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Jetting off to the Republic of Ireland to discover your roots? Or maybe it’s a business trip?
Either way, expect a hundred thousand welcomes and enough amazing experiences to make you want to come back again and again. A nation in the northwest of Europe, the Republic of Ireland comprises 26 of the 32 counties in the island of Ireland overall (the rest make up Northern Ireland – part of the UK). And because it’s right across the Atlantic from the US, it’s the source of lots of pioneers who left Irish soil in search of better lives in the New World – the forefathers of all those lovely Irish Americans in places like Boston had to come from somewhere, right?
The capital is Dublin, which is a city brimming with history and culture – it’s one of the most welcoming, interesting, and lively places on the face of the Earth. But beyond the museums, historic buildings and bars of the capital, is there much more to see in the Emerald Isle? Bet your bottom dollar there is. The vertiginous Mountains of Mourne have inspired artists and dreamers for generations. Cork has a cracking music scene and lovely scenery, Donegal is wild, windswept and interesting, and Connemara is hauntingly beautiful and splendidly isolated.
From towns and cities to verdant, undulating countryside, Ireland is a fabulous feast for the eyes and tonic for the heart. And its decent road infrastructure means you can hire a car here and explore the whole of the Republic as well as the best of the North. Drop your dates and details in our search engine, pick your deal and get ready to roll.
Guide to Ireland
First off, you can’t talk about Ireland without acknowledging the painful legacy of The Troubles – the conflict that lasted from the late 1960s until 1998, but whose roots reach much further back into Ireland’s tumultuous history. Much has changed since peace was achieved after the Good Friday Agreement – there’s lots of work to be done but the future looks brighter, thanks in no small part to the indomitable spirit of the people on both sides of the border. In terms of very early Irish history, historians reckon the first humans settled here around 10,000 years ago and that when the first farmers arrived in 4000 BC, it marked the start of the new Stone Age. 1000 years later, the Celts arrived from the European mainland and it’s this group of warriors who have the most enduring influence over Ireland’s history, folklore, language and culture. In the early 5th Century AD, St Patrick and other Christian missionaries arrived and by 600AD, Christianity had replaced Paganism as the main religion.
So, what about Irish culture? Well, there’s certainly a lot of it. For starters, as a whole, the island of Ireland must have produced more world-class writers per square inch than just about anywhere else on Earth. Think James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, William Butler Yeats, Brendan Behan, Roddy Doyle, Maeve Binchy and Edna O’Brien. And if music is your thing, the world has Ireland to thank for the likes of Sinead O’Connor, US, Christy Moore, The Dubliners, Thin Lizzy, The Pogues, and many more. The best places to sample Ireland’s heady cultural mix are Dublin (for nightlife and museums) Kilkenny (castles and religious buildings), Kylemore (lush natural scenery) and Cork (classic castle and lively nightlife).
If you march to the beat of your own drum, there are plenty of quirky and unusual attractions in Ireland that’ll float your boat. For starters, Skellig Michael in Co. Kerry is a remote, rocky island that you might recognize as a windswept filming location in Star Wars movies The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Alternatively, the Irish Sky Garden at Skibbereen is a piece of public art by the talented James Turrell – it’s a giant bowl-shaped structure seemingly suspended in mid air and blended into the natural backdrop of the Celtic Liss Ard. Meanwhile, Brigit’s Celtic Garden in Galway is a stunning 11 acre green space full of colorful wildflower meadows and native woodland – each lovingly maintained garden space represents one of the iconic Celtic festivals like Bealtaine and Lughnasa.
Things To Do in Ireland
With so much to see and do in Ireland, you’ll need to hone your itinerary to hit as many hotspots as possible while you’re here. So let’s take a look at a few hotspots. First off, if you want to learn how to charm with words, kissing the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle outside Cork City supposedly gives you ‘the gift of the gab’. Alternatively, if you like ghostly goings-on, Leap Castle in Co. Offaly claims the title of the ‘world’s most haunted castle’ and Co. Kerry’s Carrauntoohil is Ireland’s highest peak (3406 ft) and the views from the top are simply beautiful. And despite its name, Murder Hole Beach in Co. Donegal is another lovely scenic spot. Located in an isolated spot on the Rosguill Peninsula, it’s a bit of a hike to get there, but once you’re strolling the golden sands, surrounded by caves and cliffs, you’ll be glad you made the effort.
Big nights out
Ireland is arguably the best place in the world to let your hair down. And since the ‘craic’ (lively conversational) is legendary, chances are you’ll want to spend some time soaking up the social scene. First off, you can’t visit Ireland without having a night out (or three) in Dublin – there’s lots to see, but the Temple Bar area is party central. Outside the capital city, County Mayo’s Ballina is a county town that punches above its weight when it comes to nightlife – start at The Auld Shebeen and see where the evening takes you. And Maynooth in Co. Kildare is another top pick – there are pubs and clubs aplenty in this vibesy student town and the (affordable) drinks flow freely.
If you’re a sports fan, you’ll feel at home in Ireland too. In terms of venues, the 83,000-capacity Croke Park is the jewel in the emerald crown – this is the home of Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) football (a bit like a mixture of football and rugby). Catch a live game here and experience the bubbling cauldron crowd explode into a frenzy when their team scores – amazing. Meanwhile, if your timing is right, you might see the Irish national football (soccer) team take on an international rival at the Aviva Stadium (also in the capital), while Limerick’s Thomond Park is an iconic rugby stadium.
Eating Out in Ireland
If high-end eats are your thing, there’s plenty to please your palate in Ireland. One highly recommended option is Aimsir at Cliff in Lyons, Celbridge (Co. Kildare). Whet your appetite with delicious cocktails before diving into a magnificent menu that blends Nordic flavors with farm-fresh local ingredients. Alternatively, Liath in Blackrock, Co. Dublin boasts sleek, contemporary décor and just a select few tables – making the beautifully balanced menu based on the five tastes feel even more exclusive.
If you want to sample traditional Irish food, don’t miss Delahunt on Dublin’s Camden Street. Located in a classic Victorian building, hearty treats on the menu include freshly caught fish with mussels and tasty black pudding. Alternatively, The Oliver Plunkett in Cork City is a traditional Irish pub where you can pair perfectly poured pints of Guinness with delish bar food and live Irish music. Culinary escapades really don’t get much better.
Turns out the street food scene in Ireland is pretty special too. Try Pike n Pommes in Derry for mouth-watering delicacies like wagyu beefburgers with all the trimmings, the (wonderfully named) Misunderstood Heron in Connemara for lamb, mussels and artisan coffee, and Killybegs Seafood Shack in County Donegal for ocean-fresh white fish and tender smoked salmon.
The Republic of Ireland has plenty of airports and with Enjoy Travel, it’s simple to arrange car rental at any of them. Main air hubs include Dublin (DUB), Shannon (SNN), Cork (ORK), Knock (NOC) and Kerry (KIR).
The public transport system in Ireland is reasonably reliable, although services to more remote areas can be limited. It comprises buses and trains.
Always drive on the left hand side of the road in the Republic of Ireland. The speed limit on national roads is 100km/h, it’s 80km/h on regional roads, 50km/h in urban areas and 30km/h in areas near schools.
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