HOTELS IN IRELAND
IRELAND – WHY GO?
Ireland has some of the most hospitable people on the planet, and as the cliche goes, you'll arrive as a visitor here and leave as a friend. What’s more, the Irish love a good time. You won’t need to look far for a taste of the craic – good company, plenty of banter and a pint of the black stuff.
With its gentler pace of life, rugged mountain and lakes, empty beaches, brooding castles, rich Celtic traditions and a pub on every corner, Ireland is unbeatable destination for an away-from-it-all romantic escape. Stay in a luxury Dublin hotel, an intimate inn on the west coast or a bijou country B&B with all the trimmings.
Dublin is Europe’s most convivial city. There’s a party spirit to the proverbial fair city and you’ll never be far from a mellow bar or pub where the music plays till late. (It also plays early, with sing-songs common on a Sunday morning too). Dubliners love to play, and life on the Liffey is never dull.
Head for Temple Bar to check out the city’s trendiest bars and eateries. Revive Dublin’s literary connections with a visit to the Dublin Writers’ Museum or a literary pub crawl, admire the wonderful Georgian architecture on Fitzwilliam and Merrion Squares and sample a pint of the black stuff while gazing over Dublin from the panoramic Gravity Bar at the Guinness Storehouse. Don’t miss a peep at grand Trinity College and the nearby statue of Molly Malone.
The counties surrounding Dublin come with rolling hills, regal castles, lush gardens and Palladian mansions. The heather-covered slopes of the Wicklow mountains south of the capital are cross-crossed with walking trails while the sandy beaches of Arklow and genteel Bray (once home of writer James Joyce) are a draw in summertime.
Poets have long eulogised about the Vale of Avoca, south of Wicklow, and the village itself – home to Ireland’s oldest hand-weaving mill – was the set of ’90s TV hit show Ballykissangel. Also well worth seeing is impressive Powerscourt House, set in a 14,000 acre estate by the Great Sugar Loaf Mountain in pretty Enniskerry.
IRELAND'S SOUTH EAST
Sunny County Wexford (Ireland’s driest corner) is lined almost end-to-end with beaches and – at Curracloe – was the setting for the Normandy landings in Stephen Spielberg’s film saving Private Ryan. Wexford town hosts an annual music season and even a Strawberry fair in September.
Waterford also packs in plenty of appeal, and the town itself is a charmer, its houses and spires ranged along the banks of the river. You’ll see Waterford crystal on display everywhere and you can see how it’s made at the town’s glass factory.
The charms of tiny County Carlow include the Blackstairs mountains and the River Barrow (fishing permits can be arranged for those staying at Kilgraney House), not to mention the pretty riverside town of Bagenalstown.
THE SOUTH WEST
Ireland’s most visited corner, County Kerry has all the visual melodrama you could want: dramatic mountains, brooding cliffs and miles of deserted coastline. The much-sung Ring of Kerry is a 110-mile scenic drive around its finest peaks and the majestic Macgillycuddy Reeks, rising behind Killarney.
Unmissable is the scenic Dingle Peninsula, where the Atlantic bowls into cliffy bays and Funghie, the resident Dingle dolphin, frolics in the bay.
County Cork has the Blackwater valley and a string of pretty coastal towns. The old seaport of Cobh (the Titanic’s last stop) is a must-see, while the city of Cork has some interesting craft shops in the old colonial-style Butter Exchange. Kiss the Blarney stone at nearby Blarney Castle or join the foodies at Kinsale, Ireland’s gastro capital.
THE SHANNON AND COUNTY CLARE
Bordered by the Atlantic and the River Shannon, County Clare boasts some of Ireland’s most beguiling coastal scenery. The dramatic cliffs of Moher tower 700 feet above the Atlantic’s crashing waves, while the wild and rocky Burren area is rich in wildlife. Other places worth seeing include the market town of Ennis – host to some of the big festivals of Irish music – and Bunratty, with its impressive castle.
Overlooking a broad sandy beach, Lahinch is Ireland’s golfing capital. You can tee off on two championship golf courses here – or get wet in the breakers riding some of the west coast’s best surf.
If you can’t get enough Irishness then head west to County Galway’s fresh Atlantic shores. This is the home of Connemara – quintessential Ireland, with its peat bogs, white-painted crofts, pretty lakes and a rocky mountain range known as the Twelve Bens. Galway City is worth a visit for its street entertainment and late summer Oyster Festival, not to mention scores of pubs.
Head to coastal Clifden, surrounded by rocky Atlantic shores and set against a magnificent mountain backdrop. Pioneer avaiators Alcock and Brown landed here on the first-ever no-stop transatlantic flight in 1919, and a monument just outside Clifden marks their feat.
IRELAND'S NORTH WEST
County Donegal’s rugged beauty – you can gallop for hours along a dozen Blue Flag beaches – gives it a wild and untamed feel. Deep glens and breezy Highlands evoke shades of Scotland, creating a scenic backdrop to the region’s often-deserted sandy beaches. Explore the sea caves of Arranmore Island or admire the grandeur of the Glenveagh National Park before letting off steam in the lively pubs of Letterkenny.
Unspoilt County Monaghan has its own charms, and lavishly furnished Castle Leslie ranks as one of the finest Italianate houses in Ireland. The surrounding rivers and loughs make Monaghan big fishing county, and there are plenty of village hostelries to repair to later.
Once a no-go destination on the holiday map, Northern Ireland is now back in the mainstream. People who wouldn’t have given the region a second look five years ago are now arriving in droves – and it’s easy to see why. Now sporting an upbeat new look and a regenerated city centre, Belfast is fast becoming Ireland’s capital of cool, mixing scrubbed-up Victoriana with a cutting edge arts scene and nightlife.
Head North from here around the breezy and beautiful Antrim coast to Bushmills, home of the world’s oldest whiskey distillery and just a leprechaun’s hop from the Giant’s Causeway – one of the world’s fascinating natutal wonders.
• Guinness – Ireland’s black velvet
• Irish whiskey
• Leprechaun for the mantelpiece
• Rugby shirt
• Smoked salmon
• Four leaf clover
GET IN THE MOOD
• Read: Ulysses by James Joyce
• Listen: Enya, The Cardigans
• Watch: The Commitments, Father Ted
• Eat: Irish Stew
• Irish stew
• Dublin Bay oysters
• A pint of the black stuff
• A warming Irish whiskey
• Soda bread and jam
• Bailey’s on ice
• A creamy Irish coffee
MAKE A DATE
Lord Mayor’s New Year’s Day Parade – Dublin
Start the new year off with a bang.
Dublin International Film Festival
Get a preview of some of the cinema world’s creative talent.
St Patrick’s Day – countrywide
Parades, parties… and plenty of Guinness.
Fleadh by the Feale - Limerick
A celebration of Ireland’s traditional music and culture.
Bantry Mussel Fair – Bantry, Co. Cork.
Seafood and fireworks aplenty mark this three-day festival celebrating the harvest of Bantry Bay’s mussels.
Bloomsday – Dublin
A celebration of James Joyce’s Ulysses with re-enactments throughout Dublin.
County Wexford Strawberry Fair
Music, art, circus entertainers, fireworks – and strawberries.
Dublin Horse Show
The cream of the crop among Ireland’s horse shows.
Puck Fair – Killorglin, County Kerry
Come to see the cattle fair, the coronation of King Puck and the dethronement of a mountain goat – as well as rides, fireworks and street entertainers.
Clarenbridge Oyster Festival – Clarenbridge, Co. Galway
Gorge on this aphrodisiac seafood to mark the start of the harvesting season.
Dublin Theatre festival
See the stage world’s hottest talent tread the boards in the world’s oldest English-speaking theatre festival.
Ireland’s Gourmet festival – Kinsale, Co. Cork
Throw away the diet book and head to Ireland’s foodie capital.
Darklight Film Festival – Dublin
See films, documentaries, animation and music videos made with digital technology.
Winter Solstice at Brú na Bòinne – Newgrange, Co. Meath
Watch the winter sun light up this 5,000-year-old burial site’s secret chamber.
LOVE IT UP IN IRELAND
• Stroll across the River Liffey’s Ha’penny Bridge
• Slurp oysters at the Clarenbridge Oyster festival in September
• Lay under a blossoming tree in Co. Kildare’s Japanese gardens
• Bundle up to enjoy the dramatic sight of the Giant’s Causeway
• Pack a picnic and head to one of Kerry’s dramatic coves
• Admire Dublin from above in the Guinness factory’s Gravity bar