Flying to Ireland and choosing the airport (Ireland’s 10 Airports Profiled)

There is no better time for flying to Ireland. With discount airlines taking to the sky as frequently as buses, it is relatively easy to get to the Emerald Isle from just about anywhere.

But the best part about landing on Irish soil is not just that you are about to see some of the most beautiful places on earth. The airports are worth mentioning too. Ireland has 10 airports and although they might not all have a fine selection of duty-free perfumes, they have something much more valuable…fewer crowds. 

Airports can be stressful places with throngs of people rushing about but flying to Ireland can cause your blood pressure to drop and your general mood lift before you’ve even crossed the threshold.

Here are our 10 wonderful airports and a bit about them.

Northern Airports

Derry Airport (LDY)

Derry airport is the main gateway for the north-west of the country and located just 11Km from Derry city, it is not to be overlooked if you are flying to Ireland.

Accommodating flights to four UK destinations, it is great for bagging a bargain for a weekend break or for a one-way flight to the starting point of your Irish adventure. Its location on the bank of Lough Foyle also means it isn’t very far from Irish natural beauty.

Belfast International Airport (BFS)

This is Northern Ireland’s busiest airport and the second busiest in the country, after Dublin. It accommodates flights to 22 destinations worldwide by 9 different airlines and can get very busy during peak season.

Belfast International Airport is located just over 21Km from the city centre but has direct bus services to Belfast, Lisburn and Derry that all run regularly.

Taxis are also readily available outside the airport and the Maldron Hotel Belfast, just a 2-minute walk from the terminal, is a comfortable overnight option for those early morning flights. 

Belfast City Airport (BHD)

Belfast City Airport was opened in 1938 by the wife of the then British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain. She named it ‘Belfast Harbour Airport’ and the first flights it accommodated were to Glasgow airport in Scotland.

In November 2005 Belfast lost local football legend, George Best. Belfast City Airport was renamed ‘George Best Belfast City Airport’ the following year in his memory. Located just 5Km from Belfast city centre, this is a great airport for flying to Ireland for a city break or as the first stop on holiday to Northern Ireland.

Donegal Airport (CFN)

It has been suggested that Donegal is one of the most beautiful parts of Ireland and its airport is no exception. The landing strip in the Carrickfinn airport has been voted 2019’s second most scenic in the world.

Stunning views of the rugged landscape and wild Atlantic are enough to take your breath away. And that’s before you even leave the airport. Donegal itself was voted the ‘coolest place in the world’ by National Geographic Traveller in 2017.

Need I say more?

Western Airports

Shannon Airport (SNN)

Shannon Airport is a great starting point if you are flying to Ireland for a holiday on the Wild Atlantic Way or to explore counties Clare, Limerick, Kerry and Galway. If you time it right it can be a wonderfully laid-back airport experience.

Shannon was Ireland’s first ever transatlantic airport. It opened in 1942 and three years later the first scheduled flight from America landed on what was once bogland. The airport went on to become one of Europe’s leading airports in airline innovation with the ‘Free Zone’ influencing China’s groundbreaking financial boom. 

The best way to explore the west of Ireland from Shannon airport is by hire car. Bus links to Limerick, Galway and Ennis are available but less frequent so check beforehand.

On return check out one of the world’s largest model aircraft collection on display in the departure lounge. Donated by retired Limerick man Michael Kelly, it is a wonderful exhibition of aircraft dating as far back as 1940.

Ireland West Airport Knock (NOC)

Knock airport, as it was originally called in the 1980s, is a very special place. It was built at a time of economic struggle and mass emigration in the west of Ireland. It defied all odds by continuing to strive for success in tourism more than 30 years later.

Its location in County Mayo is a great starting point to explore stunning landscapes, the Wild Atlantic Way, the Aran Islands, Connemara as well as lots of friendly towns and lively pubs along the way. (Sure it’d be rude not to!)

Eastern Airports

Dublin Airport (DUB)

Dublin Airport is Ireland’s busiest landing spots and defies my ‘fewer crowds’ theory. It can get very busy, especially during the summer months and even more so if you are flying Ryanair.

In saying that, Dublin Airport has come a long way since opening in 1940. It has two runways and its second terminal opened in 2010. It accommodates up to 740 aircraft flying to Ireland every day and connects to over 180 destinations worldwide.

Dublin airport has great transport links to the city centre and from there you can travel to many more locations on the Emerald Isle. Trains and buses run daily to all corners of the country, just make some time to enjoy what the capital has to offer first!

Waterford Airport (WAT)

Waterford airport is a less known airport on Ireland’s ‘sunny south east’. It is linked to Ireland’s oldest city of Waterford, the pretty city of Kilkenny and the seaside county of Wexford. Access to Tipperary and Carlow can be easily made too.

Sadly there are no passenger services from Waterford airport at the moment. They accommodate Irish rescue operations and facilitate flight training programmes for airborne units.

Southern Airports

Kerry Airport (KIR)

A visit to the Kingdom of Kerry is a must on any bucket list and landing in the local airport is vital for a truly authentic Kerry experience. A fairly modern terminal, with the first domestic flight landing in 1994, this airport is adding flights and destinations every year. 

Take any direction from its location in Farranfore, Killarney, for an adventure of a lifetime. From awesome road trips to mystical islands, Kerry has it all and Killarney is the best place to start.

Cork Airport (ORK)

Cork is another busy airport with flights to 45 different destinations worldwide. Although it attracts more than 2 million people each year it is an award-winning airport with an impressive choice of duty-free shops and a nice atmosphere.

Cork airport is proud to be the ‘gateway’ to the South of Ireland. It is a super spot to land if you plan to explore the stunning west coast of Cork, drive the Ring of Kerry or just hang out in Cork city.

All places are well worth suffering a crowd for.

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Note: our travel articles should be used only to plan future trips. Please stay at home until the government has advised otherwise.

Erika Sanger is a journalist who has written for a range of news hubs across the globe. Born and bred in Dublin there is nothing she enjoys more than writing about her homeland. Her heart lies in the fishing village of Howth on the North side of the capital but she can often be found in the West of Ireland indulging her fascination with the Wild Atlantic Way and her soft spot for Connemara ponies.