Ireland: discover unique city, countryside, and coastal gems, close to home

Ireland: discover unique city, countryside, and coastal gems, close to home
28 Sep 2021

Short breaks are a popular, hassle-free option, and the island of Ireland is ready to welcome you with open arms.

What's more, thanks to the Common Travel Area (the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Mann, and the Channel Islands) agreement, there are no new restrictions for travel between Britain and Ireland, and you don't need to self-isolate upon arrival, but must take a lateral flow test prior to travel. For more information, click here.

With the best of both worlds on offer — historic cities with lively, cosy pubs and restaurants within easy reach of an abundance of picture-perfect rural and coastal sights, there is so much to see, and with attractions re-opening to the public, there has never been a better time to go. So book now, press the green button, and visit the island of Ireland.

Scroll down to learn more and see a handpicked selection of market-leading deals.

You can join in on some Irish craic, sample local food, and dance to live music at the traditional pubs and restaurants in the buzzing cities

If there's one thing the Irish are known for, it's their ability to have a good time. Live like a local and grab a cold pint of Guinness accompanied by a warm Irish stew in a fire-warmed pub, or enjoy a supper in a coastal village such as Portrush (an hour's drive from Derry~Londonderry) or Dalkey  (40 minutes' train ride south of Dublin).

In Derry~Londonderry, head to the popular adjoining Peadar O'Donnell's and Gweedore pubs, and see live traditional music every night.

For a jolly sing-a-long session, we recommend Kelly’s Cellars in Belfast, which claims to be the city centre's oldest pub. It has played host to Ed Sheeran, and live bands perform on weekends.

Few beverages hold such iconic status as Guinness. Head to Dublin to visit the famous Guinness Storehouse and learn about its ingredients and history. You can then enjoy a pint and some food in one of the on-site bars and restaurants, with city views of Dublin as a backdrop.

The island of Ireland's oldest pub is also in Dublin, a short stroll from the busy Temple Bar street. The Brazen Head serves homey Guinness stew and seafood chowder from the comfort of an 11th-century coach house, and in true Irish fashion, live music is also a nightly feature.

Visit the island's cities, and discover the full story of the fated Titanic, Dublin’s green spaces, and Derry~Londonderry’s 17th-century city walls

In Belfast, head to the Titanic Quarter on the Maritime Mile to learn about the history of the world's most famous ocean liner. The centrepiece of this regenerated area is the glistening star-shaped Titanic Belfast, which houses nine galleries that tell the story of the ship and of shipbuilding in Belfast.

In the evening the Cathedral Quarter comes alive, with fairylights hanging above cobbled streets lined with traditional pubs. One of the most famous is the Dirty Onion, serving local ales accompanied by live music.

While in Dublin, escape the hustle bustle of the city for the sprawling acres of Phoenix Park. Here you'll find herds of deer, Europe’s oldest zoo, and a Victorian tearoom. There are countless sports field, walking paths, and open spaces to run, walk, and relax in.

Derry~Londonderry is the only remaining completely walled city on the island Ireland. Walking the 1.5-kilometre circumference offers views of the layout of the original town and of the River Foyle.

Kick your bucket list back into action and tick off some unique activities, including marvelling at the Giant's Causeway

No trip to Northern Ireland would be complete without a stop at the legendary Giant's Causeway, said to have been built by the Irish giant Finn McCool in order to cross the North Channel. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is made up of about 40,000 hexagonal stones, and is free to visit.

"Game of Thrones" fans and critics alike will marvel at the beautiful and eerie tunnel of 150 beech trees that form the Dark Hedges in County Antrim (which is the location for Westeros in the TV series).

Go back in time and visit Newgrange in County Meath ⁠— a passage tomb built around 3,200 BC, making it older than Stonehenge and Egypt's Pyramids. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is surrounded by 97 engraved stones. A sought-after annual event at the site is the winter solstice, when the morning sun's rays shine through an opening at the entrance into the chamber, illuminating the passageway. Tickets for this impressive spectacle are available through a lottery.

Walking routes and epic road trips

Walk parts (or all, if you're feeling energetic!) of the incredibly scenic Causeway Coastal Route, which stretches from Portstewart to Ballycastle. Steeped in legends and myths, this route is only an hour's drive north from Belfast, and passes some of Northern Ireland's key attractions.

In southwest Ireland, the Ring of Kerry starts and ends in Killarney, and boasts 179 kilometres of breath-taking scenery. From the cascading Torc Waterfall, Moll's Gap winding mountain pass, to the endless lush rolling green hills and pristine beaches, its natural beauty is spectacular. If you’re a "Star Wars" fan, take a slight detour on the route to the Kerry Cliffs, from where you can see the island of Skellig Michael jutting out of the ocean, which featured as Luke Skywalker’s island sanctuary in Star Wars Episodes VII and VIII.

The 2550-kilometre-long Wild Atlantic Way on Ireland's west coast is world famous for its rugged beauty and spectacular coastal views. One of its most celebrated sights is the Cliffs of Moher, covering eight kilometres of the coastline, and towering up to 214 metres above sea level. There's a 19th-century observation tower that you can climb for views over the Aran Islands, and local residents include falcons and puffins. Adding to the island of Ireland's many claims to fame, the wind-swept cliffs featured in the "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince film".

Thrill seekers who want to get close to nature can try The Gobbins cliff path coastal walk, a 40-minute drive from Belfast. It follows a thrilling 3-kilometre trail of tubular, swinging, and rope bridges suspended over crashing waves, pathways clinging onto cliff edges, a 22-metre tunnel through rocks, an elevated path over rockpools, and a clifftop viewing point. The path is also home to a colony of puffins, as well as razorbills and peregrine falcons. This walk is guided and must be booked in advance.

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