Ireland remains a destination where travelers can escape the chaos of contemporary life, according to Frommer's author Yvonne Gordon, whose comprehensive and freshly updated Frommer's Ireland just hit bookstore shelves.
Traumatized by traffic, packed airports, and hordes of selfie snappers? In Ireland, "you can sometimes have a whole hiking trail or beach to yourself," Gordon told us.
Of course, that doesn't mean the upheavals of the pandemic and tourism's bumpy return haven't had an impact on the country. In fact, a big part of Gordon's work involved tracking restaurant and hotel closures ("surprisingly very few," the author reports with relief), changes in attractions' hours of operation, and other modifications made in Covid's wake.
As in most parts of the world, understaffing and increased prices present their challenges—though, with regard to the latter, Gordon points out that the new Frommer's book "has lots of free stuff and budget-saving tips."
We caught up with Gordon via email to get the lowdown on what's new in Ireland, where to go when you have limited time, and why the country's landscapes, history, and culture form such a uniquely rewarding combo.
Our exchange, edited for length and clarity, follows.
(Slieve League cliffs in County Donegal, Ireland | Credit: MNStudio / Shutterstock)
FROMMER'S: First, tell us a little about your background.
YVONNE GORDON: I am Irish, born and raised in Dublin. I have been traveling all over Ireland since I was very young and have been writing about Ireland professionally for around 15 years.
What about the place inspires you?
YG: Ireland is one of those places where, when you arrive at a spot, you discover so much more than you expected—not only is the landscape beautiful but you stumble on so many layers of history, archaeology, geology, and folklore. Everywhere has ancient ruins, folk stories, and then culture like music, dance, and art, plus lively pubs, festivals, farmers markets. It’s a great challenge to capture all of this in the pages of the guidebook and inspire someone to visit.
What's some new stuff in the guidebook that you're excited to share with readers?
YG: So many new attractions have opened in the past few years. In Dublin, there's the MoLI (Museum of Literature Ireland) and the new whiskey distilleries that you can tour. We have also included visitor experiences like Dublin's 14 Henrietta Street, a moving tour which takes you through the life of a Georgian house, including the tenement years.
There are lots of great new hotels and restaurants focusing on Irish food and local, seasonal ingredients. One outcome of the pandemic was that streets in Dublin and Cork have been pedestrianized so there are new great options for outdoor dining.
(Colorful doors in Dublin | Credit: Delpixel / Shutterstock)
If you were going to show a first-time visitor around Ireland for, say, a week, where would you go?
YG: I would take you to the West of Ireland, somewhere along the Wild Atlantic Way, so you get to experience the beautiful coastal scenery. But rather than doing a big road trip, we would pick one or two areas, say around Connemara and Mayo, and stay in each area for a few days to soak it all up.
Days would be filled with local drives, hikes, picnics, perhaps a boat trip or a kayaking trip. Evenings would be finding restaurants with great local food and traditional music sessions in pubs.
As a matter of fact, my next Ireland trip will be surfing in the west—the best waves are in winter.
Besides getting a copy of Frommer's Ireland, what's a good way to prepare for a trip to the country?
YG: Another pandemic outcome has been the online school called Scoil Scairte that takes place once a week during the fall and winter. It's based around promoting the Irish language and culture with spoken sessions, music, singing, poetry.
People sign in from all over the world and it can be quite moving seeing everyone singing along, or trying to get to grips with Irish words and grammar. The next course starts in early October. It’s a good way to get to know the Irish culture and craic while planning your next trip to Ireland.