Now that you’re getting in the mood to visit Ireland, let me make one thing clear before we go further. What follows next are suggests for a vacation you plan and execute yourself. That is, a do-it-yourself vacation.
There are plenty of guided, packaged tours available, of course. You could do that. I have friends who’ve taken tours and enjoyed them. Some folks like having all the details taken care of.
I am not that person. I don’t want to ride around on a tour bus, going from one “big” thing to the next big thing, being shown what someone else thinks I should see and told what someone else thinks I should know, and how long I have to stand in awe or take pictures. And I certainly don’t want to be told how long I have to shop! On a tour, you miss all the little adventures on the side—the getting lost (and finding something interesting), the unexpected chat with a local who steers you to a fabulous restaurant, the pulling over by the side of the road just because you can, the tender peace of having a sacred place all to yourself. Or, you know, the stealth sheep.
Long story short: in County Donegal, I took a wrong turn, and in getting back to the main road we came upon a sign: “Beltany Stone Circle, 2km,” and that was all the encouragement we needed. The road ended at a farm, the farmer directed us up a tree-shaded lane, and off we went. Ten minutes later the lane ended at a farm-gate, and next to it, on the outside, stood a large sheep, bleating its frustration at finding itself on the wrong side of the fence. We went through the kissing gate to see the stones (and a large herd of sheep), and when we came back, the solitary sheep was gone. We’d walked nearly halfway back to our car, chatting away, when we heard an indignant BAAA! right behind us. We were being followed by a stealth sheep. After we recovered from the near-heart attack, we laughed until we we were hysterical.
No doubt you had to be there to appreciate the magic in this moment. But my point is it would have never happened if there’d been thirty other people with us.
So, a reminder: the suggestions you’re about to read regarding what you might do on a vacation in Ireland are, as noted, predicated on your planning your vacation yourself and then … doing it yourself. In my personal case, that means renting a car and getting myself from one place to another, driving, yes, on the left side of the road instead of the right. (It’s not as hard as you think, honest.)
You don’t have to do that, though. You can stay in one place—probably a city—and use buses or cabs to get around (when you’re not walking). You can take trains or buses to other locations. There will be fewer wrong turns that way. 🙂
And now that we’re clear, stay tuned for my thoughts on what to do.