Ireland, once visited, is never forgotten, and for once the blarney rings true. The Irish landscape has a mythic resonance, due as much to the country's almost tangible history as its claim to being the home of the fairies and the 'little people.' Sure, the weather may not always be clement, but the dampness ensures there are fifty shades of green to compensate - just one of the reasons Ireland is called the Emerald Isle.This richly romantic country offers rolling hills, misty oceanside cliffs, quaint seaside villages, plus grand castles and country manors, making it the perfect resting spot for vacationers. Rain showers are common in Ireland and they keep the rolling hills and meadows swathed in endless kelly green, rendered all the more vibrant next to piercing blue lakes, wildflowers, limestone castles,baahhhing sheep, and the shifting light of moody skies. Much of the action is situated on the Atlantic coast, convenient to Shannon Airport and national parks, seaside villages, golf courses, and castles. Explore via car along hilly roads that twist and curve through the countryside by day, dine on fresh oysters and salmon and drink in traditional Irish music and pints o' Guinness at a local pub by night.
When To Go:
Best weather: May to September; short showers common throughout the year (don't forget an umbrella or slicker).
What To Do:
Scan the rocky cliffs: For a dramatic setting, don't miss Ireland's biggest rock stars: the Rock of Cashel (St. Patrick allegedly picked a shamrock from here to explain the Trinity) and breathtaking Cliffs of Moher, a five-mile-long sea wall that soars up to 700 feet.
Visit heritage towns: Step back to a time of fairytale thatched-roof cottages in designated Heritage Towns that include Cashel and Kinsale. For a complete list of postcard-pretty spots, visit heritagetowns.com.
Explore the peninsulas: Drive around one of the numerous promontories that jut off the southwest coast of Ireland for breathtaking mountain and coastal views. The Ring of Kerry, a daylong drive that runs along the perimeter of the Iveragh Peninsula, is one of the most popular scenic drives. See also Dingle Peninsula for its unspoiled serenity.
Feast at a medieval banquet: Dine before a color-soaked pageant of medieval Irish history in music, dance, mime, and rhyme in the hallowed splendor of a 15th-century castle. Best bets include Bunratty Castle, Dunguaire Castle, and Knappogue Castle.
There's more to Ireland than pubs, fiddles and Guinness. It is renowned as a land of sport and it has much to offer the visitor either as a spectator or participant. Perhaps the most important feature of the country's sporting life is the number and variety of activities associated with the horse which has a special place in Irish life going back to antiquity. Cycle the hills, golf the lush greens, fish the teeming waters or take a leisurely cruise on the Shannon. Looking for great information on Dublin? Dublin Tourism has an excellent series of free audio guides called "iWalks" which are available in a podcast for your iPod.