Tips from a New York Times article:
IF YOU GO
Rental cars in Dublin are highly affordable. Standard transmission vehicles start well under 20 euros a day (about $27 at $1.36 to the euro) at international chains like Thrifty and Enterprise. But if you can only drive automatic, expect to pay about twice as much.
Once you’re accustomed to driving on the left, you’ll find roads in the Republic of Ireland quite good, thanks to ambitious infrastructure investment begun in the Celtic Tiger years. New highways, like Dublin M50 beltway, are opening regularly, and even the most seemingly far-flung single-lane roads are well paved.
WHERE TO SLEEP
Bed-and-breakfasts dot the Irish countryside and cost little (30 euros a night and up), but quality can vary. Don’t expect much more than a reasonably clean room, usually with en suite bath, in someone’s house. The Old Bridge Bed and Breakfast (Slaney Place, Enniscorthy; 353-53-923-4222; oldbridgehouse.net) in county Wexford was one great exception, a well-situated building crammed with fascinating historic bric-a-brac, including an antique wall map of Ireland that I tried desperately not to study. And in Galway, a boutique hotel called The House (Merchants Road; 353-91-538-900;thehousehotel.ie) was a justifiable upgrade, and, at 109 euros a night, not even that much of a splurge.
WHERE TO EAT
The best I can say of Irish pub food is that it’s filling. Menus may be beautifully written, but don’t let evocative descriptions of cattle breeds and root vegetables trick you into ordering a flavorless Irish stew. (I was swayed, twice, to my lingering regret.) Even atMartine’s (21 Quay Street, Galway; 353-91-565-662; winebar.ie), which I loved (waitresses and oysters pictured), I ate only oysters and French fries, though I was sorely tempted by the pork belly. A few places impressed me: The mussels at the Snug, in Bantry (The Quay; 353-27-50057), were nice, as was the seafood chowder at Johnnie Fox’s, in Glencullen (353-1-295-5647; jfp.ie), and the Kerry lamb burger at the Smoke House in Killarney (8 High Street; 353-64-662-0801; thesmokehouse.ie). My favorite meals, however, were assembled from fresh breads, fruit and local cheeses, which were unaccountably hard to find, except at Sheridans, in Galway (14-16 Churchyard Street; 353-91-564-829; sheridanscheesemongers.com).
WHAT TO DO DURING THE DAY
The Powerscourt Waterfall, in County Wicklow (Enniskerry; 353-1-204-6000;powerscourt.ie), was worth a half-hour visit, as was Molly Gallivan’s, a restored rural homestead and farm in County Kerry (N71, Glengarriff Road, Kenmare; 353-64-664-0714; mollygallivans.com). With all those hours in the car, I took every chance I could to go hiking at places like Glendalough (353-404-45600; glendalough.ie) and Guagan Barra, a forest with well-marked paths. And whenever I saw woolen products advertised, I stopped to see what was on offer. Intricately knit sweaters from the Aran Islands are sold throughout Ireland, but my favorites were made by a company called Lee Valley, in County Cork.
WHAT TO DO AT NIGHT
Come nightfall, you’re probably bound for a pub. In Bantry, I definitely recommend going to the Schooner (Barrack Street; 353-27-52115), particularly if the Calvinists are playing, and in Enniscorthy’s Market Square, Stamp’s is beautiful and trendy, but hardly pretentious.