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.
Ireland (the Republic)
The Guinness Brewery at St. James Gate is a
Dublin institution, and a highlight of any trip to the Emerald Isle.
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.
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
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.
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
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.