Ireland offers breathtaking, lush green landscapes with beautiful villages, towns and cities. The locals are friendly and welcoming, and they are more than happy to share their home with visitors. Among the many attractions of Ireland is the beauty of Connemara, the mountains of Mourne, the wild countryside of Donegal and several scenic counties, including Cork and Kerry. Northern Ireland features the famous and dramatic Causeway Coast. The country is full of history, including prehistoric ruins and more recent finds. Ireland is also rich in culture, with its art, music and museums to explore. The country has so much to choose from, which are elaborated in this article on the top things Ireland is famous for. Scroll down to find out more.
1. St. Patrick’s Day
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St. Patrick’s Day, or the Feast of St. Patrick to give its full title, is a religious and cultural celebration held in Ireland on March 17th each year. The date marks the day of St. Patrick’s death. St. Patrick is the foremost patron saint of Ireland and is said to have introduced Christianity to the country. The day is also meant to celebrate the culture and heritage of Ireland in general. Public parades are held, along with festivals and the wearing of green clothing and shamrocks. The history behind the green clothing involves leprechauns. It is said they will pinch you if you don’t wear green on St. Paddy’s Day! In fact, the color green makes the wearer invisible to the leprechauns. While the holiday is celebrated extensively in Ireland, other countries have introduced the tradition.
2. The castles
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While Ireland is a relatively small country, it is thought that there are around 30,000 castles here, including restored castles or fortification ruins. The oldest inhabited castle in Ireland is located in Cork and dates back to 1035. The castles have a chequered history, including the Wooden Motte and Bailey Castle built by the Normans and the many huge stone fortresses that can be seen today. The most famous castles of Ireland include Bunratty Castle, a fortified tower house in Co. Clare, which was restored in the 1960s. The Rock of Cashel in Co. Tipperary is said to be where Aenghus the King of Munster was converted to Christianity by St. Patrick back in the 5th century. Dunluce Castle is an abandoned medieval castle in Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland, and it was a film set in the popular HBO series “Game of Thrones.”
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While there are Irish pubs in many countries in the world, the best place to appreciate the real thing is in Ireland itself. These welcoming pubs are known for their unique culture, hearty food, friendly atmosphere, traditional Irish music and Irish sports. It is believed there are more than 10,000 pubs in Ireland, and they are known for bringing all classes of people together in conviviality. Ireland is known for its excellent whiskeys and stouts, including the famous Guinness, a dark, dry stout known for its health benefits.
4. The musical culture
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Traditional Irish and folk music is unique and every song tells a story. Traditional instruments include the Bodhran drum, the fiddle, flute, Uilleann pipes, the harp, guitar and tin whistle, offering a unique sound that is traditional to the country. Many famous musicians play traditional Irish folk music, including The Dubliners, Irish Rovers, Christy Moore, Mary Black and Enya. A group called Clannad from Donegal became famous by bringing New Age together with traditional Irish music. Irish dancing is popular throughout the world, including productions like the River Dance, with its lively music and unique style of dance.
5. Burren National Park
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The Burren is a rocky place and in its southeastern corner lies Burren National Park. The park is known for nature conservation, as well as public access. Among the habitats throughout the park are calcareous grassland, limestone pavement, ash and hazel woodland and scrub, lakes, turloughs, cliffs, fen and petrifying springs. The Burren National Park is an ideal place for hiking in nature on the walking trails surrounded by striking surrounding landscapes, full of herb and floral species. Many species of birds, insects and butterflies can also be seen in the park as well as a number of amphibian species.
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The city of Dublin is the capital of the Republic of Ireland and it’s nestled on the east coast on the River Liffey. The city is well known for its many historic buildings, including St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the 13th-century Dublin Castle. A number of parks are to be found throughout the city, including Phoenix Park, with its Dublin Zoo and the beautifully landscaped St. Stephen’s Green. Visitors can learn the history and culture of the city at the National Museum of Ireland. The city has many shops and restaurants and a visit to Dublin Bay is an enjoyable experience.
7. The shamrock
The shamrock is the unofficial national flower of Ireland and has been for centuries. According to legend, St. Patrick used the shamrock to describe the Holy Trinity while converting non-believers to Christianity in the 4th century. The shamrock is a type of clover and its three leaves are said to stand for faith, hope and love. When there is a fourth leaf, this is believed to be lucky, leading to the coveted four-leafed clover.
The Leprechaun is a fairy in Irish folklore and appears in the form of a small old man. He wears a green cocked hat, a green coat and a leather apron. The Leprechaun is believed to live in hidden places and is a cobbler, crafting shoes. Folklore says the sound of his hammering reveals his location. According to legend, he possesses a hidden crock of gold. If the Leprechaun is captured and threatened with violence, he is said to reveal the hiding place of his gold. However, he usually tricks his captor into looking away and he then vanishes.
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Aneil Lutchman used under CC BY-SA 2.0
Originating in the Arthur Guinness brewery in St. James’s Gate, Dublin, in 1759, Guinness is a dark dry stout. The stout is said to be heart-healthy, as it contains “antioxidant compounds” similar to those found in vegetables and fruit, which are known to slow down the deposit of cholesterol, ultimately reducing the risk of a heart attack. The Guinness stout is one of the most successful alcohol brands in the world, and it is brewed in 50 countries besides Ireland.
10. The Cliffs of Moher
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The Cliffs of Moher are one of the favorite attractions on Ireland’s rugged coastline. Located in Co. Clare on the Wild Atlantic Way, the Cliffs of Moher are a breathtaking sight and have faced the Atlantic waves for millions of years. The cliffs can be visited at the southwestern edge of the Burren region, and they run for some 9 mi (14 km). The surrounding landscapes are equally beautiful and rugged.