ST. PATRICK’S DAY AND MORE IN BONNY IRELAND
Not all islands are created equal, and Ireland is proof of that. With a population of only 4 million people, one can easily drive from one end of the country to the other in just a few hours. The Irish are a welcoming people with a strong sense of family that extends beyond their connection by blood and weaves itself into discussions with strangers in numerous neighborhood pubs with a tall glass of Guinness or a bottle of Bulmer's acting as ties that bind.
Some say the best reason to visit Ireland is to celebrate St. Patrick's Day in the land of its origin. This national holiday is observed with a four-day festival in Dublin which attracts well over 100,000 visitors. It is overflowing with more than 30 events from 3000 artists including a huge parade, street-theatre, Irish dancing, music, and pageants that celebrate Irish heritage, fairy stories, ancient tribes, and swashbuckling pirates.
Yet Ireland offers so much more – From cathedrals to classrooms, the city is filled with mesmerizing music, powerful performances, intriguing walks and inspiring talks. Honoring St. Patrick is a delight, but there are many more things that Ireland has to offer with a charm rivaled by few destinations. Here a just a few of the other "must sees:
Dublin has an irresistible cosmopolitan vibe set against a history spanning over one thousand years, back to its origins as a Viking settlement. A trip to Dublin is not complete without stops at St. Patrick's Cathedral, GPO Witness History, EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum, Kavanagh's pub in Glasnevin, Dublin Zoo, Trinity College, the Martello Towers, and Malahide Castle. Take in the Jameson Distillery, and enjoy a fine drink of Guinness, Dublin's famous "black pint."
THE WILD ATLANTIC WAY
The gorgeous stretch along Ireland's west coast beckons visitors who are eager to view the country's tallest peak, Europe's highest sea cliffs, and Star Wars filming locations. Stops include lighthouses, shipwrecks, beaches, exceptional star-gazing, witnessing death-defying cliff dives at Inis Mór, or a trip to the peaceful tranquility of the Skelligs – two remote islands off the coast of County Kerry. Visit local artists and craftsmen, or schedule a trip around one of the yearly festivals.
IRELAND'S ANCIENT EAST
Drive, boat, or bicycle through 5000 years of Irish history and breath-taking scenery. Walk in the footsteps of the country's original settlers, rest beside the tranquil Shannon River, look for fairies, relive how royalty lived, visit a Medieval Museum, stroll through beautiful plants in the 19th century Altamont Gardens, visit horse country, witness Irish lace-making, and explore ancient Neolithic artwork in the Loughcrew Cairns.
Enjoying local food is a good reason for traveling, but Ireland makes it great. Each area is a foodie Nirvana, with a multitude of restaurants, cafes, food trails and food festivals that will surely appeal to any palate. Enjoy smoked salmon, lamb, cheeses, fine dairy ice creams and artisan chocolates.
This beautiful island, tucked just off the western coast of Great Britain, is quite accessible:
Air: Most international airlines fly into Ireland's many convenient airports, including Aer Lingus, British Airways: Lufthansa, KLM, Virgin Atlantic, Air France, and Iberia.
Cruise: Cruise companies such as Royal Caribbean, Princess, Carnival, and Norwegian Cruise Line, offer packages that include Irish ports of call, usually as part of a British Isles tour.
Ferry: Many ferry routes take passengers from the mainland to Ireland. Departure ports include Liverpool, Plymouth, Fishguard, Holyhead, and Stranraer. Some bus and rail companies include the ferry fare in their tickets.
The Emerald Isle has a mild climate, with an average year-round temperate of 50°. Precipitation ranges from 31 inches around Dublin to 118 inches along the western coast, although rain showers usually abate quickly. Typical weather includes:
Winter: The country rarely sees snow, as temperatures seldom go below 32°. January's average temperature is a bearable 45°.
Spring: Average highs range from 46° to 54°, with April considered particularly pleasant.
Summer: Temperatures occasionally rise into the 70s. June and July are usually the warmest, while July and August boast about 18 daylight hours.
Fall: The weather is more temperate, ranging between 57° and 64°.
Mid-April through late-September is the best time to visit, although spring and fall offer less-crowded, yet still pleasant opportunities. Wardrobes should include layering options, along with a sweater, light-weight rain gear, sunglasses, and comfortable walking shoes. St. Patrick's Day is a special time in a special country, yet not the only thing to see. Ireland is a mix of the magical and mysterious that will appeal those who understand that luxury travel can still be an adventure.