Ireland’s modest 84,000 square kilometres contain rugged cliffs and sandy beaches; lush glens, broad pastures and sweeping mountains; meandering rivers and placid lakes; iron age forts, mediaeval castles, sleepy villages and wide-awake cities.
And whilst the island’s landscapes are alone a good enough reason to visit, it also possesses an extraordinary richness of history and legend, a passion for music and dance (Ireland is the only country to have a musical instrument – the harp, as its national emblem), and a powerful literary heritage.
Ancient Irish traditions have created many myths and superstitions, with tales of fairies, leprechauns and banshees handed down through the generations. More recent Irish fiction is also marked by a love of storytelling and a relish for language. Another art form that thrives is music, running the gamut from mediaeval folk tunes to contemporary rock by U2. Whether they are warming themselves at a country pub’s turf fire, joining the crowds at the Galway races or participating in a local fleadh (festival), visitors to Ireland will find that the warm hospitality of the Irish people is no mere legend.
Magnificent coastal scenery; the Ring of Kerry’s mountains, seascapes and fishing villages; Blarney Castle; Killarney National Park; Connemara’s wild landscapes; Antrim’s extraordinary Giant’s Causeway; ornate Belfast City Hall; Belfast’s spectacular Titanic Experience.
Five-star city hotels; golf, spa and wellness resorts; castle and manor house hotels; farm stays and B&Bs; self-catering cottages. Many family-run hotels are renowned for their cuisine.
Fota Wildlife Park, the Reptile Village Zoo, whale and dolphin watching and great beach destinations such as N. Wexford and Tranmore.
What you can buy - Aran sweaters, crystal, bone china, linen, hand-loomed tweed, Celtic-inspired jewellery and bogwood carvings.
Where you can buy - City boutiques feature local and international brands, and there are workshops, factory outlets and markets throughout the island.
The Irish pub is renowned for conviviality and ‘craic’ (roughly translates as ‘fun’). Pubs and other venues offer live traditional music, dance and storytelling. There are festivals throughout the year – notably Dublin’s in September and October – with world-class arts, theatre and concerts. Galway is a vibrant artistic centre with lively street theatre, music and culture.
Sports and leisure
Golf (there are some 440 courses); cycling; pony trekking, walking and mountaineering; sailing and surfing; hunting, shooting and fishing. Spectator sports include football, rugby, horse racing and Gaelic sports, including hurling.
Exploring by road
Ireland’s modern road network is ideal for a self-drive holiday.