The Inn: Dublin is the most likely arrival point for U.S. visitors by air. But while many travelers are coming into the same city, you can have a completely unique experience by staying in this historical pub and inn. (Yes, it’s still a functioning pub!) The refurbed Victorian home is handily located near Trinity College. Even more convenient is the fact that you can amble downstairs for an Irish whiskey and some pub grub—if the full Irish breakfast hasn’t quite done the trick, of course.
What to Do: There are the usual Dublin haunts, like the Guinness Storehouse, Jameson Distillery and Temple Bar. Literary types can explore Trinity College, former home to Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker and Samuel Beckett, among others, plus the Writer’s Museum and the James Joyce Center. (The plane ride over is the perfect time to brush up on some Irish lit.)
The Inn: Along the edge of Lough Don, burrowed deep in the Wicklow Mountains, is this luxurious lodge-like B&B. Crisply outfitted rooms with high ceilings, private porches and heated floors feel downright lush out here in the country. And the views are unbeatable, with undulating tree-topped hills flowing into a craggy mountain range, including the beautiful if unpronounceable Carrigeenshinna, Clonhogue and Ballinrush.
What to Do: Wicklow is for nature lovers, hikers and adventurers. Rivers, small lakes and walking paths dot the ancient countryside, and walking paths thread through wild open lands. Plus golfers have a dozen courses to choose from, including the top-ranked European Club, known for its forever-long greens and sea views. Pro-tip: Get a tee time well in advance.
The Inn: The Newtown Farm Country House boasts cozy rooms with thoughtful touches like complimentary Wi-Fi, in-room tea service, and even a dry-heat sauna, well-suited for chilly, windy nights. Past guests have given the inn thumbs up for their warm welcomes and Irish-to-a-T breakfasts of soda bread, local cheese and fresh eggs sourced straight from the on-site hens.
What to Do: Yes, you can visit the factory that produces Waterford’s world-famous crystal, including a peek at the Master Blowers at work (and a pit stop in the gift shop, of course). For something a little less spendy, walk the Lismore Castle Gardens, explore the nearby Irish Medieval Museum or stroll among the picturesque ruins of St. Declan’s Monastery overlooking the Irish Sea.
The Inn: Overlooking Cork Harbour in the distance is this country home, known for warm service and a super-relaxed setting. Cozy rooms come with fireplaces and ensuite bathrooms. But it’s the gardens of Glencairn are the real draw here. An abundance of floral life in every shade, clusters of plants and emerald hedges, and towering trees offer shade and sun and space. That stack of Joyce you bought back in Dublin? Grab a cup of strong Irish breakfast tea—this is spot to enjoy them.
What to Do: Cork is a sprawling historical city with notable sites like Blackrock Castle and Cork City Gaol (and yes, the Blarney Stone is nearby). For lunch, visit the English Market, a quirky marketplace where travelers can grab local favorites like Irish cheddar to artisan breads.
The Inn: The Sea Breeze lodge is a five-star stunner. Think dark walnut floors and clean modern design, walk-in rain showers and memory-foam king beds. The wide-open rooms are well-suited to the Irish sunshine and Galway air that gives this inn its name. And located just west of Galway City, the Sea Breeze is a great launching point for day trips to the Cliffs of Moher and the mystical Aran Islands.
What to Do: The New York Times called Galway Ireland’s “most charming city,” and you certainly can’t fault its walkable alleys and historical pubs. Go barhopping and you’ll find the Galway favorite, fish and chips, at any number of spots. Don’t forget to douse the crisp, hot local cod in as much malt vinegar as you can stand.
The Inn: Whether you're tuckered out from days of driving or you’ve just camped the rugged Aran Islands for a night, this Georgian country lodge in Clifden is purpose-built for an elegant, relaxed stay. Ten en-suite guestrooms are at the helm of owner Mary Corbett, a singer, musician and chef who serves up Irish breakfasts and tour recommendations. Request a packed picnic lunch for your daily travels.
What to Do: Clifden has horseback trails, walking paths, water activities and even surfing. Feeling real adventurous? Local outfitters can set you up with a day of coasteering, a high-octane combo of swimming, rock climbing, and cliff jumping as you explore the West Ireland’s gullies, caves, and coast.
The Inn: Right along the Great Western Greenway (more on that below) is the contemporary B&B of Abbey Court. The guesthouse is centrally located in Westport proper. Stays are pleasant, affordable and filled with “little luxuries,” from its open fireplace to filling breakfasts. Countless reviewers call out hosts Kate and Maurice’s helpful advice and friendly touches (just like staying at the home of old friends, they note).
What to Do: Wesport is home to the Great Western Greenway, one of Ireland’s most notable walking and cycling trails, where you can trace the steps of St. Patrick himself. Hike Croagh Patrick, called The Holy Mountain for its religious significance to the Irish. Take a tour of Westport House, a grand 1700s estate with a rich history of pirate queens and wealthy intrigue and view out to Croagh Patrick.
The Inn: This farmhouse-turned-inn offers peace and quiet beyond measure, from its walkable gardens to its homey interiors. The on-site organic farm produces high-quality breakfast ingredients that put to shame the everyday fry-up. Expect local honey, fresh baked breads, and perfectly poached free-range eggs, courtesy of the resident hens. Past guests have called the farmlands idyllic, just the spot for lakeside walks, birdwatching, or just admiring the view from the sunny lounge.
What to Do: Cycling is a hit along this swath of the Irish Midlands. The Old Rail Trail and the Royal Green Canalway offer kilometers of winding converted pathways. Hikers can embark on a woodland walk among the Mullaghmeen Forest’s conifer-lined trails or the mystical Hill of Uisneach. And Dublin is just under an hour east, so a quick drive brings you back to the airport—if you ever decide to leave Ireland, of course.