Here is a wonderful post written by Susan from vibrantireland.com who kindly shared her observations on Ireland. Read her story and visit her website! Enjoy!
When I visited Ireland, it changed my life. Really. It touched a part of me, and then I think it kept a part of me, because when I returned home to The States I felt bereft and miserable for a long time. So I took a huge leap. I sold my car, gave away my things, and moved to Ireland on a wing and a prayer. Nearly 20 years later I’m still here and I’ve never regretted it.
This post isn’t about my story, but it is about some of the reasons I was able to have such a wonderful experience in Ireland, & what I’ve discovered is useful to visitors through my years living here— I’ve translated it all into some tips for your visit.
Open Your Mouth
It is true-Ireland is full of friendly people who are happy to suggest things to do, or offer up interesting info about their area. Don’t be afraid to ask people if you are lost, want a suggestion on where to eat, what to see, etc. Most people are pleased to share their favourites & their local knowledge. On my first visit, my 2 girlfriends & I got off the train in Derry and stood around with our giant backpacks, looking unsure. Some young men came up to us & asked if we were lost. We told them we were thinking of going to Donegal, but weren’t sure exactly where yet. They excitedly suggested we go to Buncrana, as the festival was on that weekend, and that we’d have a brilliant time there along beautiful Lough Swilly. We thanked them, and they went on their way– no hassle, just friendly advice about a place they loved. (Whew! We took their advice & had a fantastic time!).
There May Be A Bit Of ‘Rudeness’
As an expat American, I must add this: most North Americans are accustomed to a level of immediate customer service that is not overly common in much of Ireland. You could have the same expectations where you are from, too. North Americans are used to being acknowledged when entering a cafe or such, especially when it is not always apparent if you seat yourself, order at the counter, or wait to be seated. (Also in regards to staff being on the phone; in The States we are used to the customer physically present being acknowledged, & then they may also take precedent over someone/customer on the phone. I find this doesn’t often happen in Ireland.) BUT don’t be put off– it doesn’t mean that the employee is actually unfriendly—I find that usually if you say a cheery Hello/ ask a question people are friendly & helpful. (Same for once they are off the phone. Not that I enjoy those differences in customer service, but it is good for you to be aware of them. I know many tourist businesses are trying to improve on this aspect of customer service).
Don’t Just Dub
This may be controversial, but don’t spend lots of your time in Dublin. I know it gets most of the hype, but unless you just want a quick city break, or have a specific interest in Dublin, in my opinion there’s no need for more than a day or two. (But those days can be great! I lived in Dublin for years & still visit frequently for events- there’s lots on in the city all the time.) For your Ireland trip I’d advise you to strongly consider picking an area or two outside of the Pale and really experiencing those rather than trying to do the whole country. I know Ireland seems small, but it takes a good while to travel it- especially if you are not going to places simply on the main motorways—which means loads of great places!
Go Your Own Way!
Investigate lesser known areas, like the Northwest. County Donegal is one of my favourite places on earth, and the people there are extra friendly, I think. Donegal is not full of big tourist buses like Kerry, but it does have the spectacular scenery, fantastic traditional music culture, and strong Irish-speaking areas that tempt many people to Kerry. I’m also a huge fan of the sunny southeast of Ireland, where I live now. Truthfully, most areas of Ireland will give you a great time if you do your homework online, and also ask people in the know for advice. Think about your interests– do you enjoy music, craft, outdoor activities, artisan food, history, festivals, gazing at scenery, art, visiting prehistoric monuments, having pints/craft beer? Investigate building your Irish holiday around a couple of these interests, particularly trying to include some non ‘top-touristy’ places connected with those interests. You may have a much more enjoyable time having a great pint of Guinness somewhere like the atmospheric & friendly Cleeres Pub & Theatre Kilkenny and then going next door to The Brewery Corner for an array of Irish & other craft beer than you would doing that big Guinness brewery tour
Don’t Get Caught Out
Plan in advance for Sundays. Lots of places to eat, shop, and some attractions may not open until around 2pm on Sundays, and some do not open at all. Checking into opening times in advance is always good advice, but especially for Sundays, Bank Holiday Mondays, and during the (long) Christmas holidays. Also at Easter holidays, too, and be aware some places close the Tuesday after the Bank Holiday Monday. Additionally, some museums are closed Mondays. LOL- it sounds off putting, but just confirm opening times when you plan or have a back-up just in case. If you find you’ll be surrounded by closed premises Sunday morning can be a nice time to just sleep in or enjoy the scenery.
If Not Now, When? (Or, Don’t Blame The Rain!)
Just do it! So many people dream about visiting Ireland, but the time drifts by and they never do—not having travelled more is often one of the top regrets at the end of life. Don’t be nervous if you’ve not travelled to another country before, Ireland is very safe, friendly, and the weather is gentle. Really! We don’t have extremes of temperature or severe weather events, and though there is a reputation for rain, it rarely rains all day, or even every day! In fact, Ireland is only #50 in the world rainfall rank. The US is #25! Just bring your rain jacket in case, and plan to dress in layers to remove as needed. Every time of year has its charm, though if you’re wanting to go ‘do’ loads, be aware in Winter places may be closed for the season, especially outside of the cities. Do your research, read relevant blogs, and ask questions before as well as during your visit. Enjoy your planning, and your visit! Have a plan, but also have leeway to be spontaneous.
See you soon!