Five reasons to explore Ireland (and why you’ll never want to leave)
From emerald-green rolling hills to a glass of frothy Guinness, Ireland is steeped in ancient tradition, boasts breath-taking natural scenery, warm-hearted locals and vibrant, unique cities. With airlines frequently offering special airfares to Dublin - one of the most inexpensive European capitals to fly into from all major Australian cities - visiting Ireland has never been easier. Here are five reasons this beautiful island is a must-see.
1.Dublin: feel the buzz
Located on Ireland’s east coast, the once-Viking Capital City of Ireland, Dublin, will be sure to warm your heart and soul with its enchanting mix of old and new. Soak up centuries of history: whether it’s in the historic buildings, cobblestone streets or quirky pubs - there are over 1000 of them. And yet, in recent times, Dublin has emerged with a buzzing and cosmopolitan feel - and as a food destination in its own right.
A must-do while there is to visit The Guinness Storehouse, arguably the world’s most famous brewery, for a pint of the dark brown stout. Also, be sure to view the picturesque Dublin Castle and listen to some traditional Irish music. Wander the cobbled stones of Trinity College and take a step back in time to the 18th century as you explore one of Ireland's greatest cultural treasures - The Book of Kells.
2. Explore the Wild Atlantic Way
With a multitude of coastal terrain and sweeping ocean views, a drive along The Wild Atlantic Way is sure to be unforgettable. And rightly so, as Lonely Planet has included the 2750km route stretching from Kinsale to Malin Head in its ‘50 Best Drives in the World’.
Whether by a scenic road trip, alongside some fellow travellers on a guided tour, or if you’re feeling adventurous, by bike, The Wild Atlantic Way has something to offer everyone.
Begin in Cork, a charming city situated on the south west coast of Ireland, and explore the world’s longest coastal touring route. Marvel at some of Europe’s highest sea cliffs at Slieve League, take a break from driving and hit the waves of Mullaghmore Head, tuck into some of Killary’s mouth-watering mussels, visit the iconic Cliffs of Moher and feel like you’re on the edge of the world as you overlook the Ring of Kerry.
3. Discover Ireland’s Ancient East
Step back in time and escape the fast-paced way of today with a journey to Ireland’s Ancient East, an area presenting over 5000 years of history. From medieval towns and cities, to majestic monasteries and picturesque towns, take time to explore and truly discover the area and the iconic sites along the way. And while the scenery is beautiful, it is the story-tellers and their tales, and the people you will meet that really make this place remarkable.
Visit Kilkenny and experience the city’s lively music, comedy and arts festivals and walk along the ‘medieval mile’ to see Ireland’s second-largest cathedral, Cathedral of St Canice. Learn about one of Ireland’s most important early Christian sites in Clonmacnoise and see the ornate forts in Cork. Also, be sure to spend time in Ireland’s oldest city, Waterford, which was established as a Viking port around 914. Learn about the history of the Vikings in the city’s three museums. You’ll also need to make time to visit the world-famous Waterford Crystal factory.
4. Vibrant Belfast and the Causeway Coastal Route
Known for its beautiful Victorian architecture, bustling atmosphere, established music scene and iconic monuments, Belfast is a must-see destination in its own right. It is also the birthplace of the Titanic - the famous ocean liner. Check out Titanic Belfast, the shipyard where it was designed and built, and stroll through nine interactive galleries showcasing the events that led to its sinking in 1912 and the human stories behind it.
Be sure to see the glittering waterfront and indulge in an abundance of chocolate at St. Georges Market before setting off on the legendary Causeway Coastal Route (another popular drive which connects Belfast to the Wild Atlantic Way at Derry-Londonderry). Experience an unforgettable walk along the tubular bridge of The Gobbins - with clifftop walks overlooking sandy beaches, welcoming fishing villages en route and epic landscape from corner to corner, your senses will be overwhelmed with the ocean views stretching out to as far as Scotland. Explore other sights such as Bushmills Distillery and The Giant’s Causeway - an area of about 40,000 interlocking stone columns formed by volcanic activity. You can even chase waterfalls at the Glenariff Forest Park or explore the Cushendun Caves.
5. Food: feed your soul with more than the scenery
An abundance of contemporary cuisine and reinvented traditional dishes can be found from Dublin, through to Galway, and anywhere in between. From dining at Michelin Star restaurants to sitting down with new-found friends at a local pub, ample culinary experiences are showcased throughout the whole of Ireland.
The island boasts rich farmlands and a wild ocean, producing seasonal fresh produce where seafood reigns strong. Think locally sourced smoked salmon, fish chowder, cockles, mussels and more. As well as first-class dining options and seafood, local delicacies can also be found, such as black and white pudding, wild venison and artisan cheese.