Caper across the Emerald Isle
Travel to Ireland, nicknamed the “Emerald Isle,” to find a charming and welcoming land roughly the size of Alabama —home to rolling hills, gorgeous coastline, and farmlands. There’s always a new shade of green to discover while traveling around this lush country. Tour the Wild Atlantic Way down the west coast, catching the Connemara and Giant’s Causeway. Start or wind up your Ireland vacation on the eastern side, for oysters on the lively streets of Dublin.
It’s true what they say: a Guinness tastes better in Ireland. And sure, you’ve been to an Irish pub and celebrated Saint Patrick’s Day, but nothing compares to experiencing this rich and pleasant land in the flesh. Whether it’s live music in a pub or a horseback ride through the wilds of the Moher Cliffs, you’ll find that tradition is a living thing during an Ireland vacation. Steep yourself in legend at the Blarney Castle—where a kiss of the stone is said to give you eloquence—then take your newfound gift of gab for a night at the pub in Belfast to create some tall tales of your own.
Start your Ireland trip in its cozy capital city, which has an elegant Georgian flair. Dublin hugs the east coast where the River Liffey meets the Irish Sea. Of course, you’ll want to see the hits: Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, the Book of Kells, and the Jameson Distillery, but the locals or “Dubs” won’t let you leave without a heaping dish of Coddle—a sausage and potato bake—and a pint of Guinness in one of the many classic pubs. Pick one with live music.
Follow Shepherd’s Steps up the basalt columns of Giant’s Causeway for spectacular views of the Atlantic horizon. If the hike has you worn, then take a rest in the “Wishing Chair,” a place in the stone which has been worn into a smooth seat by hopeful travelers. Legend has it that the basalt columns of Giant’s Causeway are the remains of a bridge connecting Ireland and Scotland, built by warring giants of yesteryear.
Journey along the west coast to County Clare and the legendary Cliffs of Moher. Peer down from the rocky outcrop and you’ll see the swelling waters of the Atlantic Ocean 509 feet below. Over twenty bird species make their home here, so keep an eye out for puffins and peregrine falcons. As part of a UNESCO Global Park, there’s a lot to explore—so why not go on horseback?
The beautifully preserved 15th-century castle is world-famous for a single stone. The Blarney Stone is of uncertain origins but said to give the gift of eloquence to anyone brave enough to kiss it—to reach it all you have to do is hang upside down from the ramparts. See whether the charm worked on the walk around the lake. If this lush foliage doesn’t make a poet out of you, nothing will.
Once part of the Kylemore Abbey Estate, the Connemara National Park is the epitome of Irish wilderness. In just under eight square miles you’ll see bogs, heath, and woodlands, not to mention the mighty peaks of Benbaun and Muckanaght. Explore this romantic backcountry by foot or car, keeping an eye out for grazing Connemara Ponies on your merry Atlantic way.
The capital of Northern Ireland, Belfast is well worth a visit while on vacation in Ireland. Visit the evocative docklands by day, and clap along to a traditional session of Irish music and dance by night. Stop by St George’s Market for a fresh bite of soda bread.
Visit Ireland in the spring and early summer or early autumn—April through June and September through October, respectively —for fewer crowds and pleasant temperatures in the low 50s. However, Irish weather is notoriously unpredictable so don’t be put off by a few showers. The high summer July through August is the warmest time of year, with temperatures hovering in the mid to high 60s, but it’s also the busiest, so expect some crowds. If you want the Isle to yourself, then a winter visit may be for you, a pub tour is made all the cozier by dreary weather, though some outdoor sites may be closed.
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