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Live Talk: Ireland

Suzanne Rowan Kelleher answers your questions about Ireland.
/ Source: Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel

Ireland is one of the most beautiful and richly textured destinations, from the melancholy landscape of Connemara to the limestone plate that is the Burren to the "40 shades of green" fields, to the buzz of Dublin, Galway, and Cork. Moreover, Ireland presents a familiar face. The language is the same, if more lyrical, the faces and surnames seem familiar, the food is recognizable, the stout legendary, and the hospitality genuine. And indeed for many Irish Americans, a trip to Ireland is experienced as a kind of homecoming. It takes a while for this superficial reverie to wear off. And when it does, a less sentimental, truer face of Ireland shows itself. And this is when the country becomes truly exciting.

Fewer than four million people live in Ireland, and yet this small nation has a huge identity. When John F. Kennedy spoke in Dublin 40 years ago, he waxed lyrically about Ireland’s place in history. "No larger nation did more to keep Christianity and Western culture alive in their darkest centuries. No larger nation did more to spark the cause of independence in America, indeed, around the world. And no larger nation has ever provided the world with more literary and artistic genius. This is an extraordinary country."

Suzanne will be answered your questions Tuesday, June 29, at noon EST.

Suzanne Rowan Kelleher has spent a part of nearly every year since 1986 in Ireland. Over the years, she’s traveled the length and breadth of the island, staying in countless B&Bs and guesthouses, and also farmhouses, lighthouses, historic homes and majestic castles. She’s downed oysters in Clarenbridge (home of a famous Oyster Festival each summer), taken Gaelic courses in Donegal, spied the herd of deer in Dublin’s Phoenix Park, sat in on traditional music sessions in Clare, and watched the sunset from Dun Aengus, a prehistoric fort perched on the cliffs of Inis Mor.

Suzanne is the former Europe Editor of Travel Holiday magazine. Her travel and travel-related writings have appeared in American Baby, Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, Esquire, Cigar Aficionado,, Four Seasons, Newsweek, and Parents. She has written books on Paris and Ireland, including Frommer’s Ireland. She has lived for the past four years in a seaside village north of Dublin and is married with three children under age 6.

Click here to read Suzanne's article on eating like a local in Dublin.


Suzanne Rowan Kelleher: Hi everyone. I'm here a few minutes early and looking forward to your questions, so ask away.


Tacoma, WA: My family (2 adults, 2 teens) will be visiting Ireland in August. I read your excellent article in Budget Travel magazine on how to eat like a local in Dublin. We plan to spend only a day in Dublin (having spent a week there last year) and were planning instead on touring other parts of the country. What restaurants in other parts of Ireland would you consider not-to-be-missed?

Suzanne Rowan Kelleher: If eating out and finding great restaurants is a big priority during your stay, you should definitely head for Cork—both the city and the county. It is the culinary hotbed of Ireland and has more excellent restaurants per capita than Dublin.

It also has some of the most stunning scenery—I’m particularly smitten with the darling villages that dot the intricate coastline of West Cork—and you could easily spend a week or two touring just County Cork and leave feeling that you’d experienced something very special indeed. Here are some of my favorite places to eat. Each is worth a special trip:

In Cork City: *The Ivory Tower, The Exchange Buildings, Princes St. Tel 021/427-4665. For the adventurous. The chef is an American, Seamus O’Connell, who is a wild man in the kitchen. Known for his highly original pairings of ingredients, which can seem impossible when you read them on the menu, yet somehow his dishes all work wonderfully and your taste buds are left bedazzled (and very happy). *Jacob’s on the Mall, 30a South Mall. Tel 021/425-1530. Foodies love this place for the very creative, yet subtle, cooking. Fantastic fish and salads, never a bad meal. *Café Paradiso, 16 Lancaster Quay. Tel 021/427-7939. Calling it the country’s best vegetarian restaurant doesn’t do it justice. It’s one of the best restaurants, period. *Jacques, Phoenix St. Tel 021/427-7387. Never mind the uninspired décor; the cooking here is out of this world. Classic continental fare, done better than just about everywhere else.

In West Cork: *Good Things Café, Ahakista Road, Durrus. Tel 027/61426. Tiny place using West Cork’s fabulous produce—cheese, veggies, meat, fish—and transforming it into amazing meals. Has become a “must” on foodie lists practically overnight. *O’Callaghan-Walshe, The Square, Rosscarbery. Tel 023/48125. Amazing wild fish dishes. Don’t miss the mashed spuds—guaranteed to be the best you’ve ever had in your life. *Otto’s Creative Catering, Bandon. Tel 023/40461. Dreams up original dishes like lasagne made with sea spinach and goat’s cheese—and makes them work magnificently. A real foodie’s destination. *Mary Ann’s, Castletownshend. Tel. 028/36146. This adorable little pub on the steep main drag of Castletownshend gets my vote for best pub grub in all of Ireland. Seafood salads, West Cork cheese plates, scallops meunière, sirloin steak with garlic butter, deep-fried prawns. Yum.

In East Cork: *Grapefruit Moon, Main St., Ballycotton. Tel 021/464-6646. Lovely room, superb classic cooking, with just enough flair ingredients to make things interesting. *Ballymaloe House, Shanagarry. Tel 021/465-2531. Pretty much single-handedly responsible for the rebirth of Irish country house cooking, which is now copied so ubiquitously. They still set the standard, though. Fabulous meals, using the best local produce. *Aherne’s, 163 N. Main St., Youghal (pronounced Yawl). Tel 024/92424. They do wonderful things with fresh seafood. Classic stuff, expertly executed.Also, in Dingle, County Kerry: *The Chart House, The Mall, Dingle. Tel 066/915-2255. One of the “It” restaurants on the west coast. Terrific modern Irish cooking. I have sent so many people here and nobody has ever been disappointed. In fact, the comment I hear most is that dinner in the Chart House was the best meal of the entire trip.

Bon appetit!


Cleveland, OH: I just came back from a trip to Ireland and (like many before me) have fallen in love with the country and its people! I would be interested in purchasing a home in County Kerry or Cork. What rules, if any, apply to such purchases by a US citizen?

Suzanne Rowan Kelleher: As far as I am aware, there are no regulations on buying a property that would apply to a US citizen that wouldn’t apply to an Irish one. But I would advise you to do your homework before buying anything. Obtaining planning permission to build on a site or extend an existing home can be frustrating. You have to submit your designs to the local county council, which tends to be quite strict about the kind of house and building that can be done. Also, be aware that purchasing an existing house means that you’ll have to pay “stamp duty,” which is a government tax added on to the purchase price of anything from 5%-10%. But if you’ve looked into all of that, then go for it! Having a little bolthole in the West of Ireland would be my idea of Heaven, too!


Spring City, PA: Hello, my wife and I will be in Dublin for the night of our 10th anniversary. Can you recommend a romantic spot for dinner? Thank you!

Suzanne Rowan Kelleher: Congratulations on your anniversary!

Here are two of my favorite romantic places to eat in Dublin: *One Pico, 5-6 Molesworth Ct, Tel 01/676-0300. About a 5-minute walk from Stephen’s Green, this is a sophisticated, grown-up, classy place, with excellent service and fantastic food. Favorite dishes include a starter of seared foie gras with pineapple tatin; Main dishes are also interesting, running along the lines of scallops with baby beetroot and lime, confit of duck with fig tatin, and beef with Roquefort ravioli. *Jacob’s Ladder, 4-5 Nassau St, Tel 01/670-3865. Inspired cooking by chef-owner Adrian Roche and a stylish dining room with great views over Trinity College make this one of the most consistently packed places in town. Roche’s forte is taking old Irish stalwarts and updating them into sublime signature dishes. Service is terrific and you get great value for your money, especially as this is one of the few upscale restaurants that hasn’t upped its prices in the past year.


Loleta CA: Please tell me what to pack in regards to clothing for a trip to Ireland in July. Thank you for the help.

Suzanne Rowan Kelleher: Sunny days may get roasting hot (though maybe not as hot as in California), but evenings will be undeniably chilly, especially on the coast, so you’ll need layers that can be easily added/subtracted. Also, July can be very unpredictable for rainfall, so bring a waterproof jacket of some sort. (My favorite is the kind that can be rolled up and stuffed into its own kangaroo pouch. It takes up very little suitcase space and fits the bill).


Hartford, CT: I'm planning a trip to Ireland for March 2005. There are some great deals right now for travel but would I be likely to get a better deal if I waited until the fall or even later to book it? I know I want to pre-book at least air/car and possibly pre-book B&B stays also. This will be my 3rd trip to Ireland and I want to be able to be as flexible as possible when I'm there.


Suzanne Rowan Kelleher: Springtime is usually packed with deals, so my advice would be to wait until 3-4 months before you go. Prices almost certainly will fall. To find a great fly-drive deal, sign up for “travel alert” emails from online agents like,,, and keep checking into this website’s Deals File. It’s amazing what cheap offers pop up from time to time.

I have also had excellent first-hand experience with two good tour operators specializing in Ireland. Sceptre Tours regularly offers combined airfare, car rental, and/or accommodations packages at very reasonable rates (tel. 800/221-0924; And Lismore Travel is a favorite of the Irish community living in the U.S. (tel. 800/547-6673 or 212/685-0100).


Louisville, KY: I don't have a question, but I wanted to thank you for Budget Travel's coverage and suggestions about Ireland. I had always wanted to see Ireland, and last year, because of a suggestion from your magazine, found an affordable trip there through SceptreIreland. My boyfriend and I spent 6 wonderful days driving through mainly the southwest portions of the country. We met many wonderful people, had delicious food and saw breathtaking sites. We so enjoyed the trip, we have been planning a return, and we owe it all to Budget Travel--thanks again!

Suzanne Rowan Kelleher: On behalf of Budget Travel, you're welcome. And as you can see from the previous response, we continue to sing the praises of Sceptre. But your comment is probably the best recommendation out there.


St. Louis, Missouri: My boyfriend and I will be taking a trip in August to Ireland. This will be the first for both of us. I have picked up several brochures on Ireland and I have no idea where to start. We won't be there long and want to hit as much as we can. Can you suggest some "must see" destinations?

Suzanne Rowan Kelleher: First off, you should definitely buy a guidebook. (May I recommend Frommer’s Ireland 2004, which I wrote?) You’ll recoup what you spend many times over with the advice on how to save money, where to stay, what to see, where to eat, and so on.

I always tell people with limited time in Ireland to head for the west coast, which is a snap if you fly into Shannon airport. The west is the Ireland that most visitors imagine in their mind’s eye and hope to experience. Rent a car, then you can start just about anywhere (say, Westport, in County Mayo—further north if you have more than 10 days, further south if you have less time) and simply travel down the coast.

Highlights include:*the mystical, melancholy, magic Connemara region, which is spread over part of Counties Mayo and Galway; *Galway City, the arts capital of Ireland; *Doolin (for traditional music in McGann’s pub!), the Burren, and Cliffs of Moher, all in County Clare; *the Dingle Peninsula, Ring of Kerry, and Kenmare, all in County Kerry; *the Beara Peninsula, Kinsale, and Cork City, all in County Cork.

You can scale back if you don’t have time to do it all, and I would heartily recommend taking the time to relax and soak up the atmosphere in these places instead of barrelling through them. The beauty of Ireland is as much about the people as the scenery.


Forty Fort, PA: I fell in love with Ireland, particularly the charming fishing village of Kinsale. Can you suggest similar places near the sea?

Suzanne Rowan Kelleher: I adore Kinsale, County Cork, too, and it is my mother's very favorite place in Ireland after several visits. Let’s see. If I were to compile a list of other too-charming-for-words seaside towns, it would include:

Dalkey, County Dublin: Just 8 miles south of Dublin, but a world away from the capital’s crush. Picture an impeccably-kept hamlet with a 15th-century castle, a 9th-century Romanesque church, and a turn-of-the-century main street, all set upon a rugged collision of cliffs and sea. Tiny, with fewer than a dozen restaurants, 6 pubs, and a handful of smart boutiques and sophisticated art galleries.

Carlingford, County Louth: What a pleasant surprise, up in lackluster Louth. An adorable, tiny medieval village with castle ruins right on the bay, excellent eateries, and pedestrian-friendly lanes filled with colorful shops, cafes, and pubs.

Kenmare, County Kerry: If you’re driving the Ring of Kerry, this is the most charming base camp you could wish for. The “little nest” has a blessed location at the mouth of the River Roughty on Kenmare Bay (not quite the seaside, but within spitting distance!), and is loaded to the gills with flower boxes, enchanting shops, and places to eat.

And my favorite of all, Westport, County Mayo: It's never a surprise in Ireland when someone says Westport is his favorite town—it's small and bursting. Someday it might explode into a city, but for now Westport remains a hyperactive town that somehow manages to be as friendly and welcoming as a village.


Sugar Land, TX: Hi Suzanne. I've been reading about President Bush's visit to Ireland for the EU-US Summit and it looks like he got a rough reception by the Irish. Is there a lot of anti-American sentiment in Ireland these days? I was hoping to visit Ireland this summer.

Suzanne Rowan Kelleher: In my four years of living here, I haven’t really ever sensed that the Irish dislike Americans. In fact, I've found them to be an extremely friendly lot. There's a lot of American culture that they like. They watch American TV programs, go see Hollywood movies, and admire American entrepreneurism and innovation.

How they feel about current US foreign policy is another thing, however. Opinion polls show that the Irish don’t like the Bush administration’s stance on many issues, including its handling of the war in Iraq. The demonstrations you read about during Bush’s visit were led mainly by anti-war groups.

Still, you need to realize that the Irish (like most Europeans) are quite grown up about politics and are able to make a distinction between the American people and their government’s foreign policy. I’d be surprised—make that downright shocked—if you encountered any anti-American sentiment at all during a visit to Ireland.


Scituate, MA: My sister and I are planning a trip to Ireland next spring. The trip's purpose will be to trace our Irish roots and find out as much as we can about our ancestors and where they came from. I know we can hire paid researchers, but we really want to do the work ourselves. What resources can we get started with before our trip, and where can we go in Ireland to further our research? Thanks.

Suzanne Rowan Kelleher: The more information you can gather about your family before you arrive in Ireland, the better. Start online with the Church of Latter Day Saints, in Salt Lake City, UT (801/240-2331;, keepers of the world’s largest family history library. For archives of ancestors who were born, died, or were married in the US, check out the National Archives and Records Administration ( Also try for its UK and Ireland records collection, which includes New York Port Arrival Records containing passenger lists from the great Irish immigration period between 1846 and 1851. Finally, take a look at

There are some very good Irish-based online sites, too. Start with the Irish National Archives (, which holds online searchable databases of Ireland’s vital records. A brand new, excellent genealogy resource covering all 32 counties on the island is the Irish Family History Foundation’s new Internet site at

Once you get to Ireland, Dublin is the location for all the Republic of Ireland's centralized genealogical records. Here are the major sources of information: *The Manuscripts Reading Room in the National Library, Kildare Street, Dublin 2 (Tel 01/603-0200; has an extensive collection of pre-1880 Catholic records of baptisms, births, and marriages. *The General Register Office, Joyce House, 8/11 Lombard St. E., Dublin 2 ([tel] 01/635-4000;, is the central repository for records relating to births, deaths, and marriages in the Republic. *The Registry of Deeds, Kings Inns, Henrietta Street, Dublin 1 ([tel] 01/670-7500; fax 01/804-8406;, has records that date from 1708 and relate to all the usual transactions affecting property—that means leases, mortgages, and settlements—and some wills.

That should be enough to sink your teeth into. Happy hunting!


Pensacola, FL: Is it safe to stay overnight in B&Bs in Northern Ireland (specifically around the Giant's Causeway region)?

Suzanne Rowan Kelleher: Perfectly safe. Enjoy your visit!


Alexandria, VA: I am planning my first trip to Ireland in October for a friend's wedding in Waterford. We are giving ourselves about ten days, a few before and a few after, to explore Kinsale, Galway, etc. and I was wondering if there is a website you would suggest for driving directions/tourist routes/hotels? Thanks!

Suzanne Rowan Kelleher: I'd invest in a good guidebook to help choose your itinerary and find accommodation and places to eat. (Again, I'll recommend Frommer's Ireland 2004). For driving directions, try It's run by the AA (Irish equivalent of the AAA in the US). The website has a cool device that lets you enter your departure and destination, and then it spits out very thorough, no-brainer directions. Have a great trip!


Ormond Beach, FL: My wife and I and two other couples wish to rent a house somewhere in Ireland later this year. Best month? Best location for first timers? We love green, walking, pubs, interesting things. Tips on where to go for research? Thanks very much for your response.

Suzanne Rowan Kelleher: For groups like yours, I always recommend self-catering properties that are available for short-term rental. Two good sources are and

But my first choice would be to rent a property through the Irish Landmark Trust (Tel 01/670-4733; I can’t say enough about this outfit. It’s a non-profit organization whose mission is to restore neglected, historically significant properties and rent them out as self-catering accommodation. I have stayed in many of their properties, which range from a lighthouse in Wicklow, to lighthouse keepers’ houses on the southwest coast, to 19th-century land agent’s homes in Donegal, to historic farmhouse in Kilkenny, to a Gothic gate lodge on vast estate in Cork, and so on. Each of them is a very special place and beautifully appointed with period furnishings, but they all feel comfortable and homey, not museum-ish. And because the ILT is non-profit, the rates are quite reasonable for the level of comfort and space you get.

The property I have in mind for a group like yours is Clomantagh Castle, in Kilkenny. It’s a huge, rambling farmhouse sleeps 10 and is ideal. The complex of buildings at Clomantagh includes the ruins of a 12th-century church and an early-15th-century crenellated tower house, which is attached to an 18th-century farmhouse. There are four large double bedrooms in the farmhouse, with a connecting staircase leading to a fifth wonderfully medieval double bedroom in the tower itself (You’ll be fighting over who gets to sleep in that room!). The decor throughout the house is pleasingly old-fashioned and rustic, with many fine period pieces and brass beds. There are several reception rooms, but the house’s beating heart is the enormous, old-fashioned country kitchen with a flagstone floor, timbered ceiling, and Stanley range. Kilkenny City is only about 20 minutes away by car.


Morgantown, PA: I am looking for the best advice when it comes to working in Ireland. I live state-side and have this dream of living and working in Ireland. I have vacationed there twice in the past year and have this overwhelming desire to relocate and experience a new culture. Ideally I would like a job and then move to Ireland, rather than the other way around. I also understand it's favorable to have a company sponsor you to ensure passage into another country and legality of living abroad.(if not a resident). Can you offer up any suggestions?

Suzanne Rowan Kelleher: There’s the official version of how the expat life works, and then there’s, well, reality. As a tourist, you’re entitled to stay in Ireland for up to 90 days without additional paperwork. Since I have been living in Europe (France for 7 years, Ireland for 4), I have met more people than I can count who manage to live abroad without a visa simply by making sure they leave the country before the maximum 90 days has expired, then return again shortly thereafter. The drawbacks to this way of life are obvious; life under the table means that you’re forever limited to low-paying jobs where employers look the other way when it comes to visas. Also, you’re living outside the system, so your rights are minimized on many fronts, including access to the health system. If you’re thinking of spending just a year in Ireland, this red-tape-bypass approach may appeal to you. But if you’re hoping to move to Ireland for several years or more, I suggest doing everything you can to get a work visa.

In assessing your application, the Irish government will look for evidence that you can support yourself, either through employment or sufficient funds of support (you’ll need bank statements, proof of assets, etc.) for the duration of your stay. On the face of it, it’s a Catch-22: You can’t get a job without a visa, and you can’t get a visa without a job. Still, in my experience, people who really want to live abroad find a way to make it happen.

If you're looking for a job, start by contacting American companies with offices in Ireland. You can get a list from the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland at For visa info, consult the Irish Embassy in Washington, D.C. at

Living abroad is a wonderfully enriching experience on so many levels. I wish you the best of luck!


Albany, NY: My family (15 of us) will be going to Ireland in late July, touring along the coast from Dublin to Kilarney. Those who have already been there are not keen on Cork as a destination but some people say it is much nicer than it was. Do you recommend taking time to visit Cork?

Suzanne Rowan Kelleher: I am biased, because my husband is from Cork and we've had a wonderful times there. We were even married in West Cork, and I consider it one of the three prettiest regions in Ireland. And it's got some fabulous restaurants sprinkled everywhere, which is another reason to go.

I'd even go so far to say (and my Dublin friends will kill me for this) that I would recommend visiting Cork before Dublin. Fly into Cork, drive out into West Cork, then up through Kenmare and into Killarney that way. Magical.


Alexandria,VA: I am visiting The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in July 2004. I heard that I can get the Value Added Tax (VAT) refunded. Where do you submit this request, at the airport only? Can I download forms off an official web site? Must I submit this prior to leaving either country? Are there any additional taxes US Citizens may request for refund? Thanks!

Suzanne Rowan Kelleher: There’s a section in Frommer’s Ireland 2004 where I discuss VAT strategies fairly extensively. You can access it online at, by clicking “destinations.” Find Ireland, then go to “planning your trip,” and finally “tips on attractions and shopping.” It tells you all you need to know.


Haslett, MI: I will only have two full days in Dublin, July 2nd and July 11th. The other time will be spent at Oideas Gael school. Are there any don't miss things I should do in Dublin with my limited time?

Suzanne Rowan Kelleher: You'll love Oideas Gael! I took the Gaelic course three years in a row, and then I took the hillwalking (mountain hiking) course. Brilliant!

Don't miss the Viking Splash Tour in Dublin. You take in all the major sites from an amphibious vehicle that drives, then swims, through Dublin. Much fun!


Hanford, CA: Since you're technically in 2 nations, is it a pain to rent a car in the south and also tour the north? I've heard some stories. Thanks.

Suzanne Rowan Kelleher: I have driven from the Republic to the North and back again on many occasions and never had a hint of difficulty. Go for it.


Atlanta, Georgia: What Jewish landmarks/sites are there in Ireland? Thank you.

Suzanne Rowan Kelleher: As you probably realize, the Irish are overwhelmingly Roman Catholic so sites that specialize in Jewish heritage are thin on the ground. Even so, there’s been a small Jewish community in Ireland for nearly a millennium! In Dublin, there’s the Irish Jewish Museum on Walworth Rd (01/453-1797) and there’s also an Old Jewish Cemetery in the city’s Ballybough area. For more info, try


Suzanne Rowan Kelleher: Looks like my time is up. It was nice answering your questions!