Readers, I’m warning you: I’m about to say something painfully geeky and tech-obsessed. I reckon there are two distinct phases in a person’s life, divided by the discovery of the magical world of Apps.
When a person is Before Apps (B.A.) their phone is just a communication device; it makes calls, sends messages, and they must access the Internet through computers and messy browsers. But when they pick up a new Smartphone or iPod Touch they enter the enlightened Apps Discovered (A.D.) phase. Suddenly that thing in your pocket that rang or beeped now and again has the capability to keep you delightfully entertained for hours, days, maybe even, the rest of your life!
In case you’re still in the dark B.A. (st)age, I’ll explain that app is short for application; little pieces of software that run on Smartphones and advanced MP3 players. With over 250,000 apps available and counting, there’s pretty much an app for everything. From games to books to news feeds to music, and tons of random and quirky apps in-between.
Apps can be especially nifty for travelling, and to demonstrate I’ve rounded up a few you should look at downloading if you’re thinking of popping over to Ireland.
Visit Dublin App
The official Visit Dublin App is a whole new way to see the capital city, and a whole new way to use your phone! Swanky new ‘pointing technology’ allows you to point your phone where you’re going and get all the info for what’s ahead. It can also guide you to your selected destination, and has audio descriptions for points of historical interest, daily updates of what’s happening in the city and special offers. Download it before you go and you can explore the city virtually!
Belfast Music App
It’s true, the sounds of Belfast are sweeter than any other city, and they’ve got the Belfast Music App to prove it. The App’s Music Heritage tour shows where Belfast music legends came from and the venues still going. The Hall of Fame will show our legacy in names, and with the gig listings and news you can catch the next big thing in Belfast’s music halls.
Belfast is bursting with literary history, and the Literary Belfast App puts you right at the heart of the city’s bookish action. The ‘News/Events’ section is updated with all things literary including exhibitions and festivals taking place in Belfast. You can read the latest book or the hottest literary, comedy and talk review, as well as enjoying new releases and classics on the Belfast Reading List. Learn about the ‘Belfast Through Writers’ Eyes’ tour where exceptional, renowned Northern Irish writers such Seamus Heaney and Michael Longley share stories, anecdotes and readings to accompany you on an unforgettable journey. Or why not try the on-screen tour to lead your way around this unique and vibrant city.
Ireland – Travel Guide is free and a handy intro for what Ireland has to offer. GoExplore NI packs video tours for your trip to Northern Ireland, as well as GPS maps to show where you are on the different routes, what’s nearby and all the contact details along the way.
Save a pretty penny with the Ireland Discount Guideapp: discounts range from 10% off to ‘two-for-one’ offers on over 90 of Ireland’s attractions, including castles, gardens and museums. It’s easy to navigate – just choose a region and browse the attractions with directions, photos, official links and the all-important discount. Definitely worth a tap.
Combining the guide and discounts is the Daily Adventure Ireland App. The free version lists attractions, tours and activities near you, and all around the Republic of Ireland. You’ll have to stump up $5.99 for the version with discounts though, which can be minor.
The iGuide Belfast has listings for everything in the city, from coffee shops to comedy, barbers to bars. There are also vouchers and special offers, and a Facebook connection to smugly post all you’re up to!
The My Tour Talk App for Northern Ireland is a handy number. The audio tours, ranging from Belfast Pub Tour to the Causeway Coastal Route, are plotted by location on a very nifty map. Download the app for free (on Wi-Fi preferably, it’s a very big file) and then pay for just the tours you need (costing from £1.79 to £3.99). The local voices share interesting facts and stories about the area as well as practicalities like directions and where to park.
Dip into Ulster Scots heritage via the very slick and user-friendly Ulster Scots app by My Tour Talk. The app itself features audio driving guides, interactive mapping and links to events, accommodation and an extensive list of Ulster Scots surnames. A real winner.
If you’d prefer your info via podcast, Irish Fireside has great snippets on Ireland travel and culture, with some relevant to Irish-American interests.
For those keen to keep Ireland as green as they found it, grab the Ireland Green Travel App. Established eco-tourism writer Catherine Mack here lists over 120 eco-friendly places to stay, from yurt camps and island retreats to eco-castles and lakeside lodges, and how to reach them using public transport (of course!). She also details things to do including farmers’ markets, bike hire and cycling routes, craft markets and restaurants that think green.
Dublin’s City Walls
There’s even an app for time travel, if you fancy exploring medieval Dublin. The Dublin City Wall uses videos, photos and 3D animation to deftly illustrate the history of the part of the city you’re standing in. Think computer generated Vikings popping out of the quays and replacing modern buildings as they drop into the ground. The app also provides an interactive walking tour pointing out towers, gates, prisons and other places of interest.
What’s On Around Ireland
The jam-packed Entertainment.ie App has extensive listings for all the cinemas, music, clubbing, theatre and comedy on that day. The map will show you what’s going on closest to you, with links to reviews on their website. I don’t leave home without it.
We can’t have you coming all the way over and missing one of our many festivals that go on throughout the year, so browse all your options on the Festival Guide 2011 Ireland app.
If culture vulture is your middle name, we’d like you to meet the Dublin Culture Trail app. Videos and photographs present Dublin’s museums, galleries, and historic buildings, while introducing the people and artists behind them. Details of each venue, location and other nearby attractions will make the blazing your own trail easy.
Being such a bastion of culture and activity (UK City of Culture 2013, if you don’t mind!) Londonderry has its very own What’s On App to navigate all the events, activities and attractions across the city.
Where to Eat, Drink and Stay in Ireland
Trying to pin down where to stay? Start with Ireland’s Blue Book App, a list of Country House Hotels, Manor Houses, Castles and Restaurants, with a gallery and contacts for each. The Restaurants.ie App is heaven-sent for the hungry: tap ‘Near Me’ for a list of restaurants in your vicinity, with cuisine, contact info, and even menus.Georgina Campbell’s Ireland App does hotels, restaurants and bars, allowing a search for places to eat, drink and stay around the country. The best part is – they’re all free!
B&Bs in Ireland
Ireland is famous for its Bed & Breakfasts – the delicious scones, the attention of an Irish Mammy and insider tips from local hosts. Find the right one with this free B&B app: over 1,000 approved B&Bs from all over the island of Ireland can be browsed, located by map, and even booked through the app. Search by county and town, or tap “B&Bs Near Me” to see those within a set radius. Photos, property descriptions, customer reviews and tourist board star ratings give a plenty of information for each listing. Extra handy is the “Useful Information” tab with nearby festivals, events and attractions.
You’ll probably use public transport at some point during your stay, and these apps will help you get where you’re going. Greater Dublin is criss-crossed with a web of bus routes, and the infinitely useful Dublin Buster App plots them all on a map with bus-stops, timetables, and GPS to tell you your nearest stop. If you’re taking the train, take the Ireland Rail App, too. It combines timetables with real-time info for all stations in the Republic of Ireland, including the DART and intercity services, and a journey planner will show the distance, time and any to connections make.
If you’re coming here for the full Ireland experience, you’ll have to catch some sport. Our native Gaelic Games makes for some electric matches to watch, so get the Official GAA App for fixtures, results, photos and info on tickets and venues. Rugby is a not-so-native game but we’re still rather good at it! The Official Irish Rugby App also does fixtures, results and player profiles, so you’ll know who to cheer for! If you’re feeling lucky, grab the GoRacing.ie App for Ireland’s horseracing fixtures, festivals and Racecards.
Finally, for some generic but just as useful apps, try Accuweather for 15-day forecasts, and hourly forecasts for the day ahead – so you can time your picnic perfectly. And get the XE Currency App to avoid the hard work of doing the money conversions in your head – we have two currencies on the island: Sterling in Northern Ireland and the Euro in the Republic of Ireland.
Remember fellow A.D.-ers, the use of the internet on your smartphone in Ireland is likely to be subject to roaming charges. Check these costs with your network provider before you go, or stick to free WiFi zones in selected cafes, shops and public libraries.
If you know any other apps that have been useful for your trip to Ireland, leave a comment and let me know!