Note: This post was written by guest contributor, Pamela, creator of The Directionally Challenged Traveler.
Ireland, the land of rolling green hills, beautiful coastlines, and if you’re lucky, Leprechauns! I always had a fascination with Ireland growing up, maybe it’s because I’m mostly Irish, or maybe it’s because of all the movies that take place there, or maybe it’s just the wonderful accent, who knows? What I do know, however, is that Ireland did not disappoint in the slightest.
I’ve traveled to a lot of places in my life and Ireland is the only one that I’ve been to three times and still am in love with it. For anyone starting out traveling (from the US), it’s one of the perfect destinations to “ease into” traveling. They speak English, there isn’t too much of a culture shock, and they have a lot of the same, if not similar, foods. Here are my top three reasons why everyone should visit Ireland.
1. The Serenity
Picture yourself sitting on a bench with the early morning sun warming your face, looking out to rolling shades of rich green, with a hot cup of tea (or coffee) in your hand. There’s no honking, no yelling, just the world starting to wake up with you. Maybe a fellow traveler is with you making small talk. This is the experience. There’s no rush to get somewhere, no hustle and bustle, and plenty of politeness.
Even in cities like Dublin, things are far quieter than in major US cities. Driving through Ireland, one can’t help but feel that this is the way life is supposed to be lived. In some of the smaller towns, like Kinsale or Dingle, it’s even more peaceful. If you’re near a farm, you can often hear sheep conversing as they wake up too. If you’re on the west side of Ireland, near Galway, a visit to the Aran Islands is a must.
There are three islands that boast incredible views wherever you go. Most visitors to the islands rent bikes as it’s the most convenient way to get around. Riding a bike over rolling hills is quite the workout!
2. The History
Okay, I’m not a history buff, and if you’re like me, you probably want to skip over this. Don’t. The earliest evidence of humans in Ireland is 12,500 years ago (10,500 BC), so a LOT of things have happened, many of which I won’t be able to do justice in this post. There are many castles throughout Ireland, and you can even stay in some of them. Talk about really embracing history!
Each castle is rich with information about the families that lived there, battles won and lost, and how it contributed to making Ireland the country it is today. If you’re a legend believer, then Blarney Castle is the place for you. One of the most famous rocks, the Blarney Stone, is housed here, and legend has it that if you kiss it, you get the gift of gab.
Join the probably millions of people who have visited it over the past two hundred years and give it a nice kiss! (Don’t worry, they disinfect it between guests!) Kilkenny Castle is another beautiful castle to visit. It was built in 1195 and is open to the public currently. There are rotating exhibitions in the castle, featuring art and historical items.
3. The People
Now that you feel at peace and surrounded in culture and history, my absolute favorite part of Ireland? The people. In all of my travels, I have never met people as friendly as the Irish. If you sit in a pub alone, within five minutes someone (not the waiter) will ask if you want something to drink and what brought you here. Once they hear your accent, they’ll tell you all about their favorite places and things you must see. I split an order of fries with an elderly man in a pub in Dublin as he talked to me about how much Dublin has changed over the years. “Most men my age would say that’s a bad thing, but how can you move forward if you keep your feet where you’re at.” There was loud music coming from one bar in Galway and I couldn’t resist going in and before I knew it I was dancing to Galway Girl with a Galway native. There was never a moment to feel like I didn’t belong in Ireland, that I was a foreigner or tourist. The people welcomed and embraced me with open arms.
While Ireland may not be at the top of everyone’s bucket list, it should definitely have a place on it; Ireland has something for every type of person. The unspoiled landscape makes it one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Beer fans can visit the home of the most famous beer in the world – Guinness – in Dublin. Even President Barack Obama says that Guinness tastes better in Ireland! Music lovers would have an easy time finding live performers in any pub or attending one of the numerous music festivals around the country. Foodies would enjoy the new food revolution happening with local Irish fare.