Attracted by feel-good romance films such as PS. I Love You and Leap Year, Pentravel expert Nicole Coetzer headed to Ireland for a craic (fun) time, and promptly fell in love with the land of leprechauns and four-leaf clovers.
Here’s her take on “The Emerald Isle.”
Where did you go, and what did you do?
We flew into Dublin and then drove to Galway on an amazing scenic drive. While in Galway, we travelled via ferry to Inishmore, one of the Aran islands, and spent the day exploring this hidden gem on hired bicycles.
After Galway we headed off to Dingle, stopping at the Cliffs of Moher, Gap of Dunloe and the famous Bunratty Castle along the way. The next day we visited Cork to enjoy the famous Christmas lights and experience the infectious Christmas spirit. We spent Christmas in Kilbrittain in the most charming seaside cottage enjoying the small town with its famous whale.
On our way to Waterford we stopped to kiss the blarney stone at Blarney Castle. Waterford is famous for its Viking history and we completely immersed ourselves in the famous Viking Triangle. After Waterford we drove to the Wicklow Mountains National Park, a highlight of our trip. We stayed in Glendalough at the foot of the mountain close to a majestic lake. It was perfection. We ended our trip with three days in vibey Dublin doing everything touristy and just enjoying the city.
What were some of the highlights on your trip, and why do these stand out?
The Cliffs of Moher. We purchased discounted tickets online that allow entry to the cliffs two hours before the peak times, so we got to enjoy the magical experience with almost no people around.
The Aran Islands are a must. Exploring an island filled with farms and small pubs in winter by bicycle was an extremely special and unique experience.
Wicklow Mountains National Park is every bit as special as the reviews state. It’s a huge natural marvel of nature and you can hike, drive or bike through portions of the park. It’s also the setting in PS. I Love You where Gerry and Holly met (blush).
Tell us about social life.
Irish people are among the friendliest and most welcoming in the world. As for the pubs, there are so many options you can’t go wrong! They’re always full and traditional Irish music is everywhere.
Guinness is the drink of choice and bartenders take a lot of pride (and time) in pouring it perfectly. Pub food is phenomenal! My favourite was the hearty Irish stew. If your budget doesn’t allow pub dining every night, then the supermarkets are very reasonably priced to grab a quick sandwich.
What are some quirky things/fun facts you learned while there?
The 26th of December is heavily observed, and everything is closed. Every Christmas, there are crowds of crazy locals who kick of their kit and take part in an ocean swim – in freezing temperatures!
What kind of travellers would enjoy Ireland?
Ireland caters to everyone. If you are a city person then Dublin, Cork and Galway will suit you. If you prefer the quieter life, there are villages just a short drive away. Ireland is an easy, hassle-free holiday for couples, families and travelling friends.
How long should one spend in Ireland to get a good feel of the destination?
I really think our 10 days were perfect, but I would have loved to have added an extra 4 days to our trip just so that we could travel a little further north. However, Ireland is so small that we never felt rushed and we never spent more than 4 hours on the road.
When is the best time to visit Ireland?
It depends on the type of traveller. December was extra-special to us because we got to experience a cold Christmas and the Irish take Christmas very seriously. If you prefer to travel in the summer, the warmest months are between March and August.
What are some of the challenges Ireland poses to South African travellers?
The Rand isn’t as strong against the Euro as we would like, but we planned our itinerary well and didn’t go over budget. The average cost for a Guinness was 5 Euro and pub dinners ranged from 10-15 Euro per person.
While South Africans don’t need visas to visit Ireland, you have to travel with a list of documents to produce on entry.
Inspired by Ireland? Chat with a Pentravel expert today and get planning!