You've probably seen the photos on Instagram of your friends in Dublin — at the Trinity College Library, holding a pint of Guinness at the brewery or posing outside Temple Bar (probably holding another pint of Guinness). The city’s nearly unfathomable age and moody demeanor, not to mention its relative cost-effectiveness, make it an increasingly popular travel spot. But beyond all the things there are to do within the city limits, it’s also in the enviable position of being just a short drive from pretty much everywhere else in the country. Here are the best ways to experience even more of Ireland’s natural beauty and history, in five day trips from Dublin.
Walking the streets of Galway is a quick way to be transported back centuries — its cobblestone streets and warm pubs are a beacon for musicians. Most nights you can find performances of traditional folk music with robust audiences cheering and musicians of all types line the streets to serenade you as you peruse the hundreds of tiny shops. The numerous and inviting pubs, plus the pervasive hospitality of the locals, help give the unassuming city the reputation of being a party town. The many restaurants have an impressive way of mixing modern cuisine with traditional fare. Make sure to stop by Eyre Square and the Latin Quarter, and see if you can hear anyone speaking in Irish rather than English.
Located an hour south of Dublin, this is the place to go to get outside. You have Wicklow Mountains National Park, the largest park in the country that encompasses 85 square miles of stunning green landscapes. The small town of Glendalough sits within the park and is home to the oldest monastic settlement that dates back to the 6th century. Also worth visiting is Powerscourt estate, a huge, luxurious mansion situated on 47 acres of lush gardens, which is also home to the country’s highest waterfall.
Cork, Cobh and Blarney
Sitting three hours from Ireland, these three locations might be slightly too ambitious for a day trip, despite being within close proximity to each other. But if you're up for it, a visit would be worth the hotel fare for a night. The biggest of the three areas is Cork, another of Ireland’s larger cities, which offers a city center with plenty to do — food, drink, art and shopping. But just outside this hub are two must-see places. Cobh, a small seaport town, was the last port call before the Titanic took off. Learn more about it at the Titanic Experience, or just stroll through the winding and steep streets with some ice cream or coffee. And in nearby Blarney is one of those things you have to do when you’re in Ireland. Climb to the top of a historic castle, lean over the side of a wall stories up and kiss the Blarney stone to get the gift of eloquence.
These islands are so close to Galway it’s almost cheating to put them on the list, but they offer something very different from Galway's urban vibe. You get to the Aran Islands via boat from Galway. A short, choppy and maybe wet ride away, you step off the boat and transport even further back in time. With rolling rocky hills and the ruins of ancient homes and fortresses, it's a stunning and historical destination. Make sure to explore the cliffs and seal colonies, either by bikes or a bus tour.
Known as the birthplace of the Titanic, Belfast is more than a town with ties to the ship. The capital of Northern Ireland is home to an active art scene, a lengthy and torrid history and possibly ghosts. Get an overview of the city's history with a taxi tour that stops by all of the must-see street art and historical points. Don’t miss out on this city’s own mixture of venues and pubs. And be sure to check out Cave Hill, which promises sweeping views of the city below.