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You can’t say you have “done Ireland” without having been to its capital, Dublin. Dublin is the largest city in Ireland today and among of the most vibrant in Europe. People come to Dublin to experience the atmosphere and to relax. Dublin is packed with things to do and see including the home of Guinness: Dublin.
Ireland, compared with other countries is very small. The island is only about 480Km (300mi) from top to bottom and about 150Km (95mi) across. The population of the island is around 6 million (4.5m in the Republic, 1.5 in Northern Ireland) so most of the country is very sparsely populated as the majority live in cities and large towns today. The island’s second largest city is Belfast, third Cork and fourth Limerick. All are located on or near the sea/ocean and on rivers, reflecting Ireland’s historical development.
The counties of Kildare, Meath, and Wicklow are part of the Greater Dublin Area. Due to proximity to Dublin, the many sights and sounds to be found here can be visited on short excursions for a visitor to Dublin. The Wicklow Mountains which lie just to the south of Dublin City is Ireland’s largest upland region. The national park here is ideal for home to much of Ireland’s wildlife as well as some important heritage sites including Glendalough. The Boyne Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in County Meath, is perhaps the most important area of historical importance in Ireland. Here you can see the enormous megalithic burial tombs around Newgrange, older than the Pyramids of Egypt; and the Hill of Tara, the ancient seat of the High Kings of Ireland. Ireland’s largest Castle, Trim Castle which dates from the 12th Century AD dominates much of County Meath. Some of Ireland’s finest country houses are located in Dublin’s neighbouring counties of Kildare, Meath and Wicklow. Castletown House, Carton House, and Russborough house are among the best examples.
Antrim, Armagh, Derry, Down, Fermanagh, Tyrone (in Northern Ireland) Cavan, Donegal, Louth, Monaghan (in the Republic of Ireland). This area includes Belfast City, the Giant’s Causeway, the Mourne Mountains, the Mountains of Donegal, the lakes of Cavan, and the Glens of Antrim. Ireland’s second largest city, Belfast, and Derry City are located within Northern Ireland. These cities offer the visitor a far more pleasant introduction to this part of the country. Many fine shopping areas, museums, nightclubs, pubs, restaurants, and theatres are located here.
Much of Ireland’s most beautiful upland scenery is located in the mountains of Mourne (County Down), Donegal and the Sperrins of Tyrone. The Glens of Antrim provide a blissful oasis in the bustling county of Antrim. From here you may also take a ferry ride to the North’s largest Island, Ratlin Island, and look over the sea to nearby Scotland. The Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of Ireland’s most striking geological features.
Ireland’s North, in particular counties Fermanagh, Cavan and Donegal, is a popular haven for anglers with hundreds of lakes and rivers.
Counties Wexford, Waterford, Kilkenny and Carlow make up the area which is known as Ireland’s ‘Sunny Southeast’. County Wexford boasts some of Ireland’s longest and best beaches and many visit them in the summer months. During the 1798 rebellion many battles were fought in County Wexford including defeat at Vinegar Hill, outside Enniscorthy.
Kilkenny City today is a popular destination for those interested in culture and the Arts. An impressive castle, Kilkenny Castle is a focal point for visitors to the city. Waterford City, Ireland’s oldest city and the largest in the southeast, is an ideal place for shopping and nightlife.
Southwest Ireland (counties Cork, Kerry and Limerick) is one of the most popular places and most scenic areas of Ireland. Ireland’s highest mountain, Carrauntoohil (1041m) is located here. Many visitors to the region will remember kissing the Blarney Stone while visiting Blarney Castle outside Cork City. Killarney in County Kerry provides an excellent base for exploring what is known as the ‘Ring of Kerry’. This circuitous route around the Iveragh peninsula incorporates much of Kerry’s world renowned coastlines, mountains and lakes. Cork City is the third largest city on the island of Ireland (after Dublin and Belfast). Walking is a particularly popular activity in Cork with over 1000km of planned walks in the county.
The West of Ireland is home to Ireland’s largest Irish-speaking community. It is perhaps Ireland’s most varied region. Visitors to the region will appreciate the diverse range of things to do and see which include many of Ireland’s most popular attractions. Among these are: the Cliffs of Moher, The Aran Islands, Connemara National Park, the Burren, the River Shannon, and Galway City.
Ireland’s central plain makes up what is known as the midlands: Counties Laois, Leitrim, Longford, Offaly, Roscommon, Tipperary, and Westmeath are home to many of Ireland’s lesser known attractions. Much of Ireland’s renowned bogland is located in the Midlands, such as the Bog of Allen.
The early Christian monastic site at Clonmacnoise, on the banks of the River Shannon is among the most important in Ireland. The countryside of the Midlands is as varied as the attractions here from vast plains to the Glens of County Leitrim. Cahir Castle, in County Tipperary, is one of the largest and best preserved castles in Ireland.
County Westmeath is known for its rivers and lakes which include the River Shannon which flows through the town of Athlone. Lockes Distillery is one of the few remaining pot distilleries which remains in Ireland today and here you may sample its whiskey.
Strokestown Park House and Famine Museum in County Roscommon relates to the visitor two different stories, that of the rich and that of the Great Famine.