A Sense of Place

Dos and Don'ts in Ireland

IRELAND | Friday, 26 August 2011 | Views [3035]


When you say you're visiting Ireland, you are sure to hear lots of "ooh"s and "aah"s and "you're so lucky, I would LOVE to go there"s.  It has developed this magical connotation thanks to Victorian writers and Americans who have a long line of Irish ancestors forced to leave because of famine or lack of work.  After  living there in the fall of 2004 and five subsequent visits, I've created a bit of a personal Do and Don't list that I happily share with anyone I come across planning a trip.  Of course, ultimately it's your decision of what to do and what not to do, but I think my tips are pretty handy regardless.

Ireland Don'ts:
These are either things that I learned from, are pet peeves, or are just good ideas to keep in mind.  As always, take with a grain of salt since these are my personal dont's.
DON'T: forget that the roads are narrow, and you drive on the left!  

I openly admit that I have no desire to drive in Ireland ever.  I don't want to remember to make a sharp left turn and a wide right turn.  I still have no earthly idea how to get to my sister-in-law's house from my in-laws' house even though it can't be more than 5 miles away. Roads outside of Dublin are not well marked name-wise, so it's very easy to get lost.  Add to the fact that most side roads are a narrow lane even though it's a two-way street, and you have the makings of a bad travel moment. So if you are not a confident driver, or a very careful driver, you might want to skip the car rental and just take the bus or train to other towns.

DON'T: just go to Dublin and the Cliffs of Moher/Galway/Aran Islands!

There is SO much more to see in Ireland than Dublin and the Cliffs of Moher (which I still haven't seen).  There is so much more than the leprechaun covered shite of the tacky tourist shops. Go to the Ring of Kerry, go to Donegal, try out Wicklow with Glendalough and gorgeous mountains, go to Meath, etc. All of these places are accessible by bus or train or a combination of both from Dublin.  Wicklow, Meath, Wexford, Cavan, Louth, and Kilkenny are all easy day trips from Dublin with lots of beautiful towns and sights.  If you're in the Shannon area, Kerry, Donegal, and Cork are close by.  There are ruins sprinkled all over, so try renting a bike if the weather is nice to see what you stumble upon. You'll have a richer, more unique experience than going to the same pubs in Temple Bar and taking the same photos of the West as everyone else.
DON'T: try to mimic the accent. No one says "aye shoremegoran".  No one uses "wee" to describe anything and everything that is little.  Ed. Note- I've been informed that my own personal experience is actually a bit of an anomaly in that I've never heard "wee" used in a conversation. Do not try to replicate The Quiet Man.  You'll sound like an idiot. This is more of a pet peeve to me specifically.  I find it irritating when someone tries to mimic what they think is an Irish accent or to use phrases that they think are Irish.  Oscar winners failed at it, so my bet is you're going to fail miserably, too.  Just talk like a normal person from wherever you're from.  If you want to sound more local, check out some idioms that are unique to Ireland over at Benny's article on how to to speak English like the Irish.  I crack up every time I read it.  Just don't try to sound like the actors from Circle of Friends.Please?

Ireland Do's:

Again, these are things I think you should do or try, but I wanted to make it more about traveling than things to see.

DO: bring lots of layers and a brelly!  

My first trip to Ireland brought me from the upper 90s of August in Atlanta to the low 60s (at best!) of Ireland.  No matter what the season is, I always pack lots of layers and an umbrella.  I have seen many sunny days in the summer, but you can never really predict if a shower will pop up.  The temperature doesn't drop dramatically at night, but homes and businesses are kept cooler than I'm used to, and a breeze can make 60 degrees feel much cooler.  So I usually end up with 2 or 3 layers on.  Leave the flip flops at home because it really is never warm enough, and they're not great for walking through fields with sheep shit. Forgot my advice? Pop into a Penney's for a cheap umbrella or sweater (jumper in Ireland), they'll never be more than 10 or 12 euro.

DO: go to a small pub.  

The atmosphere of non-touristy pubs is so different from the raucous foolery in Temple Bar.  If you're in a tiny town, they may just have two taps: stout and lager.  Or they may have a more authentic, less contrived music session.  If it's not a tourist spot (just listen for the accent you hear the most), try a pub for lunch. Many offer hot lunches that are delicious, filling, and a good value.

DO: try the after-pub fare.  

Chippers are the Irish diners or, if you're Southern, Waffle Houses.  Need some grease to soak up your drinking session? Head to one for an array of fried options such as curry chips, battered sausages, taco chips, and burgers.  Definitely try one of the chip options whether it's curry, taco, salt and vinegar, or spicy wedges.  I've never had a bad curry chip.  Remember, in general, nothing is spicy so the curry and taco sauces highlight the other flavor profiles of the sauce more than the heat.

You don't have to listen to a word I say because it is YOUR trip, but I think my tips will help you have a fuller experience that is different from the usual Irish jaunt.


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