Top Ireland experiences from Lonely Planet staff

Lonely Planet has produced this article for Tourism Ireland. All editorial views are those of Lonely Planet alone and reflect our policy of editorial independence and impartiality.

You might be a seasoned guidebook author, or you might be the person that designs the interface on the mobile apps – it hardly matters. If you work at Lonely Planet, people are guaranteed to ask you where you like to go when you travel. It’s okay, we do it too. An email sent around the company looking for travel tips will, without fail, result in suggestions that are personal, inspiring and full of character you might not get elsewhere.

If you’re dreaming of a trip to Ireland this year, let’s ask the office: what are Lonely Planet staffers’ favourite travel experiences in Ireland and what makes them special?

Cycling Connemara

‘My favourite experience in Ireland was cycling around the Connemara area, north of Galway. The scenery is stunning, the roads very bicycle-friendly and the locals were so welcoming. Nearly every time we stopped to check our map (most of the signage is in Gaelic), a farmer seemed to pop up out of nowhere to ask if we needed any directions!’ – Julie Sheridan

Visiting Newgrange

‘I felt chills down my spine as I contemplated the architectural elegance and spiritual significance of Newgrange, Ireland’s most-famous prehistoric site. It dates back to 3000 BC. If you’re feeling lucky, put in a ballot for the tickets to Winter Solstice. This is a once-a-year occurrence where morning light shines through the small shaft leading into the burial tomb and illuminates the dark room for 17 minutes.’ – Shawn Low

Surfing Strandhill

‘I go to Strandhill whenever I’m visiting family in Ireland to get a surf in – amazing coastline, and only marginally colder than the Southern Ocean (in their summer).’ – Sam Spruce

Stag's Head, Dublin

‘Enjoying a cult following among many Dubliners, the Stag's Head has remained relatively unchanged since 1895. Nights can quickly unfurl into madness here as you get chatting to other patrons and enjoying the craic. Beware: the Guinness really does taste better in Dublin and you can never out-drink a Dubliner.’ – Amy Gray

Solitude on Cape Clear Island

‘My two favourite things to do in Ireland are socialising with locals and enjoying solitude among gorgeous scenery. When I’m seeking quiet, I head to Cape Clear Island, off the southern coast of County Cork. I’ll spend days wandering around the lovely cliffs and isolated beaches, rarely running into another soul on the tiny island. It’s the perfect place to clear your head and revel in the scenery.’ – Candace Driskell

Modern Belfast

Belfast offers a great mix of new and old, with lots of modern restaurants and luxury shops as well as traditional music in pubs. I was lucky enough to be there on a Sunday to explore St George’s Market for some legendary soda bread and goat’s cheese ice cream, a delicious combination of two of my favourite things! In the afternoon, I got to enjoy the university quarter’s hip cafes and restaurants, including one that’s in a converted stable. Simply mingling with the locals was a great experience in itself because everyone was so friendly and enjoyed a good laugh!’ – Natalie Tan

Music in Dingle 

‘You can go out on ANY night in Dingle and hear some of the best Irish music you'll ever hear it's brilliant what young 19 year olds are doing with the traditional style. You'll go into a pub thinking you're too cool to like old music then end up whooping your head off.’ – Grainne Quinn

Exploring Galway City

Galway is a beautiful, cobblestoned city with energetic nightlife, amazing music and a wonderful, youthful population. It’s close to some amazing outdoorsy treasures, such as Connemara and the Aran Islands. It is the best place in Ireland to combine small-town Irish charm with big-city fun.’ – Candace Driskell

Inistioge and Woodstock Gardens

‘Of all southeast Ireland’s pretty country villages (and there are plenty), Inistioge is probably the most beautiful. After a stroll through the centre and a look at the arched stone bridge over the River Nore, we headed up to the landscaped gardens and woodland of Woodstock, just out of town. Wandering through the redwood plantation, one of the gardeners stopped to talk to us and after a few minutes offered to drive us round the large grounds on his mini-tractor. We jumped at the chance and had an unconventional guided tour of the whole place, with an incredibly friendly guide, before enjoying morning tea and scones in the glass conservatory cafe.’ – Cliff Wilkinson

Have you been to Ireland? If a friend asked you for your favourite Irish travel experience, what would you say?