Ireland — Overview
The Republic of Ireland boasts character, but is also well known for its superb natural beauty. Occupying the southern and northwestern region of the large island set in the Atlantic Ocean west of Britain, it’s a popular visitor destination for its fun cities, ancient Celtic heritage and emerald-green countryside. Medieval towns, remote highlands, rugged coastlines, secluded bays and the much-loved Irish festivals and traditional music are all highlights here.
Dublin, the Republic of Ireland’s capital, is the fourth most popular European city for visitors. Its traditional pubs, historic buildings, great shopping and ultra-friendly people guarantee an enjoyable vacation and the city is a good base for exploring the region. Ancient Cork City lies along the banks of the Lee River and is famous for its festivals, while Galway on the rugged western coast is a hub for the Gaelic language, Irish culture, the island’s gastronomy, and hosts a festival almost every week of the year.
The Republic of Ireland covers an area of around 27,000 square miles, divided into well-organized, cosmopolitan cites and remote, traditional towns such as County Donegal. Daytrips are easily arranged from all bases and there’s plenty to see, from stunning coastlines to ruined abbeys and a plethora of castles. Gaelic football and Hurling are national sports, and the Irish are a nation of horse-lovers, breeding and training many famous racers, making betting a national pastime. Golf is huge here, with a great selection of courses, and sailing, fishing and surfing are popular water activities.
The Irish are among the most hospitable people in the world, and love to tell visitors tales of their country, its fascinating history and charming legends. Comfortable accommodations range from luxury hotels to remote farmhouses and tiny guest houses perched on seaside cliffs. Irish cuisine is filling, warming and delicious, and the traditional black, bitter stout is the national drink, along with Irish whiskey. As with most European vacations, Ireland isn’t the cheapest place to visit, but does provide a good value for the money.
Transportation around Ireland is by train, bus, taxi, tram, boat, self-drive or domestic flight, although the latter has been recently been reduced to only a few connections between Dublin, Kerry and Donegal. Roads are mostly modern and well-kept, except in rural areas, and Ireland’s highway network is comprehensive. Trains and long-distance bus routes connect major cities, and services in general are fast and comfortable. Advance online booking of rail tickets can save as much as 75 percent. Intercity buses are provided by several companies, and towns either side of the River Shannon’s estuary are linked by ferries.
- See Georgian Dublin for its shopping, Irish pubs and great nightlife
- Visit the Dingle peninsula and the lively tourist town of Killarney
- Admire the Blarney Castle and the famous Blarney Stone
- Gaze onto the Cliffs of Moher, rearing high above the Atlantic Ocean
- Explore County Donegal for its traditional culture and remote beauty
- Meander around County Wicklow’s lakes and hills
- Marvel at St Finbarre’s Cathedral in Cork City
- Uncover County Clare’s Neolithic sites
- View Magnificent 13th century Ashford Castle in County Mayo