Planning the trip of a lifetime to Ireland? Here are our 5 favourite experiences.
Ireland is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world - and it's one of our personal favourites as well! I've been to Ireland four times now, in visits ranging from 24 hours to an entire summer, and each time I always discover something new that makes me fall in love with the country all over again. But I also get frustrated with some traditional images of Ireland - there is so much more to the country than wild parties in Dublin's Temple Bar or jam-packed castle visits. Here are five things we always look forward to in Ireland that reflect the real heart and soul of the country.
Appreciate the simple life
In Ireland, simplicity equals beauty. A gorgeous cottage covered in greenery. A colorful door in a Georgian home in Dublin. A white washed wall and a collection of milk pitchers. Enjoying a cup of tea in a cafe - or several pints in an unassuming pub! In Ireland, you'll find the simple things in life are as appealing and alluring as the more mainstream attractions. The cottages above are from Bunratty Folk Park, which perfectly preserves Irish history without any kitsch. (Pro tip: Apple pies are sometimes sold at the bakery on site!)
Be brave and taste some whiskey
Be brave, be open minded, and try out some authentic Irish whiskey. Many traditional pubs offer economical "flights"or samplers of different whiskeys (and I found the small sizes to be generous enough to share with a friend! My favourite was at Michael Flannerys Pub in Limerick.) If you really, really don't think whiskey is your thing - and I confess, it's not my favourite flavor served straight up - the Jameson Distillery in Dublin is both a fascinating place to visit and they offer exquisite whiskey based cocktails that will appeal to every tastebud.
Look beyond the rolling green hills
The landscapes of Ireland are breathtaking but in truth my favourite sites weren't the rolling green hills and lush fields. Instead, I liked walking down the paths and roads and taking a closer look at things. Delicate wildflowers are everywhere in Ireland - and sometimes the deer that love eating them aren't far behind! The best place I've found for both is in the Wicklow Mountains.
Hang out in a cemetery. No, really, I mean it.
Ireland's cemeteries are set in some of the most beautiful spots in the countryside. They are the keepers of centuries of history, genealogy, folklore, and Celtic tradition. I've never found a cemetery visit to be spooky or unnerving. In fact, just the opposite - they are places to really reflect and get in touch with the heart of the community. Glendalough, seen above, is built in the most unlikely of spots and is a moving reminder to the courage and determination of early settlers.
Create postcard-perfect memories
Adare has the distinction of being named Ireland's prettiest village and any budding photographer will find plenty to capture their imagination. It's also the location of some of our happiest Irish travel memories, as I indulged in an incredible high tea at Adare Manor, while Ryan had the golf experience of a lifetime next door. Not being an ocean-side golf course, Adare is more affordable than more of the other courses in the country but is still just as beautiful.
Check out OUR Ireland - or better yet, discover your own!
Embrace a side of Ireland not found in the brochures and you'll find a country so unforgettable it will have you coming back for more and more. We've found that we can't help but keep returning every time we're in Europe and I think after just one visit you'll feel the same. I'd love to know what you loved best about your own Irish experience - I'm always looking to add things to my own bucket list!
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Their "Countryside of the Emerald Isle" tour includes many of the places we independently visited - along with many more amazing stops. Click here to learn more about their work in Ireland (and around the world!)