Planning The Perfect Ireland Getaway
The land of Guinness, wee lads and lassies, rugged natural landscapes and ancient lore. Ireland, that romantic island in the Atlantic is about as quaint as it gets. With warm, smiling people, a cultural depth that remains alive today and stark beauty that captures the soul - it's a country everyone one must see at least once - even if you don't have Irish roots or a strong sense of identity to the place. (Its pubs alone are reason enough to go!)
The geological landscape is surprisingly varied for such a small island nation. Ireland has gorgeous lakes, primeval bogland, and sacred sites. Not too mention the Atlantic coastline that stretches for miles on end. The island lends itself to exploring it slowly. Unhurried rural towns and an accessible terrain make for excellent walking and biking tours. Its rich mythological storytelling traditions are one of the qualities that makes Ireland a fascinating destination for the imaginative traveler. There's good reason Ireland produced so many literary greats. From James Joyce to Jonathan Swift - Oscar Wilde to Seamus Heaney - literary Ireland is also worth exploring. For the bookish, you'll want to read up on these greats before you go.
Once in Dublin, be sure to visit the Chester Beatty library where you'll find rows and rows of books, ancient manuscripts, and other fascinating collections of the written word. The National Museum is another of Dublin's treasures, where Irish archeology, history and varied works of art will stir your senses and scintillate the intellect. Lost in imagination, you won't have to operate a vehicle here because the world-class tramway system is the perfect way to get about this vibrant city set along the shores of Dublin Bay. No need for a rental car. One-third of the entire population resides in or around Dublin. There's so much to see here it's a good thing the city's many pubs will help you relax when you feel your head might spin. The Stag's Head is a classic, located near Trinity College. It's even been featured in films and in a series of postage stamps.
Dublin Pubs & Restaurants
There's a 2-hour literary themed pub crawl which begins at the Duke Pub on Duke Street. You'll be entertained by actors and actresses reciting from works of Irish literary greats while pushing back a few pints. Wear some comfortable shoes as this is a walking tour and be sure to brush up on your literature. (There's a literary quiz with prizes!)
For fine dining in Dublin, take your travel companions to The Pig's Ear, which looks out over the playing fields of Trinity College. The Pig's Ear is formal, so dress well. It's known the world over for its innovative take on traditional Irish cooking. Eat a la carte or enjoy three-course meals. A slow-cooked shepherd's pie and a maple glazed pig's belly are two main course favorites. The 4-star Granville Hotel is a fine option in a reasonably-priced hotel accommodation. It's housed in a cozy 18th-century building - one of the oldest in all of Ireland. For breakfast, the organic porridge with Bailey's is a hit. Don't you just love this country?
You could spend your entire vacation just exploring Dublin and its environs. However, there's more to the country than castles, pubs, museums, cathedrals, Georgian squares and cutting-edge street architecture. There's a whole other world beyond Dublin filled with myth, mystery and music. One such place is the region of Connemara.
This is a rural and lovely area - not to be missed if you appreciate long country walks, quaint villages and a pastoral array of beaches, lakes and mountains. With a trusty walking stick you can wander for days in solitude, popping into small town inns and pubs along the way. Or join a guided tour - bicycle tours, walking tours, guided horseback tours, fishing expeditions - you'll get a full dose of natural inspiration amongst the wild wonder of Connemara.
Less Is More In Irish Villages
Kinsale, a fishing village in County Cork, is known across the country for its upscale dining establishments. Max's Wine Bar is a popular haunt for the locals. Pop in here for a reasonably priced 3-course french-influenced meal and a glass of wine from the sophisticated wine list. The food here is locally-sourced. Expect seafood from the neighboring waters and the perfect wine-pairing for your catch-of-the-day.
Many people skip the cities and head straight for Ireland's picturesque small towns and villages. You may have heard of Dingle town, a fishing village located in Gaeltacht Country. In Dingle town, activities include dolphin-siting boat trips - (there's a resident bottle-nosed dolphin named Fungie) - as well as guided rock-climbing, mountain climbing and biking trips. You can kayak with the resident Fungie too for a more intimate experience. For lovers of traditional Irish music, the Dingle Music School offers classes in bodhran and tin whistle music. Snuggle into the Captain's House, a guesthouse noted for its peaceful garden, peat fireplace and handsome furnishings.
Glendalough is Ireland in its most fairy-tale-like state. The setting here is mysterious and magical. Two lakes nestled into a valley covered in dense forest makes this place even more spiritual with its remnants of an old monastic settlement. If you're based in Dublin and wish to take a guided day-trip to Glendalough, there are tour companies that offer such excursions. In a full 9-hour day, you can explore castles in Kilkenny and the wonders of Glendalough while being educated and inspired by a knowledgeable tour guide. Traveling by luxury coach makes it easier to relax and take in all the Irish splendor.
Irish Food & Drink
Pub life is the frugal and unprofessional answer to modern psychology's talk therapy. The quintessential Irish pub is typically found next to the local church and men's betting shop. Irish pubs are so beloved, they have made their way to far-flung areas of the globe. Walk down any major city street and you're sure to come upon the traditional watering-hole. But context is everything and there's nothing like whiling away a rainy Sunday afternoon in an Irish pub on Irish soil.
Oysters are king here in Ireland and there are even oyster-shucking competitions at the many oyster festivals throughout the country. Galway's International Oyster and Seafood Festival is one such part. It's the 2nd most famous celebration after St. Patrick's Day and gets to bear the title of the world's longest running oyster festival. If you're in Ireland during the last weekend in September you won't want to miss this merry event.
Your trip to Ireland can be one big party or one quiet wander across its mythical landscape - or a mixture of both. Enjoy your trip to the land of myth and magic, rocky land and stormy sea - and don't forget to capture your memories in photo!
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