How can such a relatively small country fit so much fantastic stuff in it? From the natural wonders to the man-made marvels, Ireland is incredible from north to east and south to west.
Starting with the north as the top point of the compass, you have the iconic, the magnificent, Giant's Causeway. Maybe it's a bit of a cliché to focus on this part of the country, but why shouldn't we? It's absolutely amazing! UNESCO listed and quite disconcerting in the flesh, (it looks rather like it's been created by a computer) this part of the northern Irish coast is a beloved sight for millions around the world. It even has its own special role in Irish mythology, being used as a land bridge by the legendary warrior Fionn Mac Cumhaill to reach Scotland. Us regular mortals just have to take a boat or fly, and honestly that seems far less fun.
Moving on for the culture seekers, we needn't look much further than Belfast. This city is a mixture of old and new, with a history dating back over 5,000 years but only really becoming well-known in the dawning of the Industrial Age, around the 18th and 19th centuries. At this point it turned from an out -of-the-way backwater into a thriving port town. Here, you can find the Titanic Belfast, as it was in Belfast that the doomed ship was built. Nowadays, it is certainly a modern metropolis, with bars, restaurants, and museums springing up in Belfast's incredible Cathedral Quarter. Of course, for those who enjoy culture but enjoy it through a TV screen, Northern Ireland also includes many locations from Game of Thrones, including the atmospheric Dark Hedges, which is the filming location for the Kingsroad.
Ireland’s Ancient East
From the ultra-modern to the ultra-ancient, the east of Ireland is perfect for those who enjoy exploring Ireland's thousands of years of history. One of the UNESCO listed sites here, Newgrange, is actually older than the Egyptian pyramids and Stonehenge, having been built well over 5,000 years ago. As with all things built way back when, no one is entirely sure what the purpose of this great circular man-made mound was. However, there are some guesses that it could have been a burial site. There is also a theory that it was built as a place of religious celebration, as during the winter solstice the rising sun hits the structure just so that it fills the central chamber with light.
Moving forward in time slightly, this part of the country is also home to Blarney Castle. Now a ruin, Blarney castle is still an atmospheric site to see, as it's mighty and imposing stone façade rises dramatically from a sea of green countryside, the specific countryside in fact which gives Ireland its nickname, the Emerald Isle. But, as spectacular as Blarney Castle is, most people visit to kiss the famous Blarney Stone. Said to give all those who lay their lips upon it the gift of the gab, the stone is supposed to have been a gift from the goddess Clíodhna to the builder of Blarney Castle who wanted to get out of a lawsuit in the 14th century. For some reason, you have to be leaning over the parapet backwards to kiss it, which sounds in no way safe to us!
Play golf on Ireland’s southern tip
Despite golf originating from Scotland, Ireland has a pretty proud history in the sport, with Northern Irish national Rory McIlroy being on the winning European side of this year's Ryder Cup. But right now we're in the very south Ireland, and it's here you'll find some of Ireland's most popular golf courses. Sadly though, if you're anything like us and all power with no positioning, these might not be the attractions for you… a lot of them look out over the Atlantic Ocean. Fortunately, you can blame your lack of aim on the fact that the views over the Atlantic Ocean are awe inspiring.
The aptly named Waterville is one such course. One of the highest-rated courses in Ireland, it boasts some marvellous views over a bay where the steely grey waters of the Atlantic lap at the sandy beaches and undulating coastal hills. A little further along, you'll find one of Ireland's oldest golf courses, Dooks. Built in 1889, this is one of the first courses in Ireland, and has had to be saved from coastal erosion numerous times in its long life. A good thing too, as the views here are basically unmatched. Golf may just be a long walk punctuated with explosions of anger and club throwing, so it's nice to have surroundings as serene as the ones in Ireland to keep you calm.
The Wild Atlantic Way on Ireland’s west coast
Stepping back into nature, we're joining the west of Ireland via the Wild Atlantic Way. Teeter precariously on the Slieve League Cliffs, the highest cliffs in Europe, enjoy the outstanding wonder of the Ring of Kerry, or live out your Luke Skywalker dreams on the Skellig Islands, where you'll also find a rather delightful monastery.
Here you'll find authentic Ireland, a region where you'll be given a hospitable welcome in traditional Gaelic, and where you can enjoy some gorgeous towns and cities along the way. Cities like Galway, which has been given the title of the European Capital of Culture in 2020, and has also inspired an Ed Sheeran song with its incredible selection of historic pubs playing traditional Irish music. Once you've enjoyed the boisterous celebration that is a standard evening at a pub in Ireland, maybe head over to the quieter, but no less beautiful, Kinsale. Marvel at the colourful town centre, where the buildings are painted in vibrant multicolour, or maybe just take a nice stroll along the harbour, keeping an eye on the horizon and the lovely little sail boats that punctuate it.