My love affair with Ireland began on a whim: crazy cheap plane tickets combined with rollover vacation days to burn.

Settling in

Soon enough, I found myself ankle deep in the Emerald Isle’s rolling hills of green. A little dot off the northwest coast of the UK, roughly the size of the state of Ohio, Ireland is filled with warm hospitality, frothy pours of Guinness and craic—their conversational pub scene that often includes impromptu traditional music sessions featuring fiddles, banjos, harps and accordions.

Ireland’s main cities, Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway, feel like small towns and are easily navigable on foot. In fact, the whole country is easy to get around—just hold on for a few high-speed, hairpin turns on its winding back roads.

Getting in the car and driving with no destination or paper map in hand is the best way to discover the hundreds of castle or church ruins dotting the countryside. Even a top attraction like the Cliffs of Moher offers a quiet moment to connect with nature. Get there right when they open and hike along the path to the left to truly avoid the crowds. 

Ireland is the soul-soothing trip I can’t stop talking about, and a destination that is likely to stay number one on my list for many years to come.