When I meet people from all over the world, in hostels all over the world, I love telling people I’m from Ireland. Those who have travelled to Ireland speak fondly of their memories here, while those who haven’t regularly tell me it’s top of their bucket list. I’m lucky enough to have seen most of the country and regularly leave my home on the east coast for other parts. This is why I know I am going to thoroughly enjoy writing the ten reasons I love Ireland because, in a nutshell, I’m proud to be Irish.
I’ve lived, worked and studied in Dublin for 17 years now. I love this city. I may be biased, but I genuinely do think it’s the most welcoming city in the world. It’s also the perfect size for exploring. Way out west is Galway, a city that I’ve been to many times and have a different memory from each trip. Kilkenny is a city steeped in history that’s famous for its hurling team and comedy festival, then Cork is where you’ll find famous markets and the River Lee. And did I mention Belfast? With the imminent opening of the new Titanic attraction in April, this is a city that should be on everyone’s Irish itinerary.
On September 1st the Dublin Festival Season, which runs until the end of October, gets under way. Over the course of the festival events will celebrate everything from arts, architecture, music, film, to food, fashion, sport theatre and literature and more. This presents anybody thinking of coming to Dublin with the the perfect opportunity to visit this vibrant city of culture. Other festivals you might consider coinciding your trip with include St Patrick’s Day, our national holiday, on March 17th, the Cork Jazz Festival which takes place this year from October 25th – 28th, while Galway is the festival capital of the country with events taking place year-round.
3. The countryside
Drive just twenty minutes from Dublin’s city centre (and less from smaller cities) and you will find yourself in the midst of what Ireland is famous for – fields that cover forty shades of green. I don’t know too many countries where this is possible from the centre of its capital. Take the time to visit counties such as Kerry, Sligo, Galway, as well as many other counties, and you’ll encounter countryside that will leave you breathless.
You don’t need me to tell you the pubs in Ireland are legendary. Each and every town and city around the country are filled with traditional bars, more contemporary ones, as well as a ‘local hop’ (local slang for nightclub). Here you can make memories with friends and discover what we mean when we say we have the ‘gift of the gab’. It’s also where you’ll find out how we are (or like to think anyway) quite a funny race.
5. The food
If I was to choose one word to describe traditional Irish food, it would be ‘hearty’. That would be swiftly followed by ‘comforting’, while ‘filling’ would definitely be in the mix also. This is because many dishes that are native to Ireland consist of a healthy helping of meat, lots of vegetables and, of course, the staple ingredient of any Irish person’s diet, the potato. If you’re looking to experience some of the dishes that have influenced this opinion over the years, try a bowl of Irish stew, dig into a plate of bacon and cabbage, or treat yourself to a full Irish breakfast and you’ll see where I’m coming from.
6. The people
Ok ok…so since I’m Irish you’re probably thinking I’m being biased by adding this in. But it’s true – I love the Irish people. We’re some of the friendliest creatures on the planet. Honestly! No matter where you are on this wonderful island – be it in a big city or a small town; go into a hostel, bar, restaurant, B&B, café, museum or otherwise and you’ll experience some Irish hospitality first-hand.
7. Artists and musicians
I once took part in a Twitter chat where one of the questions was ‘Name famous people from your native hometown’. For the basis of this discussion, I adopted Dublin as my hometown (I’m actually from a place called Drogheda). So once I started answering the question I realised how big a part of our culture musicians and writers are. U2, James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, Bob Geldof and Samuel Beckett – there are just some of a huge number of artists that hail(ed) from Ireland. Touring Ireland you’ll learn all about them, while in Dublin in particular, don’t leave without checking out the Dublin Writer’s Museum on Parnell Square.
8. Outdoor activities
One of my favourite places in the country is Glendalough in Co. Wicklow. This is due to two things – the stunning scenery and the abundance of hikes to embark on. Thankfully, this isn’t the only place you can engage in outdoor activities – Strandill in Co. Sligo and Lahinch in Co Clare on the west coast are are two of Europe’s premier surfing destinations. If you like kayaking or windsurfing, Carlingford in Co. Louth and Lough Leane in Co. Kerry are the places to go. Speaking of Kerry, if you like to mix exercise with breathtaking scenery, cycle the ‘Ring of Kerry’. These are just some of the options available.
Ireland is steeped in history. The first known settlement began way back in 8,000 BC and we’ve strong connections with descendants of the Iberian Peninsula, Vikings and others. One of the country’s top attractions, Newgrange, is older than the pyramids, while there are castles, old town walls and more dotted throughout the country. Even our more recent history is enthralling – the bullet holes from the 1916 rising can still be seen on the pillars of the GPO Arcade on O’Connell St. So when you’re here, visit an ancient site, go see the GPO Arcade or visit a museum and learn more about this country’s fascinating past.
10. The coast
I think because I was born close to the coast, I’m drawn to it. I simply like to be beside the sea. Even when outside of Ireland I like to be close to it (I lived in Bondi, Australia for 9 months many moons ago). This is why I love the fact that I live on an island. I regularly visit Howth and Dun Laoghaire, two fishing villages in Dublin, while the Giants Causeway, a site on the Co. Antrim coast in Northern Ireland that has 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, has to be seen to be believed. Plus, how can I forget the mesmerising Cliffs of Moher. You can even go surfing here. The coast is by far one of the country’s finest attributes.