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What Makes Ireland Such a Unique Travel Destination?

Ireland serves up a heady brew of a culture steeped in myth and legend and immense natural beauty. From the world’s longest coastal route to ancient monuments predating the pyramids and a tradition for storytelling unlike that of anywhere else, this blog will explore the myriad aspects that make Ireland a uniquely exciting destination. 

Whether you are a culture vulture who loves spending time wandering the rooms of museums or an outdoor enthusiast, happiest when clambering over rock pools or hiking a hillside, you’ll find there’s no shortage of first-class experiences awaiting you in Ireland. 

We hope the following blog inspires you for your Irish adventures. While you are with us, please be sure to check out our Guided and Self-Guided Small Group Tours of Ireland.

The Wild Atlantic. Ireland

The Wild Atlantic Way – The World’s Longest Coastal Tour Route

Spanning over 2,500 km, the Wild Atlantic Way is not just Ireland’s but one of the world’s most stunning coastal routes. Beginning the route in Donegal, visitors can enjoy the wild natural beauty of the headlands. The Northern Lights illuminate winter skies, while the windswept cliffs of Ballymastocker Beach offer an atmosphere of serenity. Meanwhile, the Fanad Head Lighthouse isn’t just a beacon for ships but a prime spot for watching dolphins amidst dramatic coastal backdrops.

Further down the coast, the Slieve League cliffs offer fantastic sea views. Among Europe’s highest sea cliffs, travelers can partake in a kayaking experience, with the ocean’s vastness below and the sheer cliff face above. Nearby, the Silver Strand beach remains a hidden gem, accessible only by sea or steps, offering a profound peace away from the bustling urban world.

In Mayo, Downpatrick Head stands as an ancient geological marvel. The sea stack’s layered rocks tell the story of the Earth through deep geological time. Clew Bay is another Mayo marvel – the bay is bejeweled with more than one hundred islands. Here, adventurous spirits can enjoy kayaking or paddleboarding in the bay’s mythic and quintessentially Irish beauty.

The Burren is a testament to the diversity of Ireland’s natural landscapes. Located in County Clare, The Burren seems like a landscape from another planet. This vast limestone plateau gets its name from the Irish word Boirinn, meaning “rocky place”. The area’s unique flora, thriving amid the area’s grey rocks, adds splashes of green – you’ll get photos here unlike anywhere you’ve visited before.

Kinsale marks a fitting end to the route. Known for its fantastic local cuisine, the town offers scenic walks and great hospitality. The Old Head of Kinsale provides a gentle, yet stunning walk with views of the relentless Atlantic, a reminder of the Wild Atlantic Way’s untamed beauty.

Our The Wild West & North Ireland 6-Day Tour takes in the rugged landscapes of Donegal and Connemara, among other highlights. 

Music is Central to Irish Life

The Irish affinity for music is embodied in the nation’s famous emblem, the harp. This cherished instrument symbolizes a nation’s love for melody and tradition. Visitors can immerse themselves in this musical legacy at Dublin’s historic pubs, where live folk performances meld with the hum of friendly chatter. For a deeper exploration, the Irish Traditional Music Archive in Dublin offers a treasure box of recordings, instruments, and literature, providing a comprehensive insight into folk music’s enduring presence in Irish culture.

Music lovers may also wish to visit Doolin, the home of Irish traditional music. The West Coast village of Doolin hosts folk festivals each year, and local music legend Christy Barry even opens the doors of his home to allow experience Irish traditional music in a cozy, relaxed setting (Doolin Music House hosts sessions on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays).

So, put together a playlist of The Pogues, The Dubliners, Van Morrison, and Thin Lizzy and get ready to experience unique musical traditions in one of the world’s most musical countries.

Newgrange, Ireland

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Newgrange: An Ancient Site Older than the Pyramids

Older than the pyramids, Newgrange is perhaps Ireland’s greatest ancient monument (and it has a lot of them!). This Stone Age monument in County Meath is famed for its astronomical alignment; each year, sunlight illuminates its inner chamber during the winter solstice, revealing intricate stone carvings. 

Visitors can marvel at the scale and details of this prehistoric wonder and contemplate the mysteries of its construction. The nearby visitor center offers guided tours, giving a glimpse into the lives of Ireland’s early inhabitants and the significance of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Those particularly interested in Ireland’s distant past may also want to consider journeys to Skellig Michael, the Hill of Tara, Drombeg Stone Circle, and, of course, the Ulster Museum and the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.

Seamus Heaney HomePlace

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Literary Landmarks: Ireland’s Storytelling Legacy

The Irish have a unique gift for storytelling. Whether it’s the ability to spin a yarn down at the local pub, the so-called gift of the gab, or the art of crafting timeless works of literature, the Irish have produced more than their fair share of wonderful raconteurs. On a visit to Ireland, you can experience this storytelling culture for yourself. 

Those traveling in Northern Ireland should not miss HomePlace, the Seamus Heaney Museum in Bellaghy, the Nobel laureate’s hometown. This modern cultural center hosts readings and special events in addition to its collections concerning the late 20th century’s preeminent poet. 

In Sligo, you can visit W.B. Yeats’ grave at Drumcliffe Churchyard, set against the stunning Benbulben mountain. The grave sits next to the neo-Gothic St Columba’s Church, a beautiful, quiet spot to sit and reflect (we visit Sligo as part of our Ultimate Ireland 10-Day Ireland Tour).

Dublin, meanwhile, honors James Joyce with Bloomsday, an annual event featuring readings, performances, and tours of Joyce-related sites, such as The James Joyce Tower & Museum at Sandycove and The James Joyce Centre. The city is also home to the Book of Kells, displayed in Trinity College Dublin’s Library, a must-see medieval artifact known worldwide for its exquisite craftsmanship. 

For those seeking to acquire the legendary Irish gift of the gab for themselves, a visit to kiss the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle near Cork is a whimsical tradition not to be missed.

Our Ultimate Ireland 10-Day Tour Package features a visit to the Blarney Stone. 

Toasting Tradition – Ireland’s Iconic Pubs

The heartbeat of Ireland’s social life is felt in its pubs, where stories and pints flow with equal ease. In Dublin, John Kavanagh’s pub (commonly known as “The Gravediggers”), found next to the famous Glasnevin cemetery, pours the best pint of Guinness in town. 

In Galway, Tigh Neachtain‘s richly decorated interior and vibrant atmosphere make it a local favorite. 

Be sure to try a pint of Beamish, a locally brewed stout, when in Cork. A classic pub to visit in the city is The Oval, which was built especially for the Beamish and Brewery. 

If you take our Emerald Explorer 7-Day Tour of Ireland, you’ll get to visit the buzzing small town of Dingle. A visit to the pub Foxy John’s always makes for a memorable experience: this atmospheric watering hole is half pub, half DIY store. 

Finally, Belfast’s Crown Liquor Saloon is an architectural marvel with its Victorian décor, exterior tilework, and historical wooden booths.

Belfast, Birthplace of the Titanic

Belfast’s rich maritime history will forever be associated with the Titanic, the iconic liner constructed in its shipyards, and its tragic fate. The Titanic Belfast Museum, standing on the site of the former shipyard, offers an immersive journey through the ship’s conception, construction, and fateful maiden, and final, voyage. 

Interactive exhibits and full-scale reconstructions provide a vivid insight into the Titanic saga, from the lives of the workers who built her to the passengers who sailed in her. This is a must-visit attraction for history lovers and fans of the award-winning Titanic movie. 

If exploring sites from famous films and TV shows is something you enjoy, you may also wish to consider exploring Northern Ireland’s Game of Thrones locations – much of the hit fantasy show was filmed there. 

Castle ruins on cliff

Ireland’s Majestic Castles

Ireland is home to a breathtaking 30,000 castles or castle ruins, and each one tells tales of bygone eras. 

Ross Castle, overlooking the tranquil waters of Killarney’s Lower Lake, is a 15th-century fortress offering tours that reveal its strategic importance and dramatic history. The imposing stonework of the castle is set amid breathtakingly beautiful Irish countryside. 

Dunluce Castle, meanwhile, is perched dramatically on the cliffs of the North Antrim coast. The castle enchants visitors with its mysterious ruins, steeped in tales of medieval warfare and clan legacy. It also features prominently in many a ghostly local legend; many visitors have told of hearing spectral sounds while walking along the stony beach below the castle. Our Wild West and Northern Ireland Tour stops at Dunluce – it’s often a highlight of our guests. 

Kylemore Castle in Co. Galway is set against the Connemara mountains and is renowned for its dramatic Gothic architecture and lovingly maintained Victorian Walled Garden. 

Meanwhile, Carrickfergus Castle, one of the best-preserved medieval structures in Ireland, boasts a commanding presence with its towering walls and strategic position overlooking Belfast Lough. The castle is a great destination for those traveling with kids, as rooms feature interactive displays, such as an area where children can dress up as knights. 

As you can see, Ireland offers a magical experience with its dramatic coastlines, ancient monuments, and one-of-a-kind cultural traditions. It’s a land where history can be explored while enjoying a drink in excellent pubs, and every castle has a legendary tale to tell. Discover Ireland – begin planning your adventure today!

Be sure to browse our range of Guided Ireland Tours and Self-Guided Driving Tours of Ireland. If you have any questions, please get in touch.