Top Places to Visit in Ireland – Castles to Visit in Ireland
Castles are my favorite things and we were able to explore and tour
several, but wherever you drive in western Ireland there’s almost always
a castle ruin on the horizon somewhere, it’s amazing. Most of these are
locked away on private property. There are also ruins of 17th century
stone cottages everywhere, too, and they are also unique.
After we left Limerick our hostess pointed us to Adare,
one of the most picturesque villages in Ireland. There’s a whole row of
thatched-roof huts-turned-shops the town has restored, and the entire
village is beautiful with colorful houses adorned with windows boxes
lush with flowers, and there’s a gorgeous wooded park with a creek in
the center of town. Here we toured one of our favorite castles for a
small fee – the ones with a fee are the best well-kept ruins and the
most interesting to see. This Norman castle, Desmond Castle, is
huge compared to the keeps, Napoleon watchtowers and ruined medieval pigeon towers and manor houses we’d seen around Ireland.
Dunguire Castle near Galway City was also a
favorite, and the most intact, as it’s been restored several times over
the centuries. They even host a medieval banquet in the Great Hall on a regular basis – try to go if you can.
Visit Ireland on a Budget
This is how we did it:
- First, we signed up for Next Vacay, watching our daily email flight deal alerts until we snagged our round-trip flights from Denver to London for $420 each (closer to $600 with luggage and seats). We enjoyed London for four days, then flew cheaply on Ryanair to Shannon Airport from Stansted Airport, in Essex outside of
London – you can take a train there from London. I am not an affiliate
of Next Vacay, but you can try their email subscription for free and if
you like it, it’s only $25/year to get daily flight deal alerts – with
them you can travel almost anywhere in the world for around $400-$500 round trip.
- We planned our trip eight months in advance, having all that time to plan, save and prepare for the trip.
- We stayed at AirBnb places everywhere we went. With AirBnb you can find accommodations to fit any budget, even nice hostels with private rooms. We stuck to a budget of around $50-$80 a night, and all the homes in Ireland included breakfast. The spacious flat in London was within walking distance of all the places we wanted to see, like St. Paul’s Cathedral, The Tower, The Museum of London, the Museum District with The British Museum, Southbank with the Globe, etc. So we used public transit and our feet in England, and all the museums are free. We bought the London Pass and used it for three days to visit the non-free places, and it was well worth it.
- We rented a car in Ireland and drove to the places we
specifically wanted to go. We mainly stayed in a smallish area around
Shannon Airport in western Ireland. From Limerick or Adare it’s only a forty-five drive to the airport.
- In both London and Ireland, my husband and I shared almost all of our meals, and we ate mostly at pubs. The food was amazing and delicious and we ate well. The portions were generally big enough for us to share, as we both eat smaller portions now. Sometimes we got our own entrees. The prices of meals were about the same as in America, we found, and they often included lots of sides.
We also only ate out 1-2 times a day, mostly for lunch and supper.
- We visited a lot of amazing places for free, like almost all the
museums, many ruins, walking the island and the Dromore woods, etc. Even the castle tours didn’t cost much.
Reflections on Finally Visiting Ireland
After twenty-five years of dreaming of going to Ireland, we got to go
at last! I almost expected to hear an opera high note when disembarking
from the plane. Instead I found myself just soaking everything in – it didn’t feel like magic, it was mostly cold and rainy, I was just seeing and experiencing everything. It wasn’t till later, after the trip, when I got to process it in my mind and memories and be amazed at the
incredible photos we got of the all the top places we visited in
Ireland. Here are some of my reflections:
- Ireland is incredibly ancient, its history goes back a long way,
over six thousand years. One Irishwoman mentioned that the Potato Famine happened in recent history, and there was still hurt from that towards the English (many English overlords took away all their tenants’ livestock for rent in the middle of the famine, leaving the Irish with nothing to eat when they were already starving). My Irish ancestors left during the potato famine, made it to Canada, then eventually into the U.S. To me the potato famine feels like ancient history. But her attitude helped me to understand how it is we’re still dealing with racist issues in America, as slavery is also only about 200 years ago – recent history with hurt feelings and racist attitudes and actions still going on.
- In fact, with all their violent history and complications between the
Irish and the English, and with Brexit posing a potential problem of renewed violence, the Irish in general seemed to be struggling
emotionally. Keep in mind I was only there for eight days and only in western Ireland. But I noticed an undercurrent of sadness in the many locals we talked to, not readily apparent at first, for the Irish are friendly and tough and know how to roll with the punches and know how to drink. Maybe it has something to do with the constant rain, but I think it’s the hundreds of years of bad history with their neighbors. It really made me glad that my Irish ancestors were able to leave and start fresh in a new world, leaving all that behind. I’m so grateful that in young America we are filled with a youthful optimism and a knowing that we can accomplish anything.
- Both my husband and I had a hard time understanding many of the locals, especially in the rural areas. It seemed like every person had their own version of the Irish accent, and most of them spoke fast in a quiet, murmuring way, so it was unexpectedly challenging at times.
- Ireland is incredibly ancient, its history goes back a long way,
There is so much to see and explore in Ireland, I want to go back every year. Would I want to live there? No, I’d be too far away from family and friends and the weather is not nearly as nice as sunny Colorado, or even England. But it’s an amazing, gorgeous, mysterious land with so much to discover in every nook and cranny. No, I didn’t hear an opera voice in my head when I arrived. Yes, I loved Ireland and every part of our trip and I want to go back often.
Please comment below any of your stories of the tops places to visit in Ireland, or castles to visit in Ireland, or how to visit Ireland on a budget. Let’s find our way back again!