This emerald island boasts both breathtaking natural beauty and the prosperity of a modern urban world. From the classic Riverdance, Celtic folk songs to literature masters, the whole island is an immersive river of art
Ireland (including the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland) perches on the western tip of Europe, facing Britain on the east and looking towards North America to the west. The whole island is only 2.4 times the size of Taiwan. With the changing of the seasons, Ireland shows different kinds of green. That’s why it is also called the Emerald Isle. Pristine villages, mysterious castles and magnificent coastlines, together with the poems of W.B Yeats, plays of Oscar Wilde, and traces of Harry Potter and The Game of Thrones compose the rich story of Ireland.
Influenced by the North Atlantic Ocean climate, there are many rainy days here. Within one day, you may experience various weather, swift changes from bright sun to heavy wind and pouring rain. It is recommended to visit Ireland in May and June when there are the most sunshine days of the year. However, thanks to the rain and clean air, you can always see beautiful rainbows on the way, a true blessing indeed.
The Charm of Dublin
Ireland’s vibrant capital is the gateway to almost every Ireland tour. But Dublin is more than a stepping stone to Ireland’s other regions.
The River Liffey flows through the city from west to east and divides it into different districts which are known by numbers. On the northern bank are odd numbers and on the south are even numbers. The busiest regions include Regions 1, 2, 4 and 8. Many friendly locals are willing to offer homestays, which you can check and book via Airbnb. Then you will not only have a deeper understanding of the area through a lovingly chat with the hosts, but also get the chance to enjoy the Full Irish Breakfast – toast, fried egg, bacon, sausage, green beans, tomato, mushroom, and white or black pudding. Kindly notice that the black pudding has very special flavor that you should never miss. Most of the 5-star hotels are in Region 4, such as InterContinental, Westin, Conrad and Clontarf Castle Hotel, a splendid hotel transformed from an old castle, with quiet and peaceful surroundings.
Wandering along the streets of Dublin, you will easily sense an integration of the past and present. On the O’Connoll Avenue in Region 1, there are a couple of statues of people who played important roles during the Irish Independence War. A magnificent historic construction – the General Post Office stands not far away. You may also encounter talented street performers who play different instruments or draw epics on the ground. Crossing over the O’Connoll Bridge, you reach Region 2, home to one of the most time-honored universities in Europe – Trinity College Dublin. Do you remember the Jedi Archives in Star Wars or the magicians’ dining hall in Harry Potter? They were both shot here in the library of TCD. Now only Euro 9 will give you access to this true sea of books. Afterwards, take a stroll in the beautiful campus amidst natural beauty and historical buildings.
After the campus tour, ramble along River Liffey towards the west, and you will arrive in the famous Temple Bar area where a diversity of cafés, restaurants and pubs can be found. It’s the best place, especially in the evening, to enjoy authentic country music of Ireland and experience the local pub culture. Never miss the “National Beer” – Guinness, the creator of the Guinness world records. With baked barley malt being the raw material, Guinness beer enjoys a strong scorched flavor and soft foam. Nearby is the Guinness Storehouse where you can find out how the beer is made. Gravity Bar is on the second floor of the Storehouse offering an ideal place to enjoy the beer as well as city beauty. In the west of Dublin is Phoenix Park, the biggest city park in the world. A flock of lovely deer attracts many to come again and again. So don’t forget to take some carrots or green vegetables to have a closer interaction with them.
Wild Atlantic Way
Leaning against the grand Atlantic, Ireland is full of the most original wilderness scenery and ancient Celtic culture. Explore it by driving down the “Wild Atlantic Way” which begins in Donegal in the north all the way southward to Cork, extending all along the west coast of the country. You will pass incredibly breathtaking scenes, for example, with golden seashores, steep cliffs and capes on one side, and green countryside, Celtic villages and grand castles on the other. The essence of the Way starts from the seaside city Galway, passing the caves, lakes and karst landforms in Burren, the Moher Cliffs that receives the visit of Harry Potter, the most beautiful town in the world Dingle, the epic Ring of Kerry, all the way to Killarney.
As the “Capital of Culture”, Galway offers the best Irish classic music, medieval constructions and delicious seafood. One hour’s drive will take you to a completely different vision. Burren is a mountain area covered by numerous limestone and karst landforms. Thanks to the blessed climate and soil here, Burren possesses 75% of Ireland’s local species although it occupies only 1% of the total area. Moreover, many exotic rare species can also grow here, be they from the snowy land of the Alps or under the scorching sun of South America.
Driving further south, you arrive at the Cliffs of Moher, Harry Potter fans’ lifelong desire. Rising to a height of 203 metres, these sheer vertical cliffs hold a steady, undulating line of over eight kilometers against the tireless advance of the Atlantic below. The next stop is Dingle, a fairy tale world with quiet beaches, colorful houses, and green pastures. The inhabitants here maintain the customs of the Celts and speak Celtic. Old folk songs flow in the air. Then it is the Ring of Kerry, where all the beauty of the universe is hidden in this 179 kilometer route. The end of the Ring is Killarney, the home of the first park of Ireland – Killarney National Park. It is known by many as a scaled-down version of Ireland containing lakes, valleys, waterfalls, old trees and Irish red deer. Wander amidst the flowers and listen to the symphony of vitality and serenity.
Passing through Northern Ireland, you will get a little bit of a different feel. The capital city Belfast is not big but very clean with beautiful seaside views, as well as a number of top concert halls and theatres. But the true identity card of Belfast is undoubtedly that irreplaceable vessel – the Titanic. Over a hundred years ago, the Titanic was built in Belfast, the biggest passenger ship in the whole world at that time. On April 10, 1912, Titanic set off from here. But only several days later, it sank into the vast ocean after hitting an iceberg.
A 100 years later, a memorial hall was built by the shiupyard where the Titanic had been built and launched. Titanic Belfast is a silver building with clear corner angles, with its outer wall being covered by aluminum plates, resembling a ship as well as an iceberg. Stepping into the hall, your breath will immediately be taken away by the pictures, objects and visual images which tell the glorious past of the shipbuilding industry in Belfast and the construction process of the Titanic. At that time, thousands of locals came to the dockyard every day and turned girders and rivets into a colossus within two years’ time. Now the building sketches are projected on the ground and the floors, restaurants, guestrooms are all shown via big screens. You can even see and hear dynamic images of seamen talking with passengers.
There are many other inviting experiences in Northern Ireland, such as Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, the third steepest in the world, and Giants Causeway, composed of over 40,000 polygon basalt columns irregularly scattered over several kilometers. It is the result of a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago and long centuries’ of erosion by sea waters.
Hidden Gems of the Spa Industry
If variety is the spice of life, it’s definitely the beating heart of the spa industry. Just as no two people are the same, neither are their requirements when going on a spa break, From city spas like No.1 Pery Square, to country escapes including the Farnham Estate, Ireland’s array of options both in terms of venue types and packages is vast. Family friendly spa breaks and romantic spa breaks, hen parties and stag dos, health retreats and solo travellers have all found the right setting for their travel requirements.
There are approximately 4,000 salons and spas in Ireland, which contribute 540 million annually to the Irish economy, according to recent research. The average age of Irish salon clients is 36.9 years old. Most Ireland Spas have fully availed themselves of the gifted natural beauty of the country.
Admist 1,300 acres of ancient forest, rolling meadows and pristine lake land in County Cavan, The Spa at Farnham Estate Spa & Golf Resort attracts many by its incredible surroundings and quality services. Chill Spa at Ice House also wisely takes advantages of the environment. For example, the corridors feature ceiling-to-floor windows; sauna rooms are set on private decks. Chill Spa keeps updating their menus in order to meet the requirements of customers. There is a characteristic cancer program here as well. The Buff Day Spa located in the heart of the Dublin next door to the Gaiety Theatre, provide a whole spectrum of beauty and holistic healing therapies from Dermalogica Facials to Aromatherapy, Image Skincare Treatments, Juliette Armand Boosters, La Stone Massage, Reflexology, Mama Mio Maternity, Manicures, Pedicures, and Spray Tanning all in a beautiful setting.
Irish coffee is one of the most popular drinks among the locals, second only to dark beer. Authentic Irish coffee contains Irish whiskey, blended with caramel and creams, and delivers not only fragrant bitterness, but also the provocative sweetness of whisky. A kind remind to those who cannot hold the liquor.
As a symbol of Ireland beauty and poetry, Irish tap dancing is well-known all over the world. Originally, Michael Flatley was invited to compose a short dance in order to fill the break of a competition and this filling – Riverdance – surprisingly became popular overnight. Gaiety theatre in Dublin is the best place of all Ireland to enjoy the most authentic Riverdance.
St. Patrick Day
On March 17 every year, the whole Ireland is flooded with joy. St. Patrick’s Day is now the biggest celebration of the country to remember this legendary figure. On the day, the whole land turns into a green ocean, symbolizing Irish national grass – clover. People put on green clothes, hats and hairs. They even dye their pets green or paint clover on their face and body. Various performances take place by turns.
In his famous novel Ulysses, James Joyce describes the main character Leopold Bloom’s one day of wandering along Dublin’s streets on June 16. To remember the father of stream of consciousness literature, Irish people name June 16 as Bloomsday. On this day, all Joyce fans gather in Dublin to discuss Ulysses, having Bloom-style breakfast, put on the garments of Edward VII and follow the route of Bloom.