Yes you need a car. Anywhere outside of dublin the transport sucks. One location I can’t rave enough about are the Aran island. They are often overlooked by tourists so they are less couded and spectacular. The clifs of Moher have turned into the biggest tourist trap, I honestly suggest skipping it. They built a massive stone wall around the cliff from which you see the clifs of Moher and it looks like crap. Ring of Kerry is a must but skip it if its a foggy day, you won’t see anyhting. Giant’s causeway is amazing. I’m seriously thinking about doing a TTD shoot there.
I disagree about Dublin that there is nothing to do there. In fact I’m writing a what to do in Ireland since my wedding is in NI and have some of the Dublin portion, I can share.
Dublin – If you’re going to visit one city in Ireland, Dublin should be it. You can find great shopping, dining, history, culture, friendly people, and not to mention that it is the hometown of Guinness and Jameson. For that reason alone, Dublin is a popular destination for out of towners. Some of you may find the Dublin pass to be of interest: http://www.dublinpass.ie. I have never used it.
Jameson factory tour– Just the best whisky in the world, and this is coming from a not once but twice certified whiskey taster. That’s right. Did I mention that the certificate is from Jameson? No? Well, it in no way discredits the fact. So if you decide to go on this approximately one hour interactive Jameson commercial, be sure to raise your hand straight away after the guide asks for volunteers, and you just may join the ranks of qualified tasting individuals with this very exclusive certificate.
Guinness Storehouse– It’s just the most ubiquitous beverage or meal (whichever you prefer) in Ireland so it is no wonder that the storehouse is always abuzz with tourists. Did you know that a pint of Guinness begins with the freshest of waters and includes only the best grade barley and hops? No? Well, I’m sorry for just spoiling the whole tour for you. This is no more than a glorified commercial for Guinness, but worth it if you’re a fan. The bar at the top, where you get a free pint, is probably the best vantage point to see Dublin from above. The catch is you have to go on the tour first to get here.
Book of Kells in Trinity College – There is an incredible build up of information, videos, and drawings to see one page of this approximately 10 x 5 ancient book protected from pesky fingers under glass. Nevertheless, it is interesting, and I didn’t get bored of it until about the 4th viewing. Contrary to popular belief, the highlight of this exhibition has nothing to do with the book. After fighting a bunch of tourists to catch a glimpse of the book you go upstairs into a long room, named accordingly, “long room” which houses books from floor to ceiling and appears to have come straight out of a Harry Potter Movie. This room is very impressive and as you admire all the knowledge that’s just sitting there accumulating dust be sure to find Ireland’s oldest harp which is on display here.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral – Bigger is better and the largest church in Ireland is no exception. A €5.50 entrance fee allows you to wander around this cathedral with a bit confusing and wordy sheet of paper which will be your guide. The readers and English literature majors may be happy to know that Jonathan Swift played a part in its history and can visit his final resting place.
Christ Church Cathedral – What it lacks in size it makes up for in age, since it is the oldest of the two cathedrals in Dublin. A €6.00 entrance fee will get you an equally confusing and wordy sheet of paper to be your guide. Since its crypt is the largest not only in Ireland but also in Britain, it is therefore more impressive than St. Patrick’s crypt and there you will find the preserved “Cat and Mouse,” found trapped behind the organ of the cathedral.
Dublinia – Perhaps suited for younger audiences or people who want to dress up as a Viking, a medieval knight, or a slave. This museum, full of plastic statues of people in medieval garb hard at work, baking bread, or carving boats and takes you through a “lifelike” journey of Dublin’s Viking and medieval past.
Dublin Castle – Well worth a visit to see it from the outside at least if not going on the guided tour, which takes you through some of the state rooms and medieval fortifications. An hour packed with history.
Dublin Goal – Often overlooked by tourists, this prison offers an interesting tour which shows just how good prisoners have it these days. It will open your eyes to the consequences of Ireland’s political unrest and famine. I highly recommend this attraction, though you may have trouble finding it.
Strapped for cash? The National Gallery of Ireland, National Museum of Ireland Decorative Arts & History, National Museum of Ireland Archaeology, Irish Museum of Modern Art, and the Chester Beatty Library are all free!
Temple Bar – If you’ve had enough of history and culture and are ready to sit back, possibly listen to some Irish music, and be surrounded by at least one hen party then head to Temple Bar, and no I don’t mean the pub that’s literally called “The Temple Bar” but the area, Temple Bar. A quirky street, lined with pubs, which is full of drunk blokes and girls tripping over cobblestones in too tall heels. There you will find a pub to suit your flavor.
Hungry? – Don’t worry, the days when the only food available in Ireland was cabbage and potatoes are long gone. Dining options and variety are plentiful and mostly delicious. In truth, you’ll have a hell of a time trying to find some cabbage and potatoes, and corned beef, forget it. You’ll find nowadays “traditional” Irish fare or pub grub in any pub and most of them have a decent steak or fish and chips. The restaurant area is located around the Dublin main tourist office on St. Anderw’s St.
Outside of Dublin:
Glendaloch/Wiklow Mountains: A short drive from Dublin will take you through a few cute villages and straight into the 6th century to a monastic settlement A short woodland loop walk will lead you to a tree great for a romantic photo opportunity and a picturesque lake. More avid hikers can find the trails in the mountains of interest. From here take the scenic route via back to Dublin.
Howth: Avid fish eaters will enjoy the many fish restaurants in this harbor town. Hikers can hike up Howth Hill for spectacular views of the ocean. Others can enjoy an ice cream on the pier.
(haven’t written about these yet, but they are all attractions near dublin so worth looking up)