Why visit Ireland? It’s a question we get asked a lot here at Hillwalk Tours and, more often than not, we don’t have enough combined breath to list all of reasons to visit Ireland.
Ireland is a place of unique culture, breathtaking scenery, delicious food, friendly locals, traditional music, rolling hills and incredible history. So where do we start?
- Irish Cuisine
- Traditional Music
- The Sound Lads (the friendly people)
- The Language
- Games Of Thrones
- Aran Islands
Castles galore are scattered across Ireland – I actually have one in my back garden. One answer to ‘why visit Ireland?’ is, ‘To see these impressive feats of construction.’
The most famous castle in Ireland is probably Blarney castle in Cork. One of the reasons to visit Ireland is to kiss the famous Blarney Stone atop the castle. It’s said to give you the ‘gift of the gab’.
In other words, you’ll be able to talk forever about everything, knowledgeable or not.
One of the other great reasons to visit Ireland is Bunratty castle in County Clare, which still hosts functional banquets in the great hall.
The folk village surrounding the castle gives a truly immersive experience into what life might have been like in the olden days.
Actors take on roles such as shopkeepers and teachers to give you a real taste of a historic rural Ireland. Why visit Ireland? To see this wonderful attraction, that’s why.
Hiking The Hills
With quite a small population (just 4.5 million), there’s plenty of open, green space to go hiking in. Every county has its very own look and appeal, unusual for quite a small island.
This is without mentioning the thousands of smaller local walks and country lane ways that are available in every county.
While you undertake the aforementioned hikes, why not take a bit of time to stop and enjoy all of the fantastic scenery that Ireland has to offer?
The dramatic sea-cliffs of Clare. The towering mountains of Kerry. The remote ruggedness of Cork. The peaceful tranquility of Wicklow.
These are all reasons to visit Ireland, and all of them are answers to the question, “Why visit Ireland?”.
St. Patrick’s Day
A festival that is held worldwide on the 17th March every year, but with its roots firmly planted in Ireland.
St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, who is said to have banished all of the snakes from the Emerald Isle. Maybe that’s a reason in itself to visit Ireland?
Celebrated worldwide – mainly because of the craic (see ‘language‘ section) and the Guinness – this festival and parade is one not to be missed in Dublin.
The Galway International Arts Festival (GIAF)
In its 12th installment for 2017, the GIAF brings a host of cultural performances to the already culture-filled city of Galway.
Music, plays and contemporary performances fill up the 2 week long festival, adding a fantastic atmosphere and vibe to the vibrant and bustling city.
The pinnacle of traditional Irish music festivals, ‘Fleadh Cheoil’ directly translates from Irish as ‘Music Festival’.
The week-long festival hosted almost 400,000 people in the small town of Ennis in 2016 – a town with a normal population of 25,000.
Ennis is hosting the fleadh again this year in 2017 and it promises to be a week full of authentic Irish music.
Pubs, pubs, pubs. It’s hard to say what Ireland is most famous for, but pubs are definitely up there. From craic agus ceol to Guinness and pub grub, authentic Irish pubs are definitely the place to be when you visit Ireland.
One such pub is The Crane in Galway. You can go in alone and come out with a band of musical friends.
You’ll always be welcome to join in with traditional Irish music seisiún, whether it’s with your fiddle or flute, or simply tapping along with your foot.
Temple Bar is an area in Dublin, south of the River Liffey, known worldwide for its atmospheric pub scene.
Within Temple Bar is a bar called The Temple Bar. If you’re only in Dublin once, Temple Bar should be on your to-do list.
Push past the misconceptions of potatoes and cabbage and bacon and think of succulent Irish beef, freshly-grown vegetables and locally-sourced seafood. This is the real food of Ireland.
Irish cuisine has developed its own rustic, modern style with interesting dishes being served in every corner of the country.
Well worth a stop to try these dishes is Dingle, renowned worldwide for its seafood dishes, straight from the sea to your plate.
Often voted as the friendliest city in Ireland, Galway was voted the friendliest city in Europe in 2020 and is frequently voted as one of the friendliest cities in the world – its charm will encapsulate you as soon as you arrive.
Widely regarded as the cultural hub of Ireland, with a mix of traditional Irish and new-age hipster vibes, there’s always something going on in this city for everyone.
If you fancy hearing some live music, just take a walk down shop street and be met by a host of incredibly talented street musicians.
If you’ve got some time to spend in Galway, you definitely won’t be stuck for something to do.
Galway is a nice segue into traditional music, given that the west really is the heart and soul of this scene.
From bustling hubs in Mayo, like Westport, all the way down the coast to Killarney in Kerry, there’ll always be a seisiún for you to enjoy or join in with.
Traditional Irish music is lively, enthralling, inclusive and mesmirising as a whole room of people are perfectly in sync with rhythm, timing and tune.
The Sound Lads
To tourists, ‘sound lads’ probably doesn’t mean much. But if you’re a ‘sound lad’ in Ireland you’re probably doing something right.
A sound lad is someone who’s always up for the “craic” (translation in the next section) and is generally a nice human being.
Luckily there are a lot of sound lads in Ireland. In fact, most locals you come across are extremely friendly and happy to help you in any way that they can. It’s also often found that if you speak to them for long enough, you’ll find out that they somehow have a connection to your home town!
Ireland is known for it’s incredible hospitality and friendliness so you’re always sure to be warmly welcomed on the Emerald Isle.
The nuances that make our English unique from anywhere else in the world. The expressions that make us sound laid-back and carefree. The dry-humored tone that can make almost anything sound funny and witty. And then we have the phrases that would make no sense to anyone else in the world.
- “Gas craic” means great fun.
- “Go ‘way..” is an expression of disbelief rather than asking someone to leave.
- Put a ‘h’ after every ‘s’ and you immediately originate from the west. Ah shtop.
- If you bark “Lie down!” at someone you’re telling them to stop and calm down.
- “C’mere to me until I tell you…”. You’re in for some gossip now!
The list goes on and on and you’ll really have to spend some time in Ireland to experience it all.
Gaeilge is the Irish language, still spoken around the country.
Although English is Ireland’s main and primary language, there are dedicated areas called ‘Gaeltachts’ where Gaeilge is still spoken.
These are most prominent in Connemara, the Aran Islands and Kerry.
Of course you don’t need to know how to speak Gaeilge to go to these places, but it certainly adds to to the authentic Irish atmosphere of eons gone by.
Games Of Thrones
Game Of Thrones has millions of fans worldwide, and some of it was shot right here in Ireland.
You can see several location settings from it in Antrim, including the Dark Hedges.
The Aran Islands are an epitome of old Irish life, and it’s where the Aran Jumper (or Aran Sweater) originated from.
Located off the coasts of Galway and Clare, the Aran Islands are a perfect blend of adventure, Irish culture, dramatic coastal scenery and sound lads.
Three islands make up the Aran Islands – Inis Mor (Inishmore), Inis Meain (Inishman) and Inis Oirr (Inisheer).
If you fancy experiencing the uniqueness of Ireland, Hillwalk Tours are based in Co. Galway and operate self-guided hiking tours all over Ireland at three different levels (Gentle, Moderate & Challenging) and between 4-12 days in length, looking after all of the accommodation, luggage transfers and other arrangements required!