By Sonia Warder – International Contributor
The country of Ireland is known as the Emerald Isle because of it’s glorious green landscapes and majestic scenery. It’s also packed full of history, culture, wild nature, great food and some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet.
An island in the North Atlantic ocean in north western Europe, Ireland is separated from Great Britain by the Irish Sea, the St George’s Channel and the North Channel. Its climate is mild but changeable and frequent rainfall contributes to the lush vegetation which is an intrinsic part of the dramatically beautiful environment.
Ireland has two official languages: Irish and English, which you’ll often see illustrated on bilingual road signs. There are three World Heritage Sites on the island: the Boyne Valley Tombs, Skellig Michael and the Giant’s Causeway. While the capital city of Dublin on the east coast receives the most tourists, the west and south west are also very popular destinations. Both Dublin and Shannon Airports receive travellers from across the UK, Europe and the USA.
Although the official spoken language of Ireland is Irish, 99% of the population predominantly speak English. A member of the European Union, the currency in Ireland is the Euro.
Here’s a brief guide to why you should visit beautiful Ireland.
There are sites in Ireland which date from the prehistoric era and there is evidence of the existence of humans from as far back as around 10,500 BC. County Mayo’s Céide Fields is the largest neolithic site in the world, while in County Meath the passage tomb of Newgrange is connected with the observance of the winter solstice in December.
Ireland has some of the oldest monasteries in the British Isles including the impressive 6th-century site at Glendalough, County Wicklow in the South East.
The legendary Book of Kells is an incredible medieval manuscript which can be found at Trinity College in Dublin. The Irish language is thought to date to 3-4 AD and remains one of the ten oldest languages still spoken in the world today.
Did you know that nearly 80 million people worldwide share an Irish ancestry? It’s thought that around 33 million Americans (10.5% of the population) have roots that originated in Ireland.
America’s association with Ireland dates back to the 19th century and the Irish Famine, when around 2 million people left the island to escape mass hunger and poverty. Many chose to emigrate to the United States and today, the close bond between the two countries still exists.
John F Kennedy was America’s first Irish-Catholic president, whose great-grandparents hailed from Limerick and County Wexford. On a visit to Ireland in June 1963, he said: “When my great grandfather left here to become a cooper in East Boston, he carried nothing with him except two things: a strong religious faith and a strong desire for liberty. I am glad to say that all of his great-grandchildren have valued that inheritance.”
The 46th President of the United States, Joe Biden, also has strong Irish roots. His great-grandfather, James Finnegan, emigrated from County Louth in 1850. All eight of his great-great-grandparents on his mother’s side was born in Ireland during the first half of the 19th century and on his father’s side, two great-grandparents were also born in Ireland.
The custom of Americans visiting their cultural home in Ireland was formalised in 2013 with ‘The Gathering’, a tourism initiative to encourage people with Irish heritage to visit the country for celebrations throughout the year.
Whether enjoying a traditional session in a pub or a concert at a festival, Ireland stages some of the best music events in the world. Irish traditional music includes drinking songs and ballads, sung unaccompanied or alongside instruments such as Irish fiddle (violin), accordion or bagpipes. Traditional Irish dance music includes reels, hornpipes and jigs. An Irish traditional music session is an informal gathering, often in a pub, when someone starts a tune and those who know it join in by singing or playing an instrument.
Traditional Irish Music continues to be popular today and has influenced many genres such as roots, folk and rock music. Famous Irish rock and pop musicians include U2, Van Morrison, Enya and Westlife.
Food and Drink
Ireland’s food scene delights in its high quality local produce, boasting some of the best beef, pork and lamb in the world. More than just ‘meat and potatoes’, Irish food offers fresh seafood, epic breakfasts, The Boxty (fried potato pancakes) or simply delicious soda bread loaded with rich and creamy butter.
If you’ve heard of Guinness, you’ll know that it’s Ireland’s most famous export. A stout beer that originated in Dublin in 1754, it’s flavour comes from malted barley and roasted un-malted barley. Learn all about the beer-making process at The Guinness Storehouse; a tourist attraction in Dublin which has received over 20 million visitors since 2000. You can of course enjoy a pint at any pub, restaurant or tavern across Ireland. Although Guinness is brewed in almost 50 countries and available in over 120, the version that you will taste in Ireland is far superior (just ask Barack Obama).
Ireland’s natural beauty is truly breath-taking. From dramatic coastal cliffs to National Parks, valleys and lakes, there is an abundance of diverse natural features that have been shaped over millions of years by the ocean, weather, volcanoes and ice age glaciers. It’s wild and rugged beauty influences a variety of adventurers, photographers, film-makers, writers and artists from around the world. Whether you visit the coast, countryside, mountain valley or city, Ireland offers an inspirational and unforgettable experience.
Outdoor adventurers are attracted to Ireland due to it’s impressive landscapes and craggy coastal cliffs. Hikers have scaled the Wicklow Mountains, Croaghaun Mountain on Achill Island and Carrauntoohil, Ireland’s tallest peak. Clear water lakes offer opportunities for canoeing, fishing, sailing and swimming while the forests and National Parks are ideal for walking, cycling and horse riding. There truly is something for everyone, whether you’re a thrill seeker, first time adventurer or a family group.
Latest COVID-19 Travel Update
Yes, you can travel from the US to Ireland right now but entry restrictions can change so check what requirements are in place before you travel. From July 19 2021, It’s expected that Ireland will align with the EU approach to non-essential travel. If the US does not have an ’emergency brake’ applied at EU level, no travel-related testing or quarantine will be necessary if the passenger has valid proof of vaccination. As of June 30 2021, there are no mandatory hotel quarantine requirements for people arriving in Ireland from the US, regardless of vaccination status.