Desolate Skellig Michael

The Emerald Isle: Ireland’s most historical sites

As part of our Irish road trip series, we’ll be exploring the myths and magic that lace the Emerald Isle’s most significant historical sites. We’ve even avoided Dublin Castle, the usual go-to destination for a post like this, to provide you with a little more variation.

Rent a car with easyCar as soon as you arrive on the island to make the most of the country. You can then start visiting Ireland’s finest relics and impressing the locals with your newfound understanding of their proud heritage.

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The Emerald Isle: A foody’s guide

What comes to mind when you think of Irish cuisine? Bread, butter, beef and beer: all the brown stuff, right? But the Irish, like many other European nations, have spent years adopting and adapting the culinary talents of others, often adding their own little spin.

The eight restaurants listed below, prices ranging from a special occasion’s budget through to just the slightest tug on the purse strings, are all making active efforts to cook seasonal, fresh and local food, redefining the identity of Irish cuisine.

 

The Merry Ploughboy, Dublin

via Facebook

via Facebook

 

Having played traditional Irish music together since 1989, this is the first (and only) music venue in Ireland to be owned and run by the musicians themselves. They’ve been handed the award for “Best Traditional Dinner/Entertainment in Ireland” for a third consecutive year and The Merry Ploughboy have consistently provided authenticity to the heart of Dublin for quite some time, through both food and culture. Considering it’s only a 30-minute drive from both Dublin Port and Airport, It is undoubtedly a must for any trip to Ireland, let alone the city.

If you’re interested in a tip from the menu try the slow braised shank of Slaney Valley lamb.

 

Fishy Fishy, Kinsale

Whether a visitor to Kinsale or a local, Martin and Marie Shanahan welcome all diners with open arms. This husband and wife team take pride in having built a personal relationship with the person who supplies their seafood each morning, ensuring that only the freshest of catches end up on their menu. For some fantastic signature dishes from Martin, one of the country’s leading seafood chefs it’s certainly worth visiting this southern region of the country.

Fish obviously takes the lead on the menu, try the Fishy Fish pie for a classic, hearty meal.

 

Ard Bia, Galway

Ard Bia

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One of Galway’s most iconic restaurant spaces and enduring restaurant operations, Ard Bia places a tremendous emphasis upon its aesthetics and “individualism” on top of serving great food. As you’ll see from their website, a vital part of their vision is to stay true to the roots of their local area whilst, also, delivering an identity that “transcends location,” taking inspiration for their dishes from around the world.

For something authentically Irish on the menu, give the Irish pheasant a go.

 

DeBarra, Clonakilty

This modest and rather retired folk club, situated in the beautiful seaside town of Clonakilty, has earned a musical reputation that travels far beyond the confines of its West Cork residence. Offering a typical but traditional bar menu, DeBarra also has long-standing associations with members of the Jimi Hendrix Experience and were chosen as the Munster representative venue for Guinness’ newest musical project ‘Amplify’; as one of five venues chosen nationally, they hosted Bastille, George Ezra and Walking on Cars. If you want a traditional setting with top-quality contemporary music, look no further!

 

Cornucopia, Dublin

Cornucopia

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This vegetarian and wholefood restaurant is located along Dublin City Centre’s Wicklow Street, producing home-cooked vegetarian and vegan-friendly meals, snacks and cakes throughout the week. Living up to its namesake, Cornucopia is certainly a place of abundance, also catering for coeliac or sugar-free customers (as well as having a small, selective organic wine list). Full menu options can be found here.

For a delicious hearty option, give the cashew baked aubergine a go.

 

Max’s, Kinsale

Max’s is known regionally for its extensive range of local, fresh Kinsale seafood, married with fine creative sauces and the ability to adapt to changing seasons. Situated on the high street, their continually changing menu, found here, will consistently keep customers guessing over what they’ll be having next. Personally selected wines and vintages are updated monthly, focus is switched to wild game in the winter months and it comes highly recommended by most leading guidebooks.

The highlight of the menu is the braised Kilbrittan pork belly.

 

Mourne Seafood Bar, Dundrum

 

Mourne Seafood restaurants are special in two ways: they are exclusive to Ireland, the main Seafood Bar being situated in Dundrum along the eastern coast, and the shellfish is sourced from their own shellfish beds. The quality of staff and food remains consistently high in reviews, yet the prices are reasonable – one review claimed it was able to feed a family of four with two courses, drinks and a bottle of wine for around £100. There are also restaurants in Belfast and Dublin, the latter of which (along with Dundrum) is only a 10-minute drive from the Port Tunnel and 15 minutes from the airport.

The highlight of the menu is the Mourne Seafood Cassserole.

If you intend to visit, one of the best ways to get from place to place is by car, easyCar offers rentals in Ireland from just £8 a day!

Irish City Breaks: Galway

Galway, known as the City of the Tribes, is the gateway to Western Ireland and all of its scenic glory. The fourteen merchant families who ruled the area during the 15th century contributed to its jagged horizons through the construction of castles, while the city centre is now buzzing with nightlife and a tourist “feel” which isn’t too overwhelming. The perfect mixture of past and present.

While this may suggest a limited selection of activities for visitors, there are certainly multiple options available to bear in mind on your travels, particularly those of you who are renting in Ireland.

The streets of Galway

Here are just four of our own suggestions.

Top 4 things to do

  1. Quay Street – Lined with famous pubs, restaurants, street entertainment and an incredibly vibrant nightlife, what more could you ask for as an introduction to the Irish tradition of a good night out than Quay Street? Frequent visitors describe the area as exciting, yet relaxed, and the perfect spot for traditional music and a hot, Irish coffee on a bitter evening.
  1. Dublin – You may have heard that Guinness tastes better in Dublin – straight from the source – or that there are no comparable festivals to the celebrations held on St. Patrick’s Day; why not drive down and find out for yourself?While you’re there, take a trip through the Wicklow Mountains and enjoy the breathtaking views, providing the weather permits decent vision!
  1. Galway City Museum – Set in a spacious, modern building, Galway City Museum is situated along the banks of the River Corrib, overlooking the famous Spanish Arch. It houses a variety of permanent and touring exhibitions, representing Galway’s fascinating archaeology, heritage and history, and is open to visit for free all year round.
  1. Dogs Bay, Gurteen Bay and Salthill Beaches – Dogs Bay and Gurteen Bay are two of the most stunning beaches in County Galway and, probably, in the West of Ireland. They are situated only 2 miles away from the picturesque little village of Roundstone, offering incomparable views of Errisbeg and the surrounding countryside.Salthill Beaches Diving Board
    The sand here does not comprise of traditional limestone fragments but, instead, is made entirely from seashell fragments, creating its stunning, pure white colour.

    Salthill Beaches are a collection of several small, pebbled and sandy beaches separated by outcrops, overlooking Galway Bay which is a “Special Area of Conservation.” It has been awarded Blue Flag beach status and is extremely popular in the summer months.

    Outside of these four suggestions, the scenery throughout Galway is truly some of the most breathtaking you will ever come across in Ireland or Great Britain. We would certainly recommend you take the time to go for some long drives, get the hiking boots on, and take advantage of some of the best views that Ireland has to offer.

 

Eating and going out

Ireland may be more famed for its liquid lunches rather than its solid equivalent. However if you are prepared to do a bit of digging there is a lot on offer in this city’s streets. Try Oscar’s Seafood Bistro found on the western side of the city. The restaurant takes advantage of the city’s connection with the Atlantic Ocean, sourcing the finest locally caught produce. Go for something decidedly less Irish at Oran Tandoori, tipped as the finest curry house in the city. Reasonably priced dishes are served daily to your table. For fans of spice, the vindaloo is the best dish on the menu.

A trip to Ireland would not be complete without at least one sip of the black stuff. Luckily for you there are many pubs and bars to quench your thirst. Tig Coili is an intimate affair that offers no short measure of music and (as the Irish would have it) craic. Alternately you could try Tig Neachtain, an altogether more bustling affair that is renowned for its decent mix of people. Hipsters, businessmen and artists are all drawn to the wooden interiors and the music pouring out onto the street.

With so much to do in and around Galway you will find the whole trip a lot easier if you rent a car on arrival in Ireland.

Irish City Breaks: Dublin

You may have heard that Guinness tastes better in Dublin, fresh from the factory, but what you may not have known is that Dublin is a perfect destination for the whole family. Here are just some of the fantastic attractions, places to eat and venues that Dublin has to offer. Whether you’re looking for a family break, a couples’ retreat or a dose of culture, Dublin has it all. If you’re looking to rent a car in Ireland then doing so through easyCar before you even arrive is the best bet.

Dublin city skyline

Top 5 things to do

  1. Guinness Storehouse

Forgive the cliché, but no trip to Dublin would be complete without visiting its bountiful source of Guinness. Located in the heart of the St James’ Gate Brewery, home to the black stuff since 1759, The Guinness Storehouse’s seven-storey building has been remodeled into the shape of a giant pint glass. For €18, you get the full tour plus a free pint at the Gravity Bar with a spectacular, panoramic view of the Dublin skyline. The brewery’s history ties in with that of the city, so, there are layered reasons as to why this is an essential stop on all visitors’ lists.

  1. Patrick’s Day Parade (17th March)

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Festival in Dublin every March to watch some of Europe’s finest street performers in a four-day gala of world-class entertainment. It won’t take long to understand its global recognition, so head down for the parade, food and drink, music and “craic”. For many just one visit is not enough, and returning year after year is quite common.

  1. Wicklow Mountains National Park

After a couple of days, having soaked up the culture, history and Guinness of the city, a change of scenery can be a welcoming contrast to the bustling city life. Drive the scenic route through Wicklow Mountains National Park and bathe in icy cold lakes, as the early monks of the nation did, or climb the side of an ancient volcano. To get there you need to head southwards out of the city through the suburb of Rathfarnam, take Military Road (R115) and follow the route southwards through the heart of the mountains and valleys. The views from your window, we promise, will be breathtaking.

  1. The National Gallery of Ireland

Today, The National Gallery of Ireland’s collection includes over 2,500 paintings and some 10,000 other works in alternative media including drawings, sculptures, watercolours and prints. While it houses a renowned collection of Irish paintings, every major European school of art is extensively represented; the gallery’s highlights include works by Monet, Van Gogh, Vermeer, Picasso and Caravaggio. This is certainly not one to miss for those who appreciate the culture and history of a city.

  1. Phoenix Park and Dublin Zoo

People & Deer in Phoenix Park

Just as a heads up, here are some of the thing’s you can’t do in Phoenix Park: litter, light fires, act “contrary to public morality”, “annoy or otherwise interfere” with other park users and go any faster than 50km per hour on the park’s roads. On a warm, sunny day, Phoenix Park is truly stunning for those who enjoy a breath of fresh air and a long walk.

Measuring in at more than twice the size of New York’s Central Park, it’s no surprise that there’s a zoo in the middle! You can wander through the African Savannah to gaze at giraffes, zebras and ostrich before heading to the Kaziranga Forest and admiring the magnificent herd of Asian elephants that call this park “home”. With tigers, hippos, gorillas, bats and red pandas on offer, to name but a few, this is certainly one for all the family to enjoy.

Where to eat and where to go out

Seafood: Cavistons and Aqua

Cavistons, one of the best fish and seafood restaurants in the Dublin area, is also a fantastic spot to rest your limbs after a bracing walk along the Dún Laoghaire seafront. The Caviston family has run the fish shop in Glasthule since the 1940s and the restaurant has been trading next door for the last 20 years. Fish is king in this establishment, so no meat or veggie options have made the final menu cut, not that this matters at all when the food is this exceptional and when you can pick up some of your own fresh produce just next door!

The Dun Laoghaire Coast, Dublin

Given the coastal location of Aqua, fish is the order of the day here, too; alongside gorgeous sea views, a warm, uncluttered dining room and a fantastic Sunday lunch soften its distinctly urban appearance. From Dover sole on the bone and baked sea bass, to pan-fried halibut and slow-cooked organic salmon, there’s something for everyone to try.

Music Venues: O’Donoghue’s and Andrew’s Lane

As O’Donoghue’s launched the career of “The Dubliners,” Ireland’s seminal folk and ballad group, it is fitting that this made O’Donoghue’s the seminal pub for folk fans visiting Dublin. The venue can get a little crowded during tourist season, but the live music which features on numerous band tours will always draw a steady influx of visitors.

Formerly one of the few playhouses on Dublin’s south side, Andrew’s Lane Theatre has now been re-opened and re-branded as a music venue. While theatre lovers may miss its previous function, it has already developed a strong reputation on the city’s music scene and is certainly worth a visit should you wish to mingle.

With so much to see not only in the city itself but in the surrounding countryside , make sure to rent a car in advance with easyCar to make the most of your time on the Emerald Isle.