I’ve only been to Ireland once, and only for a few days in Dublin & surrounds, but I’m pretty confident in declaring that visiting Ireland = guaranteed good times! It doesn’t form the most natural of overland options and you’re more likely to visit by air, but overland to Ireland can be done from the UK and France:
Travel to, from, and within Ireland overland
Ireland has well-developed road and rail networks, both of which are easy ways to get around the country, and between Ireland and Northern Ireland. By sea, you can reach Ireland on ferries sailing from northern France, Wales, and England. There are also ferry connections between Scotland and Northern Ireland – while these are technically domestic UK ferries, they offer another good way to reach Ireland overland as you can go by sea from Scotland to Northern Ireland and continue by train (or road) from Belfast to Dublin and elsewhere in Ireland. With these ferry and train connections, an Interrail pass (for Europeans) or a Eurail pass (for non-Europeans) is a good way to travel to Ireland overland as part of a wider European trip – and your pass gets you 30% discounts on the routes shown here and here.
Neither Ireland or the UK are members of the Schengen area, though they are both EU members – at least for the time being, but probably not for much longer. Instead of Schengen, they are part of a 2-country Common Travel Area; what this CTA essentially means for travellers is that if you are legally in either the UK or Ireland you can travel freely to the other (and back) under the terms (visa or entry stamp) on which you originally entered, without it counting as an entry / departure or getting any stamps. Basically, the Ireland / Northern Ireland border is an open border and you don’t pass through any customs or immigration.
This could all change in the near future though, following the UK’s decision to leave the EU. What this means for the CTA is unclear at the moment; it may mean that the Irish border reverts to being a ‘hard’ border with full immigration and customs checks, or the two governments may find a way to keep the border open. Certainly, given how important the present border arrangements have been for the Irish peace process, it should be a priority to keep the CTA, or something like it, in place; it will depend how hard the UK government decides to be on immigration issues once it leaves the EU. For now, you can travel freely between the two, and I’ll update this information as and when anything changes.
Things to do in Ireland
Or rather (as I’ve only been to Dublin), things to do in Dublin:
Eat, drink, dance, sing, and be generally merry. As I was in Dublin for a friend’s birthday, we didn’t really go sightseeing and instead spent most of the weekend partying, listening to live music, and being drunk or hungover. Temple Bar is a famous nightlife area in central Dublin where we sank a few pints of the dark stuff.
Irish beer and whiskey are exported the world over, with the most famous examples being Guinness and Jameson. The Guinness brewery and Jameson distillery are both located in Dublin and offer popular tours.
Go to the beach! The one non-alcohol related activity we did was ride a local train a short ways out of the city to Bray, a seaside town with a pretty waterfront. It being February at the time we didn’t go anywhere near the water, but the sea air and fish & chips made for a nice little outing.
Resources and Useful Links for Visiting Ireland
Official website for the Interrail pass
Official website for the Eurail pass
World Nomads offer flexible travel insurance you can buy even if already overseas (most travel insurance companies won’t cover you if you’ve already left your country, and this can be a crucial point as I once found out the hard way in Thailand).
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