Our Favorite Places: Ireland

Ireland is famous for its striking natural beauty with everything from towering, heather-covered mountains and emerald hills, to sparkling lakes, cascading waterfalls, and breathtaking coastline with dramatic cliffs that dip down to sandy beaches. While it might be a relatively small country, there’s a lot of ground to cover here, requiring months if not years to see it all.

If you’re like most, you don’t have unlimited vacation, so to make the best use of your time you’ll need to prioritize with a little help from your trusted CIRE Travel advisor. Having traveled from coast to coast, we’ve been able to craft the perfect itinerary, ideal even if you have just a week off. Visit some of our favorite places in Ireland with a private car and driver so you can enjoy the scenery (and perhaps a Guinness or two!) while you travel around the Emerald Isle!

Dublin, Ireland

Ireland’s capital and largest city, Dublin is a natural place to start your explorations with most visitors flying into Dublin International Airport. It’s well worth spending at least a couple of nights here to ease your jet lag and enjoy everything this charming and vibrant city has to offer.

Best Places to Stay in Dublin

Located across from the National Concert Hall just a short walk to renowned shopping on Grafton Street, Conrad Dublin boasts a prime spot for exploring the city while enjoying 5-star luxuries that include exceptional service and modern comforts. But the best thing about this luxury Ireland hotel is arguably the city views, impressive from the rooms on the top three floors. Some even have private balconies, a rarity in Dublin.

Best Places to Eat in Dublin

Dublin has become a veritable foodie destination, home to nearly 40 Michelin-starred eateries. But for authentic Irish stew, you must visit the Brazen Head. It sits in a building that dates from the mid-18th century, but they say pints have been poured here since 1198, claiming to be the oldest pub in the city. The Beef and Guinness Stew is just like the world-famous traditional Irish dish should be: filled with rich, thick gravy that includes Guinness for robust flavor, melt-in-your-mouth Irish beef, root vegetables, and mushrooms, all topped with mashed potatoes and herbs.

Of course, your luxury travel experience must include some high-end dining in Dublin, too. The Chop House, where Anthony Bourdain (the late chef, author, and host of the popular “No Reservations” and “Parts Unknown” TV shows) famously claimed to have the “best meal in Dublin” is ideal. Despite the name, not only does it offer steaks and chops, but seafood, vegetarian, and even vegan dishes.

Best Things to Do in Dublin

Start your visit with a stroll through Phoenix Park, the largest city park in Europe. It’s the perfect place to stretch your legs while enjoying the fresh air, nature, and people-watching. Keep an eye out for the wild fallow deer in the woodland.  And at the northern perimeter, look for the window at the President’s House where you’ll see a candle that continues to burn as a reminder to those who left Ireland that they’re always welcome home. The Phoenix Park Tea Rooms, set in a Victorian Arts and Crafts-style building, provide a popular spot for a break.

Other highlights to put on your Dublin itinerary include Trinity College which displays the Book of Kells, written around 800 AD by Irish monks, and the Guinness Factory. The best part of your factory tour comes at the end with a complimentary Guinness in The Gravity Bar on the rooftop featuring a 360-degree view of the city. The National Museum of Ireland is our favorite of the city’s museums. Its displays include Europe’s finest collection of prehistoric gold artifacts, spectacular examples of Celtic and medieval art, well-preserved artifacts from prehistoric and Viking Ireland, and the fascinating bog bodies dating from between 400 BC and 200 BC.

Kilkenny, Ireland

The medieval city of Kilkenny is just 90 minutes from Dublin, featuring winding cobbled lanes and an artsy feel while crowned by a magnificent castle that overlooks the River Nore. Spend two nights here to enjoy the many attractions while soaking up the enchanting atmosphere.

Best Places to Stay in Kilkenny

Mount Juliet Estate offers a sumptuous stay for luxury travel accommodation in the countryside. Set within a Georgian Manor House, it’s just 20 minutes from Kilkenny’s center. When you aren’t checking out the sights, enjoy golf on a championship Jack Nicklaus-designed course, swimming or lounging around the pool, fishing, falconry, or exploring the estate on complimentary bicycles.

Best Places to Eat in Kilkenny

Kilkenny has also become a popular destination among foodies with many restaurants serving dishes focused on the bounty of the area’s local ingredients, thanks to the abundance of organic farmers in the region. When you’re looking for a casual spot with great live entertainment, there may be no better venue than Matt the Millers Bar and Restaurant. There are four bars, spread over four floors, with frequent live music and lots of space for dancing the night away. You can also sample some of the finest brews produced right in Kilkenny while enjoying surprisingly diverse and delicious fare from local chowder and handmade pizza to Guinness stew.

When you’re in the mood for intimate fine dining, Nóinín is one of the most highly-rated restaurants in the city, offering an eclectic array of cuisine from fresh seafood to fabulous vegetarian dishes designed to showcase the local produce.

Best Things to Do in Kilkenny

The No. 1 thing to do in Kilkenny is to visit 12th-century Kilkenny Castle, home to the Butler dynasty for more than 500 years, from 1391 through 1935. Self-guided tours will bring you through the opulent interior, including the Long Gallery with family portraits dating back to the Butlers’ earliest years. Afterward, stroll the Medieval Mile which links the castle to St. Canice’s Cathedral & Round Tower, with numerous enticing alleyways, shops, galleries, and pubs in between.

Another recommended stop is the St. Francis Abbey Brewery, an abbey founded in the early 13th century that was transformed into a brewery some 500 years later. Today, Smithwick’s and Kilkenny, two of the most famous Ireland beers distributed around the world, are produced here. The Black Abbey, dating to 1225, and the 17th-century Rothe House are well worth exploring, too.

Kerry, Ireland

While we’ve highlighted two great cities, Kerry is a county, one that might sound familiar since “The Ring of Kerry” is one of the most popular attractions in Ireland. The scenic drive travels around the Iveragh Peninsula, featuring charming seaside villages and Killarney National Park.

Best Places to Stay in Kerry

While there is no shortage of ideal places to stay in Kerry, the town of Killarney makes a great base for exploring the national park and the coast. Plan on two nights here to take it all in. You’d be hard-pressed to find better accommodation than The Killarney Park, convenient to the town center. A 5-star, family-owned hotel, it offers a warm welcome and historic character with old-world furnishings and stone fireplaces. Adding to the luxury travel experience, facilities include a bar with an outdoor terrace, two restaurants, and a lavish spa with a pool and sauna.

Best Places to Eat in Kerry

With the coast just a hop, skip, and a jump away, you’ll find many restaurants serving fresh, locally sourced seafood in Killarney, but The Mad Monk by Quinlans is special. Favorites include the rich seafood chowder, Quinlan’s black sole, and the Dingle Bay Wild Squid with seared Aran Islands scallops.

While you’re traveling the “Ring” (a must on our “do” list below), you might take a slight detour to the tiny fishing village of Portmagee for lunch with a view. It’s home to the harborfront Bridge Bar which frequently lands on “best of” lists for its delicious dishes. While there is an emphasis on fresh, local seafood, the lamb is mouthwatering, enjoyed with homemade brown bread, and best finished with the sticky toffee pudding.

Best Things to Do in Kerry

Ideally, you’ll have two full days in Killarney, using one to explore the national park. You might take the short and easy hike to the 60-foot-high Torc Waterfall and enjoy a serene horse-and-carriage ride to see highlights like 15th-century Ross Castle and Killarney House Gardens. Boat excursions are available on the Lakes of Killarney to see the sights from the water as well.

You’ll want another full day for the Ring of Kerry with must-stops that include Kenmare with its pretty gardens and stone cottages, Staigue Fort, a huge stone fort representing one of the finest examples to survive in Ireland from the pre-Norman period, the dramatic Kerry Cliffs, and much more. For an extra-special experience available from mid-May through late September, plan to arrive early to take the luxury Skellig Michael cruise aboard the SkelligWalker. The experience includes landing on Skellig Michael and climbing the stone steps to its 6th-century monastic settlement.

Galway, Ireland

Circle back north to Galway from Killarney and you’ll be perfectly situated for an easy return drive to Dublin. The ancient, walled city of Galway offers a mix of historic and modern, with medieval alleyways, vibrant pub life, a renowned music scene, friendly locals, and spectacular landscapes.

Best Places to Stay in Galway

Located at the doorstep of beautiful Connemara while providing easy access to city attractions, the luxury Glenlo Abbey Hotel & Estate boasts a picturesque setting on 200 acres at the edge of Lough Corrib. While you’ll want to explore outside the estate itself, there’s plenty to do right here, from fishing (with gear provided) to falconry, scenic walks, cycling, and golfing on the nine-hole course.

Best Places to Eat in Galway

Dining at the Glenlo Hotel is an event in itself with the unique Pullman made up of two antique railway carriages that were transformed into a restaurant. But you might want to sample one of the top eateries in town as well, including Quay Street Kitchen which hosts frequent live music. Outdoor seating is available if you’re lucky enough to be here on a sunny day with the menu featuring favorites like the Goat Cheese Salad, Fishmongers Vessel, and Off the Coast Irish Mussels.

For Michelin-starred dining, head to Aniar in Galway’s West End. Recently named among the thousand best restaurants in the world by La Liste, it’s known for its farm-to-table Irish fare that turns simple local ingredients (often wild and foraged) into “marquee performers.”

Best Things to Do in Galway

One of the most enjoyable things to do in Galway is to simply wander the maze of colorful cobblestone streets where the sounds of traditional music sessions are likely to draw you into one of the pubs for a fun break. But if you want to get to know more about the city and its intriguing past, head to the Galway City Museum. On a warm day, take a stroll on the Salthill Promenade complete with beachy coves for sunbathing and swimming.

There are some fantastic day trips from Galway too, including Connemara National Park, Kylemore Abbey & Victorian Walled Garden, and multiple coral beaches. Coral Beach Carraroe, just 45 minutes from Galway, is made up of fine coral-like lime formations with brilliant, clear blue waters at its edge, looking as if it were stolen from the Caribbean.

With so many enchanting destinations and memorable things to do, Ireland vacation planning can seem overwhelming, but our team at CIRE can help make it happen. Let us put our insider knowledge to work, easing the stress and the endless hours of research it takes to create the perfect luxury travel getaway in Ireland. Whether you’re looking for the ultimate family trip, an unforgettable honeymoon, or any other type of 5-star travel in Ireland, with CIRE as your travel agent and personal travel advisor, your journey through the Emerald Isle is sure to be unforgettable.

CIRE Travel is a full-service travel agency headquartered in New York, NY.  Our expert corporate travel planners, honeymoon travel agents, and luxury travel planners support clients across the country and around the world.

Where in the World Do You Want to Go?

Inspired to plan your next weekend getaway, vacation or trip of a lifetime? See that form below? That’s all it takes to begin your next epic travel story.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.