It’s green, the people are some of the friendliest on the planet, and they all love telling a great tale. Sure, we all know this about Ireland and the Irish, but there’s a lot you probably didn’t know…
Authentic, charming and easily accessible from both Europe and Australia (thanks to Middle Eastern air connections), Ireland is full of surprises too.
Here are ten things you probably didn’t know you could do in Ireland.
1. SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS
If you thought you could only marvel at this natural spectacle in Scandinavia or Canada, you’d be wrong, because it’s also possible to see the Northern Lights in Ireland too.
Obviously you’ll need to go north to see them; one of the best places to see the lights lately has been in Inishowen close to the most northerly tip of Donegal.
2. TICK OFF THREE WORLD HERITAGE SITES
Contemplate the birth of spirituality at Skellig Michael, which is one of the earliest examples of a religious settlement dating back to the 6th century BC. Skellig Michael was also recently used in the Star Wars film and was named in the ‘Best in Travel 2017′ category by Lonely Planet.
Visit Brú na Bóinne, an important ritual, social and economic centre for thousands of years, stretching back to Neolithic times. Older than both the pyramids and Stonehenge, the highlight of this attraction is Newgrange – time your visit to catch the winter solstice.
And check out the Giant’s Causeway where 40,000 interlocking basalt columns now stand, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption.
3. EAT THE BEST. FOOD. EVER.
Ireland has underwent something of a food renaissance in the last few years, and its cities and towns are now attracting foodies from all over the world keen for some of the best food, wine and culinary experiences. Even before this though, Ireland has always been home to some of the best raw ingredients in the world, from dairy, seafood and meat, with traditional skills like bread and cheese making putting the emphasis on the current Farm to Fork renaissance.
With a focus on using fresh, locally sourced ingredients and giving traditional recipes a contemporary twist, Ireland’s food scene is tantalisingly exciting – you’ll never go hungry here! Make sure you dine in Cork, Belfast and Dublin, which are culinary hotspots.
There’s also the craft beer and artisan distillery revolution currently sweeping through the country, complimenting Ireland’s already impressive range of food tours and farmers markets.
4. CATCH SOME KILLER WAVES, BRO
Surfing in Ireland? What?!
Yep, not only is it possible to catch some barrels in Ireland, but the isle’s coastline has some of the best waves on the planet too.
Head to Bundoran – the surf capital of Ireland – on the west coast for world class reef breaks and some of the best surf schools in the country. Also check out the Cliffs of Moher, County Clare; East Strand, Portrush, County Antrim; or Brittas Bay in County Wicklow.
5. GO HIKING OR CYCLING
Put on your walking shoes or strap on your helmet and get some exercise as you explore Ireland’s stunningly beautiful landscape away from the crowds.
Biking enthusiasts can cycle the entire Wild Atlantic Way (or of course you could drive it or just cycle particular segments) or ride from Limerick to Cork, whilst hikers can trek the Ring of Kerry or hike to the Cliffs of Moher.
Of course, these are just examples and Ireland has tons of trails and routes lasting from a half-day’s work to a 10+ day expedition. Check out more hiking routes here.
6. ATTEND A QUIRKY FESTIVAL
The locals love a good party on the island of Ireland, so it’s no surprise that their calendar is packed full of festivals you will not want to miss.
From world renowned festivals such as St Patricks Day, the Galway Oyster Festival and the Belfast International Arts Festival, to the more quirky ones such as a festival for scarecrows, Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking and red heads. Yep, Ireland plays host to some pretty weird and wacky festivals and everyone is invited.
7. GO CRUISING, CAPTAIN!
Don your sailor’s cap and cruise along the River Shannon on your very own boat or barge, sailing past rolling green fields, ancient Celtic monasteries and wildlife, before stopping for a pint (or two) at one of the local charming pubs along the way.
There are 400km of navigable waters between Belleek in County Fermanagh and Killaloe in County Clare. Best of all, you don’t need a licence to operate a cruiser or barge or have even operated one before.
8. LISTEN TO SOME OF THE BEST MUSIC
The Irish love music just about as much as they love a good pint of Guinness, and music lovers are in for a sonic treat on their trip to the Emerald Isle.
Belfast has one of the most happening music scenes in Europe at the moment, with loads of live music venues and tons of rockin’ bands and groovy musos plying their trades. Dublin also has an amazing local music scene, and then there’s Derry~Londonderry, known as the City of Song.
9. DISCOVER UNIQUE PLACES TO STAY
Stay in a lighthouse; sleep in a former school; hang your hat for the day on your very own island; catch some shut eye in a solar-powered yurt; take a taxi at the end of the night back to your 17th century manor; Ireland has plenty of unique places to stay that you won’t ever forget.
There’s also over 800 independently owned B&Bs in Ireland, if you’re looking for something a little more familiar, and they all provide a real taste of Irish life.
10. JOIN THE CLUB AND GO GOLFING
Not only is Ireland a jaw-droppingly gorgeous country to play in, but you’re treated like a king when you play as a guest there – it’s at the 19th hole that you’ll experience real local hospitality.
There are over 400 courses here, and of the 200 links golf courses in the world, Ireland has 58 of them. Royal County Down Golf Club was also named by Golf Digest as the number one course in the world 2016-2017.
In July 2019 the Open Championship is going to be played at Royal Portrush Golf Club – will you be there?
Visit ireland.com today for even more surprising things you can do…
Surprised? What are you looking forward to seeing/doing in Ireland? Let us know in the comments below…
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