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Opinions

“The Celtic past lives on today amid the ancient scenery of Ireland. The cradle of this ancient culture, half lost in the mists of time, is its emerald green landscape, its soft valley sculpted long ago by glaciers, its cliffs rearing out of a stormy sea, its green hills with black lakes sheltering in their lees.

Centuries of conflict have swept across the island, and left a country divided in two, but in spite of great suffering and cruel reverses of fortune, this captivating land is still inhabited by cheerful people.

“The land of heart’s desire” as William Butler Yeats put it, remains the home of the remarkably good-natured Irish, and the pubs are noisy every evening with cheerful music and conversing locals.

The most popular drinks are Guinness – “black gold” – and the uisce beatha or ‘water of life’ – whiskey. But the true atmosphere of Ireland wouldn’t be complete without light rain, thick, opaque mists and a strong wind in your face!”

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“What seduced me most about Ireland were its spectacular natural landscapes, cheerful pub life, and the life-affirming mentality of the Irish themselves. On summer evenings every pub resounds to traditional music (usually live) and the streets are full of locals and tourists until dawn. This was my first visit to the Guinness storehouse in Dublin, where I learned how to pour a perfect pint of ‘the black stuff’. I received a certificate, and with the addition of some cranberry juice I even managed to down a pint of the creamy, foamy brown nectar.

In the Wicklow Mountains, not far from Dublin, the gardens of Powerscourt House were a particular favorite of mine, with their views over Ireland’s very own Sugar Loaf Mountain.

In the shops of nearby Avoca, meanwhile, you can buy good-quality wool and linen products. If you want a closer look at the life of an Irish farmer, walk through peat bogs, bake Irish brown bread, play hurling and learn Irish dancing, then I’d recommend a visit to Causey Farm (about 60km from Dublin) Oh, and Galway salmon is divine! (Agnes, 2015)

Ireland - Timoleague abbey - g.v. photo

Ireland - Dublin Bay - n.z. photo

Practicals

Transport

“Many country roads have 80km/h speed limits, but the roads are so narrow and winding that it’s impossible to reach such speeds. This means that if you’re using GPS to calculate how long it will take you to reach your destination, it’s worth adding some time on at the end, since you might not be able to drive close to the speed limit indicated.

Some roads are so narrow that two cars can’t easily squeeze past one another, so it really is best to drive slowly and carefully if you’re travelling in rural Ireland.

The other key issue is filling up with gas. Around Dublin and the other bigger cities there are always plenty of filling stations (though not all have public bathrooms) but when you get away from the cities they become much harder to find. Many villages have a farmers’ shop or a post office with a pump or two, but these can only be used during regular opening hours, which are usually from around 10am to 5pm on weekdays, and are impossible to predict at the weekend.

Gas prices don’t differ significantly between the city and the countryside. Some places give the price in euro cents/liter, while in other places it’s euros/liter, and at the time of our visit the price of a liter of unleaded was generally around €1.30 or €1.40.

It’s forbidden to hold any kind of object in your hand while driving. This means they won’t just fine you for using your phone, but even for eating an apple while at the wheel of a moving vehicle. It’s best to deal with any pangs of hunger/thirst before setting off.

Parking meters are only an issue in larger towns and cities – parking is usually free in villages, though it’s often forbidden to leave your vehicle in one place for more than two hours. Just check any signposts when you park.

There are tolls on all motorways (marked M on maps) but N and R roads are free. The tolls are paid at booths on all motorways except the M5, the main beltway around Dublin – if you want to use it you have to visit a website and pay a fee in advance, or else within 24 hours of using it.

One thing I loved about Ireland was the way drivers almost invariably move into the slow lane and let you past if you’re travelling faster – not true in every country! (Gabriella, 2017)

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“The traffic lights work strangely in Ireland: if the light turns red there’s an amber light first, but if it turns green, it turns straight from red to green.

Many places don’t have zebra crossings, and whenever they do they look different: instead of striped lines, they use two unbroken lines perpendicular to the road. There are a lot of signs saying look left, look right etc., and driver do seem to be a lot more attentive to pedestrians than is the case elsewhere, but then, they have to be – I saw many places where a zebra crossing seemed essential, but there was nothing. Wherever pedestrian crossings do exist they are always marked with red tiles which have small bumps in their surface, so that blind people can find them. Also, wherever there is a curb it is lowered for pedestrian crossings, to make it easier for wheelchair users to cross, though this lowered section is ribbed, so that wheelchair users can feel that they are leaving the sidewalk and moving onto the road. In addition to all this, a beeping sound indicates to blind people that the green man is showing and it is safe to cross.”

Food

“Whatever town or village you visit in Ireland, you’ll find more or less the same food everywhere: fish and chips, steak, burgers, salmon and other types of fish, Irish stew and lamb chops. And of course, everything is served with a side of potatoes.

The seafood is a bit more diverse – there are many kinds of both saltwater and freshwater fish, which can be served fried, grilled or battered, so at least you can find variety here.

Prices are pretty similar throughout the country, and anywhere you go a main course with trimmings is likely to set you back somewhere between €14 and 18 (except steak, which is closer to €25). A few salads are generally also listed on the menu, as well as the ubiquitous cottage pie, and various desserts.

Most places serve a lunch menu of hot meals until about 3pm, then close the kitchen until 6pm – in the interim you can only get a coffee and maybe some cake. They open the kitchen again between 6 and 9, but even in pubs which stay open late, you usually can’t get a hot meal after 9pm, only chip and beer. This seemed to be the situation both in Dublin and in the countryside, so it’s worth planning your meals so they fit within these windows, otherwise you might end up going hungry.

My tip for a great evening would be to seek out a pub with a live music performance, which you can enjoy together with your meal. It’s a really special, authentically Irish feeling.

If you end up spending more time in a single place, it’s worth looking into booking a table for dinner; a lot of the most popular places are a combination of pub and restaurant, so the tables are occupied not only by diners, but also by those who have stopped in for a beer or two – this can make it hard to find a free table! In most places you’ll have to wait for a table to open up, rather than just walking in and sitting down. People come and go quite frequently, however, and it soon became a habit to sit down on a stool at the bar and have a pint, then after fifteen or twenty minutes a table would become available, and we could sit down and order our dinner. (Gabriella, 2017)

Ireland - fish&chips - Tom's photo

Ireland - Dublin - O'Neill's Pub - Irish Guiness Beef Stew - s.m. photo

Fun

“Every part of Ireland has fantastic pubs, and even the most isolated and remote village is guaranteed to have a pub with a good selection of beers on tap. (Not like in most of Europe, where even popular places only have three or four taps, serving global brands). Here, in addition to various lagers, there are also those wonderful Irish red ales, and of course every pub has a Guinness tap. Many other beers can be bought bottled.

My personal favorite was Smithwick’s Red Ale, which is a very pleasant amber-colored drink, not to strong and with a velvety texture. Then there’s Galway Hooker, which is a stronger pale ale. Most places also serve Hop House 13 on tap – it’s the most widespread lager. Then of course there’s Guinness – if you haven’t tried it, it’s simply impossible to compare it to any other kind of beer which is popular elsewhere in the world.

By the way, if you’re in Dublin, a lot of the pubs in the more expensive areas are quite upmarket, and there’s a dress code! There might be a sign on the door saying that sneakers and shorts are not permissible attire, and it’s worth making a note of this earlier in the day. That way, when you head out to dinner, you can dress in something a little bit more stylish than the sneakers you probably wore for sightseeing earlier in the day. If you show up badly dressed, you’ll almost always be told that there are no free tables.” (Gabriella, 2017)

Ireland - Irish bagpipe - d.s. photo

Public safety

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Ireland - police car - Police in Irish is Poilleas

Background

Ireland - national flag

Destination in brief

Ireland in brief 

Ireland is a Northwest European country. It is located on an island it shares with Northern Ireland (part of the United Kingdom), surrounded by the North Atlantic Ocean (west), and St George’s Channel and the Irish Sea (east).

Size: 84,421 km² (32,595 mi²

Population: 4.9 million (2020), 28% of which live in Dublin.

More Irish live outside the country than inside (up to half the entire population of Australia claims Irish ancestry, while just over 39 million Americans believe they are part Irish).

Contrary to popular belief, only about 9% of people in Ireland have natural red hair.

Religion: 84% Roman Catholics


Capital city: Dublin

Ireland is a member of the European Union, but not part of the Schengen zone. 

Official language: Irish Gaelic and English

Around 35% of the population can speak some Irish, and only 1,7% use it daily. Signs almost everywhere are written first in Gaelic and then in English. 

Currency: Euro 

Driving is on the left side.

Average net monthly salary: 2,120 Euro (2019)

Most frequent surname: Murphy

Many Irish family names start with “Mac” or “O”, which means, respectively, “son of” and “grandson of” in Gaelic.

Main tourist attractions are: Dublin (on the east coast), Cork (very active cultural life), Galway (popular among youths), Kilkenny (medieval monuments), Cliffs of Moher, Connemara (west), Ring of Kerry, Bend of the Boyne, The island of Skellig Michael 

The Irish have quite a reputation as alcohol lovers, and while they do consume an average of 131.1 liters of beer per person each year, they do not hold the title of the world’s greatest beer lovers. They come in second after the Czech Republic when it comes to per-capita beer consumption.

Geography

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Ireland - cliff - Tom's photo

Climate

Enjoy the weather!” This is how I was greeted in the hostel hallway by a technician in the middle of repairing something, as I set off into town with a camera around my neck. Of course, the usual light drizzle known as ‘Irish mist’ was falling. An inscription in the hallway likewise suggested enjoying the Irish weather – by settling down on some snug terrace with a beer and a few friends. The Irish seem to be funny and laid-back, and good at finding the positives in any unpleasant situation.

Then, after a few days, I discovered that rain here is usually a fleeting visitor. The weather can change with unbelievable speed. One minute you’re walking through the wind and rain in hat, gloves and buttoned-up coat. Ten minutes later the sun is shining and the wind has dropped, so you take off your hat and gloves and unbutton your coat. Then half an hour later the rain is back and the whole thing begins again."

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“If I had to try to summarize Ireland’s climate in a nutshell, I’d say that it’s predictably unpredictable. If you look out of the window one morning and see that the sun is shining and there isn’t a cloud in the sky, all you can reliably deduce from this observation is that it almost certainly won’t rain during the next five minutes. Of course, that doesn’t mean that it rains here all the time – in fact, over the past year there may not have been a single day when I didn’t at least briefly glimpse the sun.

The temperature is relatively stable year-round, and rarely goes above 30°C, even at the height of summer (last year it hit 31.5°, breaking a record set many years earlier). Winter temperatures might drop to -3° or -4° at night, but almost always rise above zero during the day. This winter (2010) for the first time we saw the nearby canal freeze over, and all the swans (I counted almost seventy in total) had to gather in a single unfrozen section near one end of the bridge.

Rain, as I say, can come at any time, though the frequency of it does increase markedly from about the end of October. The rainiest months are February and March, and this period is made more unpleasant still by strong and almost continuous winds.

Snow is very infrequent, and melts quickly. In the interior regions of the island the snow might lie for a day or two, but never more than a centimeter or two thick (though even this can cause total chaos on the roads). The one exception was this winter, 2010, when huge drifts of snow fell on New Year’s Day, and this was followed by yet more just a day or two later. 😊

There is almost always wind, the difference is only in how strongly it blows. The advantage of this is that the air is almost always fresh and clear, though the cars here are as polluting as elsewhere. Before going on a trip we always check the www.met.ie website, to find out what parts of the island are going to get rained on this weekend. 😊 We’ve often woken up to find Dublin looking grey and wet, but by checking the weather map we’ve been able to find some rain-free area, and have headed in that direction to spend a pleasant day out of doors.”

History


,, The Irish have existed for millennia on the island of Ireland, and, throughout that time, they have developed their own culture, language, music, and religion that are unique to Ireland. They play the fastest and oldest field sport globally (Hurling); the Irish language is one of the oldest vernacular literature of any language in Western Europe. Their law code was considered pretty progressive for the time it was made and possibly represented the oldest surviving codified legal system in Europe.

The Irish are one of the oldest races in the British and Irish Isles. When the Anglo-Saxons were migrating to England, the monasteries of Ireland created Europe's saints and scholars. It was Irish migration to Scotland in the 4th century that would later give Scotland its name from the Scotii."





People

“One characteristic of the Irish is a propensity to express themselves using vivid, almost poetical language, and they’ll use unexpected imagery or humor even when telling a very brief story or anecdote, either to make it more interesting or to lend appropriate emphasis to a particular point.

When it comes to communication, be aware that for the Irish, politeness is often more important than telling the truth, at least when the truth would seem too blunt or unfriendly. They don’t like to say ‘no’, and are much more likely to say something like ‘maybe’ if they disagree, or are disinclined to do something.

Attractions

The Cliffs of Moher

Ireland - Cliffs of Moher - Gabriella V. photo

Ireland - Cliffs of Moher - j.h. photo

Ireland - Cliffs of Moher - Do you see the stone fence? You have to walk on the inside. - a.h. photo

Ireland - Cliffs of Moher - Erica photo

Ireland - Moher Cliffs - s.m. photo

Cork

Population (in 2020): 190,000 - second largest city in Ireland

Average net monthly salary (in 2020): 2270 Euro

Ireland - Cork - f.a. photo

Cork - e.g. photo

Ireland - Cork - Princes Street

Abbeys

Ireland - Timoleague Abbey - Gabriella V's photo

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