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Ireland may be small in terms of land mass, but it’s a truly global destination, with 9 million tourists arriving annually to see its beautiful scenery, take in its lively culture, and, of course, enjoy a few pints along the way. With so much to do in the country, from walking along stunning seashores to exploring Dublin, a guide is a great way to get started — especially if you’re after the off-the-tourist-trail experiences.
The best trips to Ireland take you out of Dublin. Not that it isn’t a wonderful city — it’s certainly worth a few days — but it’s not all Ireland is. We encourage spreading your time (and your tourism dollars) across the country to explore its scenic landscapes and charming villages that dot the coast. Galway, on the country’s western coast, is also worth some time, and it’s a lovely journey to get there. For ideas on here, there, and everywhere in between in Ireland, we’ve rounded up the best travel guides available now. Read on to find one that will help shape your dream vacation.
Our Top Picks
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Ireland
DK Eyewitness’ travel guide for Ireland approaches its job not by prescribing what travelers should do, but by giving them the information needed to help piece their own unique trip together. This book covers the full gamut of what a traveler might want to do — or doesn’t even know they want to do — with a year-long calendar of events, detailed full-color maps to help navigate, and plenty of tips on how to get that perfect Instagram shot. The slim profile makes it easy to bring along with you during the day, and it’s updated annually to ensure that all the information is as up-to-date as possible. The emphasis is on sightseeing, as one reader/reviewer pointed out, rather than restaurants and hotels, thanks to the latter’s higher rate of turnover — and that editorial move means you get more value out of what made it into the book.
101 Amazing Things to Do in Dublin: Dublin Travel Guide
This handy guide to Dublin is exactly what the cover says, and those who are spending most of their time in the capital city will appreciate having it on hand. It covers the best of the city, from its literary festivals to where to find some seriously comforting Irish food. We love how much information is packed into this guide, especially for those who just don’t have the time to sit down with a 500-page book. At just 60 pages, this guide can easily be slipped into a handbag during a day out sightseeing, but there's more than enough info packed between the covers, including a city map and plenty of background intel about Dublin’s history and culture.
The Rough Guide to Ireland
If you want a guide that can take you to every nook and cranny of Ireland, The Rough Guide to Ireland fits the bill. The guide covers a variety of budgets and activities, from mainstream (but worth it) tourist attractions like The Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland to ones that are a little less well-known, like Croagh Patrick. Every single county in the country is included and they’re often bundled into smart itineraries that make a great template or starting point to plan your own trip from. One particularly helpful feature is the inclusion of great maps for the traveler on the go, particularly for those dealing with expensive data plans while abroad. The map of Dublin’s Temple Bar, which can sometimes be a bit of a maze, is particularly handy — especially after a pint or two in the area’s famous pubs.
Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way: A Walking Guide
Walking the Wild Atlantic Way, which hugs the breathtaking western coast of the country, is truly an adventure of a lifetime — and if you’re headed out on this trail, you’re going to want to have a reliable guide with you. Author Helen Fairbairn is renowned for writing fantastic walking guides and has written plenty that specifically cover Ireland’s topography, so you’ll be in good hands with her volume in your pack. Fairbairn maps out hikes that traverse the best routes in the region — you don’t have to do the whole thing start to finish, after all — with accessible hikes that range from two to six hours and cover a range of fitness levels. If you want to get really off the beaten path, look for her tips on how to reach Ireland’s uninhabited islands. The book is so thorough that it’s also an excellent resource for locals looking to get out and about, whether it’s a short hike you're after or a whole day affair.
Bloom's Literary Guide to Dublin
If you identify as a bookworm, this is the Dublin-focused paperback for you. Bloom’s Literary Guide to Dublin is a deep dive into the Irish capital’s incredibly rich literary and cultural history, starting way back with the Gaelic Celts. Know that, as one might expect, this book is a little more intense than other travel guides — it’s a sit-down-and-read volume that focuses more on the lives of authors versus a skim-through kind of book packed with walking tours. On that note, though, it’s worth looking through the guide well before your trip, just in case any of the suggestions spark a pre-vacation reading list. If you or your traveler is going to Dublin just to learn about its literary side, this book definitely won’t steer you wrong; for more casual book enthusiasts, we recommend pairing this with a general travel book for best results.
Rick Steves Ireland 2019
Rick Steves is one of the biggest names in travel, and this Ireland guide shows why. The 2019 edition features up-to-date information and itineraries created by Steves and co-author Pat O’Connor, an Irish-American who first went back in 1981 and hasn’t stopped exploring Ireland since (he’s even worked as a Rick Steves tour guide). There are 615 pages filled with ideas, making this one of the most comprehensive guides out there, though all the information is laid out in a way that won’t overwhelm those heading to the country for the first time. There’s plenty of practical info about Dublin and the surrounding areas, like Glendalough and the Wicklow Mountains, as well as southern Ireland’s Kilkenny and Waterford, and the gorgeous Dingle Peninsula. We love the walks and drives that the two authors have picked to include, too — after all, one of the best parts of Ireland is its countryside, which lives up to expectations as some of the greenest and most scenic there is.
Croagh Patrick and the Islands of Clew Bay: A Guide to the Edge of Europe
If you think you’ve truly done it all in Ireland — it’s rather difficult to stop with just one visit to the Emerald Isle — then plan for at least one more trip with this guide to the under-the-tourist-radar locations of Croagh Patrick and the Islands of Clew Bay. The author, Michael Connor, grew up on the mainland in Westport, County Mayo, but in his guide, he explores every single island that dots the coastline of the nearby bay, examining the collective natural and social history of the region, with geographic research thrown into the record. While it might be a stretch for the average traveler’s itinerary in Ireland to make time for a stop here, the book is a wonderful gift for those who want to devote time to learning more about the country.
Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way: A Guide to its Historic Treasures
Given the wealth of old prehistoric sites in Ireland, it’s no surprise that it’s a destination for those interested in the earliest days of humanity — amateur archaeologists and historians of all stripes. Give your time traveler this wonderful tome, which lays out author Neil Jackman’s top 100 heritage sites in one handy volume (it’s also available on Kindle if they don’t want to tote the book around). Although there are plenty of tombs, castles, and sacred sites that are well-known to casual tourists, there are other picks that dive even further into Ireland’s wonderfully complex, intriguing history. The book covers the Ring of Kerry and Cliffs of Moher, as well as off-the-beaten-track trips to places like Inishmurray. Niche? Perhaps. But those with even a passing interest in the origins of Ireland will love it.
Our writers spent 3 hours researching the most popular Ireland guidebooks on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 35 different guidebooks, screened options from 20 different publishers, and read over 65 user reviews (both positive and negative). All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.