Imagine planning your trip to Ireland and having an expert talking you through every step of the process. Based on the number of inquiries we get at the Irish Fireside, I’d say this would be a dream come true for a great number of you.
That’s where Pat Preston’s “Ireland Travel 101” comes in. She has written a guidebook that answers nearly every question travelers have. This comes as no surprise as Pat has dedicated her life to helping visitors plan their holidays in Ireland through her website and Q&A forum at www.IrelandExpert.com, her 14 books on Ireland and her guided tours of the Emerald Isle.
The first thirty pages are among the most conversational and useful advice written about travel to Ireland. She breaks it down into concise paragraphs covering weather, packing, resources… all the basics. This information is pure gold for a first time traveler, but even as a veteran, I find it useful, loaded with details, yet effortless to read.
In fact, that first chapter mirrors the hundreds of conversations I’ve had with people in the early stages of planning their trip. The good news, is it’s all right there and doesn’t require any note-taking.
The bulk of this 438 page “travel bible” is dedicated to exploring the major regions of Ireland. There are many guidebooks that do this well, but Pat has added some features not found elsewhere. Each town and city includes an overview and the story of how the place got its name.
Attractions are arranged by priority with the “Wow Factors” positioned before the “If You Have More Time” sites. This is a nice way to group sites… it allows Pat to give her top recommendations, yet encourages readers to consider other sites based on personal interests.
The book also includes Pat’s coveted list of accommodations, restaurants & cafes, noteworthy pubs, shops, markets and Festivals. As a special bonus, most areas include an informative and often entertaining “Tidbits & Trivia” section.
The final bits of priceless information comes in the last two chapters. Pat’s sample itineraries outshine those found in most other guidebooks, and she gives them the space they deserve by including several… including driving itineraries and those that center around strategic bases. The final chapter includes a collection of common sayings in Ireland… the one’s that are spoken in English but could easily leave a visitor feeling like they are hearing a foreign language.
Overall, the guidebook scores high. Pat has forgone slick color photos to make room for more information. She has also chosen a slightly larger type size than most guidebooks, making it significantly easier to read. And the book covers both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The book does not include maps, so readers could benefit from following the internet links Pat includes in her descriptions or picking up a decent driving map of Ireland (a good companion to any guidebook). There is no index, so hunting for some sites may be required; however, the table of contents breaks out the areas well.
The featured regions are limited to the most popular areas in Ireland, so destinations too far off the tourist trail won’t be covered. However, Pat will gladly give customized advice to other parts of Ireland via her Ireland Expert Travel Forum. For those who haven’t taken advantage of her forum, it’s a one-stop shop for Irish travel advice.
Pat’s “Ireland Travel 101” is available from her website at www.irelandexpert.com/IrelandTravel101.html. I would be remiss if I didn’t also recommend Pat’s “The Smart Shopper’s Guide to Ireland;” it breaks out all the best shops and markets throughout Eire.