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Go beyond the big cities

Discover the Ireland you've always dreamed of in Kilkenny, where a 900-year-old Norman citadel stands strong as the day it was built, and a compact maze-like centre packs in architectural marvels. Or head west to cosmopolitan Cork and nearby Cobh for all the Cs: coffee shops, culture, comedy, craft beer and classic cuisine.

Uncover an off-road idyll

Ready to find out why they call it the Emerald Isle? Strike out on a Greenway -- traffic-free walking and cycling paths that have been opened all over the island. The original, the Great Western Greenway, is a must, stretching for 42km along a former railway line from Westport to Achill, through achingly beautiful Mayo countryside.

The coast with the most

At the northern end of Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way, Donegal’s Slieve League cliffs tower 600 metres above a boiling sea, providing spectacular craggy-coast views. Head east to be bewitched by the Causeway Coastal Route -- with its sleepy villages, extraordinary geology and clifftop paths -- running from Derry/Londonderry to Belfast.

Pure produce, finest food

If the best cooking starts with stellar produce, Ireland has an unfair advantage. Artisan cheese, exceptional beef and lamb, and sumptuous seafood have made it a mecca for foodies. Galway may well be the epicurean epicentre. The European Region of Gastronomy 2018 is a must; get a taste at the Galway Food Festival from 19-22 April.

A festival-filled year

Celebrate your way through the calendar. Start (or finish) with New Year's in Dublin (they have a dedicated festival), dance your way through Temple Bar's cultural TradFest (January), swing into Derry for the Jazz Festival in May, or come back in October to see Halloween. It’s true, the Irish really do know how to have fun.

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