10 Photos: The Unrivaled Beauty of Ireland in Summer
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Our “10 Photos” essays include tips on exploring destinations, redeeming for hotels and flights and more. After a pleasant flight in United BusinessFirst, TPG Editor-in-Chief Zach Honig had a fantastic four-night trip to Ireland. Join him on a journey through the Emerald Isle. (All photos by the author.)
Ireland often gets overlooked by East Coasters. It’s a relatively short (and occasionally stupid cheap) flight from New York, and, unlike many other destinations in Europe, it’s not accessible by train. So while it wouldn’t necessarily be my first pick as a gateway to Europe, it’s an absolutely gorgeous destination on its own — especially when you venture far from Dublin.
For this trip to Ireland, my girlfriend and I decided to stay at the Sheraton Athlone (review coming soon!), an excellent Category 1 Starwood property made even more affordable by the Citi Prestige card’s 4th Night Free benefit. Though Athlone is no Galway or Limerick, it’s a fine town and an excellent pick for exploring the country’s gorgeous countryside.
Located in a remote area just south of the village of Doolin, the Cliffs of Moher should be at the top of any first-timer’s list of Ireland attractions. Like many other locations this incredible, it’s become quite the tourist attraction, and there’s now a €6 (about $7) fee to visit. Still, no Ireland photo album is complete without it.
If you’re heading to the Cliffs from the north or east, you’ll probably pass through The Burren, an incredibly rocky region on Ireland’s west coast. It’s an unusual sight, and I highly recommend making a stop en route to Doolin. Be sure to take the coastal route (R477) from Galway to catch the best scenery.
While you’re at the Cliffs of Moher, head to your right and check out the small medieval tower just along the coast. Just be sure to bring a jacket — thanks to the ocean breeze, it’s quite chilly, even in the middle of August.
If you venture beyond Dublin you’re sure to see sheep. Many, many sheep. Since they all look similar, farmers paint their coats to identify the owner.
Located just a few minutes north of Athlone, the Derryglad Folk and Heritage Museum (€5, or about $5.50) is certainly worth a stop if you’re in the neighborhood. It’s a quiet venue (we were the only guests), and the owners are incredibly friendly. Expect to find an enormous variety of Irish antiques, from pharmaceuticals to farm equipment.
You’ll find the monastery of Clonmacnoise about 25 minutes south of the Sheraton Athlone. Like the Cliffs, this is a very popular tourist attraction, so do your best to time your arrival at the beginning or end of the day so tourists don’t spoil your view (and photos). Admission will run you €6 (about $7) — I paid with my Chase Sapphire Preferred card.
Located near the M6 highway that runs from Galway to Dublin, you’ll find the town of Kilbeggan, home to Ireland’s oldest licensed whiskey distillery. I highly recommend the self-guided tour €8.50 (about $10), which includes a whiskey tasting at the end, but you can also choose from a variety of guided tours that range in price from €13-€75 ($14-$84), depending on how “hands-on” you’d like the experience to be.
Dublin’s most popular attraction, Temple Bar, is a pedestrian-only street filled with rowdy revelers at all hours of the day. It’s also the name of a pub, but there are plenty of other great choices around the corner, too. The street is also home to Gallagher’s Boxty House, which I highly recommend for a meal.
You’ll find all kind of food and drink along Temple Bar, and more pubs than you’ll care to visit. At one, we decided to pair a cheese platter with a pint of Guinness. You absolutely must have a Guinness in Ireland — but the cheese you can skip.
Not far from The Burren is the harbor city of Galway. Expect to find bright buildings, excellent seafood and hordes of tourists. While the city’s worth a visit, you’ll probably want to stay somewhere else.
Getting to Ireland
Home to 4.5 million people, Ireland is located in the North Atlantic, at the far western end of Europe. Dozens of airlines operate flights to Dublin Airport (DUB) — including US Airways — though you can also fly into Shannon (SNN) or Belfast (BFS) in Northern Ireland.
You can fly American Airlines nonstop to Dublin from Chicago and New York, with off-peak economy flights starting at 20,000 AAdvantage miles each way, business for 50,000 miles or 62,500 miles for first (with a connection in London-Heathrow). Delta operates flights from Atlanta and New York, with awards starting at 30,000 miles in coach or 62,500 miles in business. United flies from Chicago, Newark and Washington-Dulles, with awards priced at 30,000 miles in economy, 57,500 miles in business or 80,000 miles in first.