Ireland is divided into the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland – between them, they contain a number of breathtaking views, fascinating historical sites, and some great pints of Guinness.
The Republic of Ireland occupies the majority of the island of Ireland and is located off the coast of England and Wales. Its main city Dublin is a lively city on the River Liffey and is famed for being the birthplace of famous writers Oscar Wilde and James Joyce. The world famous Trinity College is the oldest university in Ireland and is among Dublin’s most significant tourist attractions on account of its beautiful architecture, and long history.
Dublin is home to two medieval cathedrals, Christ Church and St Patrick’s Cathedral, as well as one classical cathedral, Saint Mary’s, which all provide fascinating insights into Ireland’s religious past. Temple Bar, an area on the south bank of the River Liffey is famous for its high density of Irish pubs, where you can often catch a band playing traditional Irish music. Spacious public parks, romantic sandy stretches and some of the most wonderful castles in Ireland can also be found in or just outside Dublin.
The south-west of Ireland is known for having a very diverse landscape: steep cliffs, picturesque bays, lush green scenery and idyllic, colourful villages, all of which can be found around the Ring of Kerry. The famous scenic route follows the coastline of the Iveragh peninsula, taking you through stunning landscapes, charming towns, and magnificent coastal stretches. Similarly, the monumental 200 metre high Cliffs of Moher offer the most wonderful scenic walks and view of the Aran Islands located at the mouth of Galway Bay. Another scenic route is Connemara, a cultural region consisting of West Galway that has strong associations with traditional Irish culture. The Connemara loop passes ancient castles, quaint villages and atmospheric mist covered lakes.
Northern Ireland amazes its visitors with its capital and largest city Belfast, which today remains a centre for industry, the arts and is the economic epicentre of the country. There are plenty of eateries to suit a variety of tastes and budgets, fantastic performing venues for music and theatre fans and a great selection of walking tours. History buffs would be hard-pressed to find a more moving or interesting past than Belfast’s, the home of the ill-fated RMS Titanic, and the scene of an array of conflicts during ‘The Troubles’.
Other than Belfast, Northern Ireland is renowned for its natural spectacles such as the UNESCO World Heritage site Giant’s Causeway, an area of around 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, which are a result of an ancient volcanic eruption.
Both countries are famous for their warm friendly atmosphere, traditional Irish pubs, Irish music and unique traditions.
When it comes to places to stay in Ireland, the majority of accommodation is of European middle class and good middle-class standards. The atmosphere and décor can range from traditional Irish to very modern and contemporary in style, with larger than average bedrooms.
One of Ireland’s most popular destinations, the Cliffs of Moher is an area of great natural beauty. The cliffs are located at the edge of the Burren region in County Clare and cover 5 miles of land. At their maximum height, the cliffs are 214m. Visitors can walk along the numerous Cliffside pathways or climb the O’Brien tower for breathtaking views.
Clonmacnoise was founded in 544 by St Ciarán. The monastery’s strategic location resulted in it becoming a major centre of religion, learning, craftsmanship, and trade. Visitors can wander through the ruins of the ancient monastic site and see three high crosses, seven churches and a cathedral, all of which have been beautifully preserved.
Giant’s Causeway is an area consisting of 40,000 basalt columns, which resulted from an ancient volcanic eruption. Located on the northeast coast of Northern Ireland, the Giant’s Causeway was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. Visitors can hike along the Giant’s Causeway to discover numerous points of interest, and magnificent views.
The Benedictine monastery was founded in 1920 as a safe haven for Benedictine Nuns who fled Belgium during World War One. The abbey is surrounded by a 6 acre Victorian Walled Garden, beyond which there are beautiful woodlands and lakeshores. Visitors can explore the restored rooms of the Abbey, and learn about its turbulent history.
Also known as St. Patrick’s Rock, the site is reputedly where St. Patrick’s conversion of Aenghus the King of Munster took place in the 5th Century AD. Visitors can take in the wonderful view of the Irish countryside from the iconic Rock of Cashel and can also explore the buildings located on the site to discover its vibrant past.
Bunratty Castle remains in remarkable condition. So much so that it is the most complete and authentic medieval fortress in Ireland and contains period furnishings, tapestries and artworks. In addition to exploring the castle, visitors can be transported back in time as they wander round the 26 acre Folk Park to explore the reconstruction of a rural village from over a century ago.
The second largest national park in Ireland stretches across 170 kilometres of hillside above Glenveagh Castle, and its numerous gardens are home to exotic plants from Chile, Madeira and Tasmania. The varied rugged landscape encompasses mountains, lakes, tumbling waterfalls and enchanting woodlands.
The Kilbeggan Whiskey Distillery is one of Ireland’s oldest, having acquired a licence to distil way back in 1757. A creaking timber water wheel and giant steam engine, which are both still in working condition will transport visitors back to its early beginnings.
Nicknamed ‘the valley of the two lakes’ for its remarkable scenery, rich history and abundant wildlife - Glendalough’s impressive Monastic City founded in the 6th Century is home to ancient monuments and lakes that are open to visitors all year round, and can be accessed on foot. The Glendalough Visitor Centre houses an interactive exhibition and detailed model of the monastic site.
Located just a 15 minute drive from the Irish city of Cork, this world famous whiskey distillery offers numerous interactive tours and experiences. Visitors can go on a guided tour around the facilities, sample some of Jameson’s famous whiskies and can even try their hand at producing their own batch.
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