Start Planning Your Trip Now and Be in Ireland for St. Patty’s Day
The entire country of Ireland is approximately the same geographical size as the state of Wisconsin. For such a small country in terms of land, it certainly packs a punch. With everything there is to see and do in Ireland, it’s hard to compare it to the Badger State. This guide will give you an inside look to this beautiful, unique country and give you helpful tips to see the best of Ireland and not empty your pocket book.
Planning a trip to Ireland is definitely something to get excited about. This is a country like none other. From rolling hills and farm land dotted with sheep to bustling towns and thriving metropolises, this is a country that offers something for everyone, no matter what your vacation wishes are. The best part is that because of Ireland’s small size, it’s easy to see any variety of places, attractions, and cities. In addition to being easily done, it’s also a very affordable vacation. Great deals can be found all over Ireland, you just have to know where to look.
The first and most important thing you can do when planning a vacation is to find a flight. Traveling in the off-season, otherwise known as the fall-winter season is almost always the most affordable. International airfare can be found for one-third the price of summer fares. When traveling anywhere in Europe keep this in mind. Tickets from the United States to London, England or sometimes Frankfurt, Germany are often cheaper than any other European destination and often, by a considerable amount. There are dozens of cheap fares offered within Europe and it may be more cost effective to buy a second ticket to your final destination. In the case of Ireland, look at a direct flight from the US to Dublin. Then, check a direct flight from the US to London. It’s often a drastic difference. Check around and give yourself plenty of time to investigate ticket prices, fare sales, and combination tickets. Of the cheap airlines in Europe, Ryan Air is easily the most efficient for getting to Ireland from London. The best part? Their flight prices start at 99 pence. Use the sources you have available to you via the Internet and you’ll be able to find a convenient flight package and an affordable one at that. Always shop directly from the airline’s website when buying tickets. Low-fares sites usually charge you for their services. The best part of searching for a ticket in the off season is that St. Patrick’s Day is included in that season. The Patron Saint of Ireland, St. Patrick is celebrated boisterously every March 17th. In Ireland, the celebrations actually last for days. So if you’re looking for a cheaper fare, check out a flight in mid-March.
Once you have your ticket situation handled, it’s time to begin looking into your time in Ireland. Depending on the vacation you want, you may need to look into hotels and car rentals. However, the most economical way to see Ireland is also the way most Irish travel around the country. On the bus. Bus Eireann is the major bus operation in Ireland, though several other services also exist. Bus Eireann offers a wide range of tickets including tourist passes that allow for a variety of travel days. For example, if you’re staying a week and plan on traveling for three or four days, a pass that allows 3 days of travel within 6 days is far more economic than buying a ticket to individual destinations separately. The best part of the tourist ticket packages is that you can travel to a variety of places on each travel day, and you never have to know where you’re going ahead of time. In fact, you can show up to the bus stop and get on the first bus that arrives. You become perfectly capable of going anywhere and can even let the bus system decide where you’re off to next. Visit www.buseireann.ie to find tickets and investigate routes. You can also buy all of the ticket packages at any of the bus station locations.
Not only do the various open-ended bus tickets allow for free-spirited travel, but the lodging and hospitality industry of Ireland allow for it as well. Ireland is well-known for its national hospitality and the welcoming nature of its cities and towns. By far, the most welcoming, affordable, and popular place to stay in Ireland is the Bed & Breakfast, commonly known as the B&B. Many B&Bs are listed via the Ireland Tourism Board and are available for booking in advance to your trip. If you want to browse through various listings in specific cities visit www.ireland.ie. Pre-bookings and registered B&Bs aren’t the only ways to stay in a B&B though. The traditional form of B&B still exists in Ireland and a simple knock on the door and an inquiry for a night’s stay is still far more common than booking a room many weeks in advance. If you prefer to wander unknowingly from town to town, don’t worry about not having a room for the night. Simply knock on a door with a B&B sign out front and you’ll likely find an open room either there or very nearby. B&Bs often cost less than a hotel and offer visitors a full, traditional Irish breakfast. This consists of eggs, sausages, bacon, tomatoes, puddings, toast, coffee, and of course, tea. Because most B&B’s are privately owned and operated out of someone’s home, the breakfast is usually prepared and served by the owner in a common dinning room. A B&B owner is an invaluable resource to any traveler. They almost always live in their establishment and coincidentally are experts on whatever city or town you’re staying in. In addition to their expertise, they usually have some pretty good stories to tell and it’s not usually very difficult to get them to tell them. The friendly, chatty nature of the various B&B owners I personally encountered throughout Ireland made finding each new B&B an enjoyable adventure. You never know who you’ll meet or what stories you’ll walk away with. If you do plan on staying in a larger city during the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations it’s advisable to book your lodging ahead of time. Over 1.5 million people attended the 5 day festival and celebration in Dublin in 2006, many of whom were visitors and tourists.
St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner and if you’re going to be in Ireland when it happens, you’ll be in for the time of your life. All of the sizable cities have a parade and celebration so if you’re in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Derry, Limerick or Belfast, you’ll be in the midst of a real St. Paddy’s Day parade. Of course, the parade to commemorate the patron saint was originally begun in New York City, but the Irish have adopted the practice and really, taken control of just how to throw an Irish St. Paddy’s Day. In Dublin the festival begins on March 15th and lasts through the 19th. Over 4,000 performers are scheduled for the festival in 2007 and everything from visual art, street performances, children’s carnivals and music is planned for spectators to enjoy. In similar fashion, the city of Cork actually has two separate 3-day festivals planned to commemorate and celebrate St. Patrick. Where better to enjoy Irish food, music, drinks and fun than in Ireland? The Guinness will be as fresh as it comes and you’ll probably never had so much fun. Check out www.st-patricks-day.com for details about celebrations worldwide and especially, what you can do and see to celebrate in Ireland this year.
There are a wide variety of attractions in Ireland even when St. Paddy’s Day has passed as well. Everything from castles and churches built 1,000 years ago, to modern clubs and bars, to traditional tea shops and sheep lined hillsides. If you’re traveling on a budget, many attractions in Ireland don’t cost a thing. Catholic churches are always open and do not charge an admission fee. Remember when visiting any church that it is a place of worship and often there are people there doing just that. These are often massive, Gothic structures worth stopping to admire if, for nothing else, their breathtaking architecture and enormous influence on neighborhoods and cities. More of the Church of Ireland cathedrals and churches tend to charge an admission fee, though a stroll outside or through the grounds is usually free. The streets of Irish towns are packed with churches ranging from ancient to contemporary. Many have seen history change the landscape of the country. And almost every one exhibits a beauty that can only be found when a structure is built with passion and intrigue. After investigating the local churches, try tea and sandwich shops for an economical lunch. Paired with your breakfast at the B&B you’ll be saving quite a bit for perhaps a fancy dinner or a paid attraction. The city of Cork in southern Ireland is famous for it’s giant English Market. Every type of food is on sale in this bustling covered market, the largest one in all of Europe. Just browsing the food varieties themselves is an adventure and some delicious purchases are bound to be made.
Shopping is certainly part of any vacation and Ireland doesn’t fall short on its supply of shops and boutiques. Killarney and Galway are both home to world-famous wool shops where real Irish wool is sold in sweaters, outerwear and accessories like socks and scarves. Many other cities have discount book stores that are worth investigating for their wide range of titles and easy-on-the-pocket-book prices. Lace and linen are found adorning the windows and tables of virtually every Irish home and in turn, Ireland has a deluge of stores selling these items. Traditional Irish linen table clothes can cost as little as 15 euro. Remember, the euro is nearly the same as the US dollar, and in the US, a table cloth like that would cost considerably more.
Aside from shopping there’s plenty of nightlife available in Ireland. Dublin is home to the famous Temple Bar area where musical acts perform nightly. In lesser known bars and pubs many musicians and bands will perform pub crawls, traveling to a variety of bars every night and playing for a while in each. These crawls are famous in and around Dublin as well as many of the smaller Irish cities. Most nights, a train of people follow the musicians from one bar to the next. Often the music of these pub crawls consists of traditional Irish folk music that’s easy to listen to and easy to drink with. In addition to the more classic feel of the pub crawl, many clubs and bars are focused on the contemporary pop scene and offer a younger crowd a place to dance late into the night. Either option will keep your toes tapping until the early morning hours.
Another famous attraction found in Ireland is the brewery. Several large name beer companies are originally from Ireland and the most famous of these is Guinness. Others include Beamish, Bass, Harp’s, and Murphy’s. The brewery for Guinness is located in Dublin and is a major tourist attraction. For less cost, try out one of the smaller breweries. None give the appearance of a factory the way that most American breweries do and all take a great pride in the product they’re producing. Beer is a major industry for Ireland and a wide variety of bodies and flavors are available. International brews are rare amongst the many taps found in an Irish pub and with good reason. Ireland is completely capable of producing delicious beer all on its own.
Of course what you do and see on your vacation to Ireland completely depends on what you really want to do and see and how much you have to spend on it. If you’re short on cash, remember that a stroll through town or down a country road is free. If St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are in your plans, most of the performances are free and outdoors. You’ll just have to remember to pay for that green beer. In cities like Cork it’s not uncommon to see a variety of street performers on the wide sidewalks. From sidewalk paintings to juggling to daring acrobatics, plenty of free amusement is right in front of you. If you find yourself in a small town, take a walk and find the open pastures and hills. They are breathtaking views and you can enjoy them so much more on foot than you can on a bus. If you’re lucky, you’ll stumble upon a herd of sheep on a hillside. And since you’re on vacation, remember to relax. Some of the best moments are those spent simply observing. Settle at an outside cafe table with a pot of tea and let the afternoon pass with some people watching. Ireland is a country full of physical beauty, interesting cities, quaint towns and welcoming people. Just don’t let yourself sit for too long or you may never return home.