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Plan your dream trip to Ireland




A small country with a big
reputation, helped along
by a timeless, age-caressed
welcome to landscape and a fascinating,
Ireland friendly people, whose lyrical
nature is expressed in the
warmth of their welcome.

(left) Evening at the Giant’s Causeway (p658)

(below) Enjoying the craic in the Market Bar (p110), Dublin


Ireland of the Postcard Tread Carefully… A Cultural Well tired cliché, an over-simplification of a
character that is infinitely complex, but
Yes, it exists. Along the peninsulas of the …for you tread on history. Everywhere you Ireland operates an astonishing cultural there’s no denying that the Irish are warm
southwest, the brooding loneliness of Conne- go Ireland’s history presents itself, from the surplus. Throughout your travels you will be and welcoming, if a little reserved at
mara and the dramatic wildness of County breathtaking monuments of prehistoric overwhelmed by the choices on offer – a play first. Wherever you meet them – the shop,
Donegal. You’ll also find it in the lakelands Ireland at Brú na Bóinne to the fabulous by one of the theatrical greats in Dublin, a the bar, the bank queue – there’s a good
of Counties Leitrim and Roscommon and ruins of Ireland’s rich monastic past at Glen- traditional music ‘session’ in a west-Ireland chance a conversation will be struck up,
the undulating hills of the sunny southeast dalough and Clonmacnoise. More recent pub or a rock gig in a Limerick saloon. The pleasantries exchanged and, should you be
(‘sunny’ of course being a relative term). history is visible in the famine museum in Irish summer is awash with all manner of a stranger in town, the offer of a helping
Ireland has modernised dramatically, but Cobh to the interactive displays of Vinegar festivals, celebrating everything from hand extended. But, lest you think this is
some things never change. Brave the raging Hill in County Wexford. And there’s history flowers in bloom to high literature. merely an act of unfettered altruism, rest
Atlantic on a crossing to Skellig Michael or so young that it’s still considered the present, assured that the comfort they seek is actu-
spend a summer’s evening in the yard of a best experienced on a black-taxi tour of West Tá Fáilte Romhat ally their own, for the Irish cannot be at
thatched-cottage pub and you’ll experience Belfast or an examination of Derry’s aston- ease in the company of those who aren’t.
(Taw fall-cha row-at) – ‘You’re very welcome’.
an Ireland that has changed little in gen- ishingly colourful political murals. A hundred thousand welcomes. It seems
Or, more famously, céad míle fáilte – a hun-
erations, and is likely the Ireland you most excessive, but in Ireland, excess is fine,
dred thousand welcomes. Why a hundred
came to see. so long as it’s practised in moderation.
thousand when one is perfectly adequate
everywhere else? Irish friendliness is a Friendly but never fawning.


Dublin 7
Ireland’s capital (p54) and largest city by some stretch is the main gateway into the country,
2 but it has enough distractions to keep visitors mesmerised for at least a few days. From world-
class museums and entertainment, superb dining and top-grade hotels, Dublin has all the baubles
of a major international metropolis. But the real clinchers are Dubliners themselves, who are friend-
lier, more easy-going and welcoming than the burghers of virtually any other European capital. And
it’s the home of Guinness. O’Connell Bridge and O’Connell St, below




The Pub
Every town and hamlet has at least one: no matter where you go, you’ll find that the social heart
1 of the country beats loudest in the pub, still the best place to discover what makes the country
tick. In suitable surroundings – whether a quiet traditional pub with flagstone floors and a large peat
fire or a more modern bar with flashing lights and music – take a moment or an evening to listen for
that beating heart…and drink some decent beer in the process. Pub in Temple Bar, Dublin, above


Connemara, 9
County Galway
A filigreed coast of tiny coves and
3 beaches is the Connemara Penin-
sula’s (p410) beautiful border with the
wild waters of the Atlantic. Wandering
characterful roads bring you from
one village to another, each with trad
pubs and restaurants serving seafood
chowder cooked from recipes that Galway City
are family secrets. Inland, the scenic
One word to describe Galway city (p384)?
drama is even greater. In fantastically
desolate valleys, green hills, yellow
7 Craic! Ireland’s liveliest city literally hums
through the night at music-filled pubs where
wildflowers and wild streams reflect-
you can hear three old guys playing spoons
ing the blue sky provide elemental
and fiddles or a hot, young band. Join the
beauty. Rambles take you far from
locals as they bounce from place to place,
others, back to a simpler time. Clifden
never knowing what fun lies ahead but certain
and Connemara mountains, right
of the possibility. Add in local bounty such
as the famous oysters and nearby adventure
Traditional Music in the Connemara Peninsula and the Aran
Western Europe’s most vibrant Islands and the fun never ends. Galway City
4 folk music is Irish traditional
music (p712), which may have earned
harbour, below

worldwide fame thanks to the likes

of Riverdance but is best expressed


in a more sedate setting, usually an
old-fashioned pub. The west of Ireland
is particularly musical: from Donegal
down to Kerry there are centres of
musical excellence, none more so
than Doolin (p311) in County Clare,
the unofficial capital of Irish music. It’s
unlikely you’ll be asked to join in, but
there’s nothing stopping your foot from
tapping and your hands from clapping.
Playing Celtic music at a céilidh, left

County Wicklow

St Kevin knew a thing or two Dingle, County Kerry

5 about magical locations. When he
Dingle is the name of both the picturesque
chose a remote cave on a glacial lake
nestled at the base of a forested valley
6 peninsula (p297) jutting into the Atlantic
from County Kerry, strewn with ancient ruins, and
as his monastic retreat, he inadvert-
its delightful main town (p299), the peninsula’s
ently founded a settlement (p142) that
beating heart. Fishing boats unload fish and
would later prove to be one of Ireland’s
shellfish that couldn’t be any fresher if you caught
most dynamic universities and, in our
it yourself, many pubs are untouched since their
time, one of the country’s most beauti-
earlier incarnations as old-fashioned shops,
ful ruined sites. The remains of the
artists sell their creations (including beautiful jew-
settlement (including an intact round
ellery with Irish designs) at intriguing boutiques,
tower), coupled with the stunning
and toe-tapping trad sessions take place around
scenery, are unforgettable. St Kevin’s
roaring pub fires. Slea Head, Dingle Peninsula,
Kitchen, Glendalough, right
Walking & Hiking Rock of Cashel, 11
Yes, you can visit the country easily enough by car, but Ireland is best explored on foot, whether County Tipperary
8 you opt for a gentle afternoon stroll along a canal towpath or take on the challenge of any of the Soaring up from the green Tip-
31 waymarked long-distance routes. There are coastal walks and mountain hikes; you can explore
towns and villages along the way or steer clear of civilisation by traipsing along lonely moorland and
10 perary pastures, this ancient
fortress (p335) takes your breath
across barren bogs. All you’ll need is a decent pair of boots and, inevitably, a rain jacket. Diamond Hill, away at first sight. The seat of kings
Connemara National Park, below and churchmen who ruled over the
region for more than a thousand years,
it rivalled Tara as a centre of power in

Ireland for 400 years. Entered through

the 15th-century Hall of the Vicars
Choral, its impervious walls guard an
awesome enclosure with a complete
round tower, a 13th-century Gothic
cathedral and the most magnificent
12th-century Romanesque chapel in
Ireland. Cathedral, Rock of Cashel, left

Links Golf


If Scotland is the home of golf,
11 then Ireland is where golf goes
on holiday. And the best vacation spots
are along the sea, where the country’s
collection of seaside links are dotted
in a steady string along virtually the
entire Irish coastline, each more
revealed than carved in the undulating,
marram-grass-covered landscapes.
Brú na Bóinne, County Meath Some of the world’s best-known
Looking at once ancient and yet eerily futuristic, Newgrange’s immense, round, white stone
9 walls topped by a grass dome is one of the most extraordinary sights you’ll ever see. Part of
the vast Neolithic necropolis Brú na Bóinne (the Boyne Palace; p534), it contains Ireland’s finest
courses share spectacular scenery
with lesser-known gems, and each
offers the golfer the opportunity to test
Stone Age passage tomb, predating the Pyramids by some six centuries. Most extraordinary of all their skills against the raw materials
is the tomb’s precise alignment with the sun at the time of the winter solstice. Early engineering at provided by Mother Nature.
its finest. Passage tomb, Newgrange, below

Cork City


The Republic’s second city
12 (p223) is second only in terms
of size – in every other respect it will
bear no competition. A tidy, compact
city centre is home to an enticing
collection of art galleries, museums
and – most especially – places to eat.
From cheap cafes to top-end gour-
met restaurants, Cork City excels,
although it’s hardly a surprise given
the county’s exceptional foodie reputa-
tion. At the heart of it is the simply
wonderful English Market, a covered
produce market that is an attraction
unto itself. St Fin Barre’s Cathedral and
the River Lee, Cork City, left
Ring of Kerry Kilkenny City 13
Driving around the Ring of Kerry (p284) is an unforgettable experience in itself, but you don’t
13 need to limit yourself to the main route. Along this 179km loop around the Iveragh Peninsula
there are countless opportunities for detours. Near Killorglin, it’s a short hop up to the beautiful, little-
15 From its regal castle to its
soaring medieval cathedral,
Kilkenny (p203) exudes a perma-
known Cromane Peninsula. Between Portmagee and Waterville, you can explore the Skellig Ring. The nence and culture that have made
peninsula’s interior offers mesmerising mountain views. And that’s just for starters. Wherever your it an unmissable stop on journeys
travels take you, remember to charge your camera! to the south and west. Its namesake
county boasts scores of artisans and
craftspeople and you can browse


their wares at Kilkenny’s classy shops
and boutiques. Chefs eschew Dublin
in order to be close to the source of
Kilkenny’s wonderful produce and
you can enjoy the local brewery’s
namesake brew at scores of delightful
pubs. Houses along the River Nore,
Kilkenny City, left



Coastal Walk
Put on your walking boots and
16 rucksack and set off along one
of Ireland’s finest coastal walks, stretch-
ing for 16 scenic kilometres between the
swaying rope bridge of Carrick-a-Rede
(p659) and the geological flourish of
the Giant’s Causeway (p658). This is
coastal hiking at its best, offering an
ever-changing vista of cliffs and islands,
sandy beaches and ruined castles,
framed by scenic, seabird-haunted
Rathlin Island at one end and the cheer-
Black Taxi ing prospect of a dram or two at the Old

Bushmills Distillery at the other. Carrick-

Tour, Belfast a-Rede rope bridge, County Antrim, right
No trip to Northern
14 Ireland is complete
without visiting the Republican
Castles &
Stately Homes

and Loyalist murals (p584) of
The Anglo-Normans left an
Belfast’s Falls and Shankhill dis-
tricts. But for an outsider, the
city’s bitterly divided society
17 indelible stamp on Ireland,
best seen in the country’s collection
can be hard to get your head of handsome homes and impressive
around. Without a local guide castles, built to reflect the power, glory
to provide some background and wealth of their respective own-
and explanation, the murals ers. Although some have fallen into
can be just so much garish ruin, many have been meticulously
paint. Belfast’s black taxi tours maintained, including the superb
are justifiably famous because country piles designed in the Georgian
they provide that context, with (or Palladian) style, found in pastoral
drivers who are both insightful settings around Dublin. Others have
and darkly humorous without been converted from homes to luxury
making light of a serious and of- hotels and are memorable overnight
ten tragic situation. Republican experiences. Powerscourt Estate,
murals along Falls Rd, left County Wicklow, left
Clonmacnoise, County Offaly A Gaelic 15
One of Ireland’s most important ancient monastic cities, Clonmacnoise (p509) was founded Football or
18 by St Ciarán in the 6th century and soon became an unrivalled bastion of religion, literature
and art. Attracting monks and lay people from all over Europe, it helped earn Ireland the title of the
Hurling Match
It depends on wheth-
‘land of saints and scholars’. Most of what remains of the magnificent ecclesiastical city dates from
the 10th to 12th centuries and is in remarkably good condition with numerous early churches, high 20 er you’re in a football
or hurling stronghold (some,
crosses, round towers and graves overlooking the River Shannon. Monastic site, Clomacnoise, below
like County Cork, are both)
but attending a match of the
county’s chosen sport (p722)

is not just a unique Irish

experience but also a key to
unlocking local passions and
understanding one of the cul-
tural pillars of Ireland. Whether
you attend a club football
match in County Galway or
an intercounty hurling battle
between old foes like Kilkenny
and Tipperary, you cannot but
be swept up in the emotion of
it all. Galway v Tipperary Gaelic
football match, left


History runs deep in Northern Ireland’s second city (p635). The symbols of the country’s
19 sectarian past are evident, from the 17th-century city walls built to protect Protestant set-
tlers, to the bipartite Republican/Loyalist name, Derry/Londonderry. But the new bridge that spans
the River Foyle provides another symbol – of an attempt to bridge that divide and to look to the
future as a city filled with a restless creative energy, expressed in its powerful murals, vibrant music
scene and numerous art galleries, and now nominated as UK City of Culture 2013. Maurice Harron’s
Hands Across the Divide Peace Monument, Derry/Londonderry, below

Clare Coast
Bathed in the golden glow of the late afternoon sun, the iconic Cliffs of Moher (p368) are
21 but one of the splendours of County Clare. From a boat bobbing below, the towering stone
faces have a jaw-dropping dramatic beauty that’s enlivened by scores of sea birds, including cute
little puffins. Down south in Loop Head, pillars of rock towering above the sea have abandoned
stone cottages whose very existence is inexplicable. All along the coast are cute little villages like
trad-session-filled Ennistymon and the surfer mecca of Lahinch. Cliffs of Moher, the Burren, above
18 19

Everyone needs a helping hand
when they visit a country for
the first time. There are phrases

Time to learn, customs to get used to

and etiquette to understand.
f irst The following section will help
demystify Ireland so your first

time trip goes as smoothly as

your fifth.

Top Tips for Your Trip What to Checklist Etiquette Tipping

» Quality rather than quantity should be your goal: instead of a hair-raising Pack » Make sure your Although largely informal in their every- » Hotels
race to see everything, pick a handful of destinations and give yourself time passport is valid for at day dealings, the Irish do observe some One euro per bag is
» Good walking shoes,
to linger. The most memorable experiences in Ireland are often the ones least six months past (unspoken) rules of etiquette. standard; gratuity
as Ireland is best
where you’re doing very little at all. appreciated on foot your arrival date » Greetings for cleaning staff
» If you’re driving, get off the main roads when you can: some of the » Make all necessary Shake hands with men, women and children completely at your
» Raincoat – you will when meeting for the first time and when saying discretion.
country’s most stunning scenery is best enjoyed on secondary or tertiary undoubtedly need it bookings (for
roads that wind their narrow way through standout photo ops. accommodation, goodbye. Irish expect a firm handshake with eye » Pubs
» UK/Ireland electrical events and travel) contact. Female friends are greeted with a single Not expected unless
» Make the effort to greet the locals: the best experiences of Ireland are to adapter (air) kiss. table service is
be had courtesy of the Irish themselves, whose helpfulness, friendliness and » Check the airline
fun has not been overexaggerated. » A finely honed sense baggage restrictions » Conversation provided, then €1/£1
of humour Generally friendly but often reserved, the Irish for a round of drinks.
» Inform your debit-/ avoid conversations that might embarrass. They
» A hollow leg – all credit-card company » Restaurants
that beer has to go are deeply mistrustful of ‘oversharers’. For decent service
Booking Ahead somewhere » Arrange for » Language 10%, up to 15% in more
If you’re planning to visit in the high season, the sooner you book appropriate travel The Irish speak English quickly and strong accents expensive places.
your accommodation the better – up to two months in advance for » Irish-themed MP3 insurance (see p729) can often be indecipherable. Don’t take offence
a July visit. Activities should also be booked now – cooking courses, playlist » Check if you can use
» Taxis
at indiscriminate bad language; many Irish Tip 10% of fare, or
organised tours, etc. your mobile/cell phone unconsciously pepper their speech with curse rounded up to nearest
A month before you travel book your hire car and reserve a table (p731) words, which are intended only to be emphatic. euro/pound.
in whatever top-end restaurant you plan to dine in. Now is also the
time to make theatre reservations, especially for new productions. » Round System » Toilet Attendants
Two weeks before you arrive, check attraction opening hours and The Irish generally take it in turns to buy a ‘round’ Only loose change, no
prices. A week before, get the weather forecast. Then ignore it. of drinks for the whole group and everyone is more than 50c/50p.
expected to take part. The next round should
always be bought before the first round is drunk.
What to Wear
Ireland is a fairly casual destination and you can wear pretty much
whatever you like all the time. For fancy dinners, smart casual is all Money
that’s required – no restaurant will insist on jackets or ties, as won’t ATMs can generally be found throughout Ireland; even in the smallest villages chances
any theatre or concert hall. are a shop will have one. All ATMs are linked to the main international money systems,
Ireland’s youth have become far more comfortable with their so you should have no issue withdrawing money with your bank’s own card – but be
bodies than the generations that preceded them, so summer wear sure to check with your bank before you travel.
has seen hemlines rise and necklines plunge. Summers, however, Credit and debit cards can be used almost everywhere except for some rural B&Bs
are warm but rarely hot, so you’ll always want something around that only accept cash. Make sure bars or restaurants will accept cards before you order –
your legs and shoulders when the inevitable cool sets in. some don’t. The most popular cards are Visa and MasterCard; American Express is only
In the end, the factor that will determine your outfits the most is accepted by the major chains, and virtually no one will accept Diners or JCB. Chip-and-
the weather, which also means that a light, waterproof jacket should PIN is the norm for card transactions – only a few places will accept a signature.
always be close at hand, preferably one that you can fold and keep If you don’t want to rely on plastic, banks, post offices and some of the larger hotels will
in a shoulder bag. change cash and travellers cheques.

Tracing Your Literary Traditional

Roots Corners Pubs
Roughly 80 million people Four Nobel laureates for Everybody’s got their favou-
worldwide can claim to be literature are just the high- rite, so picking the best ones
part of, or descended from, light of a rich literary tradi- is a futile exercise. What
the Irish diaspora, with tion. Ireland is one of the can be done, however, is to
about 41 million of those English-speaking world’s select a handful that won’t
in the US alone. Most ma- most notable heavyweights disappoint you, especially
jor towns have a heritage of the written word, a tradi- if you’re looking for a tra-
centre with a genealogical tion that continues to thrive ditional pub in the classic
service. through contemporary writ- mould.
Genealogical Office Based in ers and literary festivals. Blake’s of the Hollow,
the National Library in Dublin, Cape Clear Island Interna- Enniskillen Ulster’s best pint of
this is the place to start your tional Storytelling Festival Guinness in a Victorian classic
search for your Irish ancestors The storytelling tradition is kept (p676)
(p75) alive by tales tall and long from John Benny’s, Dingle Stone
PRONI (Public Record Office all over the world (p256) slab floor, memorabilia on the
of Northern Ireland) Belfast’s Cúirt International Festival of walls and rocking trad sessions
purpose-built centre in the Literature Galway attracts writ- most nights (p306)
Titanic Quarter is the place to go ers from all over the world to its McCarthy’s, Fethard A pub,
to track down your Ulster family April literary showcase (p395) restaurant and undertakers, all
history (p592) Dublin Literary Tours No city in one (p342)
Dún na Sí Heritage Centre A of comparable size has been Morrissey’s, Abbeyleix Half-
folk park 16km east of Athlone more written about or produced pub, half-shop, it’s one of the
with an associated genealogical as many great authors as the best drinking establishments on
centre attached (p525) capital, so take one of its many the whole island (p502)
Ulster-American Folk Park literary tours to find out more
(p94) Séhan Ua Neáchtain, Galway
Ulster’s rich links with the US One of Ireland’s best-known
explored in one of Northern Listowel Writers Week The Irish traditional pubs (p393)
Ireland’s best museums (p687) literary festival, held in June in
the hometown of John B Keane Stag’s Head, Dublin Beloved by
(p317) students, auteurs and boozers
alike, a Victorian classic with
beautiful stained-glass windows
Vaughan’s Pub, Kilfenora
Superb bar with outstanding
reputation for traditional music
22 23

If you like…hang-gliding and

paragliding, some of the finest
airwaves can be found at Mt
Leinster (p181) in Carlow, the

Great Sugarloaf Mountain
(p152) in Wicklow and Benone
and Magilligan Beaches
(p650) in Derry.
» Clew Bay beneath Croagh Patrick (p432), County Mayo

Great Views Irish Cooking A Good Walk Traditional Ancient Ruins Bookshops
Irish scenery is among the Schools From afternoon ambles to Music Thanks to the pre-Celts, Ireland’s long and wonder-
most spectacular in Europe, The renaissance of Irish cui- week-long hikes, Ireland Western Europe’s most Celts and early Christians, ful relationship with the
with breathtaking views sine has been spearheaded offers plenty of opportuni- vibrant folk music is kept ancient and monastic sites written word has resulted
and stunning landscapes by a visionary gang of Irish ties to stretch your legs. alive by musicians who ply are a feature of the Irish in some marvellously atmo-
throughout the whole coun- chefs and producers, many You don’t have to follow their craft (and are plied landscape. Thanks to the spheric bookshops where
try. There are the famous of whom have dedicated a waymarked way, but with drink) in impromptu Vikings and Henry VIII, you can while away an hour
spots, of course, but they’re themselves to passing on there are 31 of them in the and organised sessions in many of these are ruins, but or three and perhaps even
not alone. their secrets by setting up a country should you prefer pubs and music houses no less impressive. pick up a rare copy of your
Binevenagh Lake Spectacular cookery school. a signposted hike. throughout the country; Askeaton Evocative 14th- favourite Irish book.
view over Lough Foyle, Donegal Ballymaloe The most famous Ardmore Cliff Walk Marvellous even the ‘strictly for tourists’ century ruins of a castle, monas- An Café Liteártha This special-
and the Sperrin Mountains from cooking school in the country 5km walk from an ancient stuff will feature excellent tery and a church (p330) ist bookstore sells Irish-interest
the cliff top at the height of the run by its best-known chef, Christian well across sea cliffs to performances. Brú na Bóinne Europe’s most books and there’s an idyllic little
Bishop’s Rd (p650) Darina Allen (p236) Ardmore town (p195) An Droichead Excellent music impressive Neolithic burial site café at the back; settle in with a
Clew Bay The 365 islands of Burren Way Any portion of this sessions at an arts centre dedi- (p534) book and a scone (p306).
Belle Isle School of Cookery
this County Mayo bay are best A reputable school at the north 123km marked way is rewarding cated to Irish culture (p599) Carrowkeel Megalithic cem- An Cló Ceart Irish-language
viewed from the top of Croagh end of Upper Lough Erne (p677) (p370) Leo’s Tavern Live nightly ses- etery and majestic views (p453) books, traditional music and
Patrick (p432) Causeway Coast Way The sions in summer in a pub owned other examples of fine Irish
Ghan House This cookery Clonmacnoise Ireland’s finest culture, including woodwork and
Kilkee Cliffs Jaw-dropping school specialising in classic best section is the 16.5km hike by Enya’s parents (p480) monastic site (p509)
views of soaring cliffs that aren’t between Carrick-a-Rede and the other crafts (p647)
cuisine is attached to a beautiful Matt Molloy’s The Chieftain’s Devenish Island Ruins of an
the Cliffs of Moher (p364) 18th-century Georgian house Giant’s Causeway (p662) fife player owns this pub where Cathach Books Dublin’s best
Augustinian monastery and second-hand bookstore special-
Scarriff Inn Stunning views of (p558) Doolough Valley History and the live céilidh (session of tradi- near-perfect round tower on
Kenmare Bay and Bantry Bay scenery combine on this route tional music and dancing) kick ises in Irish-interest books and
Source A small cookery the biggest island in Lough Erne some outstanding first editions,
from the windows of this Kerry school atop a restaurant that between Leenane and Westport off at 9pm nightly (p436) (p679)
restaurant (p294) (p430) including ones by Ireland’s liter-
covers the full range of Irish Miltown Malbay Every pub in Dún Aengus Stunning Stone ary giants (p123)
Poisoned Glen The views traditional cooking, from farm to River Barrow Towpath A this County Clare town features Age fort perched perilously on
down this Donegal valley are fork (p449) beautiful path along the Barrow outstanding Irish trad sessions Charlie Byrne’s Rambling
Inishmór’s cliffs (p400) rooms hold a treasure trove of
breathtaking; the final touch is Tannery Cookery School Well- between Graiguenamanagh in (p365)
Glendalough Ruins of a once- new, second-hand and hard-to-
the ruined church at the foot of known chef Paul Flynn runs a County Kilkenny and St Mullins Tig Cóilí Galway’s best trad powerful monastic city in stun- find books (p394)
the glen (p480) successful school at the back of in County Carlow (p201) sessions in the pub whose name ning surroundings (p142)
his excellent restaurant (p191) Ross Castle A 3km stroll means ‘house of music’ (p393)
through Killarney National Park Marine Bar Wonderful music
(p279) nightly during summer months
at this 200-year-old pub (p193)
Top Events outdoor sporting event;
24 25


150,000-plus people line the

month St Patrick’s Day, March

triangular route to cheer on
some of the biggest names
in motorcycle racing. Held

by Galway Arts Festival, July

Willie Clancy Summer
School, July
in mid-May.

3 Fleadh Nua
month The third week of

May sees the cream of the
Féile An Phobail, August
traditional music crop come
to Ennis, County Clare, for
All-Ireland Finals, September one of the country’s most
important festivals (www.

3 World Irish
the parade (attended by
600,000), with gigs and Dancing
February festivities that leave the city Championships June
Bad weather makes with a giant hangover. There’s far more to Irish The bank holiday at the
February the perfect dancing than Riverdance. beginning of the month
month for indoor Every April, some 4500 sees the country spoilt for
activities. Some museums choice as to what to do.
launch new exhibits, and
April competitors from all over
the world gather to test Weekend traffic is getting
it’s a good time to visit The weather is getting their steps and skills against busier, the weather gets
the major towns and better, the flowers are the very best. The location better.
cities. beginning to bloom varies from year to year; see

3 Cat Laughs
and the festival season
Dublin begins anew. Seasonal for details. Kilkenny gets very,
3 International attractions start to open
up around the middle of
very funny in early June
with the country’s premier
Film Festival
the month or at Easter. comedy festival (www.
Sponsored by Jameson, the
island’s biggest film festival May, which
Circuit of draws comedians both
( runs during
the last two weeks of Febru- 3 Ireland
The May Bank Holiday (on
the first Monday) sees the known and unknown from
ary, offering a mix of local International Rally first of the busy summer the four corners of the
flicks, arty international Northern Ireland’s most weekends as the Irish take globe.
films and advance releases prestigious rally race – to the roads to enjoy the

3 Irish Derby
» (above) Irish musician playing in a Doolin pub
of mainstream movies. known locally as the ‘Cir- budding good weather. » (below) St Patrick’s Day celebrations
cuit’ (www.circuitofireland. Wallets are packed
net) – sees over 130 com- Cork and fancy hats donned for
petitors throttle and turn z International the best flat-race festival in

March through some 550km (342 Choral Festival the country (www.curragh.
Spring is in the air, and miles) of Northern Ireland One of Europe’s premier ie), run during the first
the whole country is and parts of the Republic choral festivals (www. week of the month.
getting ready for arguably over two days at Easter., with the
the world’s most famous
parade. Dublin’s is the
z Irish Grand
winners going on to the
Fleischmann International 3 Bloomsday
Edwardian dress
and breakfast of ‘the inner
biggest, but every town in National Trophy Competition; held
Ireland holds one. Ireland loves horse racing, over four days from the first organs of beast and fowl’
and the race they love the Monday of May. are but two of the elements
of the Dublin festival cele-
z St Patrick’s Day
most is the Grand National
brating 16 June, the day on
z North West 200
Ireland erupts into (, the
one giant celebration on 17 showcase of the national Ireland’s most which Joyce’s Ulysses takes
March (www.stpatricksday. hunt season that takes place famous road race (www. place; the real highlight is
ie), but Dublin throws at Fairyhouse in County is retracing Leopold Bloom’s
a five-day party around Meath on Easter Monday. also the country’s biggest daily steps (p99).
3 All-Ireland
artists, this week-long ex- women really do want to be new versions of old work from all over the world
26 travaganza (www.killarney crowned the year’s ‘Mary’. Finals staged in theatres and ven- for the second half of the 27
July in late The second and fourth Sun- ues throughout the capital. month; on offer is every-

z Puck Fair
There isn’t a weekend in July has something for days of the month see the thing from visual arts to

3 Wexford Opera
the month that a major everybody. Ireland’s quirkiest finals of the hurling and dance.
festival doesn’t take premise for a festival: crown Gaelic football champion- Festival
place, while visitors to a goat king and celebrate ships respectively, with Opera fans gather in the
Galway will find that the for three days. Quirky idea, 80,000-plus crowds throng- atmospheric grounds of
August brilliant festival that takes December

city is in full swing for the ing into Dublin’s Croke Park Johnstown Castle to enjoy
entire month. Schools are closed, the place in Killorglin in mid- for the biggest sporting days Ireland’s premier festival of Christmas dominates the
sun is shining (or not!) August (p285). of the year. opera (www.wexfordopera. calendar as the country
and Ireland is in holiday
3 Willie Clancy com), which eschews the prepares for the feast
Summer School
Inaugurated to celebrate
mood. Seaside towns and
tourist centres are at their
busiest as the country
z Rose of Tralee
The Irish beauty
pageant (www.roseoftralee. October
big hits in favour of lesser-
known works (p170).
with frenzied shopping
and after-work drinks with
the memory of a famed friends and family arrived

3 Cork Jazz
local piper, this exceptional looks to make the most of ie) sees wannabe Roses The weather starts to home from abroad. On
festival of traditional music its time off. plucked from Irish commu- turn cold, so it’s time to Festival Christmas Day nothing is
sees the world’s best players nities throughout the world move the fun indoors Ireland’s best-known jazz open.
Féile An Phobail competing for the ultimate again. The calendar is still
show up for gigs, pub ses-
z prize. For everyone else, it’s
festival (www.corkjazz

z Christmas
sions and workshops over The name trans- packed with activities and sees Cork taken
10 days in Miltown Malbay, lates simply as the ‘people’s a big party (p313). distractions, especially over by over a thousand This is a quiet af-
County Clare (p366). festival’ and it is just that: over the last weekend of musicians and their multi- fair in the countryside,
Europe’s largest community the month. tude of fans during the last though on 26 December (St
arts festival takes place on
z Galway Arts weekend of the month.
the Falls Rd in West Belfast September Stephen’s Day) the ancient
Music, drama and a host of
artistic endeavours are on
over two weeks (p589). Summer may be over, but
September weather can
3 Dublin Theatre
z Belfast Festival
at Queen’s
The most prestigious the-
custom of Wren Boys is
re-enacted, most notably in
Dingle, County Kerry, when
Fleadh Cheoil be surprisingly good, so
the menu at the most im-
portant arts festival in the 3 nah Éireann
The mother of all Irish music
it’s often the ideal time
to enjoy the last vestiges
atre festival in the country
Northern Ireland’s top arts
festival (www.belfastfestival.
groups of children dress
up and go about singing
country, which sees Galway com) sees new work and com) attracts performers hymns.
go merriment mad for the festivals (www.comhaltas. of the sun as the crowds
last two weeks of the month ie; usually at the end of the dwindle.
(p395). month) attracts in excess of

Galway Film
250,000 music-lovers and
revellers to whichever town 5 Galway
z Fleadh
Irish and international re-
is playing host – there’s
some great music amid the
Oyster Festival
Galway kicks off its oyster
leases make up the program drinking. season with a festival (www.
at one of the country’s pre-
mier film festivals, held in
early July (p395). z Galway

The biggest horse-racing

celebrating the local catch.
Music and beer have been
the accompaniment since
Oxegen festival west of the Shannon its inception in 1953.
3 Ireland’s answer to is not just about the horses,

3 Dublin Fringe
Glastonbury is a three-day it’s also a celebration of Irish
supergig ( culture, sporting gambles Festival
in mid-July at Punchestown and elaborate hats (p395). Upwards of 100 different
Racecourse in County performances take the
Kildare, featuring some of
the big names in rock and z Mary From
Ireland’s second-most
stage, the street, the bar and
the car in the fringe festival
( that is
pop (p97).
important beauty pageant unquestionably more inno-

z Killarney
takes place in Dungloe, vative than the main theatre
Summerfest County Donegal, at the festival that follows it.
From kayaking to street the- beginning of the month –
atre to gigs by international although it’s an excuse for
a giant party, the young

# Tory Island
28 É


Glenveagh # Giant's
National Park ÷

Coastal Tour Causeway

Whether you’ve got six days or The Islands

60, these itineraries provide a IRELAND ENGLAND

starting point for the trip of a Sligo •

lifetime. Want more inspiration? Irish Sea



# Carrowkeel
Island •#
Head online to lonelyplanet. É •
# Mellifont Abbey

# Brú na Bóinne
com/thorntree to chat with other IRELAND

÷ Connemara

travellers. National Castletown
House •

÷Wicklow Mountains

Islands •
# •
# The Burren National Park

# •

Kilkenny •

Peninsula #Waterford

É Killarney É
Irish Sea •
# •
Blasket Islands •
# •
# Dungarvan

# Ring of Kerry
Connemara É•
# Ardmore
# É # Kenmare •
• #
National Park # •
Skellig Michael • Cork St George's

÷ Channel

É Galway # DUBLIN
_ Peninsula •
# Clear Island



OCEAN Cliffs of The Burren Three Weeks Three Weeks

Moher • #

# The Islands Coastal Tour

Start at the remote, Irish-speaking Start in Dublin then head north to
Tory Island in Donegal, a wonder- the Neolithic necropolis at Brú Na
Pass ful bird-watching spot. Joined to the Bóinne. Continue north to Mel-

mainland by a bridge, Achill Island, lifont Abbey before crossing the
# •
Slea Head • #
Dingle in County Mayo, is renowned for its dra- border into Northern Ireland and Belfast.
É É •
# Killarney

St George's matic cliffs, water sports and deserted famine Go northwest along the Antrim coast to
Ring of village. Off the coast of Galway, the three the Giant’s Causeway. Continue around
Aran Islands are probably Ireland’s most the coastline of north Donegal, stopping
AT L A N T I C visited. The largest, Inishmór, has some at Glenveagh National Park. Head south
fine archaeological remains, including the into Sligo and climb the Stone Age passage
magical fort of Dún Aengus. The middle grave at Carrowkeel for views of Lough
island, Inishmaan, favourite of the writer JM Arrow. Make your way to the southwest
One Week Synge, is a pleasure to walk around, with its via Connemara. Wonder at the Burren
Ireland Highlights stone walls and tiny fields. The smallest and and check out traditional music in Doolin
least visited, Inisheer, best accessed from before crossing into County Kerry and ex-
This tourist trail takes you past some of Ireland’s most famous attractions and Doolin in County Clare, has some wonderful ploring the Dingle Peninsula. Go through
through spectacular countryside. It’s only about 300km so you could manage it in wild walks. Some other very special islands to Killarney on your way round the Ring
three days, but what’s the point? Start with a whistle-stop tour of Dublin, includ- visit are Europe’s most westerly. Uninhabited of Kerry. Camp in Kenmare and explore
ing visits to Trinity College and the Book of Kells as well as a sample of Guinness since 1953, the Blasket Islands, off the Kerry the Beara Peninsula, then Ireland’s sec-
in its hometown. The next day, head west to Galway, from which you should take a drive coast, offer the chance to spot puffins, seals ond city, Cork. Explore County Waterford
through stunning, brooding Connemara (which can be driven in a nice loop) before head- and porpoises. Skellig Michael, off Caher- from seaside Ardmore. Visit Dungarvan
ing southward through the moonlike landscape of the Burren. Take a detour to the Cliffs civeen in Kerry, is a Unesco World Heritage and its castle, and the Waterford Museum
of Moher, then head to Ennis, a good spot to enjoy a bit of traditional Irish music. Keep site and home to a 7th-century monastery – of Treasures in Waterford. Go northwards
going south through the Connor Pass into County Kerry, stopping for a half-day in Dingle it’s a breathtaking, spiritual place and a high- through Thomastown and to St Canice’s
before setting out to visit its peninsula, particularly the views and prehistoric monuments of light of any trip to Ireland. Ornithologists and Cathedral in Kilkenny before exploring
Slea Head. Continue on to Killarney, which will be the perfect base from which to explore orators alike will enjoy Clear Island, off the the city’s medieval core. Visit Castletown
the famous Ring of Kerry, a much-trafficked loop around the Iveragh Peninsula. The drive western coast of Cork, famous for its Manx House in County Kildare, then cut east to
back to Dublin should provide enough time to plan your return visit. shearwaters and its lively Storytelling Festival Glendalough in the Wicklow Mountains
in September. National Park. Head back to Dublin.
30 Dunfanaghy • É •
# Inishowen Peninsula SCOTLAND


Tip to Toe
Best of the West •
# Derry

ATLANTIC Glencolumbcille •
OCEAN # Slieve League

Céide Fields Ennis- •
# Rosses Point
# crone • IREAND
# •
Pollatomish • •
# Sligo Town ENGLAND
É •
É Carrowmore

Westport Megalithic

Croagh Patrick R•# Cemetery Irish
Leenane •
Kylemore Abbey •

• # ConnemaraÉNational Park
Roundstone É •
# Clonmacnoise

• # Kinvara
Ballyvaughan •#

É Kilkenny Thomastown
É •

# É •
# Enniscorthy
É Cashel •
# Wexford

Dingle Peninsula • •
# Curracloe Beach
# É
# Killarney
÷ National
Ring of Kerry •
# Park •
# Cork Quay
Beara Peninsula •#

Garinish •
Island Union Hall

One Week Two Weeks

Best of the West Tip to Toe
The west of Ireland is rightly at the Begin in Northern Ireland’s second
top of most people’s must-visit lists. city, Derry, by walking the city walls
Begin at the excavated Céide Fields in and exploring the Bogside neigh-
Mayo. Wind your way round the coast, bourhood. On day two, cross into
stopping at some of Ireland’s wildest beaches, County Donegal and explore the Inishowen
to the pretty village of Pollatomish. Head to Peninsula before spending the night in
the pub-packed heritage town of Westport, Dunfanaghy. As you move down Donegal’s
continuing past (and perhaps climbing) coastline, check out the monastic ruins of
Croagh Patrick and through Leenane – Glencolumbcille and the sea cliffs at Slieve
situated on Ireland’s only fjord – to Conne- League. Cross into County Sligo and visit the
mara National Park. Take the beautiful Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery before
coastal route, passing Kylemore Abbey and checking in to your Sligo Town hotel. The
Clifden’s scenic Sky Road through pretty next day, treat yourself to a round of golf at
Roundstone, or else try the stunning wild- the County Sligo Golf Club at Rosses Point
erness of the inland route through Maam or a seaweed bath in Enniscrone. You’ll
Cross to Galway. Move on to the fishing skirt Connemara’s eastern edge as you
» (above) Stone stairway leading to
villages of Kinvara and Ballyvaughan in travel southward to Galway, from where you monastic settlement, Skellig Michael

the heart of the Burren and visit the an- should strike out for Clonmacnoise. From (p291)
cient Aillwee Caves. Explore the Dingle here, move through the heart of the Midlands » (left) Giant’s Causeway (p658),
County Antrim
Peninsula before following the Ring of and head for another monastic gem, Cashel,
Kerry, ending in Killarney National Park. in County Tipperary. Medieval Kilkenny is
Continue down the Beara Peninsula to the only an hour away. Visit the city’s stunning
Italianate Garinish Island, with its exotic castle before exploring nearby Thomastown
flowers. Follow the coast to Cork through and Jerpoint Abbey. Using Wexford Town
Castletownshend and the fishing village of as a base, explore Curracloe Beach and visit
Union Hall. Enniscorthy and the excellent National 1798
Rebellion Centre. Or you could chill out and
watch the fishermen draw in their lines in
Kilmore Quay.
Inishowen Giant's
32 Peninsula Causeway Carrick-a-Rede


# # •
• Rope Bridge


# mills


Northern Delights
Ireland of the Ancients
Lough •

É •
# Mourne ENGLAND

Cruachan Ái Hill of Irish Sea

AT L A N T I C •
# Loughcrew Slane
# •
• # Brú na Bóinne


Hill of

Glendalough WALES


Menai Strait

Rock of •
# # Jerpoint

Cashel Abbey

10 Days One Week

Northern Delights Ireland of the Ancients
One of the many benefits to a more Begin at the stunning Neolithic
peaceful Northern Ireland has been tombs of Newgrange and Knowth
the ability of the province to showcase in County Meath, in the heart of Brú
its outstanding visitor attractions and na Bóinne. Nearby, stand at the top
superb scenery. Start in Belfast, where you of the celebrated Hill of Tara, a site of im-
should take a black taxi tour and/or visit the mense folkloric significance and seat of the
docks on a boat tour, before heading north high kings of Ireland until the 11th century.
toward the Antrim coast and the Carrick- Across the plain is the Hill of Slane, where
a-Rede Rope Bridge – it’s a short but brave St Patrick lit a fire in 433 to proclaim Chris-
walk across the bridge but the views are tianity throughout the land. To the west is
worth it. Nearby is the Unesco World Heri- the Neolithic monument of Loughcrew – a
tage Giant’s Causeway that shouldn’t be quieter alternative to Brú na Bóinne. Keep
missed by any visitor to Northern Ireland going west to County Roscommon. Just
and, just beyond it, the fascinating village of outside Tulsk village is Cruachan Aí, the
Bushmills, home to the famous distillery. most important Celtic site in Europe, with
Derry City is worth a day – walk the city’s 60 scattered megalithic tombs and burial
walls and explore its more recent past in the sites. Head south to Clonmacnoise Abbey,
Bogside and then cross the invisible border the 6th-century monastic site in County
into the Republic by visiting the Inishowen Offaly. Continue south through the heart
Peninsula in Donegal. Back in the North, of the country to the impressive Rock of
go southeast to Lough Erne, taking in both Cashel in County Tipperary. Turn east and
White Island and the carved stones of head through County Kilkenny, stopping
Devenish Island, before heading east to at the Cistercian Jerpoint Abbey, at the
the famed Mourne Mountains, where you pretty village of Thomastown. From here,
can hike along ancient smugglers’ trails – or travel northeast to Wicklow and magnifi-
just admire the fabulous views before head- cent Glendalough, where the substantial
ing back to Belfast. remains of a monastic settlement linger by
two beautiful lakes.
From Dublin
to Donegal,
nobody knows
Ireland like
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