Travel tips

Maps and Guides | By Air | Cars, Trains, etc. | accommodation
Climate and clothing | Not only megaliths | Other Web sites

"It's a long way to Tipperary, it's a long way to go". When you set out you must go alone. There are no maps of the way to Tipperary. Your only compass is your own heart. Trust that!
So wrote the Irish poet Desmond O'Grady in 'Tipperary'. Open to any kind of traveller, from the young person travelling cheaply with a sleeping bag to the wayfarer who can afford a noble night in a castle, Ireland doesn't need a long tourist presentation. In these short travel tips, we only want to give some advice, enriched by our personal experience; the simple experience of a travelling couple with only a few pounds and a lot of curiosity. It's up to you to discover the beauty of Ireland, from the middle of a stone circle or inside a crowded pub, with 'your own heart' as a compass.

Maps and guides. In order to better plan your journey, we suggest to buy and examine a map of Ireland in advance. In Europe it's easy to find the right Michelin map (sheet 405, Ireland/Irlande, 1:400.000). It has got a good index, a lot of road and tourist indications (megalithic monuments included), a nice price and it is easy to fold up. However, the key is in English, French, Irish and German, but not in Italian, Spanish and Portuguese; after a journey under the inevitable Irish rain it will be drenched with water and hard to be read near the creases. We also suggest buying more detailed maps locally.
In our opinion, the best guide is Ireland - The Rough Guide.Excellent, extremely helpful and packed with great info and intelligent notes, the Rough Guides are easy to find both in Europe and in US. They are often updated: be sure you are buying the very last edition. In Ireland, you can find more other very good and detailed guides as well.

Cars, trains, etc. We rented a car in Dublin. It is possible to rent a car in Ireland (remember that at the airport it costs more than in town) or to buy a 'fly and drive' offer from a tour operator in your country. This second choice helps save time and trouble as soon as you have arrived (the car is ready at the airport). Cars, even small, are good; they usually have a radio and cassette player, so be prepared to take some music cassettes with you. Be careful: of course, Irish, as British, drive on the opposite side. We suggest you take great care particularly in the first days and always at roundabouts. And don't forget your seat belt: in Ireland it's not considered an option as in Italy and in other countries.
Another little tip: take from home a parking disc. They don't give it to you with the rented car, but it is very useful in parking areas in town. After the first fine, we prepared such a handmade message: 'The car is rented. They didn't give us a parking disc. Please, don't give us any fine. We are coming back as soon as possible. Thank you!'.
It is also possible to travel by train or coach. For both a variety of reduced fare tickets and travel passes of various validity are available. And they are a good way to meet and talk to local people.

accommodation. We have always slept in Bed and Breakfasts. Often located in splendid places, not expensive, B&Bs are almost everywhere and they help in meeting local people. A lot of foreign travel agencies offer vouchers you can spend in B&Bs and country houses. We liked better choosing our B&B daily, in order to be free to go step by step. Even if we were in Ireland during the most crowded period of the year (in summer), without any reservation, we always managed to find a room.
Some tips on etiquette: in case of 'vacancies', ring the bell and ask to have a look at a the room; if you don't like the place you are always free to say goodbye and look for another B&B (we never did). Usually it is better to look for a room before 6/6:30 in the afternoon. They will ask you at which time you'd like your breakfast (generally it will be served between 8 and 9:30 a.m. so forget lazing in bed in the morning). Breakfast is plentiful: cereal with milk, orange juice, tea or coffee, toast, butter, jam, eggs with bacon and tomatoes or baked beans. At last, never forget you are a guest in a private home: your manners are a kind of message you send about your country.

Weather and clothing. Irish people go around in short sleeves and enjoy any faint ray of sun, but for us Mediterraneans Ireland is cold and it rains unbelievably often. In a megalithic expedition we suggest wearing warm and comfortable clothing. Special regard to shoes is important to avoid slipping and for walking easily for a long time in soggy soil. In summer, it's better to dress in a so-called 'onion style', that is several layers of clothes. A K-way or a waterproof jacket is a must, even if there are no clouds at all in the sky. Try and you'll see.

Not only megaliths. Several megalithic monuments and a lot of castles, abbeys and historic buildings are in the care of Historic Scotland, a public institution that preserves more than 270 historic sites. The National Trust for Scotland is similar, but private. To enter some monuments you have to buy an admission ticket. If you plan to visit more than one monument in your wanderings, you'll do better buying a weekly ticket. Both Historic Scotland Explorer tickets and National Trust Touring tickets are available for single adults or for families and for various days. The Explorer we bought in 1990 for 6 pounds and it was valid for two weeks. Anyway, in our opinion it is a wonderful way to preserve a country heritage: we appreciated very much the excellent work that the Historic Scotland and the National Trust do.

Other Web sites. If you'd like to know more about travelling in Scotland, we suggest visiting the following Web sites:

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All photographs © Diego Meozzi (