Scotland the WILD
13520 · By Guest Author
Slow is no longer a bad thing in travel, and when it's combined with a Highland safari and a lodge with a conscience, Siobhán Norton luxuriates in it.Read more
The Emerald Isle is aptly named, as Ireland is a breathtaking corner of the world, covered in verdant countryside. Here, you may find a mix of natural and man-made history, ranging from the mighty Giant's Causeway, a mesmerising pre-historic area in County Antrim defined by its hexagonal columns, to the many beautiful castles that dot the Irish countryside.
Ireland also boasts cities where history and modernity meet, such as Belfast, Cork, and Dublin. Here, you may find yourself in a cosy pub, listening to the live bands that so often play traditional Irish music, or wander down the modern Dublin Docklands, past the glass fronted convention centre and Samuel Beckett Bridge.
One of the most famous things to come out of Ireland is the fiendishly difficult tradition of Irish dancing. Made famous worldwide by 'Riverdance', the origin of these complex movements are unclear, but the dance was popularised in the 1700s, and the Oireachtas Rince Na Cruinne, the World Championships of Irish Dancing, have been held annually since 1970.
Ireland is a historically musical country. More often than not, a traveller can head into a pub, and find a cheerful atmosphere that is heightened by a live band playing folk music. Traditional music is commonly played with a fiddle, a flute, an accordion, and sometimes a bodhrán - an Irish drum. The music can be a lively jig, or a soulful ballad, and always signals a fun time.
Most of Ireland can be explored aboard the excellent train services, run by Irish Railways. The track gauges here are almost unique at 5 foot 3 inches. The only other places in the world that these gauges can be found are Australia and Brazil! Ireland's first railway was built in 1834, running between Dublin and Kingstown, and since then it has grown to encompass and link nearly the entirety of the country.
The food in Ireland is hearty fare, with a base solidly in potatoes. One of the most iconic meals to try is an Irish stew, a one pot dish made with root vegetables and tender pieces of lamb or mutton, all in a savoury sauce with potato slices to thicken it up. One of the best things to eat Irish stew with is a wedge of soda bread, a quick and easy bread made with baking soda, flour, salt and buttermilk. This dense and delicious bread is perfect for sopping up the sauce, so nothing is left behind. Potatoes can also be found in Champ, a type of mashed potato dish flavoured with spring onions, and Colcannon, made with cabbage and cream, a comfort food that's perfect after a long day of exploring this glorious windswept isle.
No mention of Ireland would be complete without Guinness. First produced in Dublin in the 18th century, this iron rich stout is characterised by its dark colour that contrasts with its creamy foam. Guinness can be enjoyed all around the world, but is best served cold, sat in a warm Irish pub as you listen to the lively sounds of laughter mingling with a folk band. This iconic drink lends its name to the 'Guinness World Records', and you can still tour the brewery in Ireland today.
Helping you plan your holiday to Ireland
Some of the best whiskey in the world can also be found in Ireland. The claim to the founding of this alcohol is bitterly disputed between Scotland and Ireland, and you can differentiate between the two in the way it is spelt ('whisky' without an 'e'), but the whiskey here is characterised by its smooth texture and spicy taste. There are currently 12 distilleries here including the oldest licensed distillery in the world, Old Bushmills Distillery founded over 200 years ago.
Like much of the British Isles, Ireland has a temperate climate, with warm summers and mild winters. The weather here can also be very changeable - what could be gloriously sunny in the morning could turn into a rain shower by the afternoon, so remember to bring waterproofs and sturdy shoes!
The currency in Ireland differs depending on where you are. In the Republic of Ireland the Euro is used, but in Northern Ireland, they use GBP, or Pound Sterling.
Like other areas in the UK, tipping here is not compulsory, but if you wish to tip, a good rule of thumb is 10% of whole the bill.
The official language of the Republic of Ireland is Irish Gaelic, however as 94% of the country speaks English there is a very low chance of finding yourself in an area where you can't communicate with anyone. A few useful Irish Gaelic phrases to know should you wish to try the language out are dia duit (dee-ah gwit), meaning hello, más é do thoil é (maws aye duh hull aye), meaning please, go raibh maith agat (geh rev mah ah-gut) meaning thank you, and of course sláinte (slahn-cha) - cheers!