Ireland is a destination elopement location like no other. Incredible scenery, easy to navigate, fun night life and quaint towns in which to explore a rich history and culture. This guide will help you to answer the question ‘how to elope in Ireland’ with details, specifics and ultimate inspiration!
As an island the most popular way to get to Ireland is by plane. Far and away the most popular point of arrival in Ireland is Dublin’s international airport, located about 7 km north of the Irish capital. Dublin is the 12th busiest airport in Europe and has a host of direct international connections. As you would expect, Britain is the most popular destination and nearly every airport on that island has a direct flight to Dublin. There are flights to nearly every major European city as well as more than a dozen direct connections between North America. Because of Ireland’s geographic position it is one of the shortest flight times between North America and Europe. Flying from Boston to Dublin is about the same amount of time as flying from Boston to Los Angeles. This makes Ireland one of the easiest flights to Europe from North America. Like with all air travel, fares fluctuate wildly depending on many factors. In general fares are highest in the summer and lowest in the winter with an increase around Christmas time.
The second most popular airport on the island is the capital of the northern half of the island in Belfast. Belfast is mostly served by low cost carriers like EasyJet and Ryanair. The vast majority of flights are to various destinations in Britain. Although there are some flights to European mainland destinations. Since its only about 2 hours drive between Belfast and Dublin, it only really makes sense to fly into Belfast if you plan to visit the northern part of the island and want to save on insurance fees on car rentals.
There are also smaller airports in Cork and Shannon. Cork as of now in 2023 does not serve any destinations outside of Europe. Shannon however has regular flights to Boston and summer seasonal direct flights to New York and Chicago. Cork and Shannon are both about 3 hours driving time from Dublin, which is always going to have more offerings in terms of rental cars, which usually means cheaper rates. So it really only makes sense to fly into Shannon if you are limited on time and want to visit the Cliffs of Moher or the Dingle Peninsula in a rush. It is about one hour to Doolin, which is the main village for visiting the Cliffs of Moher from Shannon’s airport, whereas its about three and a half hours to Dublin.
The only other realistic way to get to Ireland for those with a fear of flying is to take a ferry. Four daily sailings connect Dublin with northern Wales at Holyhead. It takes just under four hours with a 30 minute check in time. Two sailings connect southern Wales at Pembroke with Rosslare which is two plus hours driving time from Dublin and just under three hours from Cork. A ferry connecting Dublin with Cherbourg France runs 5 days a week and takes over 18 hours. The cost is usually 41 euros for a foot passenger but up to $240 or more for the smallest of cars. The only real reason to take a ferry is if you want to bring your own car. This only really makes financial sense if you are staying for a long period of time as car rentals are usually cheaper.
For the inevitable question about what is the cheapest way to get Ireland. That is to swim. Ireland and Scotland are only 12 miles apart but the currents are strong mean you might swim up to 45 km and the current world record is 9 hours 9 minutes and 30 seconds.
In general getting around Ireland is most commonly done by renting a car. In the past public transport was quite poor across the island although it has improved significantly. Bus or train travel is certainly feasible and even a preferable way to get from major city to major city. However, most of Ireland’s major sites are outside of its cities. Most of the rail network is focused on connecting each part of the island to Dublin, so oftentimes connecting between other parts of the island can mean multiple changes and waits at various train stations. Outside of major cities bus travel becomes sparse to non-existent, and for this reason the majority of people rent cars.
There are really only a couple reasons why you would choose not to rent a car. The first is simply money. Fact is with rental fees, the price of gasoline and insurance costs, renting a car is clearly the most expensive option. The other reason is down to stress. Some people simply don’t feel comfortable driving in a different country and especially driving on a different side of the road. The other major reason for not renting a car would be if you are only going to visit the major cities of the country. Then the Irish public transportation system works fairly well.
Now is where I can state our honest opinion. You should probably rent a car in Ireland. If you are eloping in Ireland you are looking for a trip of a lifetime. You probably don’t want the grungy backpacker experience of sleeping in a dorm bed next to a stranger snoring while eating plain pasta you cooked in the shared kitchen on your honeymoon. Simply put, renting a car lets you get to the most beautiful corners of the island on your schedule. The only other way to visit the Ring of Kerry, the Dingle Peninsula or the Cliffs of Moher without a car is with 50 of your closest friends on a group bus tour.
The other way you could do it without driving is to hire a private car, which is far and away the most expensive option. You should only do this if you are absolutely terrified of driving yourself and here are a few reasons why you should not be. First is that every sign in Ireland is in English. It is also in Gaelic too but guessing if you are reading this blog you probably are not from Ireland and if you are not from Ireland you probably are not going to be able to read Gaelic. If you have every driven in a different European country most of the other signs are the same. It might be worth learning a few like no parking, blue circle with one slash line through it, but that is quite easy.
Now as for that left side of the road thing. Yes it is a bit confusing but you have a few things going for you here as well. Most of the places you are going are going to be small towns and rural areas. You do not need a car in Dublin but even if you drive in there it’s quite calm compared to most metropolitan areas. Your rent a car is probably going to have four different stickers on it reminding you to drive on the left. If you go slow and just keep reminding yourself that when turning right for example you need to go around that car stopped at the stop sign instead of turning in front of it, you will be fine.
By day two you probably will feel like a natural. The key is to not drive when you are tired. It is probably worth getting a hotel in Dublin for the day you arrive or two. Tired driving is as bad as drunk driving, which needless to say you absolutely should not do and in the same vein do not under any circumstances text and drive. Give the GPS directions to your partner. If you keep your eyes on the road and brain rested, it really is not that hard to switch sides on the road.
For other tips and tricks on traveling abroad more generally, check out this blog post I wrote!
The Cliffs of Moher are one of the most iconic images when many people think of an Ireland visit. In fact they rank as the second most visited site in Ireland. The most visited is the Guinness storehouse, which does not really qualify as an adventure elopement experience. For this reason the Cliffs of Moher are probably going to top choice for many couples that want to elope. The key here is that there are several ways to experience the Cliffs of Moher.
The first and most popular is at the Geopark Global visitor center. Here they have built a visitor center into the hillside. It has a shop selling trinkets, a small museum, mediocre cafe and tshirt shops. It is also massive parking lot that costs 4 euros, with a short walk across the road. The pros here are you can get a coffee, it is paved and wheel chair accessible with a golf cart ride up to O’Briens tower. It is also very safe with large stone tablets making a fence to keep you from the cliff edge. This can be good if you have kids, as children falling hundreds of feet into the sea is not a good elopement experience. The other major pro of the visitor center here is that it is right in the middle of the Cliffs of Moher, so you get good views in both directions. The cons are, you don’t feel like you are in a natural setting. It can get really crowded, especially in summer. If you visit here it should be either early in the morning or late in the afternoon after the tour buses have left. Then you could combine this visit with other parts of the cliffs that are less busy.
The other way to visit the Cliffs of Moher is to walk the entire length of them. If you are in good shape its only about 5 km from the visitor center to the southern end of the cliffs, but if you do not have a car at the other end it is going to be a decent walk back. Keep in mind that the trail is often quite muddy, so save the nice loafers at home and go with some waterproof boots instead for this walk. There are a host of other private car parks all along the cliffs. These are usually owned by local farmers who charge around 5 euros to park in various degrees of closeness to the cliffs. These areas are generally much less crowded the further away from the visitor center. In my opinion, if you want to elope in Ireland this is the way to do it!
Eventually about half way south the stone slab barrier ends and you can walk up to edge to heart’s, and nervous system’s desires. Be careful though as strong wind gusts are common and the grassy edge of the cliffs can be slippery. Some areas even allow you to hike down about halfway to the waters edge along a series of ledges if you are adventurous enough. Ask us how.
Because the Cliffs of Moher are Ireland’s second most popular tourist attraction with 1.5 million visitors each year, it can sometimes get overwhelming and feel less than natural. If you are the adventurous sort and want a more wild Atlantic Irish cliffs experience, we have a few ideas that we would love to talk to you about. Ireland has some of the best natural beauty in Europe with a culture to match and something to quench every elopement thirst.