Category Archives: Irish Culture

Inismaan (Inis Meáin), Aran Islands

About Inismaan (Inis Meáin), Aran Islands

Inishmaan (Inis Meáin) is the middle island of the famous Aran Islands off the coast of Galway in Ireland. The population of Inishmaan is around 160 which means it is the smallest of the three Aran islands in terms of permanent residents. It is also the quietest of the three Aran Islands in terms of visitors and the most traditional of the three islands. The island was loved by author JM Synge who regularly visited.

The island is about 9km squared. The spoken language in Inishmaan is Irish like the other islands but the residents can usually speak English also. You can get around the island by horse and cart tour, by guided mini bus tour or by walking.

Lisheen, the main village is located just seconds walk from the pier and the beach. You will find a number of restaurants on the island and there is one pub known for its traditional Irish music sessions, Teach Ósta.

Some of the main tourist attractions on the island include –

Dún Chonchúir:  An imposing oval fortress measuring up to 20ft in height. Built on a great height, it has great views of the Island and the other Aran Islands.

Dún Fearbhaí : Another stone fort on the island that overlooks the main pier, this fort is most known for its uncommon shape, it is square as opposed to the normal round shape.

Cill Cheannanach: A well-preserved 8th Century church with excellent views over the Islands.

Teach Synge – John Millington Synge’s Cottage & Museum: The summer home of writer John Millington Synge. Synge spent the summers from 1989 to 1902 here working on his upcoming plays. The cottage has been converted to a small museum in his honour.

Teach Synge - Inismaan- Aran Islands
Teach Synge – Inismaan- Aran Islands

Cathaoir Synge (Synge’s Chair): This was the writer’s favourite place to sit on the island, it has great views overlooking Inishmore Island and the Atlantic.

For more general information on the Aran Islands see our Aran Islands blog post here, or for information on getting to the islands click here. 

Want to book a tour that includes Inishmaan?

Discover Inishmaan for yourself! Contact us today for a quotation including this beautiful island –

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Places to Visit in County Clare

Clare is a county on the west coast of Ireland with a varied terrain ranging from rolling countryside to a wild Atlantic coastline. There is no shortage of places to visit in County Clare from the ancient monuments and castles that are scattered across the county to the majestic Cliffs of Moher.

Places to visit in county Clare Cliffs of Moher
Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher is one of Ireland’s most visited attractions and when you will visit you will see why! The cliffs rise to a height of 120 metres above the Atlantic Ocean and even reach 214 metres at the highest point near O Brien’s Tower, an observation tower built by local landlord Cornellius O’ Brien. The views are stunning and on a clear day you can see the Aran Islands, Galway Bay and even as far as Connemara!

Places to visit in County Clare, Killaloe Ballina-L
Killaloe, Lough Derg
Lough Derg

On the opposite side of County Clare in the East you will find Lough Derg. There are two Lough Derg’s in Ireland, the other one is in Donegal.  Lough Derg in Clare is the second-biggest lake in the Republic of Ireland and the third-biggest on the island of Ireland. It shares is shores with northwest Galway and eastern Tipperary. On the Clare side some nice places to visit along the lake-shore include Killaloe, a picturesque town with nice bars and restaurants and a 13th century cathedral, Scariff and Mountshannon where you can take boat trip across to Holy Island in the centre of the lough.

Places to visit in county Clare Bunratty Folk Village
Bunratty Folk Village
Bunratty Castle & Folk Park

Bunratty Castle is the most complete Castle in Ireland, it is completely furnished on the inside giving the visitor a real sense of what the castle would have looked like for residents in the 15th century. Bunratty Folk Park which surrounds the castle is a reconstructed village where buildings like the rural farmhouse, the village shop and post office and several different types of traditional cottages have been recreated. The folk park gives a fantastic insight into what life was like for different segments of Irish society in the early 19th century. If you are staying in Clare region, think about visiting Bunratty at night to take part in one of their famous medieval banquets. Advance booking is required for this and we can book this for you as part of any tour visiting Clare.

Places to visit in Clare. Craggaunowen Pre-Historic Folk Park, County Clare, Ireland.
Craggaunowen Pre-Historic Folk Park

This attraction is especially good if you have children with you with plenty of parkland to run around in and a collection of unusual animals such as wild boar! On site the primary feature is a reconstructed Crannog; an artificial island on which people built houses, kept animals, and lived in relative security from rival clans, a ring fort. The attraction also has a souterrain which is an underground tunnel used for storage or to hide from would be attackers, a fulacht fia which was used for cooking in the Bronze Age and Craggaunowen Castle, a typical example of a fortified tower house built in 1954.

Places to visit in county Clare The Burren
Black Head, The Burren
The Burren

The Burren refers to the regions of Clare and south Galway which share a unique karst landscape known for its rare species of flora and fauna. The main towns in the Burren region are Ballyvaughan, Kinvara, Tubber, Corfin, Kilfenora and Lisdoonvarna. The Burren National park is located in Corofin, here you will find five marked walking trails that take you through many different fascinating and beautiful habitats, such as limestone grasslands, hazel/ash woodlands and limestone pavements. If you plan to visit the national park, a good place to start is the Clare Heritage Centre in Corofin. In the village of Balllyvaughan consider visiting Ailwee Caves, a cave system consisting of over a kilometre of passages leading into the heart of a mountain.

Places to visit in County Clare, Poulnabrone Dolmen
Poulnabrone Dolmen
Poulnabrone Dolmen

This is perhaps the most photographed attraction in Clare after the Cliffs of Moher. It is situated 8 km south of Ballyvaughan, about 10 km north-west of Kilnaboy. The structure dates from the Neolithic period, and excavations which uncovered the remains of sixteen adults and six children have shed light on burial customs of Clare’s early farming communities

Places to visit in county clare Loop Head Kilkee Cliffs from Dunlicka3
Loop Head Peninsula (at Kilkee)
The Loop Head Peninsula

The Loop Head Peninsula at the very tip of southwest Clare is a scenic coastal drive which takes in the coastal villages of Kilrush, Carrigaholt, Kilbaha, Loop Head, Kilkee and Kilrush – the entire journey is a distance of around 81 km.  Top sights to take in include Loop Head’s main town Kilkee which was frequented by the likes of Charlotte Bronte and Alfred Tennyson and Carrigaholt which has outstanding sea views. One of the most beautiful natural features on the peninsula are the Bridges of Ross on the western side of Ross Bay harbour, looking north to the Atlantic Ocean. At the very tip of the peninsula you will find Loop Head and its famous lighthouse.

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The best way to learn about the places to visit in Clare is to visit yourself! Contact us today for a quotation including some or all of these locations today –

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5 Places to Find Good Pubs in Ireland

1.    Temple Bar, Dublin
Pubs in Ireland,The Temple Bar Pub, Temple Bar
The Temple Bar Pub, Temple Bar

You will find some of the liveliest pubs in Ireland in the Temple Bar district located between Dame Street, Westmoreland Street and Fishamble Street. We always recommend stopping by Temple Bar on your vacation to Ireland, even if you are not into the Irish pub scene, it’s a nice place to walk around during the day or to grab a good pub lunch. At night this area comes alive with tourists and locals alike. There are some great pubs to check out including The Temple Bar, The Porterhouse, Teac Na Ceibe, The Turk’s Head, The Palace Bar, Oliver St.John Gogarty’s and The Auld Dubliner.

2.    Kilkenny City
Kilkenny City
Kilkenny City

At the heart of this medieval city along its narrow cobblestoned streets you will find some fantastic traditional music and some of the best pubs in Ireland! Kilkenny is known for its many annual festivals including the Kilkenny Arts Festival in August and the Cat Laughs Festival in June.  It’s always packed with and Stag Parties (Bachelor Parties) and Hen Parties (Bachelorette) and there is usually a great atmosphere. Be sure to call to Kyteler’s Inn, Langtons, Biddy Early’s and The Hole in the Wall which is housed in the oldest surviving townhouse in Ireland.

3.    Galway City
Traditional Irish Music Session at Tig Cóilí, Galway
Traditional Irish Music Session at Tig Cóilí, Galway

Nicknamed Ireland’s Festival Capital, there is always something going on in Galway and this makes it a great spot for those looking to find a good pub and some friendly Irish hospitality! Perhaps the most famous pub in the city is Tigh Neachtain at the corner of Cross and Quay Street, this pub’s claim to fame is that it has been in business since 1894! Other pubs include Tig Coili, The Quays and the Roisin Dubh. The Crane Bar and Monroe’s have music on most nights.

4.    Dingle, Co. Kerry
Traditional Music Session at Dick Mack's Pub, Dingle
Traditional Music Session at Dick Mack’s Pub, Dingle

What I love the most about the pubs in Dingle is how they have managed to retain a traditional character that other pubs in Ireland have lost to a large extent. In days gone by the local pub served as a general store, water hole, meeting place and anything else that was required!  You can still see this in Dingle – take Foxy John’s for example, this is a hardware store/pub, Dick Mack’s has a small leather shop and in Curran’s Bar you can purchase a cap and a shirt if you like! For some fantastic traditional music try An Droichead Beag, John Benny’s or MacCarthy’s Pub. Another famous pub near Dingle is the South Pole Inn in Annascaul, this was the homestead of our very own artic explorer and famous Kerryman, Tom Crean.

5.    Doolin, Co. Clare
Image Credit Hotel Doolin
Fitzpatrick’s Pub at Hotel Doolin – (Image Credit Hotel Doolin)

If you are looking for great traditional Irish music then a couple of days in Doolin should definitely be on the agenda! The town has been renowned for traditional music for years with four pubs at the epicentre – McDermott’s, McGann’s, Gus O’Connor’s and Fitzpatrick’s pub at Hotel Doolin. There are two fantastic music festivals in the town every year, the Russell Memorial weekend in February and the Doolin Folk Fest in June. While you are there make sure to try the towns own brew, Dooliner Beer!

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The best way to learn about Ireland is to visit yourself. Contact us today for a quotation including some or all of these locations today –

Check out our Pub & Folk Self Drive Tour or our Irish Pub & Folklore Escorted Tour for inspiration!

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The 1916 Easter Rising: Places to Visit & 2016 Centenary Celebrations

By Orla Spencer

The 1916 Easter Rising was an armed rebellion in Ireland during Easter Week by members of the Irish Volunteers led by Irish activists Padraig Pearse & James Connolly. With far superior soldier numbers and weaponry, the British army quickly defeated the rising, and Pearse agreed to surrender on Saturday 29 April 1916. Many of the leaders were executed following the events and so the rebellion in one sense was a failure. It did however succeed in bringing republicanism back to the forefront of Irish politics and support for an independent Ireland continued to rise which eventually led to Ireland’s freedom after the war of Independence.

This year the people of Ireland are getting ready for the 100 year anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising.  The Centenary celebrations will include a formal State celebration to remember the events and the people who made it possible. Some of the best places to visit in Dublin to find out more about the Easter Rising 1916 include;

Collins Barracks, The National Museum of Decorative Arts & History
Collins Barracks, The National Museum of Decorative Arts & History

The National Museum of Ireland at Collins Barracks: The National Museum of Ireland is a fantastic museum featuring decorative arts and Irish history.  Given that the museum is placed in a building that was a former Army Barracks, there is an emphasis on Irish Military History. The 1916 Rising is currently covered in the Soldiers and Chiefs Exhibition but in 2016 a brand new exhibition will open called Proclaiming a Republic: The 1916 Rising, this exhibition will mark the 100 year anniversary of the Rising and is due to open around the 3rd of March 2016.

Kilmainham Gaol - 1916 Easter Rising
Kilmainham Gaol

Kilmainham Gaol: Kilmainham Gaol is one of the biggest unoccupied gaols in Europe and played a central part in the events after the 1916 Rebellion. The Gaol had been closed at the time of the rising but was reopened especially to house the hundreds of men and women arrested for their part in the battle. In early May, fourteen of these prisoners including Padraig Pearse were executed in the stone breakers yard section of the grounds.  Nowadays, attractions at the museum include a major presentation detailing the political and penal history of the prison and its restoration. The museum have not yet released any information on their 1916 Centenary celebration events but it is expected that there will be events to commemorate the rising over the Easter period in 2016 and beyond.

The General Post Office (GPO):  The General Post Office (GPO) in the centre of Dublin’s O’Connell Street is now the headquarters of the Irish Postal Service, An Post. During the Easter Rising, the building was headquarters of the men and women that took part in the battle. At the moment there is a small virtual exhibition in the GPO about the rising but in March 2016 a new visitor centre dedicated to the 1916 Rising is due to be opened called GPO Witness History. The museum will feature special effects, soundscapes and stories of real Irish people.

The General Post Office, Dublin, 1916 Rising Places to Visit
The General Post Office, Dublin

The Royal College of Surgeons, Stephen’s Green & the Shelbourne Hotel: During the Easter Rising, Michael Malin and Countess Markievicz were assigned to Stephen’s Green, a 22 acre public park in the centre of the city. It turned out that St. Stephen’s Green was a vulnerable position as it was overlooked by the Shelbourne Hotel which was occupied by British forces. Seeing this, the Green was abandoned and the volunteers fled to the Royal College of Surgeons. St. Stephen’s Green is still open to the public, there are 3.5km of pathways to walk through and you will find a bust of Countess Markievicz to the South of the central garden.

The Four Courts, Dublin, Places to visit 1916 Rebellion
The Four Courts, Dublin

The Four Courts: The Four Courts is Ireland’s main court of Justice and houses the Supreme Court, the High Court and the Dublin Circuit Court; it is located on Inns Quay in the city centre.  The first battalion of the Dublin Brigade, led by Edward Daly, occupied this building and the surrounding streets during the rebellion.  The building survived the Rising, but was subsequently destroyed during the Civil War in 1922. It was rebuilt and reopened in 1932.

Glasnevin Cemetery: Many of the people that died in the 1916 rebellion and subsequent battles for freedom were interred at Glasnevin Cemetery. The Glasnevin Trust operates tours of the graveyard daily and in 2016 there is a yearlong program of events planned to commemorate the 1916 Rising including re-enactments and special tours.

Glasnevin Cemetery& Museum, 1916 Rising Places to visit
Glasnevin Cemetery & Museum

Dublin Castle & City Hall: The uprising began at Dublin Castle which was the centre of British Rule in Ireland. The rebellions failed to capture City Hall however they succeeded in occupying City Hall which is situated beside Dublin Castle.

City Hall, Dublin, Places to visit 1916 Easter Rebellion
City Hall, Dublin

City Hall is open to the public all year round and there is a permanent multi-media exhibition which traces the history of Dublin from 1170 to the present. There is also a new exhibition which tells the story of Dublin’s firefighters during the 1916 Rising.  In addition the original copy of the 1916 Proclamation which has been recently preserved will be on display at City Hall from Easter 2016.

Dublin Castle (View from Chester Beatty Library Roof), 1916 Easter Rising Places to See
Dublin Castle (View from Chester Beatty Library Roof)

The grounds of Dublin Castle are free to explore, as are the Chester Beatty Library and the Revenue Museum which are located within the grounds. Access to the State Apartments and the Chapel Royal are by guided tour only and tickets can be purchased on site.

The Royal Hospital, Kilmainham (The National Museum of Modern Art): The building which now houses the National Museum of Modern Art was at the time of the 1916 Rising, the headquarters of the British Army. Most exhibitions at the museum are free of charge, unless otherwise specified. Other facilities include a café, bookshop and free guided tours of the exhibitions.

The Royal Hospital, Kilmainham (The National Museum of Modern Art), 1916 Rising Places to Visit
The Royal Hospital, Kilmainham (The National Museum of Modern Art)

Would you like to explore the locations associated with the 1916 uprising yourself? Then get in touch with us today and we can handle all the arrangements!

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‘It’s More than a game, It’s who you are’…Watch 60 Minutes to learn more about Hurling!

Hurling is an outdoor team sport of ancient Irish origin, managed by the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA). It is enjoyed around Ireland by young and old and the bigger games are televised on national TV. There is huge skill involved with the game which players master from a young age, starting as young as 5 or 6.

The popular US TV show 60 Minutes, will share the sport of hurling to the American nation on Thursday the 6th October. The interview features President Michael D Higgins and former players including Donal Óg Cusack who says  ‘It’s More than a game, It’s who you are’. The full programme will be broadcast on Tuesday 6 October.

Would you like to experience hurling as part of your Ireland vacation? Then get in touch with us today and we can handle all the arrangements!

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A Couple of days in the Boyne Valley

By Orla Spencer

The Boyne Valley in the counties of Meath and Louth contains some of Ireland’s most historic visitor attractions. It is very easy to get around the Boyne Valley by car and there are plenty of activities and sites to see to keep all of the family amused! Here is a short summary of some of our favourites;

Brú na Bóinne; Newgrange & Knowth

The Brú na Bóinne visitor centre is where you can gain access to the passage tombs of Newgrange and Knowth. The centre itself contains informative interpretive displays and viewing areas.


Newgrange dates back to 3,200 B.C making it older than Stonehenge and even the ancient pyramids of Egypt! At dawn on December 21st each year a ray of sunlight enters the tomb and lights up the inside chamber. To gain access on this special day there is an annual draw. It’s free to enter with your ticket so make sure to put your entry in the box! Knowth can also be accessed from Brú na Bóinne. What is special about Knowth is that you can climb up on top of the tomb and see fantastic views of the Boyne Valley. The inside of Knowth is artificially lit and makes for an interesting snap shot!

Our advice is to make Brú na Bóinne the first stop on your Boyne Valley tour and allow plenty of time for your visit. The site gets extremely busy and you may have to wait some time before you can visit the tombs. Also if you have 15 people or more in your group, you need to pre-book well in advance. If you’ve booked your package with the Irish Tourism Group, we can make that booking for you.

The Battle of the Boyne Site –

Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre

If you are interested in Irish military history then a trip to the Battle of the Boyne Site is not to be missed! The Battle of the Boyne on the 1st of July 1690 was one of the most significant military events in Ireland’s history. King William the 3rd’s victory at the Battle of the Boyne was the turning point in James the 2nd’s unsuccessful attempt to regain the Crown and ultimately ensured the continuation of Protestant supremacy in Ireland. The visitor centre and museum give a good overview of the events of the battle and its lead up and if you happen to visit on a Sunday (11am to 4.45pm in June, July & August) you can witness some very interesting re-enactments!

Trim Castle & Living History Museum

Trim Living History Museum

Trim castle is the largest and best preserved Anglo Norman castle in Ireland. Over hundreds of years Trim was adapted to suit the occupant’s needs and changing political climate however the main fabric of the building hasn’t changed much since Anglo-Norman times. Access to the castle is by guided tour only, the tour is wonderful but we recommend taking the tour only if you are not afraid of heights! There are quite a few steps to climb to get to the top but when you do, the views are spectacular!

Just down the road from the castle you can easily find Trim living history museum. Here a group of dedicated volunteers take you through the history of the town from life in Anglo Norman times to the making of the film Braveheart! Here you may be able to try on a suit of armour, feel the weight of a sword or practice your mace swing!

Saint Peter’s Church & Oliver Plunkett’s Head

St. Peter's Church Drogheda
St. Peter’s Church Drogheda

St. Peter’s Church one of the finest Gothic Revival Churches in Ireland and is most famous for housing the shrine of St. Oliver Plunkett. Plunkett was born in County Meath and was appointed Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All-Ireland in 1669. He was arrested in 1679 on false charges of plotting to bring a French Army into the country, and of organising Irishmen to have rebellion. His remains were recovered and given to the Sienna Nuns of the Dominican Convent at Drogheda and here they remained. Thousands of people come to visit the church each year, if you visit yourself, please be quite and respectful as this church is still in use.

Old Mellifont Abbey

Old Mellifont Abbey
Old Mellifont Abbey

You can do a self-guided visit of Old Mellifont Abbey yourself but we recommend that you join a guided tour which can be arranged at no additional charge (May-September) at the museum reception. Your guide will take you through the various histories of the site from its origins as Ireland’s first Cistercian monastery, through to the period that it was owned and lived in by the Moore Family. During this time, the building played a pivotal role being the location where the Treaty of Mellifont was signed. This treaty changed the course of Ireland’s history by laying the foundations for the division of Ireland’s Northern counties from the South.

Get in Touch-

The best way to learn about Ireland is to visit yourself. Contact us today for a quotation today –


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Happy Halloween!

By Orla Spencer

Halloween - Samhain
Halloween – Samhain

A lot of people in Ireland believe that Halloween came from the pagan festival of Samhain which was celebrated in Ireland and other Celtic countries. Samhain was the time when the veil between the land of the living and the dead was at its thinnest, allowing the spirits and the dead to come into our world. To celebrate Samhain, Celtic Druids built huge bonfires, people gathered harvest foods and sacrificed animals.

We are glad things have changed a bit!

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