I first traveled to Ireland in 1999 to play some music and fulfill my lifelong dream of seeing the most beautiful place on earth! I wasn’t disappointed! Since then, I’ve made a total of 15 trips there. I’ve seen most of the country and enjoyed every minute of it.
I teach massage classes most years at the Obus School of Healing Therapies, located in Leixlip, which is about 15 minutes away from Dublin. I’ve had Americans come over to take my classes, and I frequently get asked where to stay and where to go, and about the logistics of getting there, so here goes:
Many airlines fly to the Dublin Airport. I sometimes fly into Shannon Airport, which is on the west side of Ireland, because I love to spend the rest of my vacation on that side of the country. The trip from Shannon to Dublin is only about 90 minutes by car.
Rental car agencies are in both airports, but you are wise to shop around online before you go. Be aware of several things:
- Driving is on the left–the opposite of the US. Unless you are very comfortable doing that, you might want to take the bus–and the bus goes everywhere.
- Ireland is one of the few countries where you do not automatically get collision insurance if you use a credit card to book a rental car. You will be paying for it, and it is usually substantially more than the cost of renting the car. Be SURE if you rent a car online that you choose the Collision Damage Waiver insurance so you don’t get stuck with a big surprise when you get there.
- There are roundabouts on all the roads, few stoplights.
- There are very few guardrails in Ireland, including when you’re riding along narrow roads beside the deep blue sea.
- “Traffic Calming” means slow down.
- Black dots on road signs indicate there have been frequent accidents in that spot.
- The sheep have the right of way.
- If you venture into the countryside, the roads are often narrow compared to the US. Be prepared to pull over to let others pass.
- Rock walls are everywhere and are often very close to the road. If you are not renting a car, the bus goes everywhere. Click here for fares and schedules. There are also cabs, but you may have to call for one, especially in smaller towns. They don’t just hang around waiting for fares the way the do in the US. The hotel or B&B owner will call one for you. Uber is also in Ireland.
In the village of Leixlip, if you are attending my class, the Courtyard Hotel is just a couple of blocks away from the school. Beckett’s Hotel is very nice, but you would need to take a bus or cab to get to the school, it’s several miles away.
There are B&Bs everywhere in Ireland. In Leixlip, the Rye View is a 10-minute walk from the school. The nearby village of Maynooth has one of my favorite B&Bs in the country, the Aaronbeg. The owners, Maureen and Michael Downes, are just lovely people and the breakfast is fantastic. Too far to walk from the school, but there is a bus stop nearby. I don’t usually go for “fancy,” in my accommodations, although an overnight in a castle or a ritzy hotel is a nice thing; I prefer to stay in the homes of average Irish people who work for a living and keep nice, clean, “homey” homes.
Breakfast in hotels is often a buffet, but you should ask if that isn’t clear when you’re booking. It is always included at B&Bs. The owners usually leave a signup sheet in the entry way for you to sign up for what time you want to be served and what you want. There will be cereal, fruit, and yogurt sitting out in most dining rooms, Full Irish usually means an egg (and you will need to specify if you want more than one), sausage, bacon–which is not like American bacon but more like Canadian bacon in taste, but is not cut in rounds, blood pudding, potatoes of some sort, a sauteed tomato, toast and/or Irish brown bread (my personal favorite) and in many places, baked beans and sauteed mushrooms. You probably won’t need lunch.
Leixlip is a small village, and there are several restaurants and pubs in walking distance. There is a convenience store about three blocks from the school that has anything you need and a little take-out deli. The village of Maynooth, just a few miles away, has quite a few great restaurants. Live music is being played somewhere in both villages nearly every night.
The banks in Ireland keep shorter hours than we do in the US. There are ATMs on most banks, and of course a money exchange at the airport. I have always exchanged some money at my bank before making the trip so I would have cash when I landed. As with any foreign country, you need a passport. Euros are the currency in Ireland. If you decide to venture to Northern Ireland, remember that is a separate country and the pound sterling is the currency there, so change money before crossing the border.
I have too many favorite places in Ireland to name. If you’re going to stay and take a vacation on either side of your classes, the east has the Wicklow Mountains, Waterford, and Kilkenny just to name a few. The Military Road is an amazing drive. In the west, Donegal is my favorite place in the world. Donegal Town has several hotels, numerous little shops, and the Wild Atlantic Way. The drive around Lough Eske is especially beautiful. Harvey’s Point is a gorgeous hotel on Lough Eske. Sligo is one of my favorites…I visited the Voya Seaweed Baths in Strandhill on my first trip there and have returned many times since. Sligo is also the home of William Butler Yeats; his grave in Drumcliff is a pilgrimage of mine. The tea house and gift shop there has many Irish goods for sale. The West also has the Cliffs of Moher, the Dingle Peninsula, Doolin for the best trad music, and a whole lot more.
I have hundreds of pictures of the places I’ve been. They are on my FB page and visible to the public. Below are links to my albums. Feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions and I’ll try to answer them.