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IrelandView all tours
Ireland is one of the globe’s most singular travel destinations, a feisty, twinkling country far more famous for the sum of its parts than for any specific sight or attraction. Its landscapes are raw and extraordinary. Its cities are animated and very much its own. Its histories – both ancient and contemporary – are full of tales of adversity and resolve. Tying all this together is the Irish character, a mythologised combination of bright-eyed bonhomie and bar-room banter: there’s good reason why the planet’s full of Irish pubs.
In some ways, in fact, the very general allure can make it hard to know where to start for visitors. Lovable Dublin falls naturally as the most popular first-time option, although for all the capital city’s stately architecture and riverside charm, it only partly hints at what the wider country has to offer. The real spirit of today’s nation might be up for debate – it’s as likely to be found in a Connemara village as a Cork street scene – but regardless, searching for it is rarely anything but hugely enjoyable.
It’s often said that there are two Irelands. Despite its economic woes, 21st-century Ireland is a modern destination, full of fresh creativity and long attuned to cosmopolitan, corporate thinking. At the same time, of course, it’s somewhere rooted in the strongest of traditions, a country marked by humour, hospitality and more than the occasional late-night tale. The craic of legend isn’t generally hard to find.
With all this in mind, it’s perhaps no surprise that Ireland caters for such a broad range of visitor interests. Those in search of windswept hikes, Celtic relics and fiddle-and-song pubs will be well sated, but so too will those looking for on-trend gastronomy, family-friendly attractions or slick hotels. Ireland may be relatively small but its cultural impact worldwide continues to be enormous, and this is due to far more than just a romantic notion of how it used to be.
There are further benefits to the country’s compact size. Getting around is usually quick and straightforward, making it simple to cover more than one region on a single trip. Lose yourself in an Anglo-Norman castle one day, walk a soaring cliff trail the next, then find yourself enjoying the languid inland waterways the day after that. Or make the most of the rail network fanning out of Dublin by combining time in the capital with an excursion to Waterford, Galway City or Cork.
Various icons and images enjoy close associations with Ireland (see everything from craggy peninsulas to pints of Guinness) but the real beauty of the country is the fact that it transcends every cliché that people throw at it. Its potential for adventure – for real, blood-pumping adventure – is all too often overlooked, while for those who just want to take it easy, the options are copious. It’s no exaggeration to say that the scenery here is some of the most inspiring in Europe, and the culture it plays home to is as layered, fascinating and downright rewarding as any you’ll come across.
The Republic of Ireland lies in the north Atlantic Ocean and is separated from Britain by the Irish Sea to the west. The northeastern part of the island (Northern Ireland) is part of the United Kingdom.
There are four provinces: Leinster, which covers the eastern portion of the country around Dublin; Munster, which covers the south; Connacht, which covers the west of Ireland; and Ulster, which is predominantly in Northern Ireland but also covers the northern tip of the Republic.
Ireland has a central plain surrounded by a rim of mountains and hills offering some of the most varied and unspoilt scenery in Europe. Inland you’ll find bogs, moors, forests, lakes, mountains and wetlands. Quiet sandy beaches, semi-tropical bays warmed by the Gulf Stream, and rugged cliffs make up the 5,600km (3,500 miles) of coastline.
For those who really want to make the most of the coastal scenery (and are keen to see a bit of Northern Ireland too), a full loop of the island – sticking close to the sea at all times – can be done with ease in a couple of weeks.
Together, the landscape and the offshore waters provide a good habitat for a wide variety of wildlife. Seals and dolphins are spotted regularly, while the Cork coast even offers the chance to whale-watch over the summer months.
There are numerous rivers in Ireland, the longest of which – the River Shannon, at 360 km (224 miles) in length – is also seen as one of the country’s most picturesque. Other notable waterways include the River Liffey, which flows from the Wicklow Mountains to the Irish Sea, through the centre of Dublin.Government:
Republic.Head Of State:
President Michael D Higgins since 2011.Head Of Government:
Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny since 2011.Electricity:
220 volts AC, 50Hz. Three-pin plugs are in use.Timezone:
Euro (EUR; symbol €) = 100 cents. Notes are in denominations of €500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5. Coins are in denominations of €2 and 1, and 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 cents.Credit Cards:
American Express, MasterCard and Visa are all widely accepted. ATMs are available everywhere, catering for Cirrus and Maestro symbols.ATMs:
ATMs are available everywhere, catering for Cirrus and Maestro symbols.Travellers Cheques:
Accepted throughout Ireland. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller's cheques in Euros, Pounds Sterling or US Dollars.Banking Hours:
Mon-Fri 0930-1630. In Dublin, banks stay open Thurs until 1700; there are also late opening nights in other parts of the country, but the day will vary.Currency Restrictions:
There are no restrictions on the import or export of local or foreign currency. However, amounts exceeding €10,000 or equivalent must be declared if travelling from or to a country outside the European Union.Currency Exchange:
Available in banks, airports and bureaux de change.Currencies: Exchange Rates:
- 1 AUD = 0.71 EUR
- 1 EUR = 1.00 EUR
- 1 GBP = 1.28 EUR
- 1 USD = 0.79 EUR
Best Time To Visit:
Ireland's relatively temperate climate is due to mild southwesterly winds and the effects of the Atlantic Gulf Stream. Summers are warm – only rarely getting unpleasantly hot – while temperatures during winter are much cooler, although it’s far from common for the temperature to drop below freezing and snowfall is rare. Spring and autumn are very mild, with rainfall expected all year round.
The other chief characteristic of the climate, however, is its unpredictability. You might be basking in balmy T-shirt weather one week, then wrapping up to stave off the chill the next – all the while with an umbrella to hand.Required Clothing:
Lightweights during summer with warmer mediumweights for the winter. Rainwear is advisable throughout the year. If you find yourself lacking anything essential on arrival, of course, all key centres are well stocked with clothing outlets, with the larger cities particularly good in terms of picking up high quality outdoor equipment. And it's worth remembering that certain clothing items which are more commonly seen as souvenirs – hand-knit Aran sweaters, for example – can be practical purchases for the trip itself.