How To Plan a Magical Trip to Ireland

One thing I have been looking forward to since BattleKid came along is taking him to discover Ireland, the country of his heritage. BattleKid was born in Wales but holds an Irish passport. And despite having been to Ireland several times to visit family, we’ve never really shown him much of Ireland. But that’s about to change, and I’m going to share with you how I’ve planned a magical trip to Ireland with him over Easter.How To Plan A Magical Trip To Ireland

Much of my plan has been to discover parts of Ireland even I haven’t been to. Do you find that, no matter how long you live in a certain country or area, there are parts of it you have never visited because you take for granted that it’s always there to visit? That’s us! We never really travelled around Ireland and visited all the places it has to offer before we left in 2003. Heck, I haven’t even visited The Guinness Brewery, despite living in Dublin for 17 years.

It took BattleDad getting a motorbike for us visit and discover parts of the West of Ireland. And then we finally visited the Cliffs of Moher during our bike honeymoon to Ireland.

There is so much of my home country I haven’t visited, but I am making it my mission to try and visit all the great parts of Ireland with BattleKid. Now, we won’t cover everywhere as, although Ireland is a small island, there is just so much to see and do that it can’t all be covered in a week or 10 days. So, this will be the first of many trips home to Ireland to act like tourists and discover more of the beauty of Ireland.

So, what’s first on the agenda? Well, we’re going to concentrate on the southern half of Ireland, taking in Tipperary, Cork and Limerick, and possibly a little bit of Clare. Why have I chosen these areas you might ask? Because they house some of the best castles to visit in Ireland, all of which I’ve never visited apart from one, and even that was a fleeting visit.

I have nine castles on my list for this trip, and I do hope we manage to visit them all. But if not, it’s always a good excuse to come back. So, how have I planned our magical trip to Ireland over Easter, and what does our Ireland road trip itinerary look like? Let me share those details with you now.

How To Plan A Magical Trip To Ireland
The beautiful Duckett’s Grove in County Carlow.

Planning our magical trip to Ireland

How to get to Ireland?

As we are now living in Portugal, getting back to Ireland involves a plane journey. And we had two options, Aer Lingus or Ryanair, who both fly from Faro to Dublin. Now, after some strikes involving Ryanair happened last year, there was no way I was going to take a chance and book Ryanair simply to have myself €60. So, I booked return flights with Aer Lingus.

And it seems my choice was the correct one, with more strikes involving Ryanair threatened for this Easter. I’ve booked two bags and pre-booked our seats. I always do this to reduce any possible stress when flying with children, something I discussed in a recent post about flying with babies and toddlers.

If you are travelling to Ireland from another destination, I’d recommend checking your flight options with Skyscanner. Not only will you get an idea of flight times and prices, but it should give you an idea of which airlines fly direct from your departure airport to either Dublin, Cork or Shannon, and which will involve a stop-over.

Your arrival airport will be your choice, depending on whether you want to visit Dublin or not. Many visitors fly to Dublin and start their exploring elsewhere before returning to discover Dublin itself, as we are doing.

For those of you based in Europe, you also have the option of driving to Ireland and using a ferry from either Spain, France or the United Kingdom. We’ve often travelled from Wales to Ireland using either Stena Line or Irish Ferries. This will mean you have your own car for getting around in, something you won’t have worry about in the next point.

How to get around Ireland once you are there?

I am hiring a car from Dublin Airport as I will be driving straight to Tipperary to start our castle visits the next day. We will be covering a lot of Tipperary, Cork and Limerick. And we might pop into County Clare as well. Once we’ve finished in the southern half of the country, we are returning to Dublin to act as tourists in my home town and to also visit family. For this reason, a car is essential.

As you for own visit, firstly, you need to decide if you are concentrating on city exploring, or if you plan to explore the countryside like we are. For city exploring, all major cities have good public transport links within the city. They also have good public transport links between cities. So, if you plan to make the most of Dublin, Galway or Cork, public transport will probably work out cheaper for you.

However, if you plan to move from area to area, and explore towns and sites outside of the major cities, then a car is a must. There are a whole host of car hire companies to choose from within Ireland, and may operate from Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports. At the moment, I cannot recommend one as I haven’t booked a car (at the time of writing this post). I can report back after our trip.

Where to stay in Ireland?

At the time of booking our trip, BattleDad was going to be accompanying us. So, as a family, we always chose AirBnB accommodations. These are the best choice for us as we can usually get two bedrooms, have a kitchen for cooking in and an area to relax after a busy day exploring. We’ve been using AirBnB for a few years now and have only once not stayed in the one we’ve booked (see Day 11 of our USA Holiday Diaries to find out why).

Hotels do not work out well for us and we try to avoid them if we can. Firstly, we find them restricting once our son is in bed and asleep, and secondly, I have nowhere to escape if my husband starts snoring. We also don’t choose B&B’s as we like to save some money by cooking for ourselves in the evenings. And this is often not an option if staying in either a hotel or a B&B.

I have booked two separate AirBnB’s in Tipperary and Cork. BattleKid and I are staying in Tipperary for four nights. The AirBnB I have booked is conveniently located halfway between the castles in Tipperary and those in Limerick/Clare that we plan to visit. We then move onto Cork for two nights where my sister and niece will be joining us now that BattleDad isn’t coming with us, due to work commitments. Then we will be staying with family in Dublin for three nights before we return to Portugal.

For your own trip, your choice of accommodation will very much depend on how many of you are in your party, your budget and also whether you plan to have one based or are moving around. There is an abundance of hotels to choose from, self-catering family cottages, B&B’s, AirBnB’s and even hostels in Ireland. Other things to consider before booking your accommodation include on-site parking for your car or hire car, availability of public transport if you don’t have a car, cooking facilities if you want to save some money, how easy it is to get to and from the airport and even laundry facilities if going for more than a week.

**Get £31 travel credit when you sign up to AirBnB using this link and make your first booking.

How To Plan A Magical Trip To Ireland
The stunning Cliffs of Moher in County Clare.

Where to eat in Ireland?

We will be having breakfast in our AirBnB and most days, during our time in Tipperary, we will pack a picnic or packed-lunch in case we don’t find anywhere to eat. This will leave us free to explore the castles on our agenda at our own pace and won’t find ourselves with hungry bellies. As for dinners, I plan to cook most evenings in Tipperary. Once my sister joins us in Cork, we will probably venture out to a pub to enjoy some of the lovely Irish dishes I’ve been missing, and of course I will be having at least one fish and chips dinner when we visit family, something I am so looking forward to.

With my sister and niece, we will probably be having lunch out with them, either in a restaurant or more likely a pub, where I’m sure I’ll find at least a Baby Bowl on the menu for BattleKid to enjoy. My mouth is salivating just thinking of some of the dishes I might find on a pub lunch menu!

As for your own trip to Ireland, you will find a huge choice of restaurants, cafes and pubs to choose from in all the major cities if you want to eat out. Each smaller town will have several pubs serving food to choose from and there are also lots of supermarkets and smaller shops to buy groceries and supplies in. For the bigger supermarkets you have the budget options of Lidl and Aldi, next up would be Tesco or Dunnes Stores, and the higher end of the scale would be Marks and Spencer. I’ll use whichever I find closest to the first AirBnB.

What to pack for Ireland?

Having spent nearly half my life in Ireland, I know how unpredictable the weather can be, especially in late March and early April. And given Ireland has just had its biggest snowfall for 36 years, I won’t be taking any chances. So, I’ll be packing warm clothes and waterproofs for both myself and BattleKid. There are a pair of wellington boots for us both in my parent’s house in Dublin which I’ll be picking up on our way to Tipperary.

So, what should you pack? Well, whether you are going in the summer or another time of year, I suggest making sure you have warm clothes with you as well as a good waterproof jacket or coat at the very least. Within the cities there are plenty of pubs, cafes and restaurants to take cover in if you get caught in the rain. And you can always buy an umbrella too. However, if you plan to visit historical sites and the countryside, you’ll need good waterproof walking shoes or boots and that all-important raincoat. You don’t necessarily need wellies but as we are planning on exploring the grounds of castles, I want them with us just in case.

I certainly don’t plan to let the rain dampen our plans, if you’ll pardon the pun. The only thing it might do is make our day in Dublin as a tourist a little different as we probably wouldn’t be able to enjoy the open top bus. But with the right clothes and a little planning when packing for our trip, we should be prepared for all weather. Apart from a foot of snow, but I’m hoping that won’t happen during our trip!

How To Plan A Magical Trip To Ireland
The amazing Powerscourt Waterfall in County Wicklow.

What to do in Ireland?

The question should really be “how long is a piece of string”. Ireland is full of so many options, it is hard to choose. You could simply enjoy the beauty of Ireland by driving the Wild Atlantic Way, which I think is our next port of call in summer 2019, or the Ring of Kerry which BattleDad and I have done. You might prefer to explore what the cities have to offer including Dublin, Galway and Cork. Your family might want to visit heritage sites, of which there are hundreds to choose from. There is so much choice and there is bound to be something everyone will enjoy.

As for our trip, we are concentrating on castles and animals mostly, with some Dublin tourist attractions as well. The plan is to take BattleKid dragon hunting in several castles in the southern half of the country. We will dragon hunt with my sister and niece in Blarney Castle in Cork as well as visit Fota Wildlife Park. In Dublin we’ll continue seeking out animals at Dublin Zoo and the Airfield Farm, before BattleKid and I will spend a day in Dublin doing all things touristy via the help of a Dublin Pass*. And finally, of course, the obligatory shopping before we fly back home.

A 10-day Magical Trip to Ireland Itinerary

Monday – Arrive Dublin Airport. Drive to Tipperary AirBnB

Tuesday – Visit one or more of Cahir Castle, Lismore Castle and/or the Rock of Cashel

Wednesday – Visit King John’s Castle and/or Adare Castle

Thursday – Visit Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. If time allows we might visit the Cliffs of Moher

Friday – Vacate AirBnB and drive to Cork to visit Blackrock Castle. Pick up my sister and niece and check in to the Cork AirBnB

Saturday – Fota Wildlife Park*

Sunday – Visit Blarney Castle* to kiss the Blarney stone before driving to Dublin

Monday – Visit Dublin Zoo and the Airfield Farm

Tuesday – Spend the day in Dublin as a tourist with the Dublin Pass*

Wednesday – Shopping before flying back to Portugal

Although our time in each destination is set, and our trips to both Fota Wildlife Park* and Blarney Castle* are already arranged, the rest of the itinerary is flexible, depending on how BattleKid and I feel. We do need to fit in some time to see family in Dublin as well, so our Dublin Zoo/Airfield visits might be short, or we’ll do one or the other.

By all means you don’t have to follow my itinerary at all. I’ve included it as a guide to show you want we plan to get up to during our 10 days in Ireland. That said you could always do a shorter road trip in Ireland over a week and still see many of the beautiful sights Ireland has to offer. Or if you only have a long weekend in Ireland why not do a coast-to-coast trip taking in Dublin and Galway.How To Plan A Magical Trip To Ireland

So, there you have it, how I’ve planned what I hope will be a magical trip to Ireland for BattleKid and me. We’re going to hunt some dragons, see some animals, enjoy Dublin from a kid’s perspective and have a long overdue catch up with family. And I have to say a big thank you to Blarney Castle, Fota Wildlife Park and the Dublin Pass for the opportunity to collaborate with them on our forthcoming trip. I cannot wait to report back to you, my readers, about our trip and each aspect of our time in Ireland.

Have you ever visited Ireland or is it on your bucket list?

Cath x

*We are working with Blarney Castle, Fota Wildlife Park and Dublin Pass during our time in Ireland.

**To remain fully transparent, please be aware that this post contains affiliate links. That means that I receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking the link – this doesn’t cost you anything extra. Thank you.

How To Plan A Magical Trip To Ireland - In this post I tell you how I've planned a magical trip to Ireland for my son and I. With helpful ideas about how to plan your own trip, you're sure to find this post helpful.

How To Plan A Magical Trip To Ireland - In this post I tell you how I've planned a magical trip to Ireland for my son and I.
How To Plan A Magical Trip To Ireland - Where do you even start to plan a magical trip to Ireland. Why, here of course!

Hidden Drives of Ireland – Where Would You Go?

As many of you know I originate from Ireland. It’s a beautiful country full of character and legend and is one I hadn’t explored until about 10 years ago. Beautiful coastlines, cities full of the craic and hidden drives of Ireland are what make it so special.

A work colleague of BattleDad’s got in touch recently to ask about visiting Ireland with his family and we told him that visiting the West of Ireland and its hidden drives was a must with his nomadic family. After a few days in Dublin we suggested hiring a car and heading West where we are sure they won’t be disappointed. Chill Insurance  have recently put together an e-Book of hidden drives in Ireland and they include many of those we suggested to BattleDad’s work colleague.hidden drives of ireland

You see, BattleDad and I had both holidayed in the West of Ireland with our respective families when we were younger and my parents had a second home near Tuam, in Galway which I visited from time to time. But I knew there was so much more of it I wanted to see. So, ten years ago when BattleDad passed his motorbike licence, we rode the bike home to visit family.

During our few days in Ireland we rode the bike to my parents’ home in the West of Ireland and enjoyed a short trip to Achill Island, where my husband had spent many a summer holiday. I had never visited Achill Island but immediately fell in love with it. We had company on the trip in the form of my sister and three of her children and it was lovely, us on the bike, she in the car, discovering a part of Ireland I hadn’t visited before.

I thoroughly enjoyed the thrill of the bike from the pillion seat and it brought a whole new meaning to exploring Ireland. We were also there to visit the registrar in Dublin to organise our wedding back home the following year.

The next year we decided to have a different kind of honeymoon and as the date of our wedding approached we got planning our route to tour quite a bit of the West and South West Coast of Ireland. BattleDad knew he wanted to include the Ring of Kerry and the Gap of Dunloe, and we made sure these routes were included in our itinerary.

hidden drives of ireland
That’s me, on honeymoon, photographing the Gap of Dunloe

And boy was I surprised. These hidden drives were some of the most scenic and stunning areas of Ireland I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. Despite the potholes causing us some sore bums, we had the most memorable honeymoon and it suited us down to the ground. We did have a more traditional lie-on-the-beach-with-a-book honeymoon a few years later in Cuba, but the bike honeymoon in Ireland was just what we needed after the hustle and bustle of our wedding.

It is for this reason we suggested the West and South Coast of Ireland to BattleDad’s work colleague. He and his family travel the world and with it being their first visit to Ireland, we knew it would mean so much more to them to see some of its hidden beauty alongside Dublin.

Don’t get me wrong, Dublin is our home town and is a great city to visit, but to truly appreciate the wonder and beauty of Ireland you must head out of Dublin and into the country. I am sure they will not be disappointed if they visit the West Coast of Ireland, taking in part of the Wild Atlantic Way, Galway City and on to the Ring of Kerry.

If you are considering a trip to Ireland, and want more than just the nightlife of Dublin and Temple Bar, I strongly suggest you head West and South. You will not be disappointed.

If you’d like to discover some hidden drives of Ireland, you can check out the e-Book  created by Chill Insurance. There are quite a few drives from our honeymoon featured.

Cath x

*Collaborative Post