Lucky you! Guide to a great, brief stay in Ireland
So, you have to cram Ireland into three days? Obviously, you won't be able to see it all. But with a little planning, you can have a well-rounded experience that introduces you to the country's modern urban life, renowned castles, ancient history, beautiful rural landscapes and breathtaking seaside. Not bad for a three-day adventure.
Tour with a twist (and a few pints!) on the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl
Start in Dublin. Tailor the day to your interests, but wrap things up with the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl. Even if your nose is never in a book, this tour is a fun way to explore the city's literary history and a few of its renowned bars – and to immerse yourself in the Irish joie de vivre bubbling over in the capital city.
The tour lasts a little over two hours and requires walking about half a mile. It starts with a song at The Duke pub, a famous Dublin establishment founded in 1822. Then, off to Trinity College and other pubs while listening to the guide reciting lines from Wilde, Joyce, Yeats, Beckett and other legendary Irish writers. Each pub visit lasts about 20 minutes, so there's not much time to get sloshed. Just get some food in your belly before the tour kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Consider pre-tour dining at The Duke. At the other pubs, there's only a slight chance of grabbing a quick bite on the run.
The Dublin Literary Pub Crawl ends at David Byrne's, not far from the starting point. There's plenty of public transportation within a few blocks – including taxis, buses, a DART station and tram stops – ensuring little need for a designated driver.
This tour shows an authentic side of Dublin culture and nightlife. Try to avoid the often recommended Temple Bar section of the city. It's a tourist trap and not worth the limited time. Just about everything in the area is overpriced, and visiting involves dealing with throngs of drunken tourists.
See castles galore in County Cork
County Cork lies a scenic three-hour drive from Dublin. The city of Cork is well worth stopping in, but the countryside and villages throughout the area are covered in castles and castle ruins, mostly from the 15th through 17th centuries. Anyone should see these sites while touring Ireland to get a stronger sense of the country's character and history.
Blarney Castle is the most famous in the County. But, while the castle itself is a must-see, consider not bothering to kiss the Blarney Stone. It's on every tourist's to-do list, so the wait to get to the top of the castle for the big smooch can be quite long. You can lose lots of time for what many learn is an underwhelming payoff.
Barryscourt, Carrigadrohid, Desmond, Drishane, Kanturk and Tyntes Castles are some of the others you can see in County Cork. Go with comfortable, stable walking shoes to better navigate the terrain around the castles. Also, there's a decent chance the weather will be cold, windy and maybe rainy. Layers are key to staying warm – or maybe cooling off – while exploring the grounds. A raincoat and umbrella are also good to have.
The interiors of some castles and forts in the area aren't accessible to the public, and those that are usually allow only limited access. They all also have varying hours that may change seasonally, so check their schedules in advance.
Journey to the end of the world on Dingle Peninsula
On Ireland's southwest coast, about a two-hour drive from Cork, the Dingle Peninsula stretches 30 miles into the Atlantic. Its tip is the westernmost point in Europe, and prior to the 16th century, Europeans believed it to be the end of the world. Some still may. You might not want one as a tour guide.
Dingle Peninsula displays nearly 6,000 years of history through ancient abodes and religious sites, monuments, a 6th-century monastic settlement and other archaeological marvels. Guided tours are available, but it's fun to explore the peninsula on your own. This means about a 25-mile drive. If you're going it on your own, stop at visitor centers and museums to get the most out of the experience.
Don't miss visiting the town of Dingle to enjoy art galleries, seafood restaurants, boat tours, aquariums and seal sanctuaries. Offering a glimpse into today's small city living in Ireland, it contrasts with the ancient history, helping to create a well-rounded three-day visit.
Finally, remember, you're probably in for some cold, windy and possibly wet weather as you wander Dingle Peninsula. That brisk North Atlantic sea breeze – and Ireland's climate in general – can be a little unpleasant. So, don't leave the layers, raincoat and umbrella behind in County Cork; you may need them here, too.