What To Do When You're In Ireland - Ireland's Top Attractions
An intro to The Emerald Isle
Ireland, or Eire, is an island to the west of the United Kingdom. Politically divided, The Republic of Ireland consists of 26 counties, and Northern Ireland (a part of the UK) has 6 counties.
The Irish flag is a vertical tricolour of green, white and orange. These colours symbolise the Gaelic tradition (green), the followers of the William of Orange (orange) and the white representing the hope for peace between them.
The Irish language, Gaeilge, is still used in some parts of Ireland, especially in the Western regions such as Dingle in Co. Kerry, Connemara in Co. Galway, and the Aran Islands.
Places of interest in Dublin
Dublin (or Baile Átha Cliath in Irish) is both the largest and the capital city of Ireland.
Places of interest in Dublin include:
- St Stephen's Green (a bustling city park)
- Guinness Storehouse (a tour around the Guinness factory, and tasting)
- National Museum of Ireland
- (GPO) General Post Office (a beautiful building on the central O'Connell Street, still scarred with the original bullet holes from the 1916 Easter Rising)
- Kilmainham Gaol (where many were executed by the British)
- Temple Bar (a lively part of the city centre, filled with bars, restaurants, street performers and tourist shops)
- Christchurch Cathedral and St Patrick's Cathedral
- The Spire (100 metres of solid steel high, The Spire is unmissable in Dublin city centre.
Tourist attractions in the rest of Ireland
Ireland may be a small country, but it's huge in terms of what it has to offer. Here's a guide to some of the places you should definitely consider going to see.
- The Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher are located in the Burren region of Co. Clare. The cliffs are made mostly of shale and sandstone, with the oldest rocks found at the bottom of the cliffs. You can see 300 million year old river channels cutting through the base of these magnificent cliffs. Among the beautiful views from the Cliffs of Moher, you can also find puffins and hawks.
Newgrange (in the county of Meath) is a circular mound with a stone passageway and chambers inside, built during the Neolithic Age. Once a year, at the Winter Solstice, the sun shines directly along the long passage, lighting up the chamber and revealing the carvings inside. This illumination lasts for about 17 minutes and can attract hundreds of visitors.
- The Blarney Stone
Located in Blarney Castle, Co. Cork, lies the famous Blarney Stone. It is said that if you kiss the stone you will be given the "gift of the gab". But in order to kiss this stone, you must climb the uneven steps all the way to the top of the castle, and hang upside down to reach it. Don't worry though, there are railings to hold on to and guides there to lift you down!
- Rock of Cashel
The Rock of Cashel is in Co. Tipperary, in the centre of Ireland. The locals of Cashel say that when St. Patrick banished Satan, he bit off part of a nearby mountain (known as Devil's Bit) and spat it out, creating the Rock of Cashel.
- The Giant's Causeway
Up in Co. Antrim in Northern Ireland, are almost perfectly hexagonal columns (some of which appear as stepping stones due to being underwater) which form a National Heritage Site. The legend goes that Finn MacCool, the local giant, was challenged to fight the Scottish giant, Benandonner. Finn finds out that Benandonner is much much bigger than him and his wife disguises him as a baby and hides him in a crib. Benandonner comes to Ireland, looking for Finn, but flees upon seeing the size of the "baby"! As Benandonner ran away he destroyed the causeway behind him to make sure that there was no way Finn MacCool could follow him.
These are places full of character, beauty and Celtic mythology which you can't find anywhere else in the world.
Food & Drink
When you think of Ireland you probably think of Guinness and potatoes. It's okay, we all do! But here are a few more delicacies that you should try while you're here!
Irish Stew - usually lamb and vegetables
Colcannon - a mixture of cabbage and mashed potato
Drisheen - cow's intestine and blood pudding
Soda bread - instead of yeast, use baking soda- but it's a very heavy bread so don't eat too much before your main course!
Cruibins- pig's trotters
Black pudding - a circular blood sausage
White pudding - pork and oatmeal circular sausage
Porter cake - a moist cake made with Irish stout
Carrageen Moss Pudding - a desert made from seaweed
Irish Coffee - they probably serve them in Starbucks, but it tastes better home-made!
Poteen - is illegal, but tourist shops sell weaker versions if you really want to try.