For an estimated 80 million emigrants around the world, Ireland is the homeland of their ancestors, and their history is tied to the ancient Celtic legends of the country.
The Department of Irish Folklore at University College Dublin has a collection of over 100,000 tales, myths and legends – the largest compendium of its kind in the world.
From romantic tales of warriors, like Cu Chulainn; to one of the greatest Celtic heroes, Finn McCool; with such a proud literary tradition and history dating back to 6000 BC, there’s little wonder the Irish have accumulated such a hoard of mythology.
The natural beauty of Ireland is the stuff of legends itself, with shorelines trimmed in golden sands and rocky outcrops, surrounding tranquil lakelands and rural idylls, and the cities are trendy urban centres bursting with history and tradition.
With its 40 shades of green vand age-old monuments scattered from coast to coast, the magic of Ireland’s landscape, the depth of its history and the graciousness of its people will steal your heart.
History & Culture
Historians estimate that Ireland was first settled by humans at a relatively late stage in European terms – about 10,000 years ago. Around 300BC, Iron Age warriors known as the Celts came to Ireland from mainland Europe. The Celts had a huge influence on Ireland. Many famous Irish myths stem from stories about Celtic warriors. The current first official language of the Republic of Ireland, Irish (or Gaeilge) stems from Celtic language.
At the end of the 8th century and during the 9th century Vikings, from where we now call Scandinavia, began to invade and then gradually settle into and mix with Irish society. The Vikings founded, Dublin, Ireland’s capital city in 988. Following the defeat of the Vikings by the High King of Ireland in 1014, Viking influence faded.
By the turn of the first Millennium, Ireland was a heady mix of Celts and naturalised Vikings, when along came English warriors, armed to the teeth, who gave themselves the rather unimpressive name 'Normans'. This marked the beginning of more than 800 years of direct English rule and, later, British involvement in Ireland.
And so it remained, until Henry VIII arrived on the throne in England, and began to stir things up a bit. Henry had found religion, in the form of Protestantism, and decided that if it was good for the king, it was good for everybody under the king.
For a small place, Ireland has plenty of impressive natural wonders. Mainland Europe might have the Acropolis, the Coliseum, the Sagrada Familia, and Piazza San Marco, but Ireland is home to more natural wonders than any of our European cousins. In Ireland you can feel the power of the waves pushed east from North America at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean or wander in solitude down one of the many towpaths along the majestic River Boyne.
From dramatic rock formations built by a giant (if you believe the legend) to the highest sea cliffs in Europe, there’s plenty to get your camera snapping and your heart racing. The Ring of Kerry is world famous for its wonderful scenery, and places like Connemara and the Dingle Peninsula come close in terms of both fame and beauty. But there are jaw-dropping views to be had elsewhere too, in less well-known spots such as the Mourne Mountains, Slieve League and Skellig Islands.
Even though it may rain up to 225 of the year, don't let this stop you from getting out and experiencing all that Ireland has to offer.
Stretching northwards into the sea from the Antrim coast, the regular basalt columns of the Giant's Causeway seem almost man-made. That's why their creation was attributed to legendary giant Finn McCool, wanting to cross over to Scotland. But the Giant's Causeway is all natural. And certainly a wonder.
Imagine driving up a steep hillside... and suddenly facing a sheer drop of a few hundred feet down into the ocean. Not an uncommon occurrence in the Irish west. The awe-inspiring Cliffs of Moher, stretching 8 miles along the western Atlantic Coast near the town of Dongal, aren’t for the faint of heart; there’s no fence between you and the 650-foot drop to the sea below. If the 650-foot isn’t enough, try the straight 985-foot drop from Slieve League into the crashing Atlantic below. Now that is sure to get your heart racing.
You think "Jaws" was scary? Try meeting a basking shark in Irish waters! Fortunately, these giants are quite gentle, feeding on small fry only and not at all dangerous to humans. Unless the latter die of a heart attack while snorkeling across the big beasts peaceful path. Don’t fancy getting wet? The Natural History Museum in Dublin has a preserved basking shark on display.
Must Do Experiences
Ireland may look like a small country but the list of sights to visit is long. So long, in fact, that it would take weeks to see all of them. Here is our list of our favorite experiences in Ireland, a good starting point for having the best holiday here.
The Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s most iconic sights. This dramatic stretch of coastline draws thousands of visitors every year, making it one of Ireland’s most visited destinations. On a quick visit, you can view the cliffs from the visitors centre. For a more memorable experience, considering walk part (or all) of the 14 km of the Cliff Trail.
Dublin is Ireland’s capital city. Most people visiting Ireland will arrive and/or depart from here. There is a lot of history here as well as a great nightlife scene, making Dublin worth at least 24 hours of your time. It's here you can get swept up in a traditional Irish pub (make sure you enjoy a Guinness or three!) with fabulous live music. Speaking of Guinness, take a tour of the brewery, which is walking distance from the centre of town. If Guinness isn't to your tasting the Irish Whiskey Experience right by Trinity College is a great way to learn about all the different whiskey varieties in Ireland.
The Ring of Kerry is the most popular scenic drive in Ireland. This drive takes a full day. On the loop you get to see dramatic coastline, Killarney National Park, views out to Skellig Michael, and of course, more cute Irish towns. Because of its popularity, it is very crowded during peak season. However, if you have limited time, skip the Ring of Kerry. The Dingle Peninsula is just as dramatic with much fewer people.
Points of Interest
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|Good Craic||A good time, fun and friendship|
Best Time to Visit
|General Sightseeing||May to October|
|Gardens & Flowers||April & May|
|Gaelic Sports||February to September|
|Visiting the Pub||Anytime|
Getting around in Ireland is easy, it's a smal country with a wide variety of transport options. There's cars, buses, trains, boats and planes, however as it's so small you probably won't need to get on a plane...imagine all that beautiful emerald countryside you'd miss, not to mention the craic!
Car hire the recommended way to get around (it's worthy to note that most lead-in hire cars are manual in Europe, you'll need to pay for an upgrade if you want to hire an automatic). The narrow roads with sometimes hard to see shoulders makes driving in rural Ireland one for confident drivers.
Ireland has a plethora of fine restaurants from expensive to cheap. Traditional Irish to world cuisine are represented in the cities and towns. Irish cuisine doesn't just consist of potatoes, although the consumption of potatoes is higher in Ireland than most of the world. Some famous traditional Irish dishes are Irish stew, soda bread, corned beef with cabbage and champ. On holidays you might get to sample Colcannon, Barm Brack or Irish Christmas cake. Irish cuisine uses basically no spices except salt and pepper but the ingedients are typically fresh and abundant.
If you've had your fill of traditional Irish cuisine, western European standards are available everywhere and the international foodie scene is well represented in the major cities.