Trip-Spiration: Explore, Relax and Drink Beer in Ireland
Did you know that the average Irish person will drink about 160 pints of beer in a year? It's only March, so luckily we still have time to catch up before the year ends. With St. Patrick's Day upon us, it's the perfect time to visit your local Irish pub, or better yet — head straight to the source: Ireland! The lively nightlife scene in Dublin, the relaxing green pastures of the Irish countryside and the fresh, clean air of the Irish seaside is the just the vacation you need right now.
Just a 6.5-hour flight from most east coast hubs, getting to Dublin (DUB) is quick and easy. Aer Lingus flies nonstop from cities like Boston (BOS), New York (JFK), San Francisco (SFO), Chicago (ORD) and Miami (MIA), among others. The airline also flies between Shannon (SNN) to Boston and New York (JFK). You can use British Airways Avios for Aer Lingus award tickets or you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to the Aer Lingus AerClub. Just make sure you see award availability, because the transfers from Chase can't be undone.
Delta flies nonstop from New York (JFK) and Atlanta (ATL), and United will get you there nonstop from Newark (EWR). American goes from Philadephia (PHL) and seasonally from Charlotte (CLT). Norwegian flies nonstop from Providence (PVD).
Those on a budget can fly WOW Air from a number of different US hubs with a brief layover in Reykjavik (KEF).
An added bonus about flying back home from Dublin is that the airport features a US border preclearance facility. This means that US-bound passengers can clear customs and immigration before departure, making connections back in the States a lot easier by avoiding long immigration lines upon arrival.
Where to Stay
An SPG category 6 property, the Westin Dublin's 19th century facade gives way to rooms that are modern and chic. If you've overindulged in Guinness, don't worry — the hotel features WestinWORKOUT rooms, giving you the opportunity to work out in your very own room. Room rates start at 284 euros (about $350) per night or 20,000 Starpoints.
The recently refurbished Conrad Dublin overlooks the gardens of St. Stephen's Green and is perfect for families with spacious rooms and suites. The hotel even curates special itineraries for one, three and five hours so you can have your ideal amount of tourism. Room rates start at 245 euros (about $300) or 60,000 HHonors points per night.
Millennial or budget travelers will be pleased to know the Aloft Dublin City will be opening November 1, 2018. The hip rooftop bar will feature panoramic views of the whole city. Room rates start at 132 euros ($163) or 10,000 Starpoints per night.
What to Do
Clearly, Dublin is the ideal place to start your trip. Beer-lovers can check out the Guinness Storehouse, where you can tour the factory and enjoy a pint on their rooftop bar overlooking Dublin. Keep you buzz going at the Brazen Head Pub, which is the oldest bar in Ireland — it's been in existence for a whopping 800 years!
After a lively night or two in the city, you'll need to nurse your hangover with a bit of nature, seaside and history. Head to Cork to check out the famous medieval Blarney Castle. Legend has it that if you kiss the Blarney Stone, you'll be blessed with the gift of the gab — meaning you'll forevermore be an eloquent speaker. We're not sure if it's true, but either way, exploring the castle goes beyond just the stone. Visit the gardens, Badger's Cave, the dungeon, the Wishing Steps and more.
If you need a little more exercise than just climbing the 127 steps to the Blarney Stone, cycling through the Ring of Kerry should do the trick. You don't have to do the whole thing, as it's 111 miles long! Here at TPG we particularly like the Skellig Islands. You can also drive the route if cycling isn't your thing.
Don't miss checking out the sea cliffs of the Dingle Peninsula — you can also find some sandy beaches in the area. Even if the temperature is mild, be prepared for chilly water! The Cliffs of Moher are also breathtakingly beautiful, rising 400-700 feet above the crashing waves.
Make sure to stop at the Killarney, which features the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Killarney National Park, the Lakes of Killarney, the Troc Waterfall, Ross castle and the highest mountain range in Ireland, Macgillycuddy’s Reeks.
If your trip is short and you can't stray too far from Dublin, Glendalough is just over an hour drive away. Flanked by two tranquil lakes, the monastic ruins of this area date back to the 6th century.
What to Eat
The ultimate comfort food, beef and Guinness stew is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a hearty stew made from beef and vegetables and of course, the beer! The stew simmers in Guinness so the beef will soak up the beer's malty flavor.
Corned beef and cabbage is another Irish specialty. Similar to its name, the corned beef is stewed with cabbage and other vegetables for a delicious St. Patty's Day meal.
Fish and chips is common in Ireland and the UK, and is fried fish with french fries. If you're looking for actual potato chips, those are called crisps over on this side of the pond.
The blue mussel is local to Ireland and is commonly eaten around the coastal areas, where the shellfish are caught fresh and steamed up to eat. The best season for this is autumn — that's when mussels are found in abundance along the Irish shores.
When to Go
Although Ireland's climate is typically temperate, summer brings the warmest temps. However, prices will be higher and the country will be more crowded with tourists. Fall is an ideal time to visit, when the weather is still mild but prices are reasonable. Of course, spending St. Patrick's Day in Dublin (or anywhere else in Ireland) is an epic adventure, but be prepared for a steep increase in prices and many visitors.