The lure of Ireland lies in its landscapes and its people, andit is through involvement with both that visitors get to experiencethe soul of this ancient land of saints and scholars.
Ireland's hills are a walker's paradise, not only because of theextensive network of trails, but because exploring on foot allowstravellers to appreciate the lakes, rivers, and coastal views thatare so much a part of the Irish landscape. Watersports such asangling, sailing and surfing are popular too, and many visitorscome for the golf. That said, the country's real passion is horses- there is a potential Derby winner in every valley and a packedbetting shop in every high street.
The Irish weather is not the most predictable in the world. Thenagain, much of the beauty of the Irish landscape is due to itsclimate. Indeed, poor weather has had positive influences on theIrish way of life. Music and song plays an integral part inday-to-day routine and visitors are able to experience this in themany pubs so characteristic of the social landscape of Ireland.Irish music is captivating - arguably some of the best in the world- and Irish pubs are a highlight of a journey through thecountry.
Over the years, Ireland has survived invasions, famine and civilwar, but has recently come into its own, benefiting from peace inthe North, support from the EU, and a new vitality that has causedthe country to be dubbed the 'Celtic Tiger'. There has never been abetter time to visit.
Ireland is truly one of the great sightseeing destinations. Thelocal people are wholeheartedly welcoming and entertainingsocially. Travellers can expect an abundance of beautiful naturallandscapes and there are cultural and historical attractionsaplenty. Also, the Guinness really tastes better here at thesource. The country has a wider significance for many Americanvisitors, whose ancestors came from these shores in greatnumbers.
Although there are must-see attractions like Blarney Castle,Trinity College and the soaring Cliffs of Moher, the real magic ofIreland lies in the unexpected encounters with the local people andunplanned evenings in country pubs, where impromptu gigs can setthe soul alight. Ireland is full of music and good cheer and noamount of rain can dampen local spirits.
Winter is not the best time to visit, as it is cold and rainy.Travellers should plan trips for the summer months between Apriland September. The ideal ways to get around are by rented car orbicycle, which visitors can use to explore the photogenic countrylanes. The roads are good in Ireland and driving around is notunduly stressful.
Trinity College is Ireland's oldest university and countsJonathan Swift, Samuel Beckett and Oscar Wilde, along with manyother great thinkers and writers, among its past students. It wasfounded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I. The complex is home to manyglorious buildings, beautifully manicured lawns, cobbled squaresand the campus of the University of Ireland.
The main attraction for many is the Trinity Library. It housesthe celebrated Book of Kells, which dates from the 8th century andis considered to be one of the oldest books in the world. Othermanuscripts taken from ancient monasteries are also on display.Note that photography in this gallery is strictly forbidden.
The library is also home to the remarkable Long Room, which willdelight the scholarly. The chapel on the grounds is absolutelybeautiful and a must-see for anybody interested in ecclesiasticalarchitecture. There are lots of sculptures, statues and monumentsdotted around the grounds to investigate. One of the best things todo at Trinity, however, is to simply make like a student and loungeon the lovely green lawns!
The Irish capital is known for its nightlife and many visitorscome to Dublin primarily to enjoy the great beer, food, traditionalmusic, and friendly locals that make the pub scene so famous.
This quaint, cobbled district is the hub Dublin's toursitnightlight. There are shops, traditional pubs, theatres, cinemasand trendy clubs laid out on pedestrianised streets. Buskingfiddlers, an overwhelming choice of restaurants, and beautifullyrestored buildings add to the feel of the place and make it worth avisit. The streets and drinking holes are always bustling in TempleBar and the area has been immortalised by many photographers.
The area is bordered by the Liffey River on one side and DameStreet on the other. The main street running through the area isalso called Temple Bar. The weekly Temple Bar Food Market takesplace between 10am and 4.30pm on Saturdays at Meeting House Squareand this is a must for foodies. There are also several regular bookmarkets in the area, and lots of little gems for clothes shoppers.The area has become rather expensive and some find it too touristy.That said, it's the place to be for the young and fashionable.
Dublin Castle is at the very heart of the historic city. It wasfounded in 1204 by order of King John, who wanted a fortressconstructed for the administration of the city. It has been addedto and rebuilt many times so that all that remains of the originalstructure is the Norman Tower. By the early 17th century, thecastle was fully developed with Law Courts, meetings of Parliament,the residence of the viceroy and a council chamber. Themagnificent, gilded State Apartments were added in the 18th centuryand are still used for state occasions today.
Highlights of the castle include the Throne Room, St Patrick'sHall and the Ladies Drawing Room. The gardens are also great for astroll or relaxing, and there are some interesting sculptures toinvestigate. The gardens can be accessed by the public for free.There is a restaurant and a Heritage Centre, as well as a giftshop. You can only explore the castle on official guided tourswhich start every 20 minutes and take about an hour. Groups arerequired to book in advance. There are plenty of attractions at thecastle to explore in your own time though, like the Chester BeattyLibrary. Note that the castle is used for state functions and issometimes closed on short notice. Check the website to ensure it isopen for your visit.
The National Museum's permanent collection is broken up intofour seperate museums, which have different locations in Dublin.The National Museum of Archaeology is on Kildare street, theNational Museum of Decorative Arts and History is on Benburbstreet, the National Museum of Country Life is in Turlough Park,and the National Museum of Natural History is on Merrion street.All four establishments are great.
The Natural History Museum is particularly good for kids, butthe most popular and impressive is the Archaeology Museum, wheremany of the treasures of ancient Ireland can be found. Included inthis museum is jewellery dating back to the 8th century BC andmedieval antiquities such as the Tara Brooch and the ArdaghChalice. Also housed here is the 12th-century Cross of Cong, anornate reliquary of wood, bronze and silver, said to contain afragment of the True Cross. The museum showcases importantexhibitions on Irish history, including Prehistoric Ireland, VikingIreland and The Road to Independence (1900-1921). There are alsosections on Ancient Egypt and Life and Death in the Roman World.This is a truly world-class museum, which brings ancient Irishhistory to life.
Although Guinness is now brewed all over the world, St James'sGate, in the heart of Dublin, was where Arthur Guinness set up thebusiness in 1759. The Guinness Storehouse celebrates Ireland'sfavourite brew by taking visitors on a journey, floor by floor,through the past, present and future of the world-famous beer. Theglass atrium is shaped like a pint glass and each floor explores adifferent aspect of 'everything anyone ever wanted to know aboutGuinness', from the brewing process to who drank the firstpint.
Visitors can't view the actual brewing process but will beintroduced to the machinery used through the ages, and watch videosexplaining how it all works. The tour finishes with a complementarypint of the famous stout in the top-floor Gravity Bar, which isalso the ideal place to watch the sun set over Dublin and admirethe 360° views.
Visitors can enjoy tasting sessions during the July and Augustsummer program, as well as exhibitions and delicious Irish mealsfrom a table d'hôte menu in the Brewery Bar or Source Bar. Theonsite shop sells some excellent merchandise for Guinness lovers.There is very good wheelchair access to the whole facility.
The highlight of this historic library is its great, domedreading room, which has been home to many Irish students, includingJames Joyce. This is a light-filled, peaceful and inspiring placeto work, write or read, and should be on every scholar's bucketlist. The reading room is open from 9.30am to 7.45pm between Mondayand Wednesday, 9.30am to 4.45pm on Thursday and Friday, and 9.30amto 12.45pm on Saturday. Anybody is allowed to enter provided theyrespect the strict note about silence.
The library also contains a heraldic museum, which exhibitscoats of arms and banners. But, the genealogical office, wherestaff can help trace any Irish roots, may be of of most interest totourists. Its consultation service on ancestry is available Mondayto Wednesday 9.30am - 5pm, and Thursday to Friday 9.30am - 4.45pm.It's a free service and no appointment is required.
One of the library's most famous and popular attractions is theaward-winning Yeats exhibit: The Life and Works of William ButlerYeats. The exhibit is magical and compelling, taking visitorsthrough Yeats' fascinating life. The collection includes rarematerial, which has been generously donated by Mrs George Yeats,the poet's wife, and Michael Yeats, his son, over several years.The library hosts other wonderful temporary exhibitions but theYeats exhibit has been on show since 2006. It has become apermanent addition due to popular demand. There is also a cafe onthe premises.
St Patrick's Cathedral is Ireland's largest church. It's erectedon the site where St. Patrick is believed to have baptized hisconverts to the Christian faith when he visited Dublin. The currentbuilding dates back to the 12th century, although it has beenrestored and altered over the years.
Jonathan Swift was dean of St. Patrick's from 1713 to 1745,during which time he penned Gulliver's Travels. Visitors can stillsee his tomb and pulpit. There are many tombs and memorials in thecathedral and it is interesting to get a guided tour to learn moreabout all the history on show. The cathedral has a nice little giftshop and really lovely grounds to enjoy. Marsh's Library is rightnext to the church. It is worth a visit for anybody interested inold, rare and unusual books. The cathedral still has dailyservices, which are open to the public.
The church has a particularly impressive Boys Choir. Touristshave to pay a small fee for entry, with all proceeds going towardsmaintenance of the magnificent building. If, however, visitors wantto attend a service to worship, there is no admission fee. Thecathedral is sometimes closed for special services.
The old Cork City Gaol looks the same as it did in Victoriantimes, with its barred windows, cells, bare corridors and ironstairways behind the unwelcoming gateway. The gaol onceincarcerated 19th century prisoners. The building was built in 1824and is considered one of the finest examples of Georgianarchitecture surviving in Cork.
Self-guided audio tours are an option. Life-size figures, soundsand exhibitions tell the story and social history of 19th centuryCork and the reasons people turned to crime, which was mainly dueto extreme poverty. Visitors can still see the graffiti thatprisoners carved or wrote on the walls, and there are manyinteresting facts and stories to be heard. Unsurprisingly, the CorkCity Gaol is said to be haunted, which is very easy to believe whenstrolling through the formidable building.
The tour is available in 13 languages and it really doestransport visitors into another century. Children will enjoy thisattraction and it is a good activity for the whole family. Althoughit is popular, it never seems too crowded, which adds to the eerieatmosphere.
The Dublin Zoo is one of Ireland's most popular attractions forchildren. It takes visitors on a voyage of discovery from theArctic to the Plains of Africa via an Indian Rainforest. The zoohouses more than 600 animals and the habitats are impressive, withlots of information provided on each species.
The zoo provides plenty of entertainment for kids, with freearts and crafts activities like face painting, and a number oflittle playgrounds dotted around the park. Visitors can see lionsand tigers, Asian elephants, gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans,rare monkeys, rhinos, hippos, giraffes and many more exotic andendangered species, including extremely rare species like the snowleopard. There is also a pet's corner for children, a city farm anda safari train ride around the African Plains.
Although it is an old zoo, it is recognised as one of the mostmodern in Europe, and it places emphasis on learning about wildlifeand conservation. The Dublin Zoo is a registered charity and allprofits will go towards maintenance and improvement. There are anumber of snack stalls and a restaurant on the premises, butvisitors can also bring their own picnics.
Jameson, who was actually a Scotsman, moved to Dublin to start awhiskey distillery in the 1770s and clearly made a lastingimpression on the industry, despite the many distilleries makingfine Irish whiskey in Dublin at the time.
The Old Jameson Distillery is located in the heart of Dublin.Visiting is a treat for whiskey lovers, and there's a taste ofIrish culture and history thrown into the bargain. This museumillustrates the history of Irish whiskey, known in Irish as (the water of life). The expert guides willanswer any questions whiskey lovers might have. The tour takesvisitors through the triple distillation process that sets Jamesonapart. In the beginning there is a film explaining the 'Angel'sShare', which is very interesting. A free glass of Jameson Whiskeyis included in the tour and visitors can choose to partake in awhiskey tasting in the bar after their tour and sample differentIrish, Scotch and American whiskeys.
The tour lasts just over an hour, but guests can stay afterwardsto enjoy the bars, restaurant and gift shop. A popular souvenirfrom the gift shop is a personalised bottle of whiskey, which willdelight any whiskey drinkers back home.
Kids love nothing more than farms, and there's no better placefor them to explore than an actual working one. Airfield is theonly active farm left within Dublin's city boundary and the ownersaim to connect people of all ages to nature through farming andgardening. Indeed, they want to instill a respect and love for thenatural environment. The sheep, horses, goats and pigs will provideendless entertainment for young ones and, with plenty of space torun around and activities for children to get involved in, parentswill enjoy themselves too.
The farm has learning programmes for primary school children,secondary school children, and adults. Children participate inseasonal activities and help tend to the animals. They may even belucky enough to witness a lamb being born. The adult courses teachsustainable living skills, such as cultivating a vegetable garden,keeping chickens, and making cosmetics. The Airfield House and CarMuseum are also great to explore, and there is a lovely cafe on thepremises as well. Airfield hosts art exhibitions and the like forentertainment, though many visitors come just for the pleasure of astroll around the farm.
Imaginosity is an innovative children's museum aimed atstimulating children's imaginations and curiosity. The two-storeyclimbing structure is a favourite, while the art studio, theatresand galleries provide endless hours of fun. Parents will bethrilled to sneak some education in without the kids even realisingit! The museum is designed for kids under nine, but the idea is toengage in creative play as a family, with parents and oldersiblings getting involved.
Imaginosity is great for a rainy day in Dublin, or as a chancefor kids to take a break from traditional sightseeing and let theircreativity flow. The museum holds numerous events and competitions- things like Superhero Training Camps and storytellingcompetitions.
Guests should book ahead to avoid disappointment, particularlyon holidays and weekends, as the museum only accepts a certainnumber of children per session.
Positioned on a hill overlooking the River Lee, the Church Towerof Shandon (Old Fort) is possibly Cork's most famous landmark. Thered sandstone and white limestone tower is crowned by a large,salmon-shaped weather vane. It was built in 1722, making it one ofCork's oldest buildings, and is still perfectly preserved. TheChurch of St Anne is famous for its bells, which inspired the song'The Bells of Shandon', and also for its clock, which is referredto as 'the four-faced liar' because each of its four faces reads adifferent time. Visitors can ring the famous bells on a visit to StAnne's and view the internal workings of the clocks.
The views of the city from the bell tower's balcony arestunning. The staircase up to the top of the tower gets quitenarrow, which is a delight for some but perhaps shouldn't beattempted by the claustrophobic. The church itself is also a joy toexplore for those who are interested, and the people who work thereare very helpful and friendly. The church is located in thehistorical section of the city, so a visit can be combined with astroll through the charming old area, which has many otherattractions.
The 16th century Princes Street Market is a covered food marketin the centre of Cork. A large sign now designates it the OldEnglish Market (and the nearby St Peter's Market is referred tolocally as the Irish Market), although it is certainly Irish incharacter. The Queen and Prince Philip visited the market in June2011, cementing its association with the English.
Merchandise on sale includes fresh fruit and vegetables, bakedgoods, cheese, meat, seafood, gourmet chocolate, sweets, clothes,and local crafts, trinkets and souvenirs. It is well known amonglocals and tourists alike for its varied selection of produce fromall over the world, and especially for its fresh fish. Themerchants are very friendly and the place has a wonderfulatmosphere. It's a good idea to ask the stall owners for theirrecommendations and try out some local specialties. Visitors canbuy a take-away meal, gifts for those back home, or groceries atthe Old English Market. Those who enjoy the place should try theFarmgate Restaurant, where they can sit on the balcony overlookingthe stalls and relish the smells and sights along with a greatmeal.
Ireland is notorious for experiencing cold, damp weather formuch of the year. This is due to its temperate climate, but iscompensated for by its delightful green countryside. It is,however, possible to enjoy some warm, sunny and dry days during thepleasant summer months between May and September, and those whotravel to Ireland in winter will find that the weather is far lesssevere than in the UK. Summer (May to September) is the warmest anddriest season and is the best time to visit Ireland, thoughattractions can get crowded in July and August. Winter ischaracterised by short, wet, foggy days and long nights, but thetemperature rarely gets below freezing due to the tempering GulfStream winds that buffet the west coast of Ireland. Someattractions are only open in summer but many tourists visit Irelandin the off-season when accommodation is cheaper. Spring and autumncan also be very pleasant times to visit. The southeast is thedriest region of Ireland, enjoying more sunny days than the rest ofthe country. It seldom snows in Ireland.
This 16th century tavern is renowned for its traditional musicballad sessions. The building, complete with blazing fires,original stone walls and gas lights, features a wonderfulrestaurant upstairs. The menu changes on a seasonal basis butfeatures such culinary delights as (seafood crepes), roast duckling withginger and pineapple, or spinach and ricotta tortellini. After themeal, guests can enjoy the live entertainment downstairs in theform of some traditional Irish music. Bookings are recommended andcredit cards accepted.
Mao has been a firm favourite with Dubliners for over 20 years.The chef's prepare fresh, healthy food with a sophisicated Asianflair. The exposed kitchen lines an entire wall and the rest of thespace is wide open, which makes this an excellent people-watchingspot.
The menu comprises everyone's favourite Asian dishes, such asThai fish cakes, chicken hoisin and salmon ramen, to name a few.Everything on the menu is delicious and it is hard to go wrong whendining here. It's open daily for lunch and dinner, and reservationsrecommended.
L'Ecrivain is one of Dublin's finest restaurants, offeringdiners a relaxed and unpretentious experience. Chef Derry Clarke'sfood is absolutely mouth-watering, from his seared wild Irishvenison loin with caramelized pear, or Bere Island scallops withlobster strudel.
Menu prices are changed regularly and it's not very affordable,but L'Ecrivain gives guests the opportunity to sample some of itsdishes in the form of a two-course lunch menu at a more reasonableprice.
The restaurant is open Monday to Saturday for dinner. They'reopen for lunch Wednesday to Friday, and they're closed Sunday.Reservations are essential.
This loud and busy restaurant has been a much-loved eatery withDublin's locals for over 20 years. The menu serves old favouritessuch as burgers, pasta, steaks and salads, appealing to just abouteveryone.
Orders are clipped to a wire before being whizzed off to thekitchen, and there's an outdoor terrace looking over the livelyTemple Bar scenes. It's also known as the place where SineadO'Connor used to wait tables. It's open daily.
Yamamori Noodles has a casual but lively atmosphere with anexciting menu. It's popular at lunchtime, and prices range frombargain to complete over-indulgence. Guest who don't want to breakthe bank should go for meals like chile chicken ramen or the with its mound of wok-fried noodles piledhigh with prawns, squid, chicken, and roast pork.
It's open daily for lunch and dinner. Reservations only forparties of four or more.
With its long, wooden bench tables, stone pillars, clean linesand light, airy atmosphere, this spacious eatery lends itselfperfectly to the ritualistic art of eating sushi. Yamamori Sushi isone of Dublin's favourite Asian restaurants, and for very goodreason.
Feast on Karubi beef, salmon teriyaki and Yamamori Ramen, whichis made up of char-grilled chicken, king prawns and char shu withcrispy tofu, egg, wakame, menma and spring onion in a chicken andpork stock.
It's open daily for lunch and dinner, and reservations arerecommended.
One Pico has become something of an institution when it comes todining out in Dublin. This award-winning restaurant servesdelicious local fare, including organic smoked salmon with pickledcucumber, remoulade and herb crème freche. A firm favourite on themenu is the filet of Irish Hereford Beef served with a white onionpuree, parmesan fondue and crispy tempura onion.
One Pico is open daily for lunch and dinner. Reservations areessential.
Gallagher's Boxty House specialises in traditional Irish foodlike fish and chips, soda bread, and especially the boxty, aquintessentially Irish potato pancake. It's one of the most popularrestaurants in the Temple Bar District. Their slogan is "The HumbleSpud, Made Beautiful", and they live up to that. Gallagher's goesthrough a tonne of potatoes every week, serving them up to buzzingcrowds who come for the filling food and lively music.
They're open for lunch and dinner daily.
The unit of currency is the Euro (EUR). Currency can beexchanged at banks and bureaux de change, and ATMs are widelyavailable. Credit and debit cards are widely accepted.
English is the principal language, although a minority ofpeople speak Irish (Gaelic).
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. UK-stylethree-pin and round three-pin plugs are in use.
US citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period ofintended stay in Ireland. No visa required.
British citizens must have a passport that is valid upon theirarrival in Ireland. Passport exemptions apply to holders of proofof nationality issued to nationals of Ireland and British subjects,for travel between Ireland and Great Britain and Northern Irelandonly. No visa is required for holders of British passports endorsedBritish Citizen, British National (Overseas), or British OverseasTerritories Citizen.
Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid for theperiod of intended stay in Ireland. No visa is required.
Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid for theperiod of intended stay in Ireland. No visa is required.
South African citizens must have a passport that is valid forthe period of intended stay in Ireland. No visa is required.
US citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period ofintended stay in Ireland. No visa required.
New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid for theperiod of intended stay in Ireland. No visa is required.
All foreign passengers to Ireland must be able to show proof ofsufficient funds to cover their stay in the country. Additionally,passengers should hold return/onward tickets, and the necessarytravel documentation for their next destination, as immigrationofficers might demand that they demonstrate proof of theirintention to leave Ireland. If the traveller's passport bears aBritish inadmissable stamp, unless the immigration officer isconvinced that they will not travel on to the United Kingdom, entrymay be refused to Ireland. Note that all visitors need to contactthe Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB), if their stay inIreland exceeds their visa-free period, or their stay is longerthan the period for which their visa is valid. NOTE: It is highlyrecommended that your passport has at least six months validityremaining after your intended date of departure from your traveldestination. Immigration officials often apply different rules tothose stated by travel agents and official sources.
There are no special health requirements for visitors toIreland. Health insurance is advisable unless travellers arevisiting from the UK or other EU countries, most of which havereciprocal agreements with Ireland. A European Health InsuranceCard (EHIC) should be obtained before departing for Ireland.Medical facilities are good and medicines are widely available;payment for treatment is usually required in cash. If travellersrequire specific medication, it is always advised that they bringit with them. Travellers should make sure to carry all medicationsin their original containers, clearly labeled. They should alsohave a signed, dated letter from their doctor describing allmedical conditions and listing all prescribed medications,including generic names.
A 10 percent tip will be welcomed in restaurants and cafes, andoccasionally a service charge will be added to the bill. Tipping isnot usual in bars and pubs, or for other services.
Most visitors to Ireland enjoy a fairly high level of personalsafety. Ireland has a very low level of violent crime, but there isa high incidence of petty theft in tourist areas and foreigners aretargeted by pick-pockets. Travellers should take sensibleprecautions against petty theft, including duplicating importantdocuments, carrying valuables in separate bags or pockets, andleaving valuables in hotel safes whenever possible. Terrorism is nomore a threat in Ireland than in other Western countries and safetyin the country has improved significantly with peace in NorthernIreland. Those travelling into Northern Ireland should note thatthe safety alerts for that country are completely seperate and canbe found in the United Kingdom travel guide.
Smoking in pubs, cafes and restaurants is illegal. Visitorsshould refrain from forcing discussions of political and religiousdifferences, and show respect if the topics are brought up.
The Irish are very sociable and although the usual elements ofbusiness etiquette apply (punctuality, formal wear, a courteousmanner), expect good conversation and a rather relaxed air.Handshakes are customary on introduction, and take the lead fromthe host with regards to using first names or surnames. Businesshours are usually from 9am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday, with a lunchbreak from 1pm to 2pm.
The international access code for Ireland is +353. City/areacodes are in use, e.g. 1 for Dublin. When making outgoing calls,dial 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for theUnited Kingdom). Hotels, cafes and restaurants offering free wifiare widely available. As international roaming costs can be high,purchasing a local prepaid SIM card can be a cheaper option.
Travellers over 17 years old arriving from non-EU countries donot have to pay duty on most products. Regulations allow 200cigarettes, 100 cigarillos, 50 cigars, 250g tobacco; one litre ofspirits with more than 22% alcohol volume, two litres of dessertwine, port of sherry with a maximum 22% alcohol content; and fourlitres of wine or 16 litres of beer. Other duty free productsinclude perfume up to 50g or 250ml eau de toilette; and other goodsfor personal consumption to the value of €430 per adult or €215 forchildren under 15 years.
All of these products are allowed on a fractional basis, so aproportional mix of each category is permitted. Prohibited itemsinclude meat and dairy products or raw vegetables.
Irish Tourist Office, Dublin: www.ireland.com
Irish Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 4623939.
Irish Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 7235 2171.
Irish Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 233 6281.
Irish Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 452 1000.
Irish Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 (0)2 6214 0000.
Consulate-General of Ireland, Auckland, New Zealand: +64 (0)9977 2252.
United States Embassy, Dublin: +353 (0)1 668 8777.
British Embassy, Dublin: +353 (0)1 205 3700.
Canadian Embassy, Dublin: +353 (0)1 234 4000.
South African Embassy, Dublin: +353 (0)1 661 5553.
Australian Embassy, Dublin: +353 (0)1 664 5300.
New Zealand High Commission, London, United Kingdom (alsoresponsible for Ireland): +44 (0)20 7930 8422.
Kinsale is an old fishing village just 18 miles (29km) south ofCork. It's best known for the world renowned Old Head Golf Links,set on a narrow head jutting out into the Celtic Sea. Kinsale has anumber of interesting sights, including The Courthouse and DesmondCastle.
Desmond Castle was built as a custom house by the Earl ofDesmond in the 16th century. It has a colourful history, rangingfrom Spanish occupation during the Battle of Kinsalein in 1601, toits use as a prison for captured American sailors during theAmerican War of Independence. It is known locally as 'The FrenchPrison' after a tragic fire in which 54 prisoners, mainly Frenchseamen, died in 1747. The castle was also used as a borough jailfrom 1791 to the beginning of the Great Famine, when it became anauxiliary workhouse tending to the starving populace.
Charles Fort is two miles (3km) outside Kinsale. Constructed inthe late 17th century on the site of an earlier coastalfortification, it is a classic example of a star-shaped fort.William Robinson, architect of the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham,Dublin, and Superintendent of Fortifications, is credited with itsdesign. As one of the largest military forts in the country,Charles Fort has been associated with some of the most momentousevents in Irish history, the most significant of which include theWilliamite War in 1690 and the Irish Civil War in 1922-1923. JamesFort sits across the estuary. It is an earlier structure that wasdesigned by Paul Ive in 1602.
Kinsale has also earned itself a reputation as Ireland's gourmetcentre, with numerous award-winning pubs and restaurants, and theannual Gourmet Festival in October.
Located just south of Dublin, Glendalough is a very populardestination for day-trippers. Although it gets busy, the site has avery tangible spirituality that can be experienced whilst standingamidst the remains of the monastic settlement. The Gaelic nametranslates to 'valley of the two lakes' and there are beautifulwalks around the ruined monastery and along the clear-as-glasslakes.
St Kevin founded the monastery in the 6th century and it becamea great European centre for learning. His body lies in the 9thcentury cathedral. The site is adorned with St Kevin's Cross,carved in about 1150. Other buildings here have survived from the8th and 12th centuries, the most famous of which is the roundtower, standing 112ft (34m) high with a base measuring 52ft (16m)in circumference.
Glendalough is a remarkable place both in its profound historyand its natural splendour. Photographers will be in heaven with thescenery and the romantic ruins. All told, the place fires up theimagination.
Located nine miles (14km) south of Dublin, the Martello Tower isone of 34 towers built in 1804 to protect Ireland against apossible Napoleonic naval invasion. The tower was demilitarised inthe 1860s and is now home to the James Joyce Museum. Sylvia Beach,the Paris-based publisher of , founded the museum in 1962. It was the place whereJoyce stayed in 1904 and where he was inspired to set the openingchapter of his famous book.
The exhibition hall contains first editions of most of Joyce'sworks as well as other interesting memorabilia, including one ofthe two official death masks made of Joyce, and reproductions ofhow the rooms would have looked when Joyce wrote the book. This isessentially a museum for Joyce fans, and it will delight lovers ofUlysses in particular. Those who are not in the know may not beoverly captivated. Having said that, everybody who visits will beastounded by the lovely views and picturesque setting of the tower,and many find the historical structure interesting in its ownright.
The museum is now run by volunteers who are wonderfully friendlyand enthusiastic. There is no charge for admission but donationsare welcome.
Clonmacnoise is Ireland's most important monastic site, and it'ssituated in Shannonbridge, west of Dublin in County Offaly. It wasfounded by Saint Ciaran in the 6th-century, on the banks of theRiver Shannon. It includes the ruins of a cathedral, eight churches(10th to 13th-century), two round towers, and three highcrosses.
The site is extremely atmospheric, with some beautiful ancientstonework, and it provides the visitor with a real sense of whatmonasteries must have been like in their day. Everything stillfeels authentic and the spirit of the place has been preserved. TheVisitor Centre displays a large collection of grave slabs, hostsnumerous exhibitions and provides further interest with anaudio-visual show. It is a good idea to start with a browse aroundthe museum to get some historical context before exploring theruins, many of which are remarkably intact. There is lots to seeand explore and Clonmacnoise offers some really gloriousphotographic opportunities. Although it is ideal to visit in goodweather, as the whole site is worth exploring, the ancientmonastery can ignite the imagination despite mist and drizzle. Asthis is a very popular attraction, visitors may experience queuesduring the summer months.
Built around 1446, Blarney Castle is one of Ireland's oldest andmost historic castles. An ancient stronghold of the MacCarthys,Lords of Muskerry, and one of the strongest fortresses in Munster,its walls are 18ft (5m) thick in places. Located on the parapet ofthe castle is the famous 'Blarney Stone'. According to locallegend, after kissing this stone, one will have the gift of eternaleloquence, or 'the gift of the gab'. To do this, visitors mustfirst position themselves on their back, then lean their head backand downwards over the edge of the battlements, with the help of anattendant, in order to kiss the underside of the stone. This is arather scary process but the fear is part of the thrill.
The grounds of this magnificent ruin are an attraction inthemselves, with well-maintained pathways and great naturalfeatures that are worth exploring for several hours. There is aPoison Garden full of dangerous and deadly plants, and a magicalrock passageway. Visitors should walk down the Witch's Stepsbackwards for good luck!
Blarney Castle is one of Ireland's most famous attractions andit can get very crowded in the summer season. Guests should visitearly to avoid queuing for entry and to kiss the stone. The lastadmission to the castle and grounds is 30 minutes beforeclosing.
Connemara is a wild and barren patchwork of bogs, green valleys,mountains and lakes. On the coast, visitors will find beautifulfishing villages and some superb white beaches washed by turquoisewater. Mist and rain transform it into an eerie, magical place. Theweather is very changeable and the light fluctuates almostconstantly, bringing out the vivid colours of the variouslandscapes.
The Connemara National Park encompasses the remarkable granitepeaks of the Twelve Bens and is wonderful walking country.Travellers could easily spend a whole Irish holiday in this amazingpark. Its attractions include hiking, fishing, cycling, paintingcourses, horse riding, rock climbing, sailing, shooting, and golfat Connemara, among other things. There are also many historicalsites and more cultural forms of entertainment, with traditionalsinging, music and dancing almost nightly, and some superbrestaurants, pubs, bars and cafes. There are some wonderful campingfacilities but also many upmarket guest houses, so the whole rangeof accommodation is catered for. Connemara is a must for naturelovers exploring Ireland.
The Aran Islands, with their magnificent wild terrain, showyears of wind and water erosion. The islands - Inishmore, Inishmaanand Inisheer - lie about 30 miles (48km) out across the mouth ofGalway Bay and are criss-crossed by miles of stone walls. They'realso dotted with some fine Iron Age archaeological sites. Ancientforts such as Dún Aengus on Inishmór Island, and Dún Chonchúir onInishmaan Island, are some of the oldest archaeological remains inIreland.
The islands were home to a number of ancient monasteries, andsome clocháns (dry-stone beehive huts from the early-Christianperiod) can still be found. The islands' isolation allowed Irishculture to survive when it had all but disappeared elsewhere. Irishis still the native tongue and, until recently, people still woretraditional Aran dress. The women still knit the famous Aransweaters, which are now popular souvenirs for visitors.Historically, each family used a different pattern in order torecognize fishermen drowned at sea. The islands are a haven forbotanists and nature lovers because of their abundance of flora,fauna and nesting birds. Many people recognise the islands from thepopular television show Father Ted, which was filmed there.
Nestled in a wooded landscape among the picturesque farmlands ofthe Golden Vale, Adare is known as one of the prettiest villages inIreland. It is conveniently located just ten miles (16km) fromLimerick City, and connected to many other Irish towns by bus. Thesmall village is centred on a street of thatched Tudor-stylecottages and hedges, surrounded by intriguing medieval churches andcastle ruins.
Attractions include Desmond Castle, the Trinitarian Abbey, theAugustinian Priory, and the Franciscan Friary. A visit to the AdareHeritage Centre is a must for anyone interested in the rich historyof this town, which dates back to the Norman conquest of Ireland.The exhibitions offer some good contextual information on thechurches and abbeys to be visited in the area, and the informationis available in five different languages. Adare is within easydistance of three golf courses, and the town has a good selectionof restaurants, pubs and craft shops. Adare's Old Creamery is a hitwith visitors searching out quality tea and treats, and the shop'sChristmas and Halloween-themed merchandise is pretty entertaining.For a bit of fresh air and some insight into Celtic worship,visitors can stroll around the lovely Celtic Park gardens.
Kerry County is widely regarded as the most beautiful region inIreland. It's the country's most popular tourist destination withits rugged scenery, picturesque villages, coastal resorts andwealth of attractions. The panoramic Ring of Kerry drive on theIveragh Peninsula affords spectacular views of Ireland's highestmountain, the Lakes of Killarney, and the stunning coastal scenery.There are also many ancient and historic sites along the way,including the incredible ruins on the Skellig islands. TheKillarney National Park is also renowned for its beauty and varietyof outdoor activities. The Dingle Peninsula has magnificent coastalscenery and is the westernmost point of Europe. Villages likeKenmare and Dingle offer a wonderful glimpse of traditional Irishlife. Fresh seafood and authentic music make any visit adelight.
County Kerry is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, ideal forboating, fishing, walking, golfing and cycling. The Ring of Kerryis best enjoyed during the summer months as bad weather reducesvisibility. Even in thick fog, it is an enchanting region whichmakes its way onto most Irish travel itineraries and seldomdisappoints.
The steep and wondrous Cliffs of Moher overlook the AtlanticOcean in County Clare, and are one of Ireland's top visitor sights.The majestic cliffs rise from the ocean to a height of 702ft (214m)and extend for a distance of five miles (8km). Formed by layers ofsandstone, shale and siltstone, the cliffs have stood unchanged formillions of years. Visitors come to marvel at their splendour, andto enjoy views towards the Aran Islands in Galway Bay, as well asthe valleys and hills of Connemara. If at all possible, travellersshould visit the cliffs on a clear day to fully appreciate theviews and natural beauty. On misty or rainy days, it's impossiblesee the ocean far below, and the wind on the cliff-tops can beterrifyingly strong.
The award-winning visitor centre offers an ultra-moderninterpretive centre, Atlantic Edge, which includes interactiveexhibits and displays, images, an audio visual show, and a virtualreality cliff-face adventure. Travellers can quite easily approachthe cliffs without visiting the centre, but learning a bit aboutthe place enriches the experience.
Lough Gur is a lake situated less than 14 miles (23km) southeast of Limerick. Although the area's lovely scenery providesenough reason to visit, its remarkable archaeological remains arethe main attraction.
Lough Gur has been inhabited by humans since about 3000 BC, andthe extensive remains make it one of Ireland's most importantarchaeological sites. There are relics from the Stone Age, BronzeAge, Iron Age and Early Christian civilisations, as well asMedieval ruins all in one area. These show that Lough Gur has beencontinuously inhabited for at least 5,500 years. The Grange stonecircle near the lake is the largest in Ireland and is seen bylocals as a place of mystic power, similar to Stone Henge. Thereare also grave sites, a dolmen (rock monument), crannogs(artificial islands) and some ring forts.
The site contains a Heritage Centre with exhibitions on LoughGur's history. They detail the significance of the archaeologicalremains, and bring the place to life in the imagination. However,the best way to explore the area is on a walking tour with one ofthe very well-informed guides. Visitors can also take self-guidedaudio tours. There are lovely picnic areas and walking trails toenjoy, and a small shop that sells snacks and refreshments.
Kilkee has its roots as an exclusive Victorian seaside resortfor wealthy merchant families. It's known for the beautiful sandybeach that now draws families from all over the UK. In its heyday,Kilkee attracted some famous people. Charlotte Bronte spent herhoneymoon in the little village, and Lord Tennyson also cameholidaying.
The beach is great for swimming and is protected by a reef,which tends to ensure calm waters in the bay. In fact, it is saidto be one of the safest beaches in Ireland. It's a popular divingspot, and offers several picturesque swimming areas, including aformation of natural rock pools called the Pollock Holes. It's alsoa well-loved sailing and boating destination. If the weather isn'tkind, visitors can still have some fun at Kilkee Waterworld.
Kilkee has land-based attractions and activities as well,including a golf course and a number of restaurants and bars intown. Kilkee gets busy in late June each year, when it hosts theHell of the West Triathlon. In fact, the seaside village is busyfor most of the summer season.