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Ireland Vacations: Amazing Things to Do, See and Experience

From Galway to Dublin, Cork to Belfast and more, find out what an HGTV editor thinks are some of the best things to do in Ireland.

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Photo: Andres Poveda/Guinness Storehouse

A Tour From Tip to Tail

Crisscrossing Ireland in a rental car is not really such a bad way to go when it comes to taking in the depth and breadth of Ireland. In a country roughly the size of Indiana, driving is a practical way to see a lot in a limited amount of time.

After landing in the eclectic, friendly big city of Dublin (and a stop at Guinness's Open Gate Brewery, shown here), our Irish journey took us from the extreme north of Giant's Causeway and the modern-history infused city of Belfast, to the artsy southern city of Cork and to the west, to Galway and Cong. Make up your own path through this lovely country, but make time to explore the many small villages and embrace the delightful surprises and people you'll find along the way.

From a car you can take in a number of cities and see the country's remarkable diversity of landscape: from green fields dotted with cows and sheep to the dramatic sea and coastline in a drive from the north to the south of the country. Best of all, a drive allows you to make wonderful discoveries along the way, like the charming garden shop and restaurant Strandfield we stumbled upon on the drive between Belfast and Cork, a combination florist, grocer, gift shop and farm-to-table cafe with gorgeous wood tables and vintage china where you can stop for tea and a snack, browse the curated, high-end groceries and giftware and marvel at the parking lot filled with country gentry and their Jags, Mercedes and Audis buying bread and flowers for their tables.

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Photo: Steve Larese

An Irish Odyssey

The result of an ancient volcanic eruption, the dramatic basalt columns at the remote Giant's Causeway (shown here) in Northern Ireland are Instagram gold, and a must-see among Ireland's many attractions, primarily because a drive there allows you to travel through any number of appealing towns and through beautiful countryside. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Giant's Causeway is also a wonderful opportunity to take in the grandeur and dramatic, cinematic desolation of the northern coast, as striking, lonely and beautiful as the American West.

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Photo: Dublin Literary Pub Crawl

Dublin: A Literary Pub Crawl

In the mood for a rousing, enlightening night out that combines two of Dublin's greatest passions: drinking and literature? More entertaining than any ordinary night at the theater, this almost two-hour Dublin Literary Pub Crawl roams through historic pubs and the grounds of Trinity College as actors travel along with the group recounting hilarious anecdotes, like the improbable night Dublin wit Oscar Wilde spent in a Colorado mining town during his 1882 American lecture tour, and excerpts from Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot and other works by renowned Irish writers. You'll gain incredible insight into Dublin itself, including its architecture and religious life and the role the city has played in the lives of writers. Ample time is given to down a pint (or two) at various historic pubs along the way where writers sipped and supped in this remarkable immersion in local high and low culture and the unmatchable humor and spirit of its citizenry.

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Photo: The Merrion Hotel

Dublin: The Merrion Hotel

Tucked into the heart of the city and all it has to offer, but with the feel of a tranquil escape a million miles away, The Merrion Hotel offers old world, understated luxury in a converted row of 18th century Georgian townhouses across from Ireland's prime minister's office that give the space the feeling of a private home. Discreet, warm and efficient service only add to the comfortable surroundings. The plush, beautifully designed rooms feature crisp Egyptian cotton linens and pretty Irish fabrics and an incomparably comfy bed along with marble baths with heated towel bars and every imaginable amenity you'd expect from a five-star hotel along with additional, unexpected touches like Merrion cord fasteners to keep your charging cords organized and a lovely linen cloth placed bedside for slippers. The hotel is home to Ireland's only two-star Michelin Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud and an additionall in-house restaurant when you feel like staying put as well as a fabulous bar with roaring fireplace and overstuffed chairs to wile away an hour or two. Adding to the sense of well-appointed elegance is the hotel's impressive collection of 19th and 20th century art, considered one of the largest private collections in the country, which hangs throughout the hotel. Guests can enjoy a free audio tour of the collection while staying at the Merrion.

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