Planning your first ever vacation in Ireland? Here's my two cents! I' hope it helps.

Since it appears to me over here in the west that ye are virtually addicted to lists of 10 pieces of advice on about every subject under the sun, I have decided to create a 10 point list of my own to add to the archive.

This one is directed to all of you who are planning your first ever vacation in Ireland. I hope that at least some of you will find it to be helpful.

1. If you possess Irish blood it is most likely that the ancestors who brought it over to the New World with them all those years ago were born and bred in the poorer counties of the west, all the way along the coast from Donegal in the far north to Kerry. These were the good people who were hardest hit by the Potato Famine and who crammed the dreaded coffin ships.

Maghera beach, in County Donegal: Go home! Visit the lands where your ancestors left so long ago.

Maghera beach, in County Donegal: Go home! Visit the lands where your ancestors left so long ago.

Many Irish Americans down the years have told me how they experienced an almost eerie and surreal homecoming feeling when they first set foot in the territories from which their ancestors hailed. Accordingly, and since these regions are the most scenic and friendly areas of Ireland for all, I would recommend you try to reach them as quickly as possible during your vacation.

2. For this reason I would strongly suggest you have early words with your travel agent and ensure your flight takes you to Shannon, Cork, or Knock airports rather than to Dublin Airport on the other coast. Especially if your vacation is a short one, you will hugely benefit from this tactic. Dublin has its special charms, of course but, fundamentally, for many, it is just another European city.

Go West! Land at Shannon airport.

Go West! Land at Shannon airport.

3. Slow down your pace of life and living from the moment you first set foot on this small island. Take time to slowly savor where you are and what you are. Not doing this is the biggest mistake which many American novice visitors make.

Slieve League cliffs, in Donegal: Slow down and take in the experience.

Slieve League cliffs, in Donegal: Slow down and take in the experience.

I know it is quite possible to "do" Ireland, from the Mountains of Mourne to the Lakes of Killarney in a couple of days. I know that our travel distances, in your terms, are very short indeed.

But if you "do" Ireland in this way you cannot catch the real soul and substance of the place at all. It all becomes a blur.

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4. Even in summer there is a lot of rain betimes. Often, especially along the coast and on the vaunted Wild Atlantic Way, it will only be a short, sharp shower, but that will drench you just as thoroughly as a downpour.

Learn to go dancing in the rain!

Learn to go dancing in the rain!

Invest in a medium weight hooded anorak or suchlike. There is also a lot of windy weather so avoid umbrellas because they will be blown inside out in seconds.

5. Our main roadways between cities and towns have improved sharply over the last 20 years, and there are many stretches of good motorways and dual carriageways.

In the most scenic areas, however, there is still a twisty maze of secondary roads which are not well signposted in many cases and which require very cautious driving.

6. DO NOT DRINK EVEN ONE PINT AND DRIVE!

Drink responsibly.

Drink responsibly.

Even one Guinness can put you over the legal limit and the Gardai are very active on this front. Either appoint a designated driver from amongst your group to avoid alcohol until day's end, or leave the car behind altogether for the day and enjoy climbing a mountain.

7. The best value for food in about every eatery in the tourist hotspots is available at luncheon periods rather than at dinner time later in the evenings. Lunches are often served until three or four o'clock in the evening, starting at noon, and the quality is good.

The standard and quality and variety of food on offer has improved dramatically in recent years. Tipping is normally optional rather than a requirement.

8. Be aware that because of the historic links between the two nations that American visitors are well-liked by the natives. This is a fact.

Celebrate your Irishness! We love our shared history.

Celebrate your Irishness! We love our shared history.

In this context it helps if you take aboard the reality that our background noises, both in town and country, are significantly lower than you may be used to. Accordingly you can converse at a lower volume than you need to use at home in a busy city and still be clearly heard.

9. You will almost certainly have a schedule for your trip, even if you are not trying to "do" Ireland in three days. Be ready, willing and able to abandon that schedule if you find yourself in some area – perhaps an ancestral heartland – where you experience that surreal feeling of being at home which I mentioned earlier.

10. Be prepared to be surprised at the number of Irish folk you will meet who know nearly as much about the U.S. as you do because they, in their lives, have been an element of one of the many waves of emigration which has been one of our realities always. Indeed, do not be surprised if, during their working stay in your country, they traveled coast to coast across the U.S. and visited more states than you have.

And enjoy it all!

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