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Insider’s Guide To Interesting Irish Travel Destinations
With the uncertainty of COVID and the current challenges with travel, our small team at Biddy Murphy thought you might like us to bring a wee bit of Ireland to you. Having grown up in Co. Tipperary and being a bit of a hodophile (one that loves to travel), I’ve had the pleasure of visiting the well known as well as uncommon destinations throughout Ireland.
This guide will provide you with an insider’s perspective of Ireland’s travel destinations that I’ve found interesting. You’ll only get this information from someone like me, who’s traveled these paths many times. We hope this insider’s guide will help you prepare for the time that you can actually make the trip to the Motherland.
- Ward Gahan, Chief Experience Officer, Biddy Murphy Irish Gifts
Although you can fly into other locations, Dublin is the most common point of entry into Ireland, so let’s start there. In Dublin you’ll experience the big city life with the big city prices but having traveled to many other large cities, I have to say that you’ll find the most friendly people here.
Although many people will send you to the usual places like the Guinness Storehouse, Jameson Distillery or the Little Museum of Dublin, my favorite thing to do in Dublin is to take a walk on Grafton Street. You’ll most likely come across the buskers performing music in the street. Listening to their talent is always a treat. One time I came across Oscar Winning Irish songwriter, actor, vocalist and guitarist, Glen Hansard and two kids in Dublin.
Although it’s one of the most expensive cities in Europe, you can experience the high life without spending all of your vacation money in one spot. I’d recommend you grab an Afternoon Tea at the Shelbourne Hotel. It’s a lovely way to experience luxury and learn about the history of Dublin. After your tea you can experience another famed piece of history by visiting the shrine of St. Valentine’s Relic, the final resting place of the patron saint of love located with Whitefriar St. Church.
Throughout the shops in Dublin, you may see jewelry from our maker-partners who craft fine Irish inspired pieces like Claddagh Rings or the Celtic Warrior necklaces. Don’t worry about purchasing them during your travels. We’ll save you the hassle and send them right to your door!
Moving to the South from Dublin, you might consider visiting Co. Wicklow. What makes this region unique is the mountainous topography along the East Coast. It’s great for hiking and biking. My favorite, the Wicklow Gap has spectacular views and scenery that is stunning as you’ll see from a picture below that I took as the sun was off in the distance. I’ve also included a link to some of my additional pictures I’ve taken in Co. Wicklow.
An insider suggestion: take a rain coat as it can be sunny one minute then raining in the next. I always say “There isn’t any bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.”
After you’ve walked or cycled, stop by Hollywood for some pubgrub at the Hollywood Inn. It’s reminiscent of California’s Hollywood in an era gone by. The lounge bar offers nice dining and a relaxing atmosphere. And you may not see a “real” Hollywood star but you may run into our maker-partner John who hails from Co. Wicklow. He’s the artist that is best known for crafting our unique Irish wedding bands and other finely detailed jewelry.
From there, I’d recommend you take a jaunt over to Co. Tipperary. I know I’m a little biased but I have to say, there is so much to see and do in Co. Tipperary that it’s a challenge for me to narrow down my thoughts. This is rural country with many historical sites and the first significant mountains you’ll see driving South towards Cork. It’s not as spectacular as the scenery you’ll find driving from Nebraska to Colorado, but it’s the same idea!
The “must visit” places I’d recommend in Co. Tipperary is Ballyporeen, which is the small village which was once the home of Ronald Reagan’s great grandfather. And when I say small, I mean small. We’re talking less than 500 people in the village proper.
This village is along the route of the famed Vee, which I’ve taken several pictures and written about in a recent blog. While at the Vee, take a walk down the path to the Bay Lough where you’ll see the Bianconis original horse changing stone stables. Charles Bianconi was an Italian man who settled in Ireland and “put Ireland on wheels” with his network of horse drawn coaches. In Fethard, just 15 minutes from the famed Rock of Cashel, you can visit the Fethard Horse Country Experience and explore the history of the horse in Ireland. Horses are still big business in Fethard, breeding thoroughbreds for racing by Arab Sheiks and Kentucky horsemen.
When in and around Co. Tipperary, you may see our friend and maker-partner Brian whose family has been crafting woven goods in the area since 1893. Their authentic Irish wool throw blankets, wool wraps and Irish flat caps are customer favorites! Rather than purchase them on your trip, where you’d have to figure out how to lug them back to the states, we’ll send them right to your door.
Head South from Co. Tipperary to Co. Waterford. Most people have heard the name Waterford and associate it with the coveted Irish Crystal. Sadly, Waterford Crystal moved the majority of its manufacturing out of Ireland.
What makes Co. Waterford, a “must see” is the beautiful coastline and small fishing villages like Dungarvan. If you are on budget, you can bike or drive the Southern shore of the River Suir along a winding 2-lane road that goes from Waterford all the way to Tramore. My parents used to ride their bikes 30 miles to Teamore for “a day out at the sea.” You can walk the Rabbit Burroughs, which are a collection of sand dunes that stretch past the public parking lot along the expansive beach in Tramore.
If money isn’t an object or you want to understand more about the rich and famous, visit the Lismore Castle and Gardens. It’s the ancestral Irish home of the Duke of Devonshire who also has his primary residence in Chatsworth Castle. You can sleep where the famous people like Sir Walter Raleigh, Fred Astaire and John F. Kennedy stayed. In fact, you can bring a few friends and rent out the entire castle!
While in Co. Waterford, you can take a tour of the original Waterford Crystal factory but we’d recommend that you support one of our maker-partners who are currently handcrafting their pieces in Waterford, keeping their art alive. We can ship you fine Irish handmade glass pieces like our vases, shot glasses or bauble ornaments right to your door.
From Cork City, which is the second largest in Ireland to the Atlantic Way Coastline in West Cork is an area known as the People’s Republic of Cork or PROC. It stems from a long standing rivalry between Cork and the capital city of Dublin. The people of Cork or “Corkonians” as they are also referred to, are a group of rebels that see themselves as a little different than the rest of Ireland.
If you take favor to the slight outcast you’ll enjoy your time in Co. Cork. Stop by Clonakilty, a bustling market town with great bars and live music. At DeBarras Pub you’ll experience authentic, traditional Irish music. So you can stay a while and enjoy the area, I recommend that you book a room at the Inchydoney Hotel. Ask for a seafront room.
If you are interested in Irish history, drop by the Michael Collins House. You’ll learn about this hero of the Irish struggle for independence, best remembered for his daring strategy in directing the campaign of guerrilla warfare during the intensification of the Anglo-Irish War(1919–21). This museum is dedicated to telling others all about this “Big Fella.”
You’ve probably heard of the famed “Ring of Kerry” and although that’s a beautiful route, I’d recommend you spend time in the Dingle Peninsula and Kenmare. Take a jaunt on Slea Head Drive - it’s a circular route that begins and ends in Dingle. You’ll travel through the historic sites, Irish speaking villages and see distant views of the Blasket and Skellig Island off the horizon.
If you are adventurous and not afraid of a little mud, head out to visit Uragh Stone Circle. If you can get past the muddy path, it’s a real spiritual oasis. I’ve shared some of my personal pictures here. Scattered along the peninsula are numerous megalithic monuments that are mystical and views are magical.
Consider a stay at the Park Hotel Kenmare. Yes, it’s one of the most well known hotels in the area because it’s owned by a well known TV personality, Francis Brennan. But I tell ya, it’s worth the hype! I’ve shared a few of my personal photos from Dingle Peninsula here.
If you are looking for goods or gifts made in Co. Kerry, you can’t go wrong with our King Size Wool Comforters from our maker-partner who has been in the business for generations. You just won’t find quality like these large blankets anywhere else. They’re bulky so we’ll ship them FREE, right to your house.
Head back North to Co. Galway. The city of Galway is the largest on the West Coast and was built up as a college town. Even though it’s a bigger city, it has a small town atmosphere seated on the edge of one of the most beautiful parts of Ireland - the Connemara Region.
If you are up for a drive, you must take the route from Maum Cross to Leenaun. You’ll be amazed by the spectacular scenery. If you want to stretch your legs, take the Maumean Walking Trail. Maumean is a holy place that has attracted pilgrims since the early Christian period. There is a lovely shrine dedicated to St. Patrick.
If you want to impress the infamous Galway girls, you might consider adding one of our premium Ultimate Caps from our maker-partner Gerry who hails from Galway. He is a man who knows and appreciates fine headwear.
Often underrated but definitely a “must visit” from my perspective, Co. Mayo is a beautiful mountainous region with a remote feeling yet it’s nestled along the coast.
As you may have guessed by now, I love my walks! When you are in Co. May, I’d suggest taking a bike ride or a walk along the Great Western Greenway from Westport to Achill. It’s roughly 45 kilometers of mainly traffic free paths that follow the former Great Western Midlands Railway line which was closed in 1937.
If you’re driving, head along the Wild Atlantic Way to Clew Bay Drive. Between Westport and Achill you’ll see Clew Bay which is a series of islands. You’ll also see Clare Island which is the site of a former Cistercian monastery which was founded in the 12th or 13th century. It was said to be the site of baptisms, marriages and burial ceremonies.
One of my favorite drives is Connemara Drive which brings you to the heart of Connemara. You’ll be astounded by the rough terrain that produces Ireland’s very own gemstone, Connemara Marble. The marble is green but varies in color because it’s made in nature.
Connemara Marble is a popular gift item. We have necklaces, rings and keychains which feature the stone.
The people of Co. Roscommon eat their young! Obviously, I’m just kidding. But they are a hearty crew, taking on the rolling countryside with ales and expansive wooded areas for hiking.
I’d recommend a visit to the Rathcroghan Visitor Centre in the village of Tulsk. It’s interesting to see the oldest and largest un-excavated site of royal burial mounds, great ring forts, inauguration sites and massive linear earthworks. You can cross the road and take a walk through the ruins of Tulsk Abbey where St. Patrick is said to have converted the children of the High Kings of Ireland.
You’ve probably heard about the Great Irish Famine of the 1840’s but you can experience it by visiting the National Famine Museum. There are moving stories of the people who actually experienced social disaster. It’s an experience that will help you understand how Ireland was forever changed.
Co. Roscommon is also home to our amazing maker-partner Patricia, shown here in some of my pictures. She has an incredible work ethic and is committed to keeping Irish culture and traditions alive with her St. Brigid’s Reed Crosses fashioned in the same manner that Brigid used herself.
Rounding out our circle tour of Ireland, we finish nearing the starting point in Co. Meath. Locals know about Slane Castle being used as a summer concert venue. In fact, in 1982, this was the very location where I saw the Rolling Stones. I recall thinking they were ancient back then but yet they are still at it. Although the venue has been changed into a distillery now, it still is a place that I’d recommend you pay a visit. Slane Irish Whiskey is now made at this same location so you can see whiskey innovation in action!
A little lesser known area that I think is a “must see” is the Battle of the Boyne. I’ve shared some of my own pictures so you can get the idea. The Dutch William of Orange fought King James - the last Catholic King of England - for the right to be King. In fact, the orange color in the Irish flag comes from this William. The color green represents the Catholic Irish and the white color comes from the peace between them.
When I think of Co. Meath, our maker-partners the Caulfields. They are a family-run business that pivoted when the window business took a downturn years ago and transformed their business by using their woodworking skills. They now handcraft innovatively designed kitchen accessories like our Charcuterie Cutting Boards and Coasters. They are craftsmen who are committed to using sustainably sourced hardwoods in everything they do. You’ll want one of their pieces for yourself and one to give to another!
I hope you enjoyed your virtual trip around Ireland. It was delightful thinking about all of these beautiful places that I’ve been to throughout the Motherland. If you have the chance to travel to Ireland and go to any of these locations I’ve recommended, it would be wonderful to hear about your experience. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Share your pictures too!
Slán go fóill - Bye for now,