Traveling in Ireland

Take the Train to Ireland

          There are several ways to get to Ireland when you’re traveling through the British Isles and one of my favorites is to take the train.  Yes, you can actually take the train from Glasgow, Scotland to Belfast, Northern Ireland!  You purchase one ticket at the Glasgow train station and take the six hour trip by train and then ferry across the Irish Sea.  Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and should be included in any visit to the Emerald Isle.  There is train service across Northern Ireland making it easy to visit Londonderry, too, but this is where the train tracks end.  There are no trains heading south into the Republic of Ireland from Londonderry. 

Glasgow, Scotland Train Station

Glasgow, Scotland Train Station

The Ferry at Stranraer, Scotland Going to Belfast, Ireland

The Ferry at Stranraer, Scotland Going to Belfast, Ireland

Ireland by Bus

          The rail lines in the Republic of Ireland are not very extensive and miss many of the important tourist areas, making travel by bus the way to go.  From Londonderry you can begin your journey south into the Republic of Ireland by bus where your first stop should be the beautiful seaside town of Sligo, Ireland.  Then, following the coast counterclockwise around Ireland you will eventually end up in Dublin.  Along the way you can visit Galway with nearby Clifden and Connemara, Limerick with the nearby Cliffs of Moher, Tralee and Dingle Town, Killarney and the Ring of Kerry and then Cork where you can ‘kiss the Blarney Stone’.   

Bus Eireann at the Galway Station, Ireland

Bus Eireann at the Galway Station, Ireland

Yours Truly Kissing the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle Near Cork, Ireland

Yours Truly Kissing the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle Near Cork, Ireland

Bus Eireann

          Bus Eireann is the state run bus service which provides both visitors and locals with reliable, safe and convenient travel throughout the Republic of Ireland.  The fares are quite reasonable, making it ideal for backpackers and anyone who doesn’t want to deal with driving a rental car on some of the narrow streets and roads of Ireland.  The routes of Bus Eireann mainly connect the larger cities and then you can use the local bus service to get around town.  So, why not leave the driving to one of the many friendly bus drivers while you enjoy the beautiful scenery of Ireland from your comfortable seat.

Clifden, Ireland

Clifden, Ireland

The Ring of Kerry, Ireland

The Ring of Kerry, Ireland

Navigating the Narrow Roads of Ireland

British Isles Destinations

Must See Destinations in the British Isles

If you’re planning a trip to the British Isles, be sure to include theses destinations on your itinerary.  These are some of my favorite cities in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.  Click on the heading for more details and photos.

Shrewsbury, England:  A picturesque river city in Shropshire with a medieval past.

Shrewsbury School Across the River Severn

Shrewsbury School Across the River Severn

Conwy, Wales:  A beautiful little coastal town in Northern Wales with an awesome castle.

Conwy Castle on the North Coast of Wales

Conwy Castle on the North Coast of Wales

Inverness, Scotland:  A city in the Scottish Highlands near Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle.

Inverness Castle, Inverness, Scotland

Inverness Castle, Inverness, Scotland

Galway, Ireland:  This eclectic city on the west coast of Ireland is the gateway to Clifden and Connemara.

Galway Cathedral on the River Corrib

Galway Cathedral on the River Corrib

 

A Garden Gate in Clifden, Connemara, Ireland

Clifden, Connemara, Ireland

          Galway was one of my favorite places in Ireland.  Not only is it a beautiful city, but there are some interesting sights nearby.  I took the bus to Clifden and fell in love with the spectacular scenery of the Connemara region on the West Coast of Ireland.  On my walk I passed this wonderful garden gate and ever since then have wondered what was on the other side.

A Garden Gate in Clifden, Connemara on the West Coast of Ireland

A Garden Gate in Clifden, Connemara on the West Coast of Ireland

Travel Cat

A Favorite Photo from Sligo, Ireland

          I saw this beautiful cat sitting next to a globe in a cottage window in Sligo, Ireland and imagined that he was dreaming of traveling the world.  This photo was taken near the grave of one of Ireland’s most revered poets, William Butler Yeats, near Ben Bulben, a striking rock formation that dominates the landscape around County Sligo.

‘Under bare Ben Bulben’s head
In Drumcliff churchyard Yeats is laid.’
 
Cat in Cottage Window Dreams of Traveling the Globe, Sligo, Ireland

Cat in Cottage Window Dreams of Traveling the Globe, Sligo, Ireland

Exploring the Southwest Coast of Ireland

In and Around Cork

As the second largest city in the Republic of Ireland, Cork is an incredible gateway to some truly amazing sights on the southwest coast of the Emerald Isle.  If you choose to head here, whether from inland or abroad, take a look at the Travelodge Hotel near Cork Airport, an ideal spot to serve as your home base.  With so much to explore, there’s no need to spend unnecessary money on accommodations – not when you can get a comfortable, affordable hotel with such ease.  From here, why not hire a car so you can explore the surrounding area under your own steam?  It’ll give you all the freedom you need to take things at your own pace.  Just grab your GPS and head for the coast, taking in the beautiful sights and various attractions along the way.

Blarney Castle

Built in the 15th century, with earlier strongholds on the site dating back much further, Blarney Castle is home to the Stone of Eloquence, otherwise known as the Blarney Stone.  Legend has it that if you kiss the stone, you will be given the gift of the gab.  Nowadays, you have to hang upside down over a sheer drop to give it a peck, but it’s still do-able for the brave!

Fota Island

This small island off the coast of Cork is home to Fota Wildlife Park, Ireland’s only wildlife park, which aims to preserve global wildlife in its natural surroundings.  Animals include ostrich, kangaroo, giraffe and antelope – all of which are allowed to roam free without fear of predators, such as the cheetah.

Carbery’s Hundred Isles

Be sure to take a trip to these beautiful isles, situated off the coast of Cork in and around Long Island Bay and Roaringwater Bay. Many of these islands still have rustic villages on them.  Cape Clear Island (Cleire) is a popular berth for yachts and Sherkin Island, approximately 15 minutes via ferry away from the mainland, is a popular tourist destination, particularly with families during the summer holidays.

Rolling Hills and Coastal Cliffs

As you can see, there are plenty of places to explore on the southwest coast of Ireland.  With rolling hills and coastal cliffs right at your doorstep, Cork is much more than its namesake city.  Head further into the country and you can enjoy a whole host of attractions.

British Isles Itinerary

A Good Starting Point for Planning Your British Isles Itinerary 

This summary of the itinerary for my recent 18 day trip through the British Isles will, hopefully, help jumpstart your own trip planning process.  I’ve just completed a detailed series of postings featuring each city I visited, including where I stayed, how I got there and what I saw at each stop along the way.  If you decide to follow this itinerary you’ll get a good overview of England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, while keeping the travel times each day to a minimum.  For me, getting there is half the fun, so I love riding the trains and buses through the countryside from one town to the next.  This is often a great way to meet people and it’s wonderful to be able to leave the driving to someone else when you’re on vacation.  If you’re traveling in a group of two or more, however, it may be more economical to rent a car, but remember, driving a car with manual transmission on the opposite side of those narrow roads is not for the faint of heart!

London, England

London, England

Customize to Fit Your Own Schedule

A word of caution…as a solo, budget traveler, I like to squeeze as much as I can into my trips, so this pace may be a bit fast for some.   If that’s the case or if you don’t have three weeks, you can use any portion of this schedule and tailor it to fit your own timetable.  One possibility, for example, would be to separate it into two trips, the first just concentrating on England, Wales and Scotland and the second just on Ireland.  Another suggestion would be to do England and Wales in one trip and Scotland and Ireland in another.  By dividing the trip in this manner you would have time to spend two nights in some of the major cities like London, Edinburgh and Dublin and at major scenic destinations like the Cliffs of Moher and the Ring of Kerry in Ireland.

Conwy, Wales

Conwy, Wales

City by City Itinerary 

As you can see from a quick look at the list below, you will be traveling to some of the most famous and interesting destinations in the world…and getting from one place to the next will take you through some of the most beautiful scenery on the planet.  Here goes!

1)  London, England

-arrived by plane from SFO

2)  Bath, England         

-by train, 1 hour 45 minutes

3)  Cardiff, Wales

-by train, 1 hour

4)  Shrewsbury, England       

-by train via Swansea, 8 hours

-scenic Heart of Wales train journey

5)  Conwy, Wales                             

-by train, 2 hours 30 minutes

6)  York, England                                     

-by train, 5 hours

7)  Edinburgh, Scotland                            

-by train, 2 hours 30 minutes

8)  Inverness, Scotland                     

-by train, 4 hours

-scenic Highlands train journey through Cairngorm Mountains

-LochNess

9)  Glasgow, Scotland                      

-by train, 4 hours

10) Belfast, Northern Ireland           

-by train and ferry, 6 hours

11) Londonderry, Northern Ireland  

-by train, 2 hours

12) Sligo, Ireland                             

-by bus, 2 hours 30 minutes

13) Galway, Ireland                         

-by bus, 2 hours 30 minutes

-Clifden and Connemara

14) Limerick, Ireland                       

-by train, 2 hours

-Cliffs of Moher

15) Tralee, Ireland                           

-by bus, 2 hours

-Dingle Town

16) Killarney, Ireland                      

-by bus, 1 hour

-Ring of Kerry

17) Cork, Ireland                             

-by bus, 1 hour 30 minutes

-Blarney Castle

18) Dublin, Ireland                          

-by bus, 4 hours 15 minutes

Loch Ness, Scotland

Loch Ness, Scotland

Summary of Expenses

Airfare: (San Francisco to London and Dublin to San Francisco) $807.00

Land Transportation: (trains and buses) $613.00

Lodging: $1,327.00 (average $74.00 per night)

Food: $144.00 (doesn’t include breakfast which came with most hotels)

Incidentals (including entrance fees): $73.00

Total Expenses: $2,964.00

Londonderry, Northern Ireland

Londonderry, Northern Ireland

Las Vegas or Europe?

Depending on what part of the country you’re coming from, a round trip plane ticket to Las Vegas can cost anywhere from $200 to $500.  For just a few hundred more you could fly to the British Isles and see something new and exciting.  Remember, either way you still have to eat and sleep, so the expenses once you get to either destination will be similar.  The choice was a no-brainer for me!  Considering all the fantastic things I saw, the wonderful people I met and the awesome accommodations I had on my nearly three week trek through England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, doing all this for less than $3,000 was a great value for this budget traveler.  Be sure to check out the other articles in this series for more details on planning your trip to the British Isles.  Tally Ho and Cherrio!

The Ring of Kerry, Ireland

The Ring of Kerry, Ireland