Surf: 3.5/5 = Above Average
Price: 2/5 = Quite expensive!
Party: 4/5 = Great pubs and better people.
Localism: 4/5 = It’s anyone’s wave!
Thieves: 1/5 = Pick pockets & car break-ins are common.
Time frame: January-March 2008
We started off by flying into Shannon Airport, a small airport outside Limerick (stab city), Ireland. My stay would be for four months, but my mates were only here for three weeks, so we headed straight for a place to sleep and check the surf forecast.
The first thing we noticed was how expensive everything was compared to back home in Canada. A pint of beer is about $7, however, at least it is a real beer not some semi-American stuff sold and “brewed” in Canada.
A place to stay is about the same as in Canada but the quality is nowhere near comparable. Most motels/rooms are much smaller; old pipes and finicky electricity is common, especially near the surf, which is almost always in rural areas.
If you are looking to save some major $$, fly into one of Europe’s major airports (i.e., London, Frankfurt, Dublin, etc.) then buy a separate flight with one of Europe’s low cost carries. Check www.ryanair.com for $25 flights between airports you may save a boatload when flying from Canada.
My next bit of advise would be to rent a car or truck once your there. It is not that expensive when you consider the convenience of a vehicle in Ireland.
The buses are reliably unreliable. I only had a vehicle for the three weeks while my mates were there as it was too expensive for me to rent one by myself every time there was surf.
Once my pals left, most of the time, I would take a bus to the closest point and hitchhike from there. In my four months I can’t remember more than a handful of times where the bus was remotely (within 15 minuntes) on time.
That being said, the bus rates are quite cheap (the only thing I found cheap!) compared to home, but this goes to show that you get what you pay for. At least there is no surcharge for the bus to carry your board in the hold, as is common practice to charge an extra $5 in most Central American countries.
Also, I usually advise against hitchhiking in a country you are not too sure about, but Ireland turned out to be quite the exception from my experience. The people were great company and most were friendlier than most Newfoundlanders. However, if you are female and solo, I would still strongly recommend against it.
The roads in Ireland are treacherous. You have to keep in mind that families have had stonewalls in place for hundreds of years and the roads were built around these walls, not the other way around.
You are able to see the surf 10 km in front of you on the horizon but the road may take you through three towns adding anther 20 km to your route in order to get there.
If you have a 4×4 you could cut through farmers fields, but I would strongly advise against this as most farmers have a pretty good shot and there are no laws against how trespassers are dealt with while you are on their property in Ireland. Ask the knackers (more on them below).
Ireland’s coast is quite similar to eastern Canada’s, in particular Newfoundland. It is mostly rock with some sandy/cobble stone beaches scattered in between, which makes for a great variety of surf. There is beach break, rock reef and rock slabs usually within five kilometres of each other.
We started out in Lainch, roughly 1.15-hour drive outside of Limerick, then we headed south all the way down to the Dingle Peninsula.
If you’re into camping, it is usually no problem to camp just about anywhere. Ireland has a travelling culture. Among that culture are people I came to know as pikies or knackers. They seem to set up their caravans at almost any location (on the beach, under a bridge, on top of a bridge, etc.).
These people, not to stereotype, are usually not that trustworthy and will steal the hubcaps off of your car if given the chance. So pick your camping spots carefully and in well-populated surf areas. There are usually a handful of other surfers with the same intentions, so share a beer with them (Irish surfers fancy Gold Dutch, not Guinness) and you’ll usually find yourself better off.
As for the surf, the best season is from October to February. Quite similar to Eastern Canada but the water and air temperatures never get nearly as cold as in Canada. I got by the whole winter season with a 5/3mm suit, no hood, 5mm gloves and booties.
Also, the surf is much more consistent and bigger than in Eastern Canada, but there is also more wind. If you’re good and don’t leave your common sense at home, you should be able to easily find some sheltered breaks as most of the coastline is protected by high cliffs which are perfect for keeping the wind off just enough to clean up the sets.
Of the 20+ breaks I’ve been to between Lainch and the Dingle Peninsula, I would strongly recommend making sure you go and see the Dingle Peninsula. It is a 16 km long peninsula of white sand that has breaks on all three sides so it picks up tons of surf.
If you can only afford to take a week off to visit this green country or find yourself strapped for time, make sure Dingle is one of your stops; surf or no surf you won’t be disappointed as you can always wait for the surf to pick up over a pint of the black stuff and some good craic.
If you have any specific questions (e.g. where to stay, who pours the best pint, how to access a spot you see on Google earth, etc.) please comment below and I’ll do my best to answer.