Ireland: A Quick-and-Dirty Guide

By Rachael Funk

This guide will help you plan a trip that moves you.

You’re not a standard traveler, so don’t plan a standard vacation. Yes, you should visit the Cliffs of Moher. Yes, you should have a Guinness on Grafton Street. Yes, you should absolutely drive the Ring of Kerry. But if you want to squeeze every drop of authentic, unknown, and unforgettable out of your vacation, you need to know what Irish treasures exist outside of the well-trod tourist destinations.

Start here for an introduction to Ireland’s major regions.

The Hidden Heartlands

Studded with idyllic waterside villages and packed with tons of outdoor adventure, Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands bring all of the Midland’s natural assets to life. Located in the very middle of the country, this picturesque region is known for its sparkling waterways and laid-back atmosphere.

Visitors who want to get away from the crush of tourists and connect with Ireland’s natural beauty will be thrilled with the area’s cycling and walking trails, tranquil waterways, and nature reserves. A few popular activities here include island hopping on Lough Oughter, embarking on Ireland’s only Tree Canopy Walk in Roscommon, and exploring Portumna Castle in Co. Galway.

The Ancient East

Steeped in history and lore. Ireland’s Ancient East is the key to Ireland’s past. The windswept vistas of this region touch 15 counties and hold over 5000 years of history. You’ll discover World Heritage Sites like the Brú na Bóinne valley and unspoiled coastlines that stretch from just outside Dublin, all the way south to Cobh.

While you’re here, get a taste of Irish heritage at Slane Distillery in Meath. You can also visit the prehistoric monument Newgrange in Meath, explore the medieval monastic settlement of Glendalough in Wicklow, or take on the Titanic Experience in Cobh. If you want a great story that will stay with you forever, this is the place to find it.

The Wild Atlantic Way

Untamed, unspoiled, unbelievable. Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way stretches down the western seaboard from Donegal in the north to Cork in the south. Here is where you will find the dramatic coastlines, soaring cliffs, and magnificent raw beauty of dreams.

Visitors love to stop at iconic sites such as Skellig Michael, take on some whale or dolphin watching, and even explore a lighthouse or two. Whether you’re exploring ancient castles in Donegal, sucking down oysters in Sligo, or discovering the cultural heritage in Mayo’s Lost Valley, your time on the Wild Atlantic Way is sure to be unforgettable.


More than just a city, Dublin is a living, breathing entity that offers delights for every interest. From historic walking tours of the city to discovery trails to a restaurant culture that will blow you away, Dublin is not to be underestimated.

Visitors love the wealth of heritage and activities available here. Trinity College is always a hit, but many travelers miss Marsh’s Library. This 1707 gem is Ireland’s first public library and is home to over 25,000 rare books, stored on their original oak bookcases. From kayaking under Ha’penny Bridge to the People’s Park Market that’s on every Sunday from 11 am - 4 pm, the city’s hidden gems are only a glance away.

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