Coral Glennie reviews John and Sally Mckenna’s Ireland travel guide – Ireland the Best – and finds it a most informative and entertaining read.

If you have read John and Sally McKenna’s previous travel guide, Scotland the Best – a best seller for the past twenty five years ­­– this comprehensive and detailed Ireland travel guide is a must and one that won’t leave you disappointed.

Ireland the Best caters for every conceivable taste in scenery, cuisine, accommodation and leisure pursuits in such a detailed way that it is essential to use the ratings set out in the introduction to make full use of your visit to Ireland. These are set out as series of codes:

The accommodation and property codes, which include the cost of rooms, and owners/ managers that welcome children and/or pets for example. Other welcomes are also noted.

The dining codes, which include costs and opening times for eating.

The walk codes, which are rated in terms of difficulty, down to recommendations on the type of footwear you should wear when exploring the terrain. Links to the maps at the back of the guide are provided. Waterproofs are essential – this is an Ireland travel guide, after all.

Ireland travel Guide
Guinness – better than Riverdance?

One area in the introduction that I found of particular interest outlined what the Irish had given to the modern world – reminiscent of what have the Romans done for us, perhaps? The list is far too long for this article, but ranges from Ernest Walton, Nobel Prize winner for splitting the atom, to the inventing of Guinness and Riverdance, although the latter is perhaps a questionable benison. It is really worth a read to get a sense of the great contribution the Irish have made to contemporary society.

Sections 1 to 4 look at Dublin, Belfast, Cork and Galway respectively. Four vibrant and historic cities; the authors have researched the endless possibilities for where to stay, eat and which sites to visit. You will be spoilt for choice, but the following is just a taster:


If this review of Ireland the Best has whetted your appetite to visit the Emerald Isle, then carry on reading Ireland travel by the History Book.


Dublin: The Book of Kells, which has been described as Ireland’s Sistine Chapel to be viewed in the library at Trinity College. Other Dublin landmarks are The Guinness Storehouse, The National Gallery and Christ Church Cathedral, but there are many other sites of interest mentioned in this great city. Absolutely essential is a trip on the DART train that hugs the Dublin coastline with amazing views throughout its journey to Greystones.

Belfast: The Titanic Experience – the site dominated by two unforgettable huge cranes – outlines the details of that tragic voyage, the liner having been built in the Harland and Wolff Shipyard in 1911. Also worth visiting, is the spectacular, canopied St. Georges Market dating back decades.

Cork: The English Market is described by the authors as straddling the ancient and the modern and not to be missed. Blackrock Observatory is also a must, the castle dating back to the 16th Century to protect Cork Harbour and Port. Space in the Guide is also given to delightful Kinsale with its galleries, restaurants and views. Taking the Kinsale Harbour Cruise is recommended for seeing this charming area so close to the city.

Galway: Galway Saturday Market also comes highly recommended and is described in the Guide as being “a mixture of colour and craig”.

Ireland travel guide
Some of the most spectacular scenery of away from the cities – Skellig Island

The remainder of Ireland the Best sets out other places to visit in this stunning island, such as The Ring of Kerry, County Wicklow and Connemara. Such areas of natural beauty are not to be missed as are The Giant Causeway and the Burren in County Clare. So much of the island’s magnificent scenery is outside the major cities, with its beautiful beaches and sites of historic interest, as outlined in the latter part of the Guide.

My one regret is, that having visited Ireland many times, I did not have a copy of Ireland the Best with me at the time as, much as I enjoyed my previous visits, with all the information this Ireland travel guide contains, my trips would have been immeasurably more informative and enjoyable.


Ireland travel guideIreland the Best

By John and Sally McKenna, 

Collins, 

Price: £15.99

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