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Top 5 reasons to see Ireland

19 October 2017

The reasons to visit Ireland are fairly self explanatory. It is beautiful, green, and filled with millennia of history and tradition. In case you need a bit more convincing, however, take a look at our top 5 reasons to visit the breathtaking 'Emerald Isle'.

Travel but a few miles out of any of Ireland's cities, and you'll find yourself within great swathes of verdant scenery that stretch out over hills and valleys, only punctuated by the occasional tiny stone village or an imposing castle. Some of Ireland's most incredible areas are entirely natural - and of course, can a list about Ireland truly be about Ireland if the Giant's Causeway isn't featured?

It is one of Ireland's most instantly recognisable scenes, and was used in Danny Boyle's opening video to showcase Ireland in the London 2012 Olympics. The scene itself looks like poorly rendered computer graphics from perhaps an early 80s game. How is it possible that nature has managed to produce such an incredible view, perfectly hexagonal columns of basalt, interlocked and slowly rising out of the sea? It is certainly one of those things that have to be seen to be believed, truly, one of the greatest natural wonders in the world.

Dublin, Belfast, Cork, even the names of these cities evokes an idea in the minds of individuals all over the world: indescribable atmospheres, historic streets and stunning architecture, both traditional and modern. For those lovers of modern history, Belfast is truly the best place to be. The dockyards teem throwbacks to the Industrial Age, when Belfast became world-renowned for its shipbuilding. The ultra-modern Titanic Belfast museum itself is based of the iconic Guggenheim - albeit with a few more sharp edges.

Dublin and Cork are rather more traditional, and here you can get a rather more vivid idea of what Ireland was like in days of old, as well as the traditions that still thrive today. Wander down the charming cobbled streets in Dublin, listening for the music and laughter that pour out of pubs and restaurants, or, in Cork, experience the formidable atmosphere of the beautiful Cork City Gaol.

A myriad of ancient castles are scattered around the country, in the depths of cities, and in the midst of the rolling countryside. Some castles are arguably more famous than others, for example Blarney Castle, known for people who wish to dangle from its parapet in order to kiss the Blarney Stone, which is said to give you the 'gift of the gab'. Others, like the ruins of Roscommon Castle, may be less well known, but are equal in their beauty.

Most of the castles date from the early parts of the last millennium, with numerous heralding from around the Norman Invasion. They can be characterised by their sturdy grey walls, small windows, and crenels and merlons - an iconic look that resembles a true medieval fortress.

Myths, legends, music, dancing, and, to some extent, whiskey. The music of Ireland has always been able to inspire emotion in a person, whether it is the slow sadness of a bittersweet piece, or perhaps the bubbly joy of a jaunty tune, the heady mix of the fiddles and drums fills you with anticipation as you head to the bar. Perhaps head to a local pub to order a strong pint of Guinness (slightly cold, of course, and with just the right amount of thick, foamy head) or a locally distilled Irish whiskey (with an 'e'), and just soak up the atmosphere.

Alternatively, take yourself to an Irish dancing show, where you can see the dancers' feet move to the complex rhythms of the music, dancing as groups, pairs, or as individuals. You could even head to a museum to discover the myriad of legends and folk tales that come from this mysterious country, uncovering the horrifying Banshee, or the cunning Leprechaun.

The history of Ireland is long, twisting, and at times tumultuous, and the only way to fully appreciate it is to walk in the footsteps of those who came before. Of course, the various castles are an excellent way to explore the country's history in an interactive way, as in those places, you can learn about the various clans and kings through time. In museums like the National Museum of Ireland and EPIC (The Irish Emigration Museum), both in Dublin, you can discover the backgrounds and outcomes of Ireland's various civil and socio-economic struggles.

The 13th Century Skellig Michael is also well worth a look. Set on an Island off the coast of County Kerry, this breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage site is covered in relics of an ancient time having been founded at some point between 700 and 900 AD. It also has a great appeal to those movie buffs amongst you, as it was also a filming location for the seventh Star Wars film.