Europe’s favorite “green island, ” Ireland is unforgiving in its classical beauty. Add to that the charm and rich culture of the major cities, like Dublin, Galway, and Cork, and you have an unforgettable holiday on your hands. Be prepared to stumble upon otherworldly landscapes like those of the Lakelands, at the Cliffs of Moher, or on the wild South Coast. Before heading back to your idyllic hotel, tucked into some pristine natural scene and equipped with amenities only of the highest quality, stop by a local pub and experience the cultural and social heart of the Irish over a tall glass of Guinness.
Ireland’s old-world capital is known for toeing the line between hedonism and the preservation of a long and stable heritage. Situated right on the Dublin Bay, which opens up to the North Atlantic Ocean, and composed of cobbled streets speckled with classic Irish pubs, the complexion of the city is magical in its ability to span time. Though the memory of vikings is since long gone, the medieval castles and cathedrals contribute to an overall aura of not oft-witnessed, old-timey grandeur. Dublin is a small but sophisticated metropolis filled with a particularly friendly mass of locals. Wander the old stomping grounds of one James Joyce in Portobello, discover prehistoric Dublin at the Dublin Castle, or, on a family-oriented vacation, spend a day at the extensive zoo. When it comes to drinking, you’ll have your work cut out for you in Dublin: tour the famous Guinness Storehouse Factory or the Old Jameson Distillery, before settling in at a pub for a couple more. As for the morning after, a slice of famous soda bread and some black pudding are sure to set you straight. At a hotel in Dublin’s city center or nearer to the shore, expect charming, traditional establishments equipped with the finest amenities, some including private gardens, lavish spa centers, and rooftop bars.
Head south for castles, magical scenes of natural beauty, and luxurious spa hotels. The fairytale landscapes lining the Atlantic Coast and Ireland’s southern inland promise to take your breath away, in each meeting point of verdant greenery and wild coasts straight out of a Caspar David Friedrich painting. In Cork, at the southern tip of Europe, find opportunities for sightseeing, like at the partially-ruined Blarney Castle, bustling pubs fit for an afternoon Guinness, and funky art galleries. This second-largest city in Ireland was once completely surrounded by walls; evidence from this time can still be seen in the myriad megalithic monuments lining the city. For an immersive and rejuvenating stay, snag a deluxe hotel outside of the city, near the coast. Here you’ll find quiet countryside complemented by loud, craggy shorelines, sprawling golf courses, and forest-fringed villages. A perhaps surprising truth is that in the summer the south coast of Ireland is frequented by beach-goers, the likes of which are interested in the vast variety of landscapes offered, in all the sandy coves, bayside spots, and deserted ocean shores. Inland, Kilkenny is a small and well-perserved medieval town home to a pretty waterfront, the majestic Kilkenny Castle, and a lovely forest-river walk great for a stroll with the little ones or your beloved.
Galway is Ireland’s multicultural, multifaceted “City of Tribes.” The mention of tribes refers to the 14 families who ran the city during the 13th and 14th centuries and have left their mark in many forms, one of which can be found at Lynch’s Castle. At a hotel right in the 10th-century Docks, the historical center of the city and a hub of innovation and a vibrant arts scene, settle into old-world comfort. A perfect location for an exciting city break, Galway is also a great home base for a trip to the famous Cliffs of Moher, the site of ancient Irish legends and an utter sight to behold. Alternatively or additionally, the Docks are also an active port, from where you can jet off through the bay and to where the verdant and rocky Aran Islands appear like a dream within the vicious makeup of the Atlantic. In Ireland’s mainland, stay in a castle hotel and live like royalty. Perfect for a romantic escape, spend days wandering through lush countrysides near Mohill or cuddled up by the hotel’s fireplace with a view of something very old. Ireland’s Lakelands are the country’s hidden gem; spanning from near Limerick straight up north to meet Northern Ireland, the area is replete with crisp rivers and massive lakes, and dotted with colorful towns and hidden caves. Once the crossroads of medieval trading routes, the loughs are rich in historical significance and offer a wealth of activities for all, including boating, history museum-hopping, and hiking and biking.
Getting there: The United Kingdom and Ireland are, naturally, well connected and easily accessible from one another. Simply hop on the train from London to Holyhead, where you can take a pleasant, two-hour ferry ride across the Irish Bay to Dublin. From there, rent a car if you’re interested in bouncing around or road-tripping. The most famous road trip is the Wild Atlantic Way coastal tour which typically runs from Cork to Derry in Northern Ireland. Alternatively, there are direct train lines running from Dublin to major cities within Ireland, including Galway, Cork, and Kilkenny.