Get out there and see the real Ireland by exploring it on foot, by road or on a bike. From driving holidays to using your Eurail pass on Irish trains, here you’ll find the very best ways to see the Emerald Isle.
Hire a car
When it comes to getting off the well-worn trail, nothing beats having your own transportation. Ireland is full of quaint towns, ruined castles and seaside villages that aren’t serviced by public transport. In fact, the only way to see them is to take yourself there. For this reason car hire is very popular, but it can be notoriously expensive. To save time and money book before you arrive – great package deals are available that include car-hire and either hotel or Bed & Breakfast options along the way. All you need to do is pick your route.
Take a bus
If you can’t rent a car, the next best plan is to take a bus, either on an express service between major towns and cities, or a local service to smaller towns. Be aware that services to smaller locations can be irregular, so check the timetable with staff to avoid any surprises. If you’d like to cycle part of your journey, most buses will happily carry bikes for free.
Take a train
Ireland has a limited rail system, but if you’re only visiting some of the bigger cities and towns, it proves a pleasurable way to get around. Be aware that rail travel can be costly and if you’re visiting Ireland with a Eurail pass it will only cover your travel in the Republic and ferries between France and Ireland. Otherwise, consider buying a BritRail Pass + Ireland, which includes all rail travel throughout the UK and Ireland and a round-trip ferry crossing on Stena Line.
Ride a bike
Ireland is famous for its rolling green hills and dramatic coastline, and perhaps the best way to see it all is by taking the slow road by bike. With plenty of little towns and villages to break up the distances, this is an ideal way to see the best of the landscape and places well off the trodden trail. However, make sure you also pack a good-quality map – and a sense of humour – as the lack of road signs guarantee you’ll make at least one wrong turn.
Take a tour
With a host of small villages and ruined castles to explore, it’s little wonder that one of the most popular ways to explore Ireland is as part of a tour. There are tours to cater to all tastes and timeframes, and several provide plenty of opportunity for individual exploration along the way.
Take a ferry
There is a plethora of small islands lying just off Ireland’s coast, so don’t miss jumping on a ferry to explore some of them. Here you can take your pick from the Aran and Skellig islands to the west, the Saltee Islands to the southeast and the Tory and Rathlin islands to the north.
Take a walk
For a true adventure, why not give public transport a miss and stick to Ireland’s extensive walking tracks instead. Ireland offers a number of National Waymarked Trails that range from 25–200-plus km long. From the wild mid-west to exploring the Cliffs of Moher, you can opt for either single- or multi-day walking adventures.