The Emerald Isle, the Land of Saints and Scholars, not to mention the birthplace of Guinness – yes, I am referring to the beautiful island of Ireland, or as I know it, home!
When I left Ireland in 2007 to explore the world, little did I know I would find myself in beautiful Sydney with a young family. And like most expats, it’s only when you leave your motherland that you truly appreciate what it has to offer.
So, when we flew back recently, I became the tourist, taking in the many sights and wonders of Ireland through fresh eyes. With Ireland more accessible than ever before, now really is the best time to go. So what are you waiting for?
Here are some of my top tips for those wishing to experience Ireland as a local.
Ireland’s vibrant capital city surprises me every time I return. Having experienced a real change in the restaurant scene, the bars and clubs are the most exciting they have ever been.
Looking for a pint of the black stuff? Then look no further than Kehoe’s (pronounced “Quo’s”). One of Dublin’s oldest pubs, located just off Grafton Street, Kehoe’s serves one of the best creamy pints of Guinness you’ll find. With its stained glass windows, old Irish snugs and a wonderful homey atmosphere, this pub is definitely worth a visit.
Top tip: It can get busy during the week so if crowds aren’t your thing, Sunday afternoons would suit best.
When hunger calls and you want great food that won’t break the bank, The Vintage Kitchen ticks all the boxes. This small and cosy restaurant offers the highest quality food with a twist. Here you’ll experience the epitome of Irish charm and hospitality and, to top it all off, it’s BYOB (not common practice in Dublin). Try the fish pie with parmesan mash – you won’t be disappointed.
Top tip: Make a reservation well in advance as The Vintage Kitchen books up quickly.
Ireland is steeped in history, dating back to 10,500 BC – a history buff’s haven. In the city centre, visit Christ Church to experience Dublinia – an exhibition centre about Viking and medieval Dublin. Here you’ll meet the Vikings face-to-face, learn about life during the medieval period and much more.
Travel a little out of the city on a 20-minute drive to the small village of Clondalkin, (pronounced “Clondawkin”), which is home to a 1,000 year old Round Tower. Suitable for all ages, an interactive exhibition tells the story of what life was like in the 1800s.
Top tip: The exhibition centre is also home to the Happy Pear cafe – a vegetarian cafe that will certainly tickle your taste buds.
To truly appreciate any country, you should travel outside the capital city and Ireland is no different. Head north, south, east or west to experience the beauty and Irish charm this little island has to offer. From rolling hills and rugged landscapes to World Heritage Sites, thatched pubs and amazing Irish stews, this is the Ireland we all know and love.
Our recent visit brought us west to the Wild Atlantic Way and the stunning Cliffs of Moher. The cliffs and views are breathtaking – a must on any Ireland travel itinerary.
Top tip: Visit Lisdoonvarna, a quaint little town close to the cliffs. Single? Go there when the infamous matchmaking festival is on and try your luck with love.
Finally, if all the sea air and exploring has left you weary and in need of some pampering, The Brooklodge is the perfect spa getaway. Nestled in the Wicklow mountains (one hour from Dublin), this country-style award winning lodge will leave you revived and relaxed.
Top tip: Keep an eye out for The Brooklodge’s accommodation, dining and spa packages – great value for money.