Ireland: The Best European Destination

Ireland Best European Destination

Updated On: June 09, 2024 by   Ciaran ConnollyCiaran Connolly

Anyone who has been to Ireland knows just how spectacular it is. From its pristine, magical landscape and scenery to the welcoming nature of the locals, Ireland has an endless list of award-winning attractions.

Ireland won the prestigious ‘Best European Destination for Groups’ at the renowned Group Travel Awards in London on 7 June 2019. Ireland competed against other great European destinations, including runner-up Germany, Switzerland, Cyprus and Belgium. All these places offer something unique for people, but Ireland has something extra special.

But this isn’t the first time Ireland has been recognized as a brilliant tourist travel destination. It has won the title prize for three years at the Group Travel Awards.

Ireland is an exciting place to visit and stay; this award validates that. Ireland is undoubtedly leading the way in capturing tourists. With so many choices, Ireland stands out against the best and draws in visitors all year round.

The Alluring Landscape Of Ireland

Ireland

Ireland’s landscape is a tapestry of verdant fields, dramatic cliffs, serene lakes, and dense forests. The country’s geography is as varied as it is stunning, providing endless opportunities for exploration and adventure.

The Wild Atlantic Way

One of Ireland’s most famous attractions is the Wild Atlantic Way, a 2,500-kilometre route along the west coast. This scenic drive showcases some of the country’s most breathtaking coastal views, from the towering Cliffs of Moher in County Clare to the remote beauty of the Donegal coastline. The route also passes through charming towns and villages, offering a glimpse into Ireland’s coastal life.

The Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher Tour – County Clare, Ireland

Standing 214 metres at their highest point, the Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s most iconic natural landmarks. Stretching for eight kilometres along the Atlantic coast, these cliffs offer awe-inspiring views and are home to various seabirds. Visitors can walk along the cliff paths, visit the interactive visitor centre, and even take a boat tour to see the cliffs from the sea.

The Ring of Kerry

Another must-see destination is the Ring of Kerry, a 179-kilometre circular route that takes in the stunning landscapes of the Iveragh Peninsula. The route features a mix of mountains, lakes, and coastal scenery, with highlights including Killarney National Park, the Gap of Dunloe, and the Skellig Islands. The Ring of Kerry is also dotted with historical sites, such as ancient stone forts and early Christian monasteries.

The Burren

The Burren
The Burren

The Burren, located in County Clare, is a unique karst landscape known for its unusual rock formations and rich biodiversity. Despite its barren appearance, the Burren is home to various plants and animals, including rare orchids and butterflies. Visitors can explore the area on foot, taking in the otherworldly scenery and discovering ancient tombs and stone circles.

Rich Cultural Heritage

Ireland’s history is as rich and varied as its landscape. From ancient Celtic traditions to the impact of Viking invasions and British rule, Ireland’s cultural heritage is evident in its architecture, music, and literature.

Castles and Historic Sites

The Rock of Cashel
The Rock of Cashel

Ireland boasts an impressive array of castles and historic sites, each with a unique story. Blarney Castle, home to the famous Blarney Stone, attracts visitors who come to kiss the stone and gain the gift of eloquence. Dublin Castle, a symbol of British rule in Ireland, now serves as a government complex and cultural venue. The Rock of Cashel, a medieval fortress perched on a limestone hill, offers a glimpse into Ireland’s early Christian heritage.

Ancient Celtic Traditions

Ireland’s Celtic heritage is still very much alive today. The country has ancient stone circles, burial mounds, and ogham stones. The Hill of Tara, once the seat of the High Kings of Ireland, is a significant archaeological and spiritual site. Celtic festivals like Samhain and Imbolc are celebrated with traditional music, dance, and rituals.

Irish Music and Dance

Irish music and dance are integral to the country’s cultural identity. Traditional Irish music, characterised by instruments like the fiddle, tin whistle, and bodhrán, can be heard in pubs and festivals nationwide. Riverdance, the world-famous Irish dance show, has brought the energetic and intricate footwork of Irish dance to audiences around the globe. Visitors to Ireland can experience live music sessions in pubs, attend dance performances, and even participate in a céilí, a traditional Irish dance gathering.

Literary Legacy

Ireland has produced some of the world’s greatest writers, and its literary legacy is celebrated nationwide. Dublin, a UNESCO City of Literature, was the home of James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, and Oscar Wilde. The city’s literary landmarks include the James Joyce Centre, the Dublin Writers Museum, and the annual Bloomsday festival, which celebrates Joyce’s masterpiece, “Ulysses”.

In the west, County Sligo inspired much of the poetry of W.B. Yeats, one of Ireland’s most revered poets. The Yeats Society hosts events and exhibitions in Sligo town, and visitors can explore the landscapes that inspired Yeats’ work, including Lough Gill and Ben Bulben.

Vibrant Cities

Ireland’s cities offer a blend of historical charm and modern vibrancy. Each town has its unique character and provides visitors various experiences, from cultural pursuits to lively nightlife.

Dublin

Dublin Sightseeing Tour – Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tours

Dublin, the capital, is a bustling metropolis with a rich history and a vibrant cultural scene. The city’s landmarks include Trinity College, home to the Book of Kells, a beautifully illuminated medieval manuscript. The Guinness Storehouse offers an interactive experience of Ireland’s most famous beer, culminating in a panoramic view of the city from the Gravity Bar. Dublin’s Temple Bar district is renowned for its lively pubs, street performers, and cultural venues.

Cork

Cork, Ireland’s second-largest city, is known for its lively atmosphere and culinary scene. The English Market, a covered market from the 18th century, is a food lover’s paradise, offering local produce, artisanal cheeses, and fresh seafood. Cork is also home to the historic Shandon Bells and St. Anne’s Church, where visitors can ring the bells and enjoy city views from the tower.

Galway

Things to Do in Galway: Explore, Discover, and Fall in Love with Ireland | Galway | Ireland

On the west coast, Galway is a vibrant city renowned for its arts and culture. The city hosts numerous festivals annually, including the Galway International Arts Festival and the Galway Races. Eyre Square, the heart of Galway, is surrounded by lively pubs, shops, and cafes. The city’s proximity to the Aran Islands and Connemara makes it an ideal base for exploring the rugged west of Ireland.

Quaint Villages and Countryside Charm

Ireland’s charm is not limited to its cities. The countryside is dotted with picturesque villages that offer a slower pace of life and a glimpse into traditional Irish culture.

Dingle

Dingle, located on the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry, is a charming seaside town with a strong sense of community. The town is famous for its colourful houses, traditional pubs, and local music scene. Dingle’s resident dolphin, Fungie, has become a local legend, attracting visitors who hope to see him in the harbour. The surrounding peninsula offers stunning coastal scenery, ancient archaeological sites, and opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking and kayaking.

Kilkenny

Kilkenny Castle | Kilkenny | Ireland | Things to Do in Kilkenny | Kilkenny Castle History

In the southeast, Kilkenny is known for its medieval architecture and vibrant arts scene. The city’s landmark is Kilkenny Castle, a beautifully restored 12th-century fortress. The Medieval Mile, a trail that runs through the heart of Kilkenny, features historic buildings, museums, and craft workshops. Kilkenny also hosts the annual Kilkenny Arts Festival, which showcases music, theatre, and visual arts.

Westport

Westport
Westport

Westport, in County Mayo, is a picturesque town with Georgian architecture and a lively cultural scene. The town’s tree-lined streets and colourful buildings create a charming atmosphere. Westport House, a historic mansion in beautiful parkland, offers tours and family-friendly activities. The Great Western Greenway, a 42-kilometre walking and cycling trail, starts in Westport and follows a former railway line route through stunning countryside.

Warm Hospitality

One of the most compelling reasons to visit Ireland is the warmth and friendliness of its people. The Irish are known for hospitality and willingness to share their culture and traditions with visitors. Whether you’re enjoying a pint in a local pub, staying at a family-run bed and breakfast, or chatting with locals at a market, you’ll surely experience the famous Irish “craic” (fun and entertainment).

Culinary Delights

Ireland’s culinary scene has reentered in recent years, focusing on fresh, locally sourced ingredients and traditional recipes with a modern twist. Seafood is a highlight, particularly along the coast, where fresh catches include oysters, mussels, and salmon. Irish beef and lamb are also renowned for their quality and flavour.

Traditional Irish Cuisine

Traditional Irish dishes include hearty fare like Irish stew, made with lamb or beef, potatoes, and vegetables, and colcannon, a comforting mix of mashed potatoes and cabbage or kale. Soda bread, a simple yet delicious bread made without yeast, is a staple at Irish tables.

Modern Irish Cuisine

Ireland’s modern culinary scene is vibrant and innovative, with chefs putting their spin on traditional dishes and incorporating international influences. The country boasts many Michelin-starred restaurants, such as Chapter One, L’Ecrivain in Dublin, and Aniar in Galway. Farm-to-table dining is widespread, with many restaurants sourcing ingredients from local farms and producers.

Whiskey and Beer

Ireland is famous for its whiskey and beer and has a long distilling and brewing history. The country is home to some of the world’s most renowned whiskey distilleries, including Jameson, Bushmills, and the newer Teeling Distillery. Visitors can tour these distilleries to learn about whiskey-making and enjoy tastings. Irish beer, particularly stout, is also celebrated, with Guinness being the most famous example. Craft breweries are on the rise, offering a variety of unique and flavourful beers.

Festivals and Events

Ireland’s calendar has festivals and events celebrating the country’s culture, music, and traditions. These gatherings provide a lively and immersive experience for visitors.

St. Patrick’s Day

St Patrick’s Day Parade | Dublin | Ireland | Things to do in Dublin | St Patrick’s Day Parade Dublin

St. Patrick’s Day celebrated on 17 March, is Ireland’s most famous festival. Parades, music, and festivities occur in towns and cities nationwide, with Dublin hosting the most significant celebrations. The festival honours Ireland’s patron saint and showcases Irish culture worldwide.

Galway International Arts Festival

The Galway International Arts Festival, held in July, is one of Ireland’s leading arts events. The festival features a diverse programme of theatre, music, visual arts, and street performances, attracting artists and audiences from around the globe. The vibrant atmosphere and stunning performances make this a highlight of the Irish cultural calendar.

The Fleadh Cheoil

The Fleadh Cheoil, or Festival of Music, is the world’s largest annual celebration of Irish music, language, song, and dance. Held in different locations each year, it brings together musicians and performers of all ages for a week of competitions, concerts, and sessions. It’s a fantastic opportunity to experience traditional Irish music and dance.

Practical Information

To make the most of your trip to Ireland, here are some practical tips and information:

Getting There

Ireland is well-connected by air, with major international airports in Dublin, Cork, Shannon, and Belfast. Many airlines offer direct flights to Ireland from Europe, North America, and other regions. Ferries also connect Ireland with the United Kingdom and France, providing an alternative mode of travel.

Getting Around

Ireland’s public transport network includes trains, buses, and domestic flights, making travelling between cities and regions easy. Renting a car is a popular option for exploring rural areas and scenic routes at your own pace. Driving is on the left side of the road, and roads are generally well-maintained, though some rural roads can be narrow and winding.

Accommodation

Ireland offers a range of accommodation options, from luxury hotels and boutique guesthouses to budget hostels and charming bed and breakfasts. Staying in a traditional Irish cottage or a historic castle can add a unique touch to your trip. Booking in advance is recommended, especially during peak tourist seasons and major festivals.

Weather

Ireland’s weather is famously unpredictable, with frequent changes throughout the day. It’s best to be prepared for all conditions with layers, waterproof clothing, and comfortable shoes. The climate is generally mild, with temperatures rarely dropping below freezing in winter or rising above 25°C in summer.

Conclusion

Ireland’s allure as the best European destination lies in its captivating landscapes, rich cultural heritage, vibrant cities, and warm hospitality. Whether exploring the wild beauty of the Atlantic coast, immersing yourself in the country’s literary legacy, or simply enjoying the “craic” in a local pub, Ireland offers an unforgettable experience. The blend of ancient traditions, modern vibrancy, breathtaking scenery, and friendly people make Ireland a must-visit destination for any traveller.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *