When we heard the news last year that Aer Lingus, the premier Irish airline, had once again started direct non-stop flights from San Francisco to Dublin we jumped at the chance to return to our favorite European country. Anyone with even a little Irish heritage or longtime interest in this extraordinarily friendly country should take advantage of these new direct flights. This non-stop service is also great news for anyone doing high tech business in Ireland, one of Europe’s leading countries in the computer world.
For those readers who haven’t visited Ireland we strongly recommend it be added to your vacation bucket list. And Aer Lingus always seems to be offering some incredible fares, bargain packages and numerous vacation options. Check out their web site and sign up for their often-intriguing email offers and also click on their ‘Holiday Value Packages’ link to view their current deals. Package possibilities usually include fly and self-drives, golf excursions, castle stays, all-inclusive tours and a wide variety of other options. www.aerlingus.com. A further reliable resource for travel to Ireland is the official web site of the country’s national tourism department, Tourism Ireland at www.ireland.com/en-us/. Tons of information can be found on this website and it provides some different vacation packages offered than Aer Lingus. Between the two sites you should find enough options that will satisfy most any interest and budget. In addition, both sites can be great resources for a plethora of coming events, attractions, sightseeing highlights and activities not mentioned in this article.
Our recommended places to go and see based on our previous 2 trips:
First off, Dublin is a no-brainer for an extended visit! When arriving by air to the country’s largest city, our initial suggestion is to arrange a guided ‘hop-on-hop-off’ city tour that stops at all the major attractions. If it’s a clear day, be sure to get off at the Guinness Storehouse. And yes, the beer and tour are great, but the highlight was the tremendous vista of the entire Dublin area when you reach the top floor. If it’s not a clear day try to return when it’s not cloudy! Other don’t miss hop-offs: Trinity College to see the 1000 year old Book of Kells, a 9th-century gospel manuscript, in the college’s magnificent library; Dublin Castle where the Throne Room & St. Patrick’s Hall were highlights; Temple Bar Area where more authentic Irish pubs can be found than anywhere on the planet; St. Stephen’s Green/Grafton Street area for incredible shopping and dining; and St. Patrick’s National Cathedral, built in the 1200’s, is Ireland’s most impressive medieval edifice.
On our most recent trip we unpacked our suitcases at the historic 191-year-old Shelbourne Hotel on arrival and before flying home at the first rate Fitzwilliam. Both have a classic heritage and are brimming with Irish hospitality. For reservations, etc: www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/dubbr-the-shelbourne; www.fitzwilliamhoteldublin.com. For complete Dublin info: www.visitdublin.com.
Other Key Cities To Visit and Our Personal Highlight Experiences:
If you are on your own after leaving Dublin we suggest heading due west to Galway then south to Limerick and Cork and then slightly northeast to Waterford and back to Dublin.
In Galway you shouldn’t miss a walking tour of downtown-the Republic’s 4th largest city, brimming with history and a vibrant night life scene. Our stay at the very chic G Hotel was a delightfully trendy choice. If time permits, a short flight out to Inishmore Island, the largest of the prominent Aran Islands, to view incredibly steep rugged cliffs and Dun Aonghusa, one of Europe’s most important prehistoric sites, should be considered.
If you spend time in Limerick, the Republic’s 3rd largest city and often referred to as Ireland’s sporting capital, be sure to check out the iconic King John’s Castle and stroll along the River Shannon. While visiting Cork, the country’s 2nd largest city with another very walk able downtown, be sure to visit Elizabeth Fort for wonderful city views below. While in the Cork area we stayed at the nearby Castlemartyr Resort located on land once owned by Sir Walter Raleigh. This beautifully restored manor house was once the residence of the Third Earl of Cork and was previously owned by the Knights Templar of Da Vinci Code fame. Adjacent to the ruins of a thousand year old castle, it has now expanded to include 109 crème de la crème suites and rooms, a new state of the art spa and championship golf links. www.castlemartyrresort.ie
After we left Cork we had these memorable stops: Heritage Center in Cobh – the last port for the Titanic before it’s catastrophic sinking; St. Patrick’s Rock of Cashel–this 4th century cathedral ruins is one of Ireland’s most spectacular landmarks; Waterford Crystal Factory—one of the universe’s most famous crystal manufacturers and a shopper’s utopia; Powerscourt House and Gardens just thirty minutes south of Dublin- one of the finest examples of an aristocratic estate and gardens in all of Europe. While in Powerscourt we stayed at the luxurious Powerscourt Hotel, now managed by Marriott’s Signature Collection and the service was impeccable, the ambience striking and the setting was awe-inspiring. But what really got our attention was the fun-filled down-to-earth Irish pub surprisingly included within this very upscale resort. We understand certain staff members went around Ireland to pick out their favorite local pub features and went about duplicating as much as possible. A stroke of leprechaun genius! www.powerscourthotel.com
There were countless other wonderful memories too numerous to mention and we’re looking forward to another visit to magical Erin very soon. And remember when Irish eyes are smiling they are probably up to something.
Taisteal Sábháilte! (Safe Travels!-everyone)
(Don Jackson – Travel Writer: Editors note: Our travel team will bring our readers their top 25 favorite things to do and see in the Silicon Valley in our July issue)