Dublin, Cork and Galway travel guide, Ireland, The Dean hotels group

“Dublin, Cork and Galway in three days – in winter – are you serious?” responded the man working in the car hire kiosk at Dublin Airport after hearing my forthcoming travel plans. 

Incredulous as he was, a 72-hour tour of these iconic (but not particularly close-by) Irish cities did indeed loom ahead of me. But, much to my relief, my whistle-stop trip amounted to three heavenly – albeit fairly rushed – days.


An entire long weekend (and more) could easily be devoted to Ireland’s capital and largest city – but in my 24-hour window I managed to squeeze in an impressive amount. Central Dublin is easily reached from the airport by train, bus or car (although parking is a nightmare), which means you can start soaking up the sights shortly after stepping off the plane.

The Dean Dublin is a 51-bed modern boutique hotel
Where to stay

I stayed at The Dean Dublin, a 51-bed modern boutique hotel, which was the first of its kind in Ireland when it opened its doors in 2014. Located smack bang in the city centre, a stone’s throw from St Stephen’s Green, the hotel has a Soho House feel with its dark interiors, bold colours and buzzy lobby/bar area. Attention-grabbing works by Irish artists adorn the Instagram-worthy communal areas and suites, my favourite being a Tracey Emin-style neon sign which hovers over the reception desk reading “I fell in love here”.

A small outdoor swimming pool, which you currently have to reserve a spot for in advance, is heated to Jacuzzi levels of warmth and provided some great late-afternoon entertainment – thanks mainly to the old-school style phone at the side of it through which guests can order cocktails.

Adjacent to the pool is a swanky boutique gym which runs high-intensity cardio classes that are free for guests, and features a modern sauna and steam room. 

Enjoy a pint at the Gravity Bar inside the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, Ireland
What to do

Outside of The Dean’s amenities, Dublin is packed with attractions. For any Normal People fans, a stroll around Trinity College Dublin is essential. I enjoyed pretending to be a student as I mingled around the campus and perused the university gift shop, umming and ahhing over the purchase of an exorbitantly priced Trinity College hoodie. 

A tour of the Guinness Storehouse – pretty much Disneyland for stout lovers –  is another must. There’s no doubt that this is an incredibly touristy experience (I think there must be a rule dictating at least three stag dos’ attendance at any one time) but it’s still a highly educational one. 

Learning about the entire Guinness-making process, from hop-growing to fermentation to marketing, was fascinating – plus the Guinness-themed gift shop is pretty fun. I recommend visiting in the late afternoon, to time the end of your (unguided) tour with sunset as the panoramic view from the Storehouse’s rooftop bar is unparalleled. 

The Irish claim that Guinness tastes better in Ireland and as I sipped a pint overlooking twinkling Dublin stretching as far as my eyes could reach, I couldn’t help but agree.

Sophie’s Rooftop and Terrace at The Dean Dublin
Food and drink

Dublin is famous for its food scene and 24 hours is certainly not enough time to explore the best of its gastronomic offerings. That said, I did have two delightful meals: brunch at Sophie’s Rooftop and Terrace, on the top floor of The Dean, and dinner at Doolally, an Indian restaurant just around the corner from the hotel.

With 360-degree views of Dublin and a gorgeous central bar, Sophie’s is a great spot for a traditional full Irish breakfast – plus a mimosa or two. Doolally, on the other hand, offers authentic and delicious Indian dishes like paneer and corn saag, bhindi masala and tandoori prawns (my stand-out order).

It would be remiss to not visit an Irish pub while in Dublin and there are countless ones to choose from. I enjoyed a pint of bitters from Devitts Pub, round the corner from The Dean, which claims to serve the best Guinness in the capital. This is also a good spot for homemade traditional Irish food like seafood chowder, and beef and Guinness stew. 

St Patrick’s Bridge and the River Lee in Cork 


Next stop was Cork, via an hour or so in Tipperary to break up the journey and check out Cahir Castle. Ireland boasts around 3,000 castles but the 13th century Cahir is one of the largest and best preserved, making it a perfect mid-way stop. Opening times vary throughout the year, with entry costing around £5 per adult.

If driving from Dublin to Cork, I recommend leaving the former in the afternoon, to time your arrival in Ireland’s second-largest city with sunset. Because the roughly three-hour journey takes you from east to west of the country, watching the sun descend over Ireland’s breathtaking landscapes is a truly magical experience.

The Dean Cork has 114 stylish rooms and suites
Where to stay

The Dean also has a branch in Cork, which opened in December 2020 – a brave decision during the pandemic. Designed by Irish firm Wilson Architecture, the striking seven-storey structure forms part of a relatively new development of Cork’s Horgan’s Quay and overlooks the River Lee. 

The Dean Cork’s 114 stylish rooms and suites feature everything you could ever want from a boutique hotel – think gorgeous freestanding copper bathtubs, smart TVs which you can hook up to your steaming accounts, swish record players and open-style mini-bars with all the essentials.

Like The Dean Dublin, promoting and supporting the work of talented local artists is a core value of the Cork hotel, with the walls covered with more than 400 pieces of striking Irish art. Again, a neon sign hangs over the reception area – this one created by Irish artist Domino Whisker, reading: “non stop beauty”.

This hotel also has a swimming pool – a slightly larger, less Jacuzzi-like indoor one – and an adjacent phone designed for ordering some pool-side cocktails. Two ropes hang directly over the pool for practising pull-ups – or posing for a highly Instagrammable photoshoot. There’s also a decent-sized sauna and a steam room, and down the corridor is a high-spec gym which offers a similar range of toning and cardio classes. 

The Dean Cork’s swimming pool
What to do

The winner of the 2022 Council of Europe Museum Prize is located in Cork – and it’s well worth a visit. Nano Nagle Place celebrates the inspiring story of Nano Nagle, a Roman Catholic who enabled the learning of thousands of Irish schoolchildren who were denied access to an education in the 1700s. As well as an interesting museum, the sprawling complex – a calming oasis in the heart of Cork’s city centre – features two shops, pretty walled gardens, a deli and the actual site where Nano Nagle is buried. 

It sounds counterintuitive, being in Ireland, but a visit to Cork’s historic English Market is also a must. The market has been trading since 1788, making it one of Europe’s oldest of its kind, and it offers an incredible range of local produce for browsing and sampling. 

Cork’s historic English Market
Food and drink

I had a fantastic lunch at Farmgate Café, which sources ingredients directly from the English Market, which it overlooks. The Irish lambs’ stew with Ladysbridge jacket potatoes was particularly tasty – and the door-stopper of a bread and butter pudding was a hearty, delicious dessert that I still can’t believe I managed to finish.

The Dean Cork also features a Sophie’s Rooftop Restaurant & Bar on its sixth floor, offering 360-degree views of the river and city skyline. When I visited on a Monday night, the place was buzzing with birthday celebrations, creating a fun, party atmosphere. The cocktails were exceptional, especially the Rated-R, which is made with Absolut mango vodka and lychee liqueur and finished off with a scorched meringue topping. 

Quay Street in Galway city, Ireland


It’s a roughly three-hour drive from Cork to Galway, a stunning city on Ireland’s western coast that’s famous for its vibrant music scene, internationally recognised university and being the subject of a hit – and slightly controversial – Ed Sheeran song. Galway is also known for its inconsistent weather and during my short stay I experienced an entire medley of seasons, from torrential rain to beautiful sunshine. 

Where to stay

I stayed at The Dean Galway, which only opened its doors in April 2022 but already feels like a well oiled joint. The 100-bed property – Galway’s first design-led boutique hotel – is a short walk from the town centre and 3km from Salthill, the seaside area. 

Rooms here are bright and comfortable, with playful interiors and bold artwork making them feel distinctively Dean-like. As with Dublin and Cork, The Dean Galway has a heated swimming pool (this one is large and outdoors) and a top-of-the-range gym, sauna and steam room, all of which are free to access for hotel guests.

The Dean Galway opened in April 2022
What to do

A day is definitely not enough time to fully explore Galway, but a good way to see a lot of a city in a short space of time is by electric bicycle. I highly recommend a guided electric bike tour led by Galway-born Martín Lally, who has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the city’s past and present. 

Stops included the University of Galway (and the oak tree planted in 2015 by then-Prince Charles after his historic meeting with Sinn Féin), the National Organ Donor Commemorative Garden, Galway Bay and Menlo Castle. Lally provided electric bike helmets, which meant that in spite of Galway’s excessive windiness, the other participants and I could ask questions and hear his explanations while on the move.

Menlo Castle by the River Corrib in Galway
Food and drink

Galway was described by National Geographic as the “beating heart of Ireland’s culinary scene” and after just a few hours in the city, I could clearly see why. Practically every street features a cosy looking pub, and restaurants serving traditional Irish fare – specifically fresh seafood – are everywhere. I loved The Seafood Bar @ Kirwan’s, where a speciality is mussels with a blue cheese and bacon cream sauce (sounds odd but trust me, it worked). 

I also ate in Elephant & Castle, a low-key, New York-style restaurant on the ground floor of The Dean Galway. Named after the Underground station in south London, the eatery is one of two Irish branches of a small chain which originated in lower Manhattan in 1973. Elephant & Castle is best known for its decadent chicken wings – which come with celery sticks and tangy blue cheese dressing – but its menu also features steaks, burgers, salads and spaghetti.

The Dean also has a speakeasy-style bar on its ground floor called Peg’s (formerly Hogan’s Bar), which often hosts live music nights.

Elephant & Castle on the ground floor of The Dean Galway

How to get to Ireland

Flights from London to Dublin Airport can start from as little as £9.99 (without luggage). I flew home from Shannon Airport which is very close to the city of Limerick, but just an hour and a quarter’s drive from Galway. Aer Lingus, British Airways and Ryanair all offer flights from Shannon to London.

For a more environmentally-friendly trip, you can catch a ferry from Holyhead in Anglesey, Wales, to Dublin, which can take between 2hrs 15mins and 3hrs 15mins, depending on the operator. Prices vary but can start from around £35 for one way.

The Ha’penny Bridge over the River Liffey at Temple Bar in Dublin

The verdict

Although I wouldn’t necessarily recommend squeezing in so much in such a short period, if you have more time on your hands, exploring Dublin, Cork and Galway in three days is certainly doable. I returned from Ireland thoroughly exhausted – but already excited to return to each city in the future. 

Kate Samuelson was a guest of The Dean hotel group. Room rates at The Dean in Dublin, Cork and Galway all start from €150 (£133) per room per night; thedean.ie 

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