Travel Destinations / Ireland
Known for its beautiful lush, green landscapes; the warm hospitality of its locals; and renowned folklore that include mischievous leprechauns; Ireland is both a sight and an experience you won’t regret. This is where you are treated to a culture-rich land filled with history, magnificent scenery and plenty to do – with every part of the country boasting its own unique charm. Whether you’re after a visit to the bustling capital of Dublin, a historic tour down Boyne Valley Drive, or a trip through the countryside; Ireland has all the best of modernity alongside Celtic mystery – enough to keep any visitor preoccupied.
When it comes to natural wonders, this destination is one in which they’re plentiful. The famous Cliffs of Moher, for example, will leave you spellbound - even if only because of their height, which reaches 203 m. Moreover, Ireland’s informal culture and approachable, welcoming people will make it easy to feel at home no matter how far you’ve travelled to get here. Many locals are more than happy to offer assistance wherever they can, just adding to the welcoming atmosphere of this incredible country.
If historical sightseeing is on your to-do list, popular attractions include the former prison of Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin (constructed between 1792 and 1795), the underground tombs at Newgrange which date back to around 3200 BC, Tara Hill’s 11th century monuments and St Patrick’s Cathedral which goes back to the 5th century (although numerous alterations have been made to it since it was first built).
Tulsk village will be a treat for those who are curious when it comes to Celtic mythology – there are somewhat 60 ancient monuments. Then there’s also Clonmacnoise, a monastic city which houses everything from magnificent cathedrals to the resting places of Irish kings. The Rock of Cashel, which is a beautiful fortress containing a cathedral, chapel, and so forth, is another not-to-miss.
When it comes to religion, Ireland has quite a variety, although polls have revealed that Christianity is most prevalent, with the Roman Catholic and Protestant denominations being the most widespread. It’s interesting to note that Pagan rituals were the norm before Christianity came to the country around 432 AD (the latter was introduced by St Patrick).
Despite the fact that English is spoken by most of the population, it is only the nation’s second official language – with Irish (or Gaelic) being the first. The local accent is a charming one and certainly something the country is famous for. The pronunciation may take some getting used to but, luckily, the Irish folk are a friendly bunch who won’t mind repeating a word or two if you struggle to understand something.
Although this destination is contemporary in its food offering, with flavours from all around the world at your disposal, there are some interesting local foods too. Some of the most famous traditional Irish dishes include black pudding, which is a sausage made from cooked pig’s blood and oats, along with some other ingredients. You also get cooked pigs’ feet, otherwise known as crubeens. Barmbrack is another popular one – a type of bread with some raisins and sultanas. Quite a few traditional dishes are potato or mashed potato based. Examples of these include a boxty (potato-based pancake) and champ (mashed potato and scallions).
Of course, along with food, goes drink. If some countries can be said to have a café culture, then Ireland can be said to have a pub culture. Even if not for the purpose of having a Guinness, pubs are seen as popular places to get together and socialise. In winter, when the days are shorter and colder, these spots give locals and tourists alike something to do. Not just to be seen as watering holes, some of these bars serve food and are filled with traditional Irish memorabilia, making them popular for those who want to have a truly authentic experience.
You can look forward to an incredible range of festivities in Ireland, depending on the time of year. Just a few of these include:
- St Patrick’s Day - Takes place in March every year to commemorate the Saint’s passing.
- Galway Oyster and Seafood Festival – Running from 1954, this is quite possibly the world’s oldest oyster festival.
- National Ploughing Championship – Exactly what the name suggests, along with some more of all other things agricultural, including interesting exhibitions.
- Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival – During this time, bars and other social hubs in Lisdoonvarna are occupied by numbers in the region of 20 000. It takes place over September and October, keeping up the Irish tradition of getting people together in the name of love.
- Puck Fair – This festival has been celebrated for over 400 years, takes place over the course of four days and is an extraordinary conglomeration of music, dance, family activities, arts and crafts. All because of the symbolic “crowning of a mountain goat”.
- Kilkenny Arts Festival – This is where lovers of literature, theatre and all other artistic pursuits will find themselves in their happy place.
Ireland is filled with shops that offer a high level of value without lowering quality standards in each of its counties. That said, if shopping is one of your main items on the list of things to do, it will be a good idea to visit the larger cities, which includes Dublin, Cork, Belfast and Galway.
Grafton Street in Dublin is particularly well-known as a not-to-miss shopping spot, offering visitors everything from popular department stores to quaint street pop-up stores, boutiques and some welcome surprises in-between. If you’re looking for some vintage or antique items, be sure to head to Francis Sreet too.
Specific goods that Ireland’s offering seems to excel in includes linen, wool, crystal-ware and jewellery – with each part of the country having its own unique flavour that travellers can relish.
Out of the 32 counties that Ireland is made up of, six in Northern Ireland form part of the United Kingdom. In the south, the Euro is used as currency, while Northern Ireland makes use of pounds sterling. The pound is available in notes of £5, £10, £20, £50 and £100. The coins available to you are pennies of ½p, 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p and 50p, along with £1 and £2. When it comes to the Euro, notes are available in: €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500. The coins available to you are 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent, as well as €1 and €2.
Keeping cash on you is probably the most hassle-free method of paying for all your Irish goodies, but there are other ways you can go about it too. Although travellers’ cheques are not easily accepted beyond the boundaries of a bank or used very often for everyday transactions, most places accept Amex and Thomas Cook travellers’ cheques.
PRIOR TO ARRIVAL
There are no required vaccinations for entering Ireland. Therefore, all you need to make sure of is that any prescriptions you may have are explicitly marked and that you have a doctor’s letter confirming what illness or condition you’re taking the medication for. Make sure it’s dated and signed. Despite there being no required vaccinations, it’s recommended that travellers ensure they’re protected against polio, measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria and tetanus.
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Irish weather is known for its unpredictability and the country tends to experience a lot of rainfall. If you want to avoid it as much as possible, it’s best to visit the southeast, which has a drier climate. Summer peaks from around May to July, Spring from around February to April, Autumn from August to October, and winter from December to February.
The coldest months are usually January and February. This time of year sees temperatures of about 4-8°C. It is also during this period that days are shorter. Darkness sets in at around 17:00 at the height of winter; whereas you can experience daylight for up to 18 hours during the height of summer, with darkness only setting in at around 22:00. Summer has an average temperature range of 15-20°C, though temperatures up to 30°C have been experienced.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Tourists mostly flood the country during summer, while numerous places frequented by visitors close down from around October until around March/April. The most popular tourist season is therefore May – July, when the weather is warmer and the days are longer. Of course, this higher demand also results in an overall hike in prices. Many festivities native to the country take place during this time of year as well. If you would prefer to miss the crowds, you could always opt to travel during spring and autumn, which presents a good compromise between the low and peak seasons.