By Torie Temple

Cliffs of Moher at sunset in County Clare, Ireland.

“They say you shouldn’t start a conversation with an Irish person unless you have lots of time because they are so friendly,” says Eileen Walsh, elder law attorney and Ireland admirer. Work has taken Eileen to Ireland on a few occasions, but the beauty and hospitality keeps her going back for pleasure. With eight trips under her belt she considers herself an expert on The Emerald Isle. With this expertise, she has mapped out a dream vacation highlighting Ireland’s castles, history, and the best way to take in its rolling green hills.

Ireland sits off the coast of England and is politically divided into the sovereign state of the Republic of Ireland, which makes up the majority of the island, and British-ruled Northern Ireland. Each section features its own must-see attractions, so where do you begin? “The typical American tourist will start in the Republic of Ireland,” Eileen explains. “It is common to start in Dublin, which is a walkable city, where you will find Trinity College and the Guinness Storehouse.”

Visitors will also enjoy walking to pubs, shops, and museums in Ireland’s largest city, located at the mouth of the River Liffey. A place to stay will not be a problem with Dublin being home to the Shelbourne Dublin, A Renaissance Hotel that promises modern luxury in a historic building and The Marker Hotel, which has a sleek design influenced by the Irish landscape. Despite these unique hotels, Eileen has a different approach. “I would recommend a bed and breakfast,” she says. “These are family homes and not like a bed and breakfast in the United States — the hospitality of the Irish is extraordinary.”

One of the most popular tours in Dublin is the Guinness Storehouse. Visit all seven floors and learn how Arthur Guinness made a smart investment with a small inheritance and created the most successful brewery in Ireland. The end of the tour takes guests to the rooftop bar where they can have a taste. From there, it is off to Trinity College, which was founded in 1592 and continues to educate the elite today. One standout feature is its library, which holds 5 million printed copies of journals, manuscripts, and maps collected over the last several hundred years. The library is open to anyone wanting to study the exhibitions or those in need of research material. According to its website, it attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

Guinness Storehouse Gravity Bar 

Complete your itinerary by visiting the Dublin Castle, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and Dublin’s Antique Quarter for souvenirs. Dublin also offers plenty of places to eat. “There is a pub on every corner, and the food is marvelous,” Eileen says. “You can have breakfast at your bed and breakfast, then eat inexpensive meals in a pub.. The fish and chips are great — the chips are thin slices of potatoes that are not greasy and you can find them at every pub.”

The Dame District in Dublin is where travelers will find a lively nightlife and notable pubs like The Stag’s Head, a 19th-century pub that is just one room, for an authentic Irish experience.

It isn’t a true Irish vacation until you’ve experienced the countryside and learned why Ireland is called The Emerald Isle. “I do encourage people to rent a car and explore. Even though they drive on the opposite side and the roads are narrow, it’s part of the adventure,” Eileen says. “You will have a marvelous time no matter which part of Ireland you visit. The only mistake you can make is trying to see too much in one trip.”

However, before heading out to explore the country, stop by one of the busiest tourist attractions, the Kilmainham Gaol (pronounced jail). About two miles from the Dublin City Centre stands the jail that held Irish rebels as well as men, women, and children convicted of crimes ranging from stealing food to murder. Kilmainham Gaol opened its doors in 1796 and closed in 1924; it now serves as a museum and holds letters from past prisoners and other artifacts left behind or donated. Eileen suggests getting there early as it is popular, and pre-booking tickets is recommended by the museum to secure your desired day and time.

Further out from Dublin visitors can get a feel for Irish life. “You can stop at horse farms, see the Cliffs of Moher, and sheep being sheared,” Eileen explains. “In the southern part of Ireland there is Killarney National Park, which is beautiful, and Rock of Cashel.”

Landscape with boat at the Killarney Lake in County Kerry, Ireland.

To complete the countryside endeavor, stay in a castle with views of Ireland’s rolling hills. Eileen enjoyed her stay in Adare Manor Castle, which houses 365 stained glass windows and 52 chimneys, giving it the name Calendar House.

Castles and ruins can be found all throughout Ireland for those who can slow down and wander the countryside. As Eileen says, “Take your time and enjoy the scenery.”