Category Archives: Self Drive Tours Ireland

7 Things to do around Sligo

By Orla Spencer

Situated on the Wild Atlantic Way, in the northwest of Ireland, Sligo is perhaps most well-known for its connection with the famous Irish poet and playwright, William Butler Yeats. The town is perfectly situated to explore the surrounding countryside and the region that gave inspiration to many of Yeats’ most famous works.  Here are some suggestions for places to visit and things to do while you are in the area –

See Benbulben/Benbulben Forrest Walk

Benbulben Sligo, Ireland
Benbulben Sligo

Benbulben, one of Sligo’s and indeed one of Ireland’s most famous mountains can be seen from many different angles and locations around Sligo.  Fantastic views of the mountain can be enjoyed in particular from the Benbulben (Gortarowey) Looped Walk. The entire loop is about 4KM and there is a nice track which you can follow through the trees.

Take a Seaweed Bath!

Seaweed Bath

People have been enjoying seaweed baths in Ireland for centuries and Strandhill in Sligo is famous for them! Voya Seaweed Baths is situated on the sea front of Strandhill, right beside its beautiful sandy beach. Although the smell won’t be to everyone’s tastes and it feels a bit slimy, these features are not permanent and the bath will leave your skin feeling wonderful! In addition to the skin benefits, studies have shown that the vitamins and iodine in seaweed helps to improve circulatory complaints and eliminates toxins from the body.

Visit Parke’s Castle

Parke's Castle, County Leitrim, Ireland
Parke’s Castle, County Leitrim

Parke’s Casle is about 20 minutes’ drive from Sligo Town, it’s actually just over the border in County Leitrim. Charmingly located on the shores of Lough Gill, the castle was once the home of Robert Parke and his family. The region was previously ruled by Brian O’Rourke who assumed leadership of his family by assassinating his older brothers. O’Rourke himself was hung, drawn and quartered after he sheltered survivors of the Spanish Armada, upsetting the monarchy in England. The Castle has now been faithfully restored using authentic materials and traditional craftsmanship and tours of property will give you an insight into what life was like in Ireland at the time.

Take a Boat Cruise on Lough Gill (& see the Lake Isle of Innisfree)

Lough Gill, County Leitrim, Ireland
Lough Gill, County Leitrim

The Rose of Innisfree is moored right beside Parke’s Castle and they do a wonderful waterbus tour of Lough Gill. Lough Gill inspired a number of poems by William Butler Yeats, most famously, the Lake Isle of Innisfree which you will see up close on this one hour tour. Catch a glimpse Church island which has the ruins of a 13th century monastic settlement. You will also see Beezie’s Island which is named after its sole resident, Beezie Gallagher who lived on the island alone until she died in 1951.

Take a Snap Beside Glencar Waterfall

Glencar Waterfall, County Leitrim, Ireland
Glencar Waterfall, County Leitrim

Glencar Waterfall is located in Glencar County Leitrim, about 15 minutes from Sligo and about 15 minutes from Parke’s Castle, so you could visit both attractions easily in one day. The waterfall is particularly impressive after rain and can be viewed from a short wooded walk. There are plenty of lakeside tables and benches in the area, making it a lovely place to enjoy a picnic.

 

Visit Rosses Point

Rosses Point, Sligo, Ireland
Rosses Point, Sligo

At the entrance to Sligo Bay, you will find the stunning coastal village of Rosses Point with its spectacular long sandy beach. Yeats and his family would have spent their summers in Rosses point, staying in Elsinore House which is now in ruins. In this little village you can enjoy good food especially seafood, some fantastic little pubs and sometimes great traditional Irish music. The village enjoys fantastic views over Sligo Bay and there are some lovely seafront walks to enjoy.

Visit Drumcliffe & Yeats’ Grave

Drumcliffe, Sligo, Ireland, Yeats' Grave
Drumcliffe, Yeats’ Grave

Drumcliffe is 8 km north of Sligo town and it is best known as the final resting place of W.B Yeats. In the church yard, you will find Yeats’ grave marked with the simple inscription ‘cast a cold eye on life, on death, horseman pass by’. Yeats instructed that these words be placed on his grave stone and that there be no marble or conventional phrases on it. The graveyard also contains a high cross and a 6th century monastery.

Get in Touch-

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 –

USA & Canada1877 298 7205

UK FreeFone0800 096 9438

International+353 69 77686

http://www.irishtourism.com/

 

Ireland’s Sunny South East

By Orla Spencer

irelands-sunny-south-east

Ireland’s Sunny South East is made up of the counties of Carlow, Kilkenny, South-Tipperary, Waterford and Wexford. Is the South East sunnier than other parts of Ireland you might ask? Well apparently so! According to Ireland’s National Meteorological Service, Met Eireann – the extreme southeast gets an average of more than 7 hours a day in early summer when the rest of Ireland gets between 5-6.5 hours! This fact aside, Ireland’s South East has a treasure trove of interesting places to visit and here are some of them-

Wexford-

Wexford is well known for its annual Opera Festival, which has gained reputation internationally for introducing audiences to previously neglected works. Other places of interest include the Ring of Hook, a spectacular drive around the Hook Peninsula with the oldest operating lighthouse in the world at its tip! History and heritage seekers will love the Irish National Heritage Park, here trails run through replicas of Stone-Age to Early Christian and Viking dwellings giving an interactive insight into Ireland’s varied history. The ultimate Irish Castle experience can be found in Wexford’s Johnstown Castle– a remarkable Gothic Revival Mansion and in New Ross discover The Dunbrody, a full scale replica of a ‘coffin-ship’ used to take those suffering the Irish Famine to more hopeful lands.

Wexford Opera Festival
Wexford Opera Festival

Waterford –

The City of Waterford has strong links with the Vikings. The name Waterford itself is  believed to derive from the old Norse word ‘Vedrarfjiordr’ and in what is known as the Viking Triangle you will find a number of interesting museums; Reginald’s Tower which has an exhibition that displays a superb collection of historic and archaeological artefacts, The Bishops Palace built in 1743 by renowned architect Richard Castle and the Medieval Museum which includes numerous well preserved medieval structures, including the beautiful Chorister’s Hall. Before you leave Waterford city we recommend a stop at the wonderful Waterford Crystal Museum where you can see one of Ireland’s most famous exports in the making. Further southeast, Dunmore East is a pleasant fishing village and popular seaside retreat. The heritage town of Lismore is also within easy reach and amongst the many interesting period buildings in the town you will find Lismore Castle and St. Carthages Cathedral.

Bishop Palace Museum, Waterford
Bishop Palace Museum, Waterford

Kilkenny-

If you are interested in sport at all try to take in a Hurling match! Kilkenny is most famous for its fantastic hurlers, having won the All-Ireland Hurling Championship 35 times! Kilkenny City itself is one of Ireland’s busiest, a popular destination for hen and stag parties and a popular family holiday destination. Sites of Interest include Kilkenny Castle ancestral home to the Butler family, Saint Canice’s Cathedral where a climb to the top of its adjacent round tower offers fantastic views of the city. Further north check out Castlecomer Discovery Park which as an interesting coal-mining museum and craft yard. In Thomastown you will find the extensive ruins of  Jerpoint Abbey and Jerpoint Park, Ireland’s best example of an abandoned 12th Century Medieval Town.

St. Canices Cathedral, Kilkenny
St. Canices Cathedral, Kilkenny

South Tipperary –

Tipperary is rich in historic sites of interest; The Rock of Cashel which rises dramatically above Cashel town was once an important symbol of kingship and religious power. In the early 5th century it was the seat of the Kings of Munster and was famously presided over by Brian Boru. Later the fortress was given to the church and now there are many religious monuments to visit including the hall of the vicar’s choral and the ruin of an ornate gothic cathedral. Close by in the heritage town of Cahir, Cahir Castle can be visited. The castle retains so much of its original character that it has been the set for many films including Excalibur. The renovated interior of the castle includes a large great hall decorated with authentic furniture.

Cahir Castle, Tipperary
Cahir Castle, Tipperary

Carlow –

Carlow town is picturesquely situated where the River Barrow and the Burrin River meet. At one point in time it was believed that there were four lakes here, hence the Irish word Ceathar Loch, or Four Lakes. A small county, Carlow has few attractions relative to other counties in Ireland; however the few available are well worth a visit. Borris House in South Carlow is the ancestral home of the MacMurrough Kavanaghs, who were once kings of Leinster. Borris House’s past can be traced back to the Royal families of ancient Ireland and a tour of the house covers all aspects of this fascinating history.

Altamont Gardens, Carlow
Altamont Gardens, Carlow

One of Ireland’s newest museums, Carlow County Museum gives a fascinating insight into the social and industrial history of Carlow. Exhibits include a wonderful 19th century hand carved pulpit from Carlow Cathedral.  If gardens is your thing, be sure to stop by the Altamont Gardens, on a 100 acre estate, these gardens are often considered as Ireland’s most romantic!

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Top Outdoorsy activities to do in Ireland with Kids

By Orla Spencer

Wondering what kind of outdoor experience there is in Ireland for kids and families to enjoy? Then look no further!
With plenty of green fields, national parks, wildlife reserves and farms, there is no shortage of outdoorsy places to visit with the kids in Ireland! Some outdoorsy suggestions;

1-Visit one of our Fantastic Zoo’s or Wildlife Reserves

We’ve got a few Zoo’s and Wildlife Park to choose from;

Dublin Zoo, Dublin: in the Phoenix Park in South Dublin is the biggest wildlife reserve in Ireland. Spanning over 28 hectares of Phoenix Park, it is divided into areas named World of Cats, World of Primates, The Kaziranga Forest Trail, Fringes of the Arctic, African Plains, Birds, Reptiles, Plants, City Farm and Endangered Species.

Tayto Park, Meath: If you know the Irish, then you know that we have a bit of an obsession with Tayto Crisps! A number of years ago Tayto developed their own family fun Park and Nature reserve. I have been here a few times with my family and I have to say, it’s a great day out. They’ve got lots of animals and birds to see including Owls, Cranes, Geese, Goats, Cattle, Sheep, Pigs, Mountain Lions, Leopards and Tigers. They also have several playgrounds, one of Ireland’s longest zip wires, a sky-walk and climbing wall. Please note, some things require additional cover charge.

Fota Wildlife Park, Cork: The Fota Island estate was the home of the Smith-Barry family for about 800 years until it was sold to the University of Cork in 1975. The wild-life park opened to the general public in the summer of 1983 and now welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Animals include Tigers, White-faced Saki, Gibbon, Giraffe, Lemurs, Ostrich, Meerkat, Zebra and Kangaroo. The Park also has a great playground.

Fota Wildlife Park, Cork
Fota Wildlife Park, Cork

2- Go Farming!

Ireland is known for its ample green fields and prosperous farming community. Many farms are now open to the public and they are a great day out for families. Some of our favourites include;

Kissane’s Sheep Farm, Kerry: Kissane’s is a working sheep farm with more than 1000 working mountain sheep and hundreds of lambs. The family have two border Collies who expertly move the sheep where the farmer requires them. Sheepdog demonstrations as well as sheep shearing demonstrations are done regularly for guests.

Cows!
Cows!

Rathbaun Farm, Galway: A visit to Rathbaun typically consists of watching the family’s trusty sheepdog ted rounding up the sheep, followed by a sheep shearing demonstration and time feeding the cute baby lambs! Who can resist some time with a cute baby lamb?!

Stonehall Farm, Limerick: Stonehall is located in Curraghchase Forest Park (which has lovely forest walks by the way) in county Limerick. You will find an array of exotic and domestic animals on the farm including Ostriches, Emus, Llamas, Alpacas a variety of Birds of Prey and the domestic animal breeds including, Sheep, Ponies Ducks and Geese. They also have some great kids play facilities and a nice picnic area.

Geese
Geese

3- Check out some of our Cool Caves!
Ireland’s Karst Lanscape has provided us with a vast system of Caves throughout the country and many of them are open to the Public. Some of our favourites for families include;

Crag Caves, Kerry: This 350m wonder offers an amazing insight into how caves are formed. Here you will find fantastic examples of pillars, stalagmites, stalactites, curtains, flowstones and straws that have been changing over the last 15,000 years. Crag Caves also have a great indoor and outdoor play area for kids and recently began to offer Falconry demonstrations where Eagles, Hawks, Falcons and Owls can be seen up close and personal!

Crag Caves
Crag Caves, Kerry

Mitchelstown Caves, Tipperary: On a guided tour of Michelstown Caves you witness caverns as high as 31 meters high, stalactites, stalagmites and one of Europe’s finest columns; the Tower of Babel.

Mitchelstown Caves, Tipperary
Mitchelstown Caves, Tipperary

Doolin Caves, Clare: We like Doolin Caves for families because it’s got a great Cave system featuring the longest stalactite in the Northern Hemisphere but also because they have a great nature trail that kids love! The trail features goats, cattle, sheep and chickens and is included in the cave entry price.

Aillwee Caves & Birds of Prey Centre, Clare: A tour through the caves in Aillwee caves entails a 30 minute stroll through their beautiful caverns, with internal bridges across the caves chasms witnessing unusual formations and by a really cool underground waterfall! On site, one can also find a Birds of prey centre with Eagles, Falcons, Hawks, and Owls from all over the world.

4- Visit some of our Free Entry National Parks
There are 6 National Parks in Ireland, they are all free entry, offer great walks or bike riding opportunities and are especially great for sunny days! Some of our top park pics include;

Killarney National Park, Kerry: This Park contains many features of national and international importance such as the native oakwoods and yew woods, and a herd of native red deer! The Park is great for walks and cycling and bikes can be rented from a few places in Killarney town. Do check out Muckross House if you get the opportunity.

Killarney National Park Deer
Killarney National Park Deer

The Burren National Park, Clare: Situated in the south-eastern corner of the Burren, this park includes great examples of Limestone Pavements that are almost moonlike in appearance. The Burren region is internationally famous for its unusual landscape and unique flora, found here are certain species of flowering plants which although rare elsewhere are abundant in the Burren.  Even more remarkably they all survive in a landscape that appears to be composed entirely of rock!

Connemara National Park, Galway: This Park covers around 2,957 hectares of rocky mountains, bogland, heaths, grass and woodland. The park contains many wildlife, flora and fauna. Kids love the heard of Connemara Pony that can be seen here. Although typically a domestic animal, this pony is very much part of the Connemara countryside.

Connemara National Park
Connemara National Park

Wicklow Mountains National Park, Wicklow: The beautiful open vistas are broken up only by forestry plantations and the picturesque winding roads. Fast-flowing rivers descend into the deep lakes of the wooded valleys and continue their course into the surrounding lowlands. The most visited area is the attractive Glendalough Valley where the ancient monastic settlement of St. Kevin is located.

Get in Touch-
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 –
USA & Canada1877 298 7205
UK FreeFone0800 096 9438
International+353 69 77686
www.irishtourism.com

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Ireland’s (Off the Beaten Track) Romantic Spots

By Orla Spencer

When you ask about Romantic places in Ireland, most people will say the old favourites; the Ring of Kerry, The Cliffs of Moher etc. etc. and these are truly remarkable places but if you are looking for a romantic escape in Ireland with less crowds, then check out our top five ‘off the beaten track’ romantic places!

1. The Loop Head Peninsula, Clare
Loop Head is a finger of land pointing out to sea at the most westerly point of County Clare. Here you will find panoramic cliff views, abundant local restaurants, a great selection of water activities, and plenty of quiet spots to share a romantic moment. Visit the picturesque fishing village of Carrigaholt, Kilbaha, Cross and Loop Head’s main town; Kilkee which was frequented by Charlotte Bronte and Alfred Tennyson to name but a few. The most outstanding natural feature on a trip to Loop Head is the Bridges of Ross on the western side of Ross Bay harbour, looking north to the Atlantic Ocean.

Loop Head Lighthouse, Loop Head
Loop Head Lighthouse, Loop Head

2. Sheep’s Head Way, West Cork
The Sheep’s Head Way runs from the tip of the unspoilt Sheep’s Head peninsula to the early Christian settlement at Gougane Barra. You might decide to take the ferry from Bantry town to Whiddy Island where stunning views back across the bay. Here you will find walking routes, and historic sites, the perfect place for a quiet romantic stroll. Also on the Sheep’s Head Way you will find a traditional spot for marriage proposals – The Marriage Stone at Caherurlagh where at one time simply passing your hand through the hole in the stone and holding your loved one’s hand on the other side, was enough to see you married! Finally we recommend taking a romantic picnic at Carriganass Castle. This location was a key staging post in the famous ‘Flight of the Earls’, the castle is a prominent and picturesque ruin overlooking a lovely waterfall.

Sheeps Head Way
Sheeps Head Way

3. An Blascaod Mór, Kerry (Great Blasket Island, Kerry)
Is there anything more romantic than a stroll on a deserted island? We don’t think so. This island sits about 2km from the mainland at Dunmore Head on the Dingle Peninsula, 13KM west of Dingle Town, a ferry can be taken from the closest town, Dunquin. The island was inhabited until the 1950’s when the last residents were transferred to the mainland. The island is unique because it has produced a remarkable number of gifted writers, the most famous of which being Peig Sayers. On the island you will find fantastic views and a number of abandoned buildings including the house of Peig Sayers.

Great Blasket Island
Great Blasket Island

4. Inis Meáin (Inishmaan, Aran Islands, County Galway)
Inishmaan is the middle of the three main Aran Islands in Galway Bay on the west coast of Ireland. Here you will find narrow winding roads, sheltered paths and quiet trails across the small island, karst hillsides at the south of the island and deserted sandy beaches on the north shore. Visit the oval fort of Dún Chonchúir and the church of Mary Immaculate with its beautiful stained glass windows by the famous Harry Clarke Studios. This enchanting island was visited often by the distinguished playwright John Millington Synge. It is the subject of numerous books, and proves continually to be of inspiration to visual, dramatic, literary and other artists.

Inis Meain, Aran Islands
Inis Meain, Aran Islands

5. Hook Peninsula, Wexford
The Ring of Hook peninsula is dotted with ancient ruins, including castles, abbeys and forts and beautiful beaches. The drive encompasses rugged coastline and stunning views of the Saltee Islands and the fishing village of Dunmore East in Waterford. At the tip of the peninsula you will find Hook Lighthouse, the oldest working lighthouse in the world. We recommend a visit to Loftus Hall which overlooks the Three Sisters Estuary, the building is famed as being the most haunted building in Ireland.

Hook Lighthouse, Wexford
Hook Lighthouse, Wexford

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 –

USA & Canada1877 298 7205

UK FreeFone0800 096 9438

International+353 69 77686

www.irishtourism.com

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Tips for Driving in Ireland

By Orla Spencer

Left is the Best!
I will tell you this because it might help, even though I know that I will get stick for it in the office! When I was learning to drive here in Ireland, I would say to myself ‘left is the best for driving’ every time I got into the car, as I was petrified that I would drive on the wrong side of the road. So remember my silly rhyme while you are in Ireland to remember that we drive on the left!

If you are someone like my fiend Una who can’t remember her left from her right, do what she does and make an L shape with your index finger and thumb! (If it looks like an L, then that’s your left!)

Tips for not getting lost in Ireland

Connemara Signposts
Connemara Signposts

Ireland is known for its spectacular scenery, its wild Atlantic Ocean views and majestic mountain passes. Ireland is not known however for its great directional signage! Some roads have many, more have too many (image) others have a few signs to tell you where to go and then some roads simply don’t have anything! This is something we complain about frequently and improvements have been made, but we have a long way to go before we are up to the standards of the rest of Europe. There isn’t anything you or I can do about that now, so the best thing to do, is prepare yourself!

Buy a good road-map; the bookshops at the airport usually have up-to-date maps. Check the publication date and buy the one that was printed most recently.

Plan out your route in advance and have a general idea of where you need to go. We provide a detailed itinerary with our self-drive tours of Ireland that usually has a number of ways to get to your destination, and this should help you plan.

If you want to make things very easy for yourself, invest in GPS before you go. For more information and prices see: www.irishtourism.com

The Dreaded Roundabout!
We know roundabouts are scarce in the United States & Canada but in Ireland prepare to encounter quite a few! Don’t be scared though, roundabouts are generally harmless and easy to navigate once you are familiar with them.

The Dreaded Roundabout!
The Dreaded Roundabout!

The Rules –

The first thing to do is be prepared. Know where you are going so that you can get into the correct lane.

Always Yield to traffic approaching from your right and traffic that is already on the roundabout.

Lanes –
• Roundabouts in Ireland can have several exits and you need to be aware of the lane you should be in depending on which exit you are taking.
• Generally a good rule of thumb is if you are taking any exit from the 6 o’clock to the 12 o’clock position, approach in the left-hand lane.
• If taking any exit between the 12 o’clock to the 6 o’clock positions, approach in the right-hand lane

 

**Read the signs on approach, sometimes the lane rules above are changed and signposts approaching the roundabout will tell you where to go***

Roundabout with lines

Indicating –
• If taking the 1st exit left you indicate left while you are in the lane to turn left
• If taking the 2nd exit left: enter the roundabout in the left-hand lane but do not indicate until you have passed the 1st exit, then indicate a left turn and leave at the 2nd exit.
• If you are going straight on, do not indicate left until you have passed the exit before the one you intend to take.
• If turning right by the 3rd or any subsequent exit, get in the correct lane and indicate right. As you pass the exit before the one you intend to leave by, indicate a left turn and, when the way is clear, move to the other lane and take the desired exit

Tips for Driving on Narrow Irish Roads

Gap of Dunloe, Kerry
Gap of Dunloe, Kerry

You will find some of Ireland’s best scenery as you drive our narrow country roads. Here are some things to be aware of as you travel;

Extra care needs to be taken when there is no white line in the centre of the road. You need to use your personal judgement, sometimes there is enough space for two cars at either side of the road and sometimes there will only be space for one car and one of you will need to give right of way. Either way, drive slowly, especially around bends where there may be oncoming traffic, cyclists or walkers.

Narrow Road Valentia Island
Narrow Road Valentia Island

Where there is not enough space for two cars you will notice lay by areas at the side of the road like the one pictured above. If the lay by is closest to you on your left, you would pull in here and leave the other car pass you by. If the layby is behind you, you may have to reverse. If there is no layby, you may need to use the entrance to a house or farm. Take your time, use your mirrors and be very careful. Watch out for signs in the area telling you want to do.

Remember, if you are nervous driving on our very narrow roads, you can always pre-book a day long coach tour in some of our top driving routes like the Dingle Peninsula & Ring of Kerry. For more information, please contact us. 

Parking in Ireland

Pay attention to the signs where you are located. Don’t park beside a double yellow line and don’t park in a yellow grid box.

Where possible choose a car park, we have plenty. Watch for signs telling you how to pay. Sometimes you need to purchase a parking disk (just ask where in the closest shop) and sometimes you need to pay in advance and display a parking ticket.

If you have a disability, European Parking Cards (also known as Disabled Parking Permits) can be used by disabled people within the 25 member states of the EU. If you are visiting Ireland or are from outside of the EU you should bring your Disabled Parking Permit/European Parking Card with you. Your Disabled Parking Permit/European Parking Card should be visibly displayed in your parked car.

Irish Driving Customs
If you meet a stranger coming towards you on a quiet country road and they give you a pleasant wave, don’t be alarmed! We are a friendly bunch and it not uncommon to wave at total strangers!

If you pull into the slow lane to let a car pass you out, if they flash their back lights this means ‘hey, thanks a lot’! If you see someone flashing their lights as you drive towards them it means either there is some kind of danger nearby or the Gardaí are checking for speeding cars up ahead! (By the way, flashing your lights to tell people Gardaí are nearby is illegal so don’t do it yourself).

Des Bishop does a good comedy routine about Ireland’s driving communications. Check it out here:

Some handy websites for more information on driving in Ireland –
http://www.citizensinformation.ie

http://www.rsa.ie/

http://www.theaa.ie/

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5 Great Things to do in Belfast

If you have a day to spend in Belfast on your Ireland vacation, here’s what we recommend that you see!

If you have booked a trip to Southern Ireland, don’t rule out a day trip to Belfast City. Belfast City can be reached easily from Dublin’s Connolly station by train, the trip will take in the region of two hours each way.

Belfast at Night
Belfast at Night

Belfast gained a bad name because of the frequent gun and bomb attacks in the city during ‘The Troubles’ from the 1960’s to the 1990’s. Today, the remnants of Belfast’s troubled past make it an interesting destination for tourists from all over world. One of the first questions people often ask us is; ‘Is it safe?’ We always give the same answer; Belfast is as safe now as any other City. Stick to the main tourist areas and you will be fine. Use your own common sense and at night don’t hang around on your own. We also advise not to ask the locals about the troubles, it is often something that people don’t like to discuss and may cause offence. Finally, avoid the city on the 12th of July due to traffic and other transportation disruption as a result of Orange Order parades.

5 of Belfast’s must see attractions, the easiest way to see all of these is by taking the hop on – hop off bus;

1. Titanic Belfast
Titanic Belfast is one of Belfast’s newest and most popular museums, built on the site of the former Harland & Wolff shipyard where the Titanic was originally constructed. Galleries reconstruct scenes from Belfast at the time of its construction, the launch, the maiden voyage, the sinking and the aftermath. This museum is extremely interactive, with technology bringing each period to life. We advise pre-booking tickets as the centre does get extremely busy.

Titanic Belfast
Titanic Belfast

 

Titanic Shipyard
Titanic Shipyard

2. Crumlin Road Gaol & Courthouse

The Crumlin Road Gaol dates back to 1845 and closed in 1996. Today you can enjoy a guided tour of the prison and hear about the history of the site from when women and children were held within its walls through to the political segregation of republican and loyalist prisoners. The highlight of this tour for many is the fascinating Condemned Man’s Cell and also the walk via the underground tunnel that was used to connect the gaol to the Crumlin Road Courthouse.

3. Belfast Murals
The Belfast murals have become symbols of Northern Ireland, depicting the religious and political divisions. The themes of the murals often reflect what is important to a particular community. The best examples can be seen on Shankill and Falls Road.

Bobby Sands Mural by Glynnis 2009 Flckr
Bobby Sands Mural by Glynnis 2009 Flckr

4. The Ulster Museum & Botanic Gardens
The Ulster Museum, located in the Botanic Gardens features collections of fine art, archaeology, ethnography, local history, industrial history, botany and geology. Admission to this museum is free.

5. St. George’s Market
If you visit Belfast on a Friday to Sunday, a visit to St. George’s Market is a must. Friday morning is the best time to visit as you will find about 250 market stalls selling a variety of products including antiques, books, clothes, fruit, vegetables and fish. The market was built between 1890 and 1896, making it one of the oldest markets in operation.

Get in Touch-
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 –

USA & Canada1877 298 7205
UK FreeFone0800 096 9438
International+353 69 77686
www.irishtourism.com

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5 Things to See on the Dingle Peninsula

By Orla Spencer

Our top tips on what to take in on a day trip around the Dingle Peninsula

The Dingle Peninsula is slightly less travelled than the adjacent Ring of Kerry but in our opinion, is every bit as beautiful. Our top 5 places to check out on the Dingle Peninsula include;

1. Dingle Town
Dingle town is a colourful marine town; it is full of history, renowned for traditional Irish music and has fantastic food to cater for every taste and requirement. Ireland’s friendliest dolphin, Fungie is resident in Dingle Harbour and a boat trip to see him up close is delightful. Dingle Ocean World in Dingle town is also a lovely place to visit; they have a great selection of sea life including the newly installed Penguin display.

2. Ventry
Ventry is a small village less about 7km west of Dingle. Ventry has one of Ireland’s best beaches, a golden sandy paradise that stretches for five miles. Sports enthusiasts will love Ventry as it was the home town of the GAA legend Páidi Ó Sé and the pub which he owned and ran can be visited in the village.

Seaside Village, Ventry by Pam Brophy
Seaside Village, Ventry by Pam Brophy

3. Slea Head & Dunmore Head
Marked by a Crusafix which the locals call ‘the cross’, the Blasket Islands come into full view here and the scenery is outstanding. Dunmore head, further west offers more amazing views.

Slea Head Drive
Slea Head Drive
Holy Cross Slea Head Drive
Holy Cross Slea Head Drive

4. The Blasket Centre
The Blasket Centre is a captivating centre honouring the unique community who resided on the isolated Blasket Islands until the government decided to evacuate them in 1953. The Blasket Islands are unique because they have produced many gifted writers, most notably; Peig Sayers. Boat trips can also be taken to visit the island from nearby Dún Chaoin Pier.

Blasket Islands Centre
Blasket Islands Centre

5. Gallarus Oratory
Gallarus is a very quick stop, but well worth a look. It’s a very small early Christian Church. A local legend for Gallarus says that if a person can successfully climb through the small window at the back, then their soul will be cleansed. As you will see when you visit, this is a little bit difficult to do!

Gallarus Oratory
Gallarus Oratory

 

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Burren Walk with Tony Kirby

by Orla Spencer

The Burren in Clare has some of Ireland’s best walks

Today I had the pleasure of taking a guided Burren Walk with Tony Kirby of Heart of the Burren Walks and it was certainly an experience I would recommend to anyone! Of course it is possible take any of the Burren walking trails alone but having a local guide show you the finer details and tell you of the local history, I think is invaluable. These walks can now be booked through Irish Tourism as part of your package vacation.

Tony Kirby from Heart of the Burren Walsk
Tony Kirby from Heart of the Burren Walsk

There are many walking paths in the Burren, today we took the path to St Colmans Hermitage in Carran, where it is believed that St. Colman Mac Duagh lived for seven years as a hermit and this area may have been associated also with Pre-Christian rituals. As you enter the nature reserve, Slievecarran is immediately in front of you; its slopes are known as Eagle’s Rock.

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As you continue along the path if you turn North-East you are faced with the summit of Turlooughmore. The circular gaps that can be seen are known as Leim an Phuca Mhoir (The big fairy’s Leap) and Leam an Phuca Bhig (the small fairy’s leap).

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This is the first station on the old Pilgrimage Route where pilgrims would say their first set of prayers to Saint Coleman. A rock standing upright in the centre indicates from a distance the route to take.

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Further along you will meet ‘The Man Servant’s Grave’. Legend has it that Saint Coleman was not alone during his time in the Burren, he was accompanies by a servant who according to legend is buried here. This is also a station on the pilgrimage route.

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When we arrived at the man servants grave, Tony begins to tell me about a local legend concerting saint Coleman and his servant and it goes something like this… Saint Coleman & his servant were fasting in in the hermitage and as they came towards the end of the Lenten fast period, a banquet feast could be heard from the nearby Dunguaire Castle. When the servant told Saint Coleman how hungry he was, the saint took pity on him and prayed on his behalf. At that moment, the dishes from the banquet suddenly took Flight and made their way to the hermitage with the banquet party following along angrily on horseback. St. Coleman prayed again and the horse’s hooves got stuck in the pavement. To this day, the marks from the horse’s hooves can be seen on the pavement nearby and this pavement is known as Bothar na Miasa which means, ‘the road of the dishes’. Of course we know now that the marks are from rainwater dissolving though the rock over time, but it’s a great story all the same!

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As you continue along Saint Coleman’s oratory can be seen. This building dates from the 11th century so it was built sometime after St. Coleman was believed to have been here. It was created at the spot and to the same dimensions as his wooden oratory would have been.

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Follow the path directly behind the oratory and you come to Saint Coleman’s Cave or Saint Coleman’s leaba (bed) where it is thought Saint Coleman and his servant slept.

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Just beside the oratory lies a holy well and many people believe its waters have healing properties. It is common for people to leave an offering or a piece of their clothing tied to the trees next to the well in hope of a cure to their ailment or suffering.

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