The travel experts top tips for visiting Ireland

Ashford Castle, County Mayo

They've been here, they've got the photos and some have even written books! We've collated the best tips for your Ireland holiday straight from the biggest travel experts in the world...

Travel expert: Jacqueline Gifford from Travel + Leisure

The highlight: "I’ll never forget the first time I flew a hawk at Ashford Castle. I was just 26 years old and felt incredibly lucky to even be at the hotel — a real, true-life castle, once owned by the Guinness family."

Tell me more: Flying a hawk at Ashford Castle in County Mayo is indeed a unique experience. The Falconry School here is the oldest of its kind on the island of Ireland and is set in a quaint cottage on the castle grounds. With an instructor, each member of the group watches the hawk take flight from their gloved hand as it ascends into the trees, returning moments later for its meaty reward.

And while flying a hawk is a thrill in itself, Ashford Castle is a stunning location to do it in. Situated along the Wild Atlantic Way, the castle’s spectacular 350-acre estate is nothing short of breathtaking, with a magical setting on the edge of Lough Corrib. Inside, you’ll find an interior lavishly decked in period-style décor – no wonder it has attracted a wealth of famous guests including Pierce Brosnan, Rory McIlroy and Maureen O’Hara.

Travel expert: Condé Nast Traveler

The highlight: "The miraculously intact, 17th-century walls can barely contain the magnificent neo-Gothic churches, modern art galleries, and burgeoning culinary scene."

Tell me more: Where else can you literally walk on the foundations of 400 years of history? Welcome to the historic city of Derry~Londonderry, the only completely walled city on the island of Ireland and one of the finest in Europe. Forming a circumference of roughly 1.5km, the walls here were built between 1613 and 1618 and are crammed full of historic splendour and modern touches.

Take a walking tour to enjoy unique insights into a history filled with tales of sieges and roaring canons. Afterwards, stay a while and discover the rest of what Derry~Londonderry has to offer. Stop by the red-brick beauty known as the Guildhall, take a stroll around the Craft Village, walk the Peace Bridge and eat and drink to your heart's content at the Walled City Brewery.

Travel expert: Lonely Planet

The highlight: "Ireland’s Ancient East harbours a treasure trove of historical highlights ranging from prehistoric passage tombs to lively medieval towns and cities, magnificent monasteries and atmospheric ancient abbeys."

Tell more more: If you want to get in touch with the island of Ireland’s bygone heritage – Ireland’s Ancient East is the place to go.

Looking for some recommendations? The Viking city of Waterford is full of fascinating museums, and its signature “blaa” bread roll is a must-try food experience. For bird’s eye views and a tour through maritime history, it has to be a trip to County Wexford’s 800-year-old Hook Lighthouse. Spine-tingling stories await on County Cork’s Spike Island – once home to a monastery, fort and a prison full of dangerous convicts.

Travel expert: Brian Handwerk, National Geographic

The highlight:
"The woods of Tollymore Forest Park don't really hold White Walkers and direwolves, as they did when doubling for the Haunted Forest on Game of Thrones, but it’s easy to imagine such creatures here when you roam the trails and banks of the Shimna River."

Tell me more: It's no secret that Northern Ireland is Game of Thrones® Territory and with an abundance of film locations to explore – County Down's Tollymore Forest Park is a great place to start. Gothic-style gate arches beckon you in to this lush labyrinth, where you can embark on riverside rambles, woodland walks and explore trails across pretty stone bridges. 

When it comes to big-budget productions, you’ll find that the island of Ireland is never camera-shy. From galactic backdrops on several movies from the Star Wars franchise to Ireland's Ancient East's TV cameos on the Vikings series, Ireland's beauty is a worldwide hit. 

Travel expert: Time Out

The highlight: "Part walking tour, part performance, the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl offers visitors a chance to learn about Dublin’s literary heritage as two actors guide visitors through the city, performing pieces of famous works along the way."

Tell me more: The Irish are well known for their storytelling and friendly nature, so it’s no surprise that many of the island’s most famous writers frequented their local pubs for a pint and a chat.

In Dublin, James Joyce liked to hang out in Davy Byrne’s, Neary’s was a favourite of Brendan Behan and Flann O’Brien, and WB Yeats opted for Toner’s. What better way to celebrate the life and works of these amazing wordsmiths than with a toast in their favourite watering holes? Sláinte!

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