The Isle of Ireland, made up of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, is a popular tourist destination for many reasons. Visitors have flocked to Ireland for centuries to experience this enchanting, mythical and magical country.
Anyone who has been there will say that the famous Irish warm welcome is the real deal. They will tell you that the Emerald Isle is fantastic for scenic road trips. Captivating photos and vivid memories take you on a mesmerising journey of green hills, rugged coastlines, beautiful beaches, castles, lighthouses and charming villages. Stories are shared about the fresh local seafood, music and dancing, and the friendly people in the local pubs. Surely, you will be told a couple of times that Guinness really does taste better in Ireland. Well, that is something you must find out for yourself!
Here’s a list of 5 reasons why you should make that trip to Ireland happen.
1. NATURAL BEAUTY
The 1st of 5 reasons to travel to Ireland …. natural beauty. Ireland’s scenery is beyond compare, beautiful and untouched. The majestic and dramatic land and seascapes will draw you in and inspire you to discover more. The Cliffs of Moher, Burren, Giant’s Causeway, Ring of Kerry, Dingle, Mizen Head, Connemara, the list of postcard-pretty places is endless.
One of the most visited natural wonders are the iconic Cliffs of Moher, stretching for 5 miles and reaching 702 feet at their highest point. The cliffs have been featured in many movies including Harry Potter and Leap Year. The cliff walk trail from the village of Doolin to the Cliffs comes highly recommended and offers magnificent views out over the ocean. Nearby you can explore The Burren National Park, a wonderland of karstic limestone, one of Ireland’s most unusual geological landscapes. The Cliffs of Moher and The Burren form a UNESCO Global Geopark.
Some of the wildest, most beautiful places are found along Ireland’s windswept Wild Atlantic Way. This captivating drive stretches over 1,500 miles along Ireland’s west coast and is filled with unforgettable scenery, spectacular cliffs, beautiful beaches, hidden bays and picturesque towns. Don’t miss our upcoming blog posts for tips on the best places to visit along the Wild Atlantic Way.
Wherever the road takes you in Ireland, you will be surrounded by magnificent natural beauty. You will love it, and your camera will love it!
2. HISTORY & HERITAGE
Ireland is just packed with history. Celts, Kings and Wise Men left their marks in the landscape and culture. Fascinating historical and archaeology gems are found all over the island.
An important part of Irish history that continues to intrigue us is the mysterious world of the Celts. From about 700BC Celtic tribes started to mix, mingle and fight in Ireland. There were more than 300 clans in Ireland, each with their own King, ruled by a single High King at the famous Hill of Tara. Since Celtic times, the Irish countryside is dotted with ring forts, wedge tombs and standing stones.
When the Romans conquered much of Europe, they left Ireland untouched as it was too far and too cold. Ireland remained a land of Celts and Kings. As a result, the Celtic heritage is still alive today, from language and legends to music and dance. Christianity came to Ireland in 432AD when St. Patrick started to convert the sun-worshipping Celts. Monks flocked to Ireland to continue his work. In the late 900s there was a short Gaelic revival when the last High King of Ireland Brian Boru controlled the entire island. When his kingdom fell apart, the Vikings, Normans, and English dominated the area in subsequent centuries.
Travellers to Ireland are spoiled for choice when it comes to visiting ancient sites. It’s a journey through 5,000 years of history! One of the highlights is the passage tomb at Newgrange which dates back to 3200 BC and is older than the pyramids in Egypt. Every year on winter solstice a beam of sunlight travels up the passage illuminating the inner chamber. Another great example of Irish history is the iconic Rock of Cashel. High up on a limestone rock you’ll find an impressive group of medieval buildings and Celtic art. It is here that St. Patrick converted the King of Munster to Christianity – when he accidentally stabbed the king in the foot with his staff. Luckily for St. Patrick, the king thought that this was all part of the painful process of becoming a Christian.
Other must-see historical gems are the many prehistoric ringforts and stone circles you will find along the Wild Atlantic Way, the remote Skellig Michael monastic settlement (featured in StarWars), megalithic dolmens, medieval churches, and the many castles. With over 3,000 castles in Ireland you don’t have to look far to find one. Whether you’re seeking mystery, drama, storybook romance, or perhaps a good ghost story, Ireland offers something for everyone. Keep an eye on our upcoming blog posts if you wish to read more about the best Irish Castles!
3. THE CRAIC
The “craic,” a commonly used term in Ireland, tends to confuse visitors to the country. It basically refers to having great fun – Irish style! Many a conversation starts with “What’s the craic?” (meaning “How are you?” or “What’s happening?”). The Irish are known for their famous ability to find craic (good fun) in every situation.
The craic is mighty everywhere with the Irish pub culture topping the list. Irish music is an inherent part of Irish culture that brings people together, and comes to life in Irish pubs’ live music sessions. For many, the craic is enjoying a pint, a lively conversation with friends old and new, and good music. There’s no better place for that than an Irish pub or festival!
Ireland hosts many festivals and events each year where good craic is guaranteed. The most famous are the St. Patrick’s Day festivals that take place all around the island. Other festivals focus on the arts, music, food, literature, storytelling and so on. We’ll share more about the best Irish festivals in our upcoming blogs.
The Irish people truly make Ireland special. No craic without the Irish! It is the friendliness and humour of the Irish, their love for music, dance, entertainment and witty conversations, and the pride of the Irish culture and heritage. Ireland is a small island with a big heart.
On your next trip to Ireland make sure to walk into a local pub during a traditional music session and ask the person beside you “What’s the craic”. You might be in for one of the best nights of your visit to Ireland! Come over and find out what the craic is all about!
4. FOOD & DRINK
If you are a fan of delicious food, locally brewed beers and fine whiskeys, you will be in for a treat.
Breweries and distilleries dot the island. The most renowned, without a doubt, is the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. Guinness is Ireland’s – and probably the world’s – most famous beer, and no trip to Ireland is complete without tasting a pint of the black stuff. Have we mentioned yet that Guinness really does taste better in Ireland?! You will also want to visit a whiskey distillery, and we have plenty. Among the most popular are the Jameson Distillery in Middleton and the Bushmills Distillery in Northern Ireland. Over the last decade many smaller breweries and distilleries have opened their doors. Personal favourites are the award-winning Dingle Distillery in Dingle Town, and the newly opened Tom Crean Brewery in Kenmare.
During your time in Ireland you will be able to enjoy delicious local food. Start your day with a hearty traditional Full Irish breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, grilled tomato, black and white pudding and toast. This probably will keep you energized until dinner time. Whether you’re going to a restaurant or out for pub grub, choose a spot popular with locals. Dig your teeth into beef & Guinness stew, Irish soda bread, bacon & cabbage, and some of the freshest seafood in the world. Scallops, Wild Atlantic salmon, crab meat, lobster, grilled sole, oysters…need we say more?
Looking for a different dining experience filled with good food, drink and entertainment? Step back in time for medieval magic at Dunguaire Castle or Bunratty Castle. Banquets are filled with meade, great food, historic surroundings and a whole lot of music and stories.
Other ways to experience the great tastes of Ireland are by visiting a market or a food festival. Two famous markets are Cork’s English Market and St. George’s Market in Belfast. Both, set in beautiful 18th and 19th century surroundings, offer a fabulous range of Irish treats. There’s hardly a week that goes by without a food festival being held somewhere on the island. Put the annual Dingle Food Festival held the first weekend of October on your list. Here, you will enjoy market stalls, wine tasting, cookery shows, and a food trail that offers over 70 different local taste experiences.
5. FIND YOUR IRISH ROOTS
The last – but not least – of our top 5 reasons to travel to Ireland is to find your Irish roots! The Irish have emigrated all over the globe. Around 80 million people worldwide claim to have Irish roots. If you are from the USA, Canada or Australia, chances are that at least one of your ancestors came from the Emerald Isle. No wonder that so many people come to Ireland for an adventure into their past.
Tracing your Irish roots can be fun and exciting. The Irish were survivors, bound with strength and optimism. They moved to a distant country to build a new life. What made them leave? Where did their journey start? Tracing your family history can be time-consuming but rewarding. Connecting with the land of your ancestors can bring a deep sense of belonging. A journey into this past will create everlasting memories for your entire family.
The key to your search is identifying the town or village where your ancestors originated. Ultimately, you’ll want to make the journey to the homeland. Coming to Ireland will add a whole new dimension to your genealogy experience that will stay with you forever. Visit the very place where your ancestors lived in the early years of their lives. Explore the land they loved so much, but had to leave behind. Talk to the people who still live there and listen to their stories. You might even connect with members of your extended family.
Kerry Experience Tours have teamed with USA-based genealogist and avid traveller Melanie Nelson. She will author a guest blog about genealogy research in Ireland, sharing her own experiences tracing her Irish roots. Keep an eye on her posts that will include lots of useful information and tips!
Make that trip to Ireland happen!
These are only 5 reasons to travel to Ireland, but there are so many more! Ireland offers a unique adventure that will make lifetime memories for you and your family. In our upcoming blog posts we’ll highlight more reasons to visit this magical island – as if you would need any more excuses, right?
Discover the Myth and Magic of Ireland with Kerry Experience Tours. Get in touch now for more information or to get a quote!