now want to make the most of your holiday. To accomplish that, you’ll need to plan carefully. The aim of this chapter is to provide you with the information you need, and to answer any questions you might have on lots of topics, including: When to go? How to get there? Should you book a tour or travel independently? And how much will everything cost? Here you’ll find plenty of resources to help get the most out of your Irish adventure.

Getting There

By Plane

The Republic of Ireland has three major international airports. They are, in order of size, Dublin (DUB; www.dublinairport.com;  1/814-1111), Cork (ORK; www.cork-airport.com;  021/431-3131), and Shannon (www.shannonairport.com;  061/712000). Northern Ireland’s main airport is Belfast International Airport (BFS; www.belfastairport.com;  028/9448-4848).

 

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