Ireland is a favorite destination for all different types of travelers, but for solo female travelers, I feel like Ireland is such a great place to start. It doesn’t matter if you are a fresh-faced twenty-something or beyond middle-aged; there is something to do for every travel style that makes Ireland one of my top picks for first-time adventurers as well as seasoned travelers.
Ireland is great for all travel types
While I do think it’s a particularly friendly place for solo female travelers, I never hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking for a good adventure. Ireland has so much to offer everyone. These are just my top 14!
The people — When I talk about the friendliness of the Irish I don’t want to paint a stereotype or false picture. Generally, people are lovely and welcoming, helpful and kind. You’ll find more than one person who wants to sit and chat and tell stories. I’ve had bartenders sing me Frank Sinatra tunes, women who want to swap tattoo stories, and older men talk politics and history. From taxi drivers to bar patrons, I’ve been engaged in lovely, spirited, somber and hilarious conversations. I love it! But remember these are just people living their lives, with the same joys and struggles you experience, in sometimes over-touristed areas. Always be respectful, meet people where they are and be courteous.
Safety — No country is 100 percent safe from crime, so always practice diligence with your personal safety. I have been to Ireland twice, once with a friend and once on my own. I traveled to seven cities and drove 1,100 miles solo, and only met lovely, welcoming people. I went on two dates on my last trip, and I felt very comfortable! I walked alone at night several times but always in well-lit, well-populated areas. If you are going out in the Temple Bar district in Dublin, be smart, just like you would in any larger city. Watch your drink, don’t over-indulge and keep an eye on your belongings.
History — Ireland has a deep history, and the people who live there know it well. If you are a history buff or love a good political debate, stop into any local pub and you can have a rousing conversation about both. Before my second trip, I took the time to dig into the history of Ireland a bit more so I at least had a general understanding of their timeline, struggles and triumphs.
Peat — I still dream about the smell of peat in a fire. If you go to Ireland in the cooler months, every bar, restaurant, hotel and I’m sure home will have a fire going with peat. It’s such a lovely, homey, warm smell, and I wish I could bottle it and bring it with me everywhere!
Activities — Ireland has no shortage of outdoor activities in this lush, rugged landscape. During my most recent trip in August of 2021, I spent most of my time outside. There are so many opportunities to bike, hike and swim at various points. My favorite hike was the Howth Cliff Walk, just south of Dublin. My favorite bike trip was around the Dingle Peninsula courtesy of Dingle Electric Bike Experience. And my favorite swim was at the Secret Tiny Beach (Ronan’s Beach) at the Howth Cliff Walk. I also hiked the Gap of Dunloe and wish I had gone on my own and not as part of a tour. The best part of the tour was a boat ride across three lakes in Killarney National Park, conducted by Gap of Dunloe Traditional Boat Tours. Donal was our tour guide, a third-generation guide with vast knowledge of the area and a rakish grin. I highly recommend it. You can book the boat tour independently or as part of other packages available on their site.
Nightlife — Walk into almost any pub in Ireland and it will be full of people having a good time. The Temple Bar area in Dublin is known for its nightlife and is often a highlight for tourists…but I love getting off the beaten path and finding locals who are watching a soccer match or celebrating an event. In 2016 my friend and I went in search of a bar in which to watch the U.S. Super Bowl and there it was, on a giant big screen in a little town called Carrick-On-Shannon. There was also a post-wedding reception happening! We had a fantastic time! (And watched very little of the game.) I really love The Long Hall in Dublin. South of Temple Bar by .34 of a mile (600 meters), this local favorite is gorgeous and fun!
Walkability — For the able-bodied, Irish cities are especially walkable. In Dublin specifically, you can do the city center, both north and south of the river, easily. For longer jaunts, the bus system is efficient and well-marked, and I used it frequently when in Dublin. When I was driving on my 12-day tour, I would park my car and walk the city center. Just make sure you LOOK LEFT before crossing the street. This is handily printed on many streets in Dublin!
Language — For English speakers, Ireland is a very easy country. Each part of the country has a slightly different accent. I found it amusing how some of the Dublin’ers I met said they had “no accent” even when I was clearly having a hard time catching every word. I am very slightly hard of hearing (especially in noisy restaurants or bars), so in some areas, I did have to have people repeat themselves. The west coast has a particularly lyrical cadence that is both lovely and a little harder for me to catch.
Accommodations — No matter where you go in Ireland, you have many options regarding the type of place you want to stay. In my detailed itinerary you can see exactly where I stayed and how much it cost. I primarily book through booking.com. I have stayed in three types of accommodations in Ireland.
- Hotels: Little explanation needed here! I have stayed in a couple, and they vary a lot by price and comfort. My favorite was the Heights Hotel in Killarney! I loved everything about this hotel from the quality of the food to the extra fluffy robe in the closet.
- Bed and breakfasts: These varied from a small (240 sq ft) room to a well-sized suite. These are rooms tucked into one building, more like bedrooms in a house than rooms in a hotel. I had my own private bathroom (en-suite), in-room amenities in most of them (coffee, water kettle, iron, fan), and then breakfast was offered in a small dining room in the morning. Breakfast was usually an added $8–10 euros, but for the convenience alone was totally worth it.
- Castles! On my first trip to Ireland, I booked a Groupon Getaway and stayed in castles for six nights. I didn’t even know then, that ONE NIGHT in peak season at one of the castles was almost the cost of my entire trip (airfare, rental car and accommodations included)! That being said, if you can find a good deal, staying in a castle 100 percent makes you feel like a princess.
Nature — I think I said “holy $%&*” about 1,000 times on both trips to Ireland. It truly is a magical place. One trip was in February during a cold snap, and it was still beautiful, even when it was cold, rainy, and gray. My second trip was in August, and it was perfect. Rolling green hills, wildflowers, steep cliffs and the green-blue ocean crashing the shoreline below. It’s a photographer’s dream and a nature lover’s utopia. Stop at any beach you come across; they all feel unique in their vibe and the landscape!
Architecture — One of my favorite parts of travel is exploring architecture, particularly in countries that are so much older than my own, and seeing the differences. When I first started traveling internationally there was so little I knew about the world. Not only exploring architectural styles but also roofing and window choices based on the climate, resources and history. It’s so fascinating! What I loved so much in Ireland were all the painted doors. So much of the United States is gray and beige; I was struck by the colors! I think I took 100 door pictures on my first visit!
Sheep! — Ok, ok, this might not amuse you as much as it did me, but as someone who has only seen sheep intermittently on farms or at our local zoo, seeing sheep everywhere brought me so much joy. I love their little painted behinds and stopped to talk to them at every opportunity. I swear I heard one say “dang tourists”…
Arts and culture — While I haven’t spent a lot of time discovering the arts and culture of every city I visited in Ireland, I particularly liked Waterford! Not only are they known for their Waterford Crystal, but they also have an annual mural festival called Waterford Walls. If you love street art, Waterford takes the prize for putting gorgeous murals all over town.
Solo-friendly — I spent 12 days on my own and covered 1,100 KMs. I spent three days in Dublin, then traversed the island by car. There were times I was exhausted, scared and wanted to cry. It IS stressful learning to drive on the opposite side of the road and navigate by yourself, but YES YOU CAN DO IT! Most of the time I was elated, excited and in awe of this beautiful country. All along the way, I met strangers and new friends who were happy to lend an ear, help me out, chat, offer suggestions and treat me like an old pal.
Summary: I highly recommend Ireland to any traveler, but for the solo female traveler, you can’t go wrong with Ireland.
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