Culture Vulture's Guide to Ireland Ireland

Culture Vulture's Guide to Ireland

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Ireland has more to offer than pints of Guinness, old tales about Leprechauns and green fields. The arts and culture scene is vibrant in most cities, with a vast selection of museums, galleries and theatres to choose from.

Day 1  - Deciding what to do in Dublin

Starting your trip in Dublin, the best way to begin a trip taking in as much culture as possible is to do some research before you go wandering the streets looking for the city’s best museums and theatres. Dublin has numerous museums dedicated to everything from local writers to whiskey.

One of Dublin’s best museums if it is your first visit is the National History Museum, sometimes known as the ‘Dead Zoo’ due to the amount of stuffed animals inside. These are housed in the Irish room on the ground floor. Even though it is called a history museum, it is largely a zoological museum. Along with stuffed animals from Ireland, there is also a very impressive collection of animals from all over the world, including a 60-ft skeleton of a whale hanging from the roof.

Due to the fascinating collection in the history museum you could easily lose yourself for the majority of an afternoon. Once darkness falls in the Irish capital, there area a good selection of theatres showcasing the work of some of Ireland’s most celebrated playwrights, with the country’s best actors performing it. The Abbey Theatre on Middle Abbey Street has staged work by some of Ireland’s best known playwrights, while the Gate Theatre at the top of O’Connell Street, and the Gaeity Theatre on King Street, just round the corner from the top of Grafton Street are also good places to find some of the city’s best plays.

Day 2  - Dublin Part Two

The Irish have a strong drinking culture. It’s a known fact. Their national brew Guinness is famous all over the world and, while whiskey may not be a native drink, Irish whiskey is also celebrated the world over.

The Guinness Brewery covers 64 acres on either side of James' Stand and can be found a mile west of Christ Church. Founded in 1759, Guinness has the distinction of being the world's largest single beer-exporting company, exporting some 300 million pints a year. Although you can't go round the brewery, the former Guinness Hop Store on Crane St houses an exhibition centre where you can taste the best Guinness in Dublin. Also, the top story of the Guinness Hop Store has been transformed into one of Dublin's most innovative bars, Gravity. Enjoy 360 degree views over the city from here while sipping on your pint of the black stuff.

Maybe you will prefer to find out how Irish whiskey is produced. The Old Jameson Distillery Tour based in the distillery which was built in 1780, has for years been recognised as one of the best distilleries in the world and the whiskey it produces justifies this.

If you would prefer to learn about some of Ireland’s most famous writers, rather than famous tipples, there are two museums which will be of great interest to you. The James Joyce Centre, which is on North Great Georges Street, is dedicated to the work the world-famous Dublin writer. Also on the north side of the city is the Dublin Writers Museum on Parnell Street which celebrates work of artists from the last three hundred years.

As this country has such a big pub culture, it has to be said that one of the best places to sample some true Irish culture is in a pub. You can do this either in Dublin, in Galway or in Dublin. The choice is up to you. In Dublin the best place enjoy a pint in a typical Irish bar is in Temple Bar.

Day 3  - Work your way over to the West

Luckily Ireland isn’t very big meaning you can get from the east coast to the west coast in approximately three hours, or even less! Situated on the other side of the city is Galway, a city particularly popular with tourists. It is where you find the famous Irish craic in full fruition. But it does have its fair share of culture also, so it isn’t all just pints!

Galway City Museum isn’t the biggest museum in the world, although it still has some interesting bits and pieces to peruse through. It is attached to the Spanish Arch which was part of the city’s original walls when the city was first built.

From Galway you can take a bus to Spiddal, a small village 12 miles west of the city. Get on a bus heading to ‘Carraroe’ as these travel through the small village. If you are looking for true ‘Oireland’, Galway is where you will find it, and thankfully with Spiddal not too far from the city, you can experience it without leaving the city. Take time to walk around this small village and appreciate the city, how different it is to that in the city, and maybe even enjoy a cool beer in one of the village’s pubs, one of the most popular being Hughes’.There is also a good selection of restaurants here which are nice for some lunch.

There is a vibrant theatre scene in Galway. The best known dramatic group in Galway is the Druid Theatre Company which are based on Chapel Lane. While they are based on Chapel Lane, they are not always there, instead touring both at home and abroad. Check listings to see if they are performing during the time you are there. Elsewhere, the Town Hall Theatre is the newest in town and regularly hosts plays and operas.

Day 4  - Galway part two

After your night at the theatre make your way down to Galway Bay where the seaside suburb of Salthill is. The promenade here is always nice to stroll along (weather permitting, of course) with people jogging, rollerblading or simply sitting down, licking their ice-creams while enjoying the view over Galway Bay.

That afternoon visit Galway Cathedral which is at University and Gaol Roads. One of the strangest things about this particular cathedral is that there is a mosaic of JFK there. He was made a free man of the city during his presidency and the city holds a soft spot for the assassinated president. It is only over 40 years old, which is strange for a cathedral, although it is still worth a visit. Dating back to the 14th Century, which will keep those historians among you happy is the Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed in Heaven and Saint Nicholas features a medieval tomb and is the largest medieval church in Ireland which is still regularly used.

The social life in Galway is legendary. But what you are guaranteed to find on some of the pubs on Quay Street in the city centre is some traditional Irish music being played live by musicians in each one – something which is truly part of Irish culture!

Day 5  - Discover what Limerick has to offer

Situated just two hours south of Galway is Limerick. Over the years it has been tarnished with a fairly bad reputation, but look beyond its unfortunate knickname of ‘Stab City’ and you will find a good social life and numerous museums and galleries.

The Hunt Museum which is on Rutland Street has one of the best reputations in the city for art, with pieces of both Da Vinci and Picasso on display. The Limerick City Gallery of Art doesn’t have quite as good a name as the afore mentioned, although there is a fine permanent collection of art. Throughout the year there are usually a selection of temporary exhibitions also.

Limerick, like most Irish cities, has a good selection of traditional pubs, fuelled by beer guzzling students during the academic year. If you want to stay away from the pubs and take some of the performing arts in the city, make your way to the University Concert Hall, Ireland’s first purpose built concert hall.

Day 6  - Finishing off in Cork

Next up is Cork, a city which lies about two hours south of Limerick and is regarded by the natives as the real capital of Ireland. While this is quite a bone of contention among the ‘Corkonians’ and the ‘Dubs’, it is undeniably the capital of southern Ireland.

Many of the county’s most famous landmarks are located in the city itself and all are easily reached on foot. In fact, anyone who has ever visited Cork would agree that there is no better way to see it. By taking your time and strolling from place to place you can truly experience all the city has to offer.

One excursion which most make means taking a bus from the central bus station to just outside the city. And this particular journey will take you to the famous Blarney Castle with its even more famous Blarney Stone. Located about 8km northwest of the city itself, this attraction is renowned the world over. Tradition has it that once you kiss the Blarney stone you are blessed with ‘the gift of the gab’ or in layman’s terms, eloquence. Whether it’s true or not the castle itself is extremely impressive and easily reached by Bus 154 from the main bus station on Parnell Place.

When you return to the city, attractions worth checking out for art lovers are the Triskel Arts Centre and Crawford Municipal Art Gallery while church fans should visit Christ Church, St. Finbarr’s Cathedral, St. Anne’s Church and Shandon Church. And if you’re not too particular why not pay them all a visit and throw the Shandon Craft Centre, the public museum and Cork City Jail for good measure.

Just like Galway, even though Cork city isn’t one of the biggest cities in the world, the arts scene is very alive here. Cork Opera House hosts more than operas so make sure and check the listings while you are in the city. The Triskel Arts Centre hosts everything from plays to workshops and everything in between. If you are looking for something a bit more alternative you should check out the listings for the Granary Theatre, which is on Mardyke Quay.

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