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IRELAND

Highlights

Guinness Brewery
Sean's Bar
 

NORTHERN IRELAND

Highlights

Giant's Causeway
Antrim Coast

Belfast
 
Hotels Around Ireland
Dublin
Belfast
Giant's Causeway
Athlone

 

 

Northern Ireland: green countryside, friendly people, lovely accents, and dark beer.  The Emerald Isle's varied sights hold something for everyone, but you must hit the road (driving on the left side of the road) if you want to experience it all!
 
 

 
 

Ireland is divided up into two main parts: The Republic of Ireland, and Northern Ireland.  The Republic, which is predominantly Catholic, has its capital in Dublin and has been independent from the United Kingdom in 1922.  At the time of independence, the predominantly Protestant six counties of Northern Ireland chose to remain a part of the United Kingdom, and remain so until today.

Highlights of Northern Ireland

BELFAST
The once war-torn capital of Northern Ireland has bounced back in the past decade to become one of the most popular destinations in the
UK.
Antrim Coast
North Antrim's rugged coastline is home to tower cliffs, rope bridges, secluded harbors, and green islets.
GIANT'S CAUSEWAY
A UNSESCO World Heritage Site and one of the natural wonders of the world, these rock formations on Northern Ireland's coast are truly a sight to behold.
 

Highlights of Ireland (the Republic)

GuinNess Brewery
The Guinness Brewery at St. James Gate is a Dublin institution, and a highlight of any trip to the Emerald Isle.
sean's bar
In a nation known for its pubs, this pub is the absolute oldest, as documented by the good folks at the Guinness Book of World Records.


MY TRIP:
There are three steadfast observations of any trip through Ireland and/or Northern Ireland.  Actually, make that four.

1) The
Guinness truly does taste different in Ireland.  Somehow fresher, and more delicious.  But don't be afraid to taste other Irish brews -- you'll find more than one type of tasty pint at the pub.

2) The bars are wonderful.  An Irish bar, whether it's of the old pub variety such as Sean's Bar (The Oldest Bar in Ireland), or the new variety such as Belfast's Botanical Inn, you will agree that these pubs and bars are the very best you have ever been to. 
Your favorite Irish Pub in your hometown will never look the same again.

3) The
people are inordinately friendly and kind.  We were walking along the street and asked a passing Irishman the way to the nearest ATM, and he proceeded to turn around (so as to go in our direction, opposite his) and walk us to the ATM, which was several blocks and side streets away.  Did I mention he was also carrying two heavy boxes at the time?  He just wanted to make sure we didn't get lost.  This kindness is repeated time and again during any trip to the Emerald Isle.

4) They really do
speak funny.   Several times, especially when talking to older folks, I could not understand a thing of what they were saying.

OTHER THOUGHTS:
I found the Guinness Brewery to be unremarkable, too artsy and modern for my taste.  I was expecting machines and copper vats, and instead got a whole bunch of glass and steel.  Dublin as well was not much to remark on.  It features a wonderful set of pubs, but on the whole I found it paled in comparison to Belfast.  Belfast's river district and pubs take the city to a whole new level of social fun.

The true beauty of Ireland, though, is not in its cities, but rather in its countryside.  Here you will find the various shades of green which give the Emerald Isle its name.  From the astonishing coastal cliffs, to serene castles and lakes, a tour Irish countryside is far and away the best way to experience the country.

BallyshannonWhile I stayed in numerous hotels in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, the only hotel that sticks out in my mind (and that I would recommend) is the Dorrian's Imperial Hotel in Ballyshannon, County Donegal, Ireland.  The old-style family hotel features big, clean, comfortable rooms.  The lobby has a stately air to it, with a grand fireplace warming the room and cozy couches spread about on the carpet.  The proprietors are typical Irish -- charming and warm and looking to please.  They will also give you directions to the great local pubs.
 

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