6 alternative ways to explore Ireland

Glendalough, Ireland
Glendalough, Ireland

Ireland is known to have every shade of green in its sweeping landscapes, but there’s more to the island than meets the eye. From the coastlines of Connemara, the wilderness of Donegal, the majestic mountains of Mourne, the world-renowned scenic views of Kerry and Cork, and the famed Causeway Coast in Northern Ireland, there is much to explore in a number of ways.

Planning transportation is a huge factor to consider when taking a trip, and travelling between counties, cities and landmarks can take up valuable ‘holiday time’. The ideal way to simplify any travel itinerary is to make the journey part of the overall experience.

Whether by tour, car, bus, train or bicycle, there are some exciting ways to explore the island of Ireland that allow you to make your surroundings and experiences a combined experience.

Drive the open road

Getting into a car and driving out onto the open road will allow you to see more of Ireland — small towns, castles, villages, and the inner depths of the country that typically no public transportation or tour can provide.

Situated on the west coast and on parts of the north and south coasts of Ireland, the longest Coastal Driving Routes — Causeway Coastal Route and Wild Atlantic Way – are the most popular to explore by car. Starting in Belfast and passing through nine counties and three provinces before ending in County Cork, drivers are able to take in hundreds of quaint landmarks and unique experiences along all along the way.

Rent a campervan/motorhome

A ‘home on wheels’ option strikes the perfect balance of affordable, convenient and mysterious travel.

Bunk Campers, Ireland’s largest campervan rental company, has depots located close to the Dublin and Belfast airports, and also offers a unique Game of Thrones tour, which people can access via campervan and explore Northern Ireland’s Seven Kingdoms.

Easy to rent and easy to park at designated campervan parks, there are many campsites spread across the island, such as Mullynascarthy Caravan Park that is situated on the banks of the Colebrook River on the outskirts of Lisnaskea. or Delamont Country Park with stunning views across the Lough to the Mourne Mountains. Wake up to views of the mountains, coastlines, greenery, or sea – Ireland is your playground.

Hop on a tour bus

If monumental landmarks and tourist attractions take priority, then a bus tour is the way to go.

Forget the maps and witness the sliding countryside in comfort. Convenient and budget-friendly, tickets and passes can be purchased in advance and bus connection is available between all major cities. Bus Éireann in the Republic of Ireland and Translink in Northern Ireland both run coaches all around the island, making it a great way to travel without the hassle of maps or parking.

Game of Thrones Winterfell Castle-1
Game of Thrones Winterfell Castle

A two-wheeled adventure

For the wanderluster, a two-wheeled adventure will help draw a profound connection with the country, while whizzing around corners, stopping for photos, exploring places passed along the way and accommodating last-minute plans based on local recommendations.

Choose from guided tours along the Wild Atlantic Way with baggage transferred each time locations are changed, or take a self-tour of Ireland’s Ancient East on a bike rental easily available towns and villages. Kids can also be part of the fun, with children’s bikes and helmets available for rent. The island is clad with cycling trails to suit any level – the casual sightseer, intrepid road racer and even mountain biking enthusiasts.

One of the most popular trails is The King Fisher Trail (300 miles), which covers counties in the midlands in the Republic of Ireland and across the border to Northern Ireland, offering sweeping views dominated by mountains and lakes. The Great Western Greenway is the Republic’s longest off-road cycling trail from Westport to Achill in County Mayo, while Belfast’s Barnett Demesne Blue and Green Trails are packed with mountain bike trails to bask in the sight of table-top mountains.

By train

There are two main rail networks operating in Ireland: Irish Rail in the Republic of Ireland and Translink in Northern Ireland, with Dublin and Belfast as the key rail hubs, connecting travellers with cities and towns all over the island. Online guides provide information for first-time travellers to ease their journey, and modern, inter-city trains make for a pleasurable and comfortable ride that can prove to be faster than a bus.

One of the most picturesque rail journeys in the Republic of Ireland follows the south-east coast from Dublin down to the Rosslare Europort and goes through Ireland’s Ancient East. Further up north, the 45-minute route between the Walled City of Derry~Londonderry and Coleraine along the Causeway Coastal Route is dubbed “one of the most beautiful in the world”.

Take to the seas

Along with several Islands, Ireland is also home to many rivers, lakes and canals that can be experienced by boat, ferry or barge.

Travellers can choose from various experienced operators like Doolin Ferries, pioneers of the spectacular Cliffs of Moher cruise that is known to be one of the country’s most treasured natural landscapes. Dublin city can be admired with Dublin Bay Cruises’ award-winning cruises while sailing around Dalkey Island and Killiney Bay.

Whether you want to explore the Aran Islands, take day tours, a 360 cliffs tour of some of the world’s most famous cliffs or inter-island transfers, travelling by sea is an enjoyable alternative to discover sights like no other.

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