Lush green landscapes and exceptionally friendly locals embody quintessential Ireland. The island is any nature-lovers’ dream with ocean vistas and hilly panoramas. Interesting folklore relate Irish history to the some of the most awe-inspiring feats of nature, including the 214-metre-high Cliffs of Moher and the hexagonal Giant’s Causeway, both of which are home to a plethora of sea birds. The mild weather allows for these award-winning sites to be seen year-round, with the amazing greenery made more vibrant by regular rain. Don’t let the rain deter you, however, because a Guinness and some hearty Irish cuisine at the local pub can warm you right up.
Odyssey travels by coach and occasionally uses local transport, including trains and ferries.
Specifics are always outlined in your tour itinerary. Ireland has a centralised and impressively extensive rail and bus network which links towns to the major cities.
In major cities, Odyssey stays in centrally located 3-4 star hotels, with easy access to public transport. In smaller towns or rural areas, we usually stay in family-run hotels or guesthouses. On our long stay tours, during which you spend the length of the tour in a single location, we use serviced apartments.
Odyssey always engages local guides with regional knowledge to ensure an authentic experience during which you can learn as much as possible about the history and culture of places you visit.
Geography environment & weather
Ireland is located in the North Atlantic Ocean, and is Europe’s third largest island. Great Britain lies to the east, separated by the North Channel, Irish Sea and St George’s Channel. Politically, Ireland is divided into the Republic of Ireland (which is referred to as Ireland) and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom.
In Ireland, low lying mountains surround a central plain. The country is made up of 11% woodland, but much of the vegetation is lush owing to a mild climate. This is thanks to the Atlantic Ocean influence. Temperature extremes are rare, with the country tending to enjoy relatively mild winters given its northerly location. Summers are also mild – cooler than those in Continental Europe. The weather is often cloudy and rainy, so wet-weather gear is a must!
World heritage sites
The Republic of Ireland is home to 2 Cultural Sites, as well as 7 Tentative Sites, available to view here https://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/ie.
- It is well worth visiting every site, if you are able. But here’s a few highlights from the bunch:
The Bru na Boinne monument in Ireland represents the world’s greatest concentration of prehistoric megalithic art.
- The Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast, where basalt cliffs have formed impressive columns and inspired the legend of giants striding out across the sea.
- The historic city of Dublin (Tentative), which was the second largest city following the Restoration of 1660. This expansion coincided with the Georgian period of the Age of Enlightenment. The city was designed around high quality institutions and wide, accessible streets.
Festivals & events
Irish people love to honour their culture and traditions through celebration, and it doesn’t get more traditional than St. Patrick’s Day! On the 17th of March, the country commemorates Saint Patrick on the anniversary of his death. From its origins as a feast day in the seventeenth century, this lively event is enjoyed by the Irish diaspora across the world, encouraging everybody to don their greens and feel a little bit Irish for the day!
Among Ireland’s culturally rich and diverse festivals and events are The Cork Jazz Festival in late October, which pulls some very big names; and the quirky Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival which spans the whole month of September. Matchmaking is one of Ireland’s oldest traditions, and it flourished here in the 18th century as Lisdoonvarna’s healing mineral waters made it a tourist hotspot. Hopeful bachelors arrived looking for wives, and the practice continues today amid dancing, music and other festivities! It’s said there’s only one “true” matchmaker left, though: a publican who keeps a notebook of personal profiles. But even if you don’t find a mate, you are assured of a good time!
- The Ancient Paths: Discovering the Lost Map of Celtic Europe by Graham Robb
- Ireland, The Autobiography: One Hundred Years of Irish Life, Told by its People by John Bowman
- Making Sense of the Troubles: A History of the Northern Ireland Conflict by David McKittrick
Eating & Drinking
While travelling in Ireland, indulge in the hearty, homely dishes that make up Irish cuisine. The traditional cuisine was built around the staples of grains, dairy, and of course potatoes, which were introduced in the 16th century. Classic potato-based dishes you can find today include colcannon, a delicious mash of potato, cabbage or kale and butter or cream; and the similar champ, mashed potato flavoured with spring onion (scallions), milk and butter. Popular boxty refers to raw potato mixed with mashed potato and flour, and served as either dumpling, pancakes, or baked and then sliced and fried.
Irish soda bread is ubiquitous, and can incorporate sweet flavours like honey or dried fruit, seeds and bran, or even Guiness. No matter what, it is served sliced and buttered, and is often used to mop up Irish stew or coddle, the latter dish a Dublin one-pot classic of pork sausage and bacon.
If you have the opportunity to try wild, local salmon, do so; likewise the oysters, which come into season in September (celebrated with the Galway Oyster Festival). Shellfish appear in many Irish dishes, from clams to mussels to prawns.
And for your sweet tooth, there’s barmbrack, a loaf studded with sultanas and raisins and served with afternoon tea. It is traditionally made for Halloween, and small objects are baked into the cake. Most commonly, this is a ring – and whoever finds it, if they are unmarried, will be the next down the aisle.
Health & safety
While much of Ireland is usually safe to travel around, it’s important to stay alert to anything unusual. Also, you will often see signs warning of pickpockets in areas popular with tourists, so it’s important to keep a close eye on your belongings at all times.
Whenever you travel overseas, it’s always wise to take an appropriate travel adaptor. The electricity supply runs at 230V, 50Hz. British plugs have three flat, rectangular pins which form a triangle. These are shared by Ireland, Malta and some former British colonies.
Ireland has a single time zone (excluding its overseas territories), Greenwich mean time . The nation observes daylight saving time from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October.
If you’re on an Odyssey tour, we take care of tipping so you don’t need to give it a second thought. However, in your free time, or if travelling independently, it’s essential that you make sure you tip an appropriate amount for services, as is the case throughout much of Europe. It’s customary to tip 10-15% of the bill at restaurants, or 1 to 3 GBP at a more casual establishment. It’s polite to round a bill up to the nearest whole figure or leave the change when buying drinks.
Internet access is easily accessible, and most hotels and many cafes will be able to offer it.
Check with your cell phone provider to see whether you’re able to make calls and use data while in Ireland. Many providers will offer a daily fee that allows you to make calls and check the internet while only being charged your regular rates. However, be certain to inform your provider that you’re heading overseas, because just like a bank they can turn off your service as a result of unusual activity.
Responsible travel tips for Ireland
- Learn at least the local greetings in Gaelic to break the ice. The more you know of the native language, the greater your experience of the country will be.
- Carry a business card in your wallet or purse from your local hotel, to assist you with the return journey if you do become lost.
- Always ensure that you are covered by travel insurance. If you need advice on this feel free to contact Odyssey and we’ll be able to help.
- When travelling independently, make sure you check the opening hours of shops and museums so that you don’t miss out! Museums and galleries are often closed on Mondays. Also be certain to check whether your trip coincides with any public holidays, so you can plan accordingly.
- Consider contacting your bank to inform them that you may be making purchases overseas. Otherwise, they may flag any activity on your account as suspicious. Also, check which ATMs and banks are compatible with your cards, to ensure you can withdraw cash with minimal fees.
- Before departing, make sure you have a number of euros in a range of denominations. You don’t want to be carrying around enormous amounts of cash, but take enough to make it easy to pay in locations that might not accept credit card. It will also help you avoid card transaction fees, and it makes tipping a breeze.