Irish eyes will be smiling for us once more when the Emerald Isle reopens to tourism from outside the E.U. on July 19. It’s just in time to savor the last couple months of the glorious Irish summer and early autumn. With average high temperatures in the 60s, it’s a beautiful place to escape the heat. The island shimmers with greenery throughout the long summer days, making an indelible impression on travelers’ memories. Dublin is a great place to start to learn about the country’s history and culture before you set out into the countryside. As the Irish will tell you, if you’ve only seen Dublin, you haven’t seen Ireland. A great way to do so is by car, starting in the east with Dublin and ending in Shannon in the west (or vice versa), preclearing U.S. customs on your way out.

Visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the capital to see where the country’s patron saint baptized converts to Christianity and admire the illuminated manuscript of the Book of Kells at Trinity College. Get some fresh air in the urban oases of Phoenix Park and St. Stephen’s Green or walk in the footsteps of great writers such as Oscar Wilde and William Butler Yeats, or their characters, such as James Joyce’s Leopold Bloom, who mused that a “good puzzle would be to cross Dublin without passing a pub.” While a computer programmer has figured out that such a thing can be done, there’s no reason not to stop in for a pint at the Guinness Brewery or Temple Bar area.

Proceeding clockwise around the island from Dublin, you’ll encounter Kilkenny and Waterford. Kilkenny is home to an 800-year-old Norman castle and eye-catching architecture from several periods, including the Tudor, Georgian and Victorian eras. It’s also known for its modern cultural aesthetic, with art galleries, design workshops and theaters making it a popular destination. Waterford retains well-preserved sections of city walls and towers. The Waterford Crystal Visitor Centre allows tour guests to see master craftspeople shape the world-famous crystal into intricate designs. On your way west, stop at the Rock of Cashel, a group of buildings at the ancient seat of the kings of Munster.

The Republic of Ireland’s second-largest city, Cork has a much more intimate feel than the much-larger Dublin and is a great place for a walking tour. One of County Cork’s best walks is the distillery trail at the Jameson Heritage Centre, where you can learn all about the famous whiskey and sample a dram or two. In the southwest corner of the island lie the 110 miles of the Ring of Kerry, a 110-mile loop beginning in Killarney that takes you through charming villages, past castles and into ancient wilderness. Less crowded and no less beautiful is the Dingle Peninsula, a natural gem rich in archaeological sites.

Offering striking views and excellent hiking, the Cliffs of Moher rise as high as 700 feet above Galway Bay and the North Atlantic. Farther inland, the Burren is an entrancing moonscape of desolate beauty formed of the rocks that give rise to the cliffs. Dozens of large neolithic tombs are scattered throughout the area, dating back thousands of years. Continuing north, you come to the lively city of Galway, a center of traditional Irish language and music. Thanks to its status as a university town, Galway boasts some of Ireland’s best nightlife and serves a centrally located base for venturing on the 1,550-mile Wild Atlantic Way.

A mix of wilderness and quaint villages, the counties of Mayo, Sligo and Donegal are a great way to conclude your Irish odyssey. Attractions include the mountains of Connemara National Park, Achill Island and the 2,500-foot Croagh Patrick, a pilgrimage site dedicated to the patron saint. Towns of note are the carefully designed Westport, William Butler Yeats’ boyhood home of Sligo and historical Ballina, a key site in the Irish Rebellion of 1798.

COVID entry protocols

If a passenger has valid proof of vaccination, no travel-related testing or quarantine will be necessary.

If passenger does not have valid proof of vaccination, they will need to:

  • present evidence of a negative RT-PCR test result within 72 hours prior to arrival into the country

  • self-quarantine

  • undergo post-arrival testing

Should the U.S. be added to Ireland’s “emergency brake” list, the protocols would apply:

If passenger has valid proof of vaccination, they will need to:

  • produce a negative result from a RT-PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before arrival

  • undergo self-quarantine

  • undergo post-arrival testing – this will be provided through the HSE

If passenger does not have valid proof of vaccination, they will need to:

  • produce evidence of a negative result from a PCR test undertaken no more than 72 hours before arrival

  • undergo mandatory hotel quarantine

  • undergo post-arrival testing

Where to stay

The Merrion Hotel

The Merrion, Dublin’s most stylish five-star hotel, is set in the city center. Housed in four Georgian townhouses and a contemporary Garden Wing, its bedrooms and suites surround two 18th-century-style gardens. Stunningly restored interiors provide the perfect backdrop for one of Ireland’s most impressive private art collections. Choose from three dining options: Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud (Ireland’s only two-Michelin-starred restaurant), The Garden Room restaurant, and The Cellar Bar. Art Afternoon Tea service is available in the gracious Georgian drawing rooms. Indulge in a massage or facial in the new Merrion Spa & Health Club.

Mount Juliet Estate

There is a legacy to the Mount Juliet experience that stretches far beyond the luxury of the bedrooms and the decadence of the dining options. Perhaps you feel the urge to thunder through open pastures and traipse across woodland trails on horseback. Maybe you want to feel the tug on your line and the splash from the River Nore as a salmon takes your bait. And have you ever felt the singular rush of an arrow flying forth from your bow or a falcon swooping down to land at your command? We offer a unique range of activities on the estate, unparalleled in the way they combine deep-seated historical traditions with the best modern equipment.

Sheen Falls Lodge

Sheen Falls Lodge, in verdant southwest Ireland, is a privately owned country house retreat. Guests are treated to a magnificent natural holiday and are encouraged to explore the surrounding woodlands, Sheen River, and cascading waterfalls while enjoying hiking, biking, horseback riding, salmon fishing, falconry, and kayaking. There are numerous championship and parkland golf courses nearby, some with breathtaking views of the sea. If the spa lifestyle is more your cup of tea, head to the Easanna Wellness & Spa for treatments using Elemis and Voya organic products, or take a dip in the indoor swimming pool.

Ashford Castle

Through the grand stone gates, a royal adventure begins. This remarkable 800-year-old castle, widely recognized as Ireland’s top castle destination and once home to the Guinness family, is exceptional in every sense. Set in 350 acres of woodland on the shores of Lough Corrib in County Mayo, the property has received multiple awards and accolades. Enjoy extraordinary dining experiences and fine Irish cuisine, watch hawks soar at Ireland’s first school of falconry, and restore inner peace at the state-of-the-art spa. Warm smiles from the extraordinary characters of the castle will greet you at every turn.Ireland’s only Forbes Five Star Hotel.