Tips for an Ireland visit

By Stephen O. Addison, Jr.
This item appears on page 14 of the December 2012 issue.

My wife, Paula, and another couple and I visited the Republic of Ireland, June 14-25, 2012. I have a few tips on topics that did not receive sufficient coverage in the guidebooks and Internet resources which we consulted pre-trip.

If you’ll be driving, update your GPS maps before you go. Several new motorways were not on our 5-year-old GPS map. We ended up using my smartphone’s map and navigation apps to supplement our GPS device. That worked well except in very rural areas with no cell phone service. I finessed that problem by caching maps for our next day’s planned route each evening while hooked into our lodging’s WiFi.

Take a good hard-copy map, too. You can use your map for a reality check on the routes your GPS generates. Our GPS often routed us onto roads that were little more than cow paths because they provided a slightly more direct route.

Most sources I read recommended the Ordnance Survey’s “Official Road Atlas Ireland.” We purchased the 2012-2013 version from a tourist office in Dublin for €10 (near $13). It was great for highways, but I wasn’t impressed with its city maps.

Irish Gaelic is the official language in Ireland. While we heard very little Irish actually spoken, and there was no language barrier, Gaelic was ubiquitous and more predominantly displayed than English on signage. This can be annoying when you’re trying to read signs quickly while driving.

We encountered very few aggressive drivers. As a rule, drivers were very courteous. Traffic was light; we encountered no traffic jams.

On weekend mornings, Dublin’s streets were deserted until about 9:30. Those are good opportunities to pick up or return your rental car, if you’re renting a car in the city instead of at the airport.

Regarding daily schedules, Ireland is not a country of early risers, and breakfast service at your hotel or B&B may not begin until 8:00. Some, but not all, lodgings will provide an earlier breakfast if you ask. Your late breakfast won’t cut into your sightseeing time, at least; we found that most attractions (including gated parks) didn’t open until 9:30 or 10. Early morning is a good time to take a long walk to work off your full Irish breakfast.

Many attractions closed at 5 p.m., so your tourist day may end early. The good news is that you’ll have plenty of pub time. Speaking of pubs, the Guinness beer in Ireland is much better than that in the US because it’s not pasteurized. Drink up, but be sure to try other brands, too. Pints typically cost €4-€5 each.

Don’t worry too much about planning your day around the weather forecast. During our June visit, weather forecasts were useless. Each day provided a mix of rain, mist, clouds and sun. Temperatures were moderate, from the upper 40s to mid 60s.

If it wasn’t raining when we began a long walk, it would be raining before we returned. Typically, the rain wasn’t heavy, and it wasn’t a problem as long as we were prepared. Always have an umbrella plus a hooded jacket or a good hat and coat available.

While June is considered to be in the high season, we encountered surprisingly few crowds and queues during our visit. We were told that July and August are when the tourists arrive in force.

Charlotte, NC