posted by Colm Hanratty | 4 Comments
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.
2. 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.
I have a confession to make - I didn't have my very first pint of Guinness until I was twenty five years of age. But when I eventually took that first sip of 'the black stuff', I felt it was my duty as an Irishman to finish it before trying another. So that's exactly what I did. Aside from drinking Guinness at home, our national drink is one of our most famous exports and doesn't only create employment (and enjoyment) for many here in Ireland, but it does the same in cities and countries the world over.
If I was to make a list of places you should visit in Ireland, let me tell you - it would be a long list. So choosing my favourite place of all is tough. But if I did have to choose one place in the country that I'd classify as 'my favourite', it would be Glendalough in 'the garden of Ireland', County Wicklow. I've lost count how many times I've visited the 'glenn of two lakes'. I've climbed to the top with my mother, I've relaxed there with my wife, I've taken friends from overseas there to show off just how beautiful my home country is, and I've driven there on my own to do nothing else only enjoy being there. I love it there - I'm sure you will too.
6. Artists and musicians
Last year, as part of an online twitter event, partakers were asked 'Name famous people from your native hometown'. For the basis of this discussion, I adopted Dublin as my hometown. 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.
When I say sport I primarily mean our native sports - Gaelic football, hurley and camogie are the best known. Hurley is widely regarded as the fastest game in the world. Go to see a game in Croke Park and it's something you'll never forget. Likewise, Gaelic football is followed the world over and is one of the greatest games in the world. While both these sports are dominated by males, women too play football, but have their own version of hurling which is known as camogie. If you can't catch a native sport when you're in the country, there's always rugby, soccer and other sports to turn to.
In less than five weeks our national day, St Patrick's Day, will paint the country green. Towns and cities all over the country will hold street parties, parades and more. Not only that, but cities all over the world will also celebrate in and around March 17th. Other highlights include the Street Performance World Championship that takes place in both Cork (June 9th & 10th) and Dublin (June 14th & 15th), the Galway Arts Festival (July 16th - 19th) and the Cork Jazz Festival (October 26th - 29th).
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 (Spain, Portugal and others), Vikings and others. One of the country's top attactions, 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.
Have you been to Ireland? What did you love about it?
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