5 WAYS TO EXPERIENCE IRELAND LIKE A LOCAL
By Tara | County Clare, Ireland
Rolling green hills, ancient castle ruins, spectacular vistas… What do you envision when you think of Ireland?
For me, Ireland felt like home. It was a pilgrimage of sorts. A journey back in time to the place I came from. A trip to the ancestral homeland of my father. What would I find there? I did not know, but soon I would ask myself why my forefathers would leave the beautiful, deep meadowed, majestic Emerald Isle.
Ireland is one of those places you’d expect to only exist in your dreams, a land of imagination. It’s everything you think it is: beautiful, green, and above all, magical. It’s no wonder the island’s rich culture and rugged terrain has been inspiring poets and artists for decades. Ireland never ceases to amaze. You’ll want to do and see it all, but I’m here to tell you that the real magic of Ireland won’t be found at all the top rated tourist attractions. It exists where there are no crowds and on roads where there are no tour busses. It’s not difficult to find. In fact, it’s really all around you.
5 Ways To Experience Ireland Like A Local
Ireland is one of few destinations that I would recommend not creating an itinerary for. There’s so much to discover that you won’t have the opportunity to experience if you are on a schedule. The real magic of Ireland lies within the charming villages, in the towns less recognized (or even unknown), and along the seemingly untouched country roads. My memory of Ireland goes a little like this: mornings awakened by the chickens in the garden, a country manor that made me feel as if I had stepped right into a Jane Austen novel, afternoon tea at Winty’s Cottage, and spectacular vistas that I could write about for days. If this sounds like the type of retreat that you want for your next Irish escape, keep reading for my five tips for experiencing Ireland like a local.
1. Rent a historic home
If there’s one way of guaranteeing an authentic stay and experiencing life as a local, it’s renting a vacation home. Renting a property while on vacation gives you the freedom to immerse yourself in the local community. Today, it’s easier than ever before to book a vacation rental. From an estate to a cottage, luxury to rustic, there are so many options to choose from. While the property does not necessarily have to be historic, there’s something extra special about sleeping in a home that comes with its own history. A historic property will always make for an unforgettable experience.
Read more about our amazing stay at Williamstadt House here.
2. Afternoon tea
Yes, Ireland is well known for their Guinness, but that’s not the country’s only famed brew. Ireland is also known for their expert tea making. In fact, Ireland is one of the leading consumers of tea per capita. We enjoyed many cups of tea during our stay in Ireland. Whether enjoying it at home or in one of the many charming tea rooms, there was no better relief from the cold, rainy weather than a warm “cuppa.” One of our most memorable moments was our visit to Winty’s, a 250-year-old cottage that serves tea and an array of sweet treats. Winty’s Cottage offered a warm Irish welcome as well as great narratives about Ireland’s rich history.
3. Talk to the locals
There’s no better way of getting to know a new place than by simply talking to the locals and as friendly as the Irish are it’s not hard to dive right into a long conversation about really anything! You’ll come to find that everybody knows everybody (at least in the small villages). And the Irish LOVE to talk. We learned quickly that there was no such thing as a quick chat. We spent hours and hours talking about anything and everything. From the country’s history, traditions, local events, and hurling (a traditional Ireland sport), there was plenty to talk about. The best part about talking to the locals is that they really do know where all the best spots are. It was because of the locals that we stumbled upon some hidden gems that were just right around the corner, no tour guide or tour bus required, which brings me to my next tip!
4. Skip the tourist spots completely
Of course, there are some exceptions, but for the most part, all the tourist attractions are highly overrated. They’ll tell you to visit this castle and this castle and these ruins etc., but in reality, you don’t always have to pay a fee or admission ticket to experience some of Ireland’s greatest sites. I speak from experience. In fact, the only tourist attractions we stumbled into were the Cliffs of Moher and the Poulnabrone Dolmen, a megalithic portal tomb. However, these weren’t even the highlights of our trip. On our third day in Ireland, we headed out to an old 14th-century Franciscan abbey we had heard about. Quin Abbey is free to visit and it’s not a tourist spot (although it easily could be). When we arrived nobody was there. We had the whole place to ourselves to explore. On our last day, we drove over to the next town where we were told that there was another dolmen. This one, however, was completely secluded. It took a while for us to find the right gate and once on foot we had to navigate through a herd of cows as we made our way up the hills. There were spectacular views of Lough Derg and the hills of Tipperary. There was not one single person up there. No visitor would know of this place, only the locals. Contrary to our experience at the Poulnabrone Dolmen, with large crowds of tourists and fencing to keep us away from the actual tomb, this one was completely part of nature. There were no boundaries.
5. Rent a car
I hesitate to add this one for a couple of reasons. First, it’s not fun driving on the other side of the road. Second, you run the risk of spending way too much time in the car driving around. However, renting a car is required when you’re out in the countryside. You won’t find public transportation that you’re used to in the cities and you’ll definitely want the freedom that comes from having your own wheels. Be prepared, you might blow your tire immediately after exiting the airport (yes, that happened to us) and you might veer a little too far to the left and end up in the ditch (no, that was not us that time). When renting a car just keep in mind that you don’t want to end up driving most of your trip. Pick one location to call your base and head out on small daytime excursions. There are many breathtaking views when driving around the country, but you’ll want to make sure you’re not just seeing them from a car window. AND don’t rent a manual transmission even if you know how to drive one. I’m talking to those of us who are used to driving on the right side of the road. Another suggestion, if you can afford it, is hiring a driver. It will make navigating the narrow streets that much easier and you won’t have to worry about anything!
Have you ever visited Ireland? If so, we want to hear all about it! Share your experience in the comments below.
What To Wear
Pack in layers for your trip to the Emerald Isle. The weather quickly changes and can be unpredictable. Prepare for cold, rainy conditions.
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