1. Irish Scenery – The Emerald Isle is stunning, majestic mountains, dramatic rocky shores and cliffs dropping to the Atlantic along the west coast, to gorgeous lakes, bogs of heather and fields dotted with sheep, cattle and horses grazing amid brilliant wild flowers. Ireland is rugged but serene, timeless and natural with green valleys, purple mountains, sparkling stone, and blue waters. Cities of Dublin and Galway are lively, rich with history, landmarks and locals markets, yet easily walkable. Northern Ireland is the top filming location of Game of Thrones – so you get the picture… Ireland is otherworldly!
2. Irish People – the Irish are proud, pleasant and fun! Their brogue accents are charming, and their humor is one of a kind, understated and humble. The Irish work hard, and play hard.
3. Irish Pubs – you can’t swing a cat without hitting a pub in Ireland. Pubs are the very heart of social life in Ireland. Everyone gathers for a pint of Guinness or Smithwicks – pronounced with a slur like schmitiks. Pubs and Snugs are cozy, wood-lined with a central bar, pub grub, a fireplace or stove, and a casual comfy vibe. Friendly bar men and barmaids are typically family, owners of the place for generations, hence the pub’s clan name – Donnelly’s, O’Brien’s, Murphy’s, O’Malley’s, O’Grady’s, or just plain Paddy’s. You get the picture, now get a pint, sip and slip back in time.
4. Irish Craic – Irish music is unique and treasured, these folk songs tell of the hardship, tragedy and humor that has fortified the Irish for centuries. Trad, or sessions, of Irish music create the atmosphere of Craic, which means to have a good time. Traditional music in pubs can be organized trios and groups, or an impromptu session of locals – like an open mic conglomerate of talent. Pub melodies encapsulate the spirit and vibrancy of the Irish in their taverns each night. Irish dance, step, is romantic and beautiful, made famed by River Dance. There’s a distinct rugged rhythm of Ireland’s iconic music- guitar, flute, fiddle, banjo, enhriched by the iconic Irish button accordion.
5. Irish Cuisine – The food of Ireland is simple and hearty fare, homemade and homespun – served in the pubs with a pint. Fish and chips are on every menu, chips being French fries. Potatoes, often mashed, accompany most every dish, including the Cottage or Shepard’s Pie. Ireland’s seafood is fresh and delicious – steaming piles of mussels, crab claws in rich golden butter, fresh or smoked salmon, cod and hake served fried or in fish chowder or seafood stew. Lamb is another staple, served in Irish stew with Guinness composing the flavorful broth.
…Irish breakfasts are substantial, eggs with bacon, and sausage, and pudding in black and white – which is blood sausage, and a grilled tomato, sauteed mushrooms, baked beans and brown bread. Yes, all of this homemade food on one plate at one serving with coffee! The Irish brown bread and butter is heavenly. So is the Irish cheese…
6. Irish Castles – Ireland’s magnificent castles, forts and stone ramparts stand all over the Irish countryside and shores in various states of remain, ruin and refurb. From the Bronze Age, to the Vikings and Celtics, to medieval times, the plentiful stones of Ireland were used to build towers, churches, military strongholds and eventually lavish homes. Ireland rocks… pun intended.
7. Irish Sheep, Cattle, Donkeys and Ponies – Ireland is famed for its farming, there are grazing sheep and cows everywhere, sometime right in the road. A local told us if you hit a sheep, it’s not your fault, it’s the farmer’s… they spray paint their flock to keep track of their stock if they escape the stone walls and miles of fences. No Irish ass jokes about the plethora of donkeys and mules. Connemara is very serious about their ponies, with horse shows, Galway races, and beautiful horseback riding opportunities on Irish beaches, along shore paths, or through quiet countrysides.
8. Irish history – From Vikings and Celtics, pirates and plundering, to St Patrick’s passionate pleas and protection, the potato famine and mass exodus, to battles with the British, and interior conflict between the north and south, Catholics and Protestants….Ireland’s heritage is fascinating. Irish troubles and tumult are incredibly well-preserved in art, architecture, literature, and song. Romantic and tragic tales of the Irish trials and tribulations from St Patty to Pirate Grace O’Malley, to Patrick Pearse, James Joyce, and Oscar Wilde – lovers, fighters, saints, and writers have all fiercely defended this rugged western European island.
9. Irish Beer – cheers. We’ve never visited a country that consumes so much ale. Guinness, Smithwick’s, everyone enjoys a pint. It’s the national drink, with Irish Whiskey a distant second cousin, among the 6 million thirsty Irish people. See the stacks of empty kegs outside the pubs, and lining the docks and piers each morning as evidence. These folks love their draft beer, in 16-ounce doses, and can talk for hours about where to find the best pint, how it takes 119.5 seconds to pour a perfect pounder of Guinness, all the health properties of Guinness, how its “brilliant”, and so on and so forth. Irish microbrews are on the rise, but don’t be fooled by the IPA label, its not necessarily pale ale, could be amber, stout… all good. You’ll find yourself saying “Irish to have another pint”….
10. Irish biking, hiking, walking and exploring – Ireland offers bountiful opportunities to explore – bike country roads and outlying western Islands, hike the superbly scenic mountains of Connemara, walk the colorful villages and cities. See our review of a few of Ireland’s beautiful west coast islands, and the West Coast of Connemara. Ireland is about the size of Maine, with over 365 islands and inlets on the west coast perfect for adventure.