With my recent blogs about my upcoming trip to Ireland, I felt it was fitting to give a brief descriptions of the major regions of the country. Upcoming blogs will feature more restaurants and a tentative itenerary and planning guide for my trip!!
Ireland is a wild, wonderful country inhabited by 4.1 million people. Almost one-third of the people live in Dublin or in its suburbs. This means that the rest of Ireland is comfortably populated, each area retaining its own distinct personality, wildlife, animals, trees, flowers, craggy cliffs, rich pastures, charming villages, ancient sites, craft centers and rambling castles. Ireland has six main regions: Southwest, West Coast, Dublin, East Coast/Midlands, Southeast, Northern Ireland. Within each of these regions are counties. There are 32 counties in total; The Republic of Ireland has 26 counties. Northern Ireland, part of the UK, has 6 counties.
This was the playground during the Victorian era, a good escape from London. White sand beaches dot the coast, and rocky precipices fall into the wild Atlantic. Quaint fishing villages huddle together in the sheltering embrace of bays and inlets. County Kerry not only offers breathtaking landscapes, there are also an enormous number of prehistoric and ancient Celtic sites in this area.
Many short-term visitors have been lulled into taking up permanent residence in County Cork! West Cork is a haven for artists, writers and actors who love its gorgeous scenery and laid back quality of life. Back in Kerry, Kenmare has one of the finest spas in Ireland. Killarney is a must-visit for the first-time visitor and the seasoned Irish traveler. The Ring of Kerry, the Blarney Stone, and the most Irish village of all, Dingle are in Southern Ireland.
Western Ireland, with the outstanding Galway port, has been continuously inhabited for 5,000 years. It is also the home of the Aran Islands, actually part of the Burren as it dips into the ocean and rises to form those islands. The Aran Islands are truly traditional—this is what you think of when you see old movies with peat farmers and friendly fishermen. Life here wasn’t easy, but it was rich with family ties and magical beliefs. It still is.
Western Ireland is an important part of Irish history. County Galway has two faces. Almost half the county speaks Gaelic as a first language. Galway itself is a city that’s lively with music, shopping, festivals, and sailing ships. It lies book-ended between the calm lakes of Roscommon and the remote Aran Islands. As for Connemara? It is a wild nature lover’s paradise with splendid mountains, lakes and big skies.
Dublin is probably best explored on foot, as are most glorious cities. Dublin has a unique personality among European cities and great vitality. Artistic and architectural renewal has created ever brighter levels of energy. Its history still flows down the streets and whistles through the doorways. The Dublin parks, sculptures, monuments, culture, literature and contribution to the arts, business and science is understated and underrated. And, held between the sea, mountains, and rivers, Dublin’s natural beauty is unparalleled.
While walking, take in O’Connell Street, the Abbey Theater (founded by Yeats!!!), hear the newest in music and the most traditional. Visit Trinity College and see the Book of Kells. Wander eclectic Grafton Street, the National Museum containing thousands of years of Irish history, and relax in the wondrous park, St. Stephen’s Green. Peruse the pulse and the throb of the Temple Bar area for lively conversation and good music. Shop to your heart’s delight, indulge, explore, and feel the layers of time that exist in this flourishing city, voted the friendliest city in Europe.
St. Patrick's Cathedral
Looking for the warmest weather in Ireland? Come to the Southeast. Rolling hills bless these counties, and idyllic farms fill the countryside with peace.
Medieval castles and Manor houses stand close, whispering the history of this area. Come explore the wild mountains and sandy beaches that stretch for miles between Wexford and Dublin. If you’re looking for medieval towns, crafts, wildlife, or a quaint seaside town, the southeast has something to offer you.
This area is the heart, soul and birth of the Irish Nation. It is the Celtic Spiritual home. This area contains some of Ireland’s most sacred sites. Sacred to those long gone, and extraordinary for us today because of the response they engender in us. They are places of pilgrimage, and they serve to awaken our higher self. Much of the Midlands are ignored by tourists, but the gentle lakes, unique bogs, and rolling pastures tell us why the ancient people decided to firmly plant themselves here. The magnetic pull of the Midlands not only attracted the first Celt settlers, there are trails of Celtic crosses, Norman churches, and later castles that tell the tale of all who were drawn to this area. Newgrange, older than both the pyramids and Stonehenge is only 30 miles from Dublin…
The time of “the troubles” is past. It’s time to discover this hidden gem. Belfast is a city filled with lovely gardens and neighborhoods, sublime Victorian homes and buildings, great pubs, and the Ulster Museum. After you’ve had enough of city excitement, head straight to the coast. It is perhaps one of the strangest and most exciting coastlines in the world. You’ll find the volcanic Giant’s Causeway, consisting of 37,000 basalt columns running straight into the sea; fishing and trekking in the Mountains of Mourne; a chance to enjoy the Lake Country of Lower Lough Erne.
Victorian resorts dot the coast in places such as Benone Strand. Ruins and castles from medieval times hug the coast and top the craggy ridges, showing off such astonishing sites as the Mussenden Temple in Londonderry. 13th century Dunluce castle, protects the coast with hidden stories of times long past. Try a walk across the Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge just east of Ballintoy. Suspended 80 feet above the sea, it sways with every foot fall, and is absolutely exhilarating. There are also a large number of stone circles, Celtic crosses, and the Belleek Pottery Factory. Ride a boat through marble caves, and feel the gentle sigh of many lakes glistening like small jewels between soft, emerald hills.
Let me just briefly stress how EXCITED I am about this trip. I am still not sure on dates, but it is happening soon!! Every moment of research or contemplating it gets me pure giddy!! If ANYONE has been to Ireland, please comment and leave your e-mail! I would love to hear more and talk to you about the possibility of being a guest author on my blog! =)
I am a full-time student at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Go Gators! I am currently about to graduate with my BA in Political Science and furthering my education with a Master of Science in Management next fall. In what little spare time I can find, I love to bake, cook, decorate cakes, cookies, and cupcakes, discuss politics, family, love, life and anything that seems interesting at that moment!!