The small island to the west of the UK needs little introduction. From its ancient ruins that stand against a (usually) grey sky and fabled beauty spots to its ultra-modern cities – not to mention the strong ties that exist between the two countries – Ireland is an unbeatable destination.
Given the family and business connections that link the UK and Ireland it’s not surprising that London-Dublin should be one of the busiest international air routes. Cheap flights to Ireland are available on more than 70 routes.
Dublin, the capital, may not have the “must-see-before-you-die” monuments, but it is cosmopolitan and very buzzy. It has a rich literary heritage, cosy pubs, elegant Georgian streets and a local population who love to “have the craic”.
Outside Dublin, Ireland has a wealth of attractions – wonderful cities such as Cork, Galway and Kilkenny, teeming lakes and coastal waters and rugged landscapes such as the Connemara Way, Wicklow Gap or Ring of Kerry.
The Atlantic thunders on the west coast and the Irish Sea is to the east, giving up some of the best seafood in the world. Its farms produce the meat and vegetables for the simple but hearty Irish cuisine.
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Summers in Ireland are usually dry with average temperatures of 16 degrees. Temperatures are a bit cooler in the spring and autumn, while winters are rainy and with temperatures around 4 degrees. It’s coldest in January and February and warmest in July and August, but it rarely gets hot. It rains a lot in Ireland, and the weather can change quickly, so it’s a good idea to dress in layers.
Summer is the high season. The weather is warm, the days are long and festivals and summer schools (literary, music and language) are in full swing. Dublin is busy year-round and, with the exception of a few weeks after Christmas and before St. Patrick’s Day (17 March), doesn’t really have a low season. The amount of competition on UK-Ireland routes means that there are usually plenty of cheap flights to Ireland.
The winter months can throw up some awful weather in parts of Ireland. Lots of the activities marketed by the Irish Tourist Board such as golf, surfing, hill walking or horseriding are at the mercy of the elements. In the cities, such as Cork, Galway or Kilkenny, there is plenty to see and do, and hotels will often offer good discounts during these months.
Spring (February and March, until St. Patrick’s Day, and then between Easter and May) is a great time to visit Ireland to see the countryside burst into life. Autumn is also a wonderful time, the weather can be beautiful in September and October and the countryside ablaze with colour.
Public transport (buses and trains) is great if you are travelling from, say, Dublin to Cork or Galway, but it can be tricky getting around within counties.
Bus Eireann is the national bus company and there are lots of private coach companies that offer good, well-connected services between the cities. In general, it is cheaper to take a bus than a train.
Renting a car is a good option and rental companies are represented at all the major airports, but shop around for the best deals. If you are pushed for time, you could fly between cities. Aer Arann for example flies from Dublin to Galway, Donegal and Sligo. Ryanair also flies from Dublin to Cork and Kerry.