10+ Reasons You Should Visit Ireland in 2024

An Irish castle called Dunguaire is shown in the background of Galway Bay
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If you’re mapping out your 2024 summer vacation, consider adding Ireland to your maybe list.

You might know that Ireland is known for green landscapes, a wild coastline, a long and varied history, and its friendly people (I’m one of them!).

But you might not know that a holiday in Ireland could be the experience of a lifetime.

I’m a local, but since travelling the world, I’ve become an avid tourist in my own country.

So if you’re thinking of becoming a first time visitor to Ireland, here’s my take on why the Emerald Isle should be a contender for your next Big Trip.

1. Jaw-Dropping Natural Landscapes

Ireland’s nickname, the Emerald Isle, barely does justice to the breathtaking (and green) natural landscapes that our island has been blessed with. From the towering Cliffs of Moher on the west coast to the unusual geological formations of the Giant’s Causeway in the north, Ireland’s natural beauty is legendary.

If you love to hike, you’ll find international-grade trails in the Wicklow Mountains, Mourne Mountains or Macgillycuddy’s Reeks.

Or sail on Lough Erne, the River Shannon or cruise beyond the Cliffs of Moher. Escape the world for just a breath and imagine life on the Aran Islands, enjoying the traditions of Irish culture, music and craic (fun).

2. Music and Festivals

The Irish spirit might be best experienced through music and festivals. During the summer season, Irish pubs and regional venues play host to numerous ‘sessions’ of traditional (trad) music and dance. Places like Doolin, Dingle and Donegal are famous for it.

Watch out for Dublin TradFest held in January and Belfast TradFest held each summer, some of the largest festivals of traditional music in Ireland. Of course, St Patrick’s Day turns the entire city of Dublin into a full-on long weekend celebration.

Each September, the Galway Oyster Festival is a major draw and the Dublin Fringe Festival is a unique theatre experience that speaks to Ireland’s cultural diversity. I’ve seen some of my favourite shows at the Fringe.

An Irish castle called Dunguaire is shown in the background of Galway Bay
Photo by Patrick Hughes: Dunguaire Castle in County Galway

3. Ireland’s Castles

Ireland’s history dots the landscape with around 30,000 castles (and ruins). You can kiss the infamous Blarney Stone on an easy-access tour of Blarney Castle, visit an iconic site like Bunratty or Dunguaire Castle, or stop off at the fortress of Dunluce Castle with its dramatic sea views.

The Rock of Cashel might tick all of your ‘medieval’ boxes with its ancient buildings, and you can even stay in a converted castle, like these castle hotels near Dublin.

A picture of the arching Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland, which featured in Game of Thrones
The Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland. Photo by Samuel McGarrigle on Unsplash

4. Game of Thrones

If you watched Game of Thrones, then a visit to Northern Ireland is a must (plus it’s where I come from!).

So many of the most iconic scenes from the show were filmed in the North, including the slightly haunted-feeling Dark Hedges (shown above), as well as locations in the Mourne Mountains, which doubled as the Stark stronghold of Winterfell.

You can step for a moment into George RR Martin’s Westeros, albeit the slightly colder Northern part! Day trips run from Dublin every day during the summer.

5. Scenic Road Trips

Ireland is practically tailor-made for a road trip. The principal motorway network is very well-maintained and it’s only when you’re much further out that roads become single-track.

If it’s your first time in a rental car driving on the correct side (!), you’ll develop confidence on the main roads before taking it slowly on smaller routes.

Doing a self-drive itinerary gives you the freedom to explore places that you want to prioritise, at your own pace. Some popular road trip routes include:

6. Guinness and Whiskey

If you drink alcohol, your trip to Ireland will be greatly enhanced by two of Ireland’s famous exports – Guinness and Whiskey!

Visit the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin to learn about the brewing process and enjoy a pint right at the source.

If you’re a fan of whiskey, distilleries like Jameson in Dublin or Bushmills in Northern Ireland offer tours that take you through the rich history of Irish whiskey and you get to taste the goods!

7. Irish Locals

As an Irishman, it feels odd to talk about our national characteristics! But when I’m a tourist in Ireland myself, on a domestic trip, it doesn’t take long to see that our strength lies in our people.

Irish people are great craic (fun, witty) and we like to make visitors feel at home.

I like to think you’ll have a conversation in an Irish pub, witness Irish stories through our music, voices and dance, or simply catch up with your B&B host while your Irish breakfast is being cooked.

Don’t be afraid to talk – we’re not!

8. Irish Cities

Don’t bypass Ireland’s cities. The capital is Dublin, a busy international hub for tech, finance and services that manages to blend old and new – the history of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, alongside the Guinness Storehouse.

Galway has a bohemian feeling and a thriving music scene that I keep returning to again and again. Cork has a great culinary heritage, and a culinary tour of the English Market needs to be on your list.

In the North, Belfast and Derry are both lively spots. Yes, you can get an insight into our complex past, but also enjoy the fruits of a very different present.

A small window with a flower box in a whitewashed Irish thatched cottage
Photo by Patrick Hughes: a whitewashed cottage at Doagh Famine Village

9. Rich Heritage

You’ll certainly find strands of Irish history in our castles and landscapes. But perhaps the richest part of Irish cultural heritage is in the very everydayness of Irish lives. The Irish language, music, dance and storytelling is our strength. I was proud to be a performer in Riverdance and got to help tell that heritage in the US, Canada and the UK.

When you visit, explore EPIC in Dublin (the Irish Emigration Museum), Doagh Famine Village or the Glencolmcille Folk Village in Donegal to connect with stories of the Irish diaspora, but also with how the Irish traditions remain strong and alive.

A serving of potato bondoo at 100 degrees restaurant in Gorey, Ireland
Photo by Patrick Hughes: Lunch is served at 100 Degrees in Gorey, County Wexford

10. Delicious Irish Food

Traditional Irish food is what you might term “hearty”, with Irish stews, soups and soda bread (in the North, we call it ‘wheaten bread’). However, the modern Irish dining scene is pretty vibrant and is all about local, seasonal produce.

If you visit the coast on your trip, you’ll find excellent fresh seafood.

Places like Dublin, Cork, Kinsale, Belfast are hotspots for foodies, where you’ll find a touch of innovation alongside traditional favourites. Note: if you go only to pubs, you’ll find a lot of heavier dishes. Vary the location – there’s very modern restaurants, cafes and places for vegans, vegetarians and gluten-free visitors!

11. LGBTQ+ Friendly Locations

I’m proud to say that Ireland stands out for a progressive and welcoming approach to LGBTQ+ visitors.

In a referendum held in 2015, Irish people voted that marriage between two people be recognised, irrespective of their genders, the first place in the world to do so by popular vote.

If you like to party, Dublin and Cork have a lively gay scene, with plenty of bars and clubs.

Pride events are held in the summer, including in Mayo, Waterford, Limerick, Drogheda, Cork, Galway and Dublin.

Any country has some people who see the world differently, but in general I hope you’ll find Ireland a welcoming place for people of diverse backgrounds.

12. Friendly to Solo Travelers

Solo Travel in Ireland is fairly easy, but probably a bit more expensive than other locations. The country is generally safe and welcoming, it’s compact and there’s lots of public transport options (frequency might be an issue), which makes Ireland ideal for people travelling on their own.

On the downside, accommodation can be expensive in Dublin and other cities, particularly in high season and there aren’t many options for single rooms, apart from certain hostels. That means you’ll pay the same price for a room as for two people (a major annoyance for me).

However, with so many group tours or self-drive itineraries, solo travelers can opt to enjoy time spent alone, get out and meet new people or enjoy conversations on the go.

Conclusion

So should you visit Ireland in 2024? Yes, you should! With its scenery, history, food, music and welcome, I think Ireland remains a fairly unique place to visit. Certainly, it can get busy in July and August, but a little forward planning and prebooking can help you manage your itinerary. I think that’s why Dublin or Galway keep showing up on ‘top places to visit’ lists year after year.

The weather can be an issue, and might be cooler or wetter for a lot of visitors. Take a look at my Packing List for Ireland to make sure you’re bringing the right clothes and accessories.

Don’t let a little rain put you off – why wait? Let Ireland take your breath away in 2024!

To go ahead and make your booking, please read my Booking Resources recommendations below. Any bookings you make using my affiliate links help me to keep the blog afloat at no additional cost to you.

If you’d like to develop your itinerary first, look at my sections on Where to Stay, Things to Do and Where to Eat – these should help you narrow down your priorities.

Booking Resources

These tried-and-true favourites are designed to make your next journey abroad as stress-free as possible, especially if you’re venturing solo!

How to find Cheap Flights

Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my go-to flight comparison tool. Use the customisation features to narrow down when and where you want to go (and track it).

Google Flights – Google Flights is an easy way to compare flight prices. Use the price watch feature to find out when flight prices drop.

Priority Pass – Get into lounges worldwide free when you have a Priority Pass. Feel like you’re travelling in business even when your ticket is in coach!

Hopper – the Hopper app is very popular in the US and covers flights, hotels and car rentals. Download the app using my Hopper link to get convenient price comparison on the go.

Best Accommodation Sites

Airbnb – I’ve had a mixed bag of experiences with Airbnb, but I do use them for longer-term stays.

VRBO – Lots of us Europeans are less familiar with VRBO – it’s got lower service fees than Airbnb, has more independent home-like places (not all in someone’s converted garage). Worth checking.

Booking.com – Booking has all the hotels, and increasingly apart hotels and other types of accommodation. It’s the site I use the most for getting cheap prices.

Expedia – If you want to find hotels in a particular location, Expedia has one of the best search tools, especially when I’m not certain of how the destination is laid out.

Hostelworld – don’t sleep on hostels (sleep in them!). I didn’t think I was the target audience for hostels, but in Australia & New Zealand, the hostels often have private and ensuite single rooms, at a great price.

Tours & Day Trips

Viator – use Viator to find tours and excursions in your destination as well as day trips to get out of the city. It’s a hugely popular global platform, with very clear ratings.

Get Your Guide – use Get Your Guide to find local tours – it will sometimes have different options to Viator, particularly on longer trips in places like Ireland.

G Adventures – the organised group tour that solo travellers can use. They serve destinations around the world for one-of-a-kind adventures.

Big Bus Tours – if you’re a fan of Hop On, Hop Off bus tours to get situated in any new city, Big Bus Tours is one of the biggest operators in the market.

Rental Car Options

Discover Cars – use Discover Cars to compare prices across well-known and local car hire suppliers to make sure you get the cheapest rate.

eSIM

Airalo – I’ve been using Airalo since early 2023 as my eSIM, meaning I don’t need to get a new physical SIM card any more. I’ve used it successfully in over 20 countries, saving on roaming charges.

I'm Patrick, your Irish guide to the skies and beyond. With 58 countries visited, my journeys have taken me from busy economy to fabulous first-class.

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