Ireland. Fondly known as “The Emerald Isle”, Ireland continues to enchant visitors with its leprechauns, Guinness, and greenery. But it is much more than its stereotypes. On a personal level, it’s where I studied abroad, and the country where I was born (surprise!). But visitors flock here because it’s the land of enchantment in every sense of the word. Friendly people, historic buildings, beautiful scenery and bewitching folktales are just some of the reasons that the world is in love with Ireland. You don’t have to take my word for it because I know I’m just a tad biased. Below, you’ll find photos and stories; specifically, you’ll find 20 reasons you need to visit Ireland right now.
1. The castles
Castles everywhere. Coming from the U.S., where castles are virtually nonexistent, six months there meant seeing castles of all shapes and sizes. And we all know that castles are the coolest type of building out there, which is a great reason to visit Ireland. Even my university was shaped like a castle – proof that turrets and stone never go out of style.
2. The politics
I know, I know. It’s virtually impossible to top the reality show that is American politics. But for those of you rubbing your hands together in glee at the drama of it all, you should know that Ireland is a great destination to hear heated political opinions. Just be careful who you discuss politics with…it’s a bit of a touchy subject, in case you can’t tell by the photos. You might be better off as an observer, rather than actually discussing anything.
3. The exotic animals
I mean, I live in Los Angeles, where the most exotic animals are Chihuahuas in purses squirrels. But in Ireland, you’ll find horses, sheep, swans…and, if you know where to look, penguins as well!
4. The countryside
As a city girl, I had an embarrassingly limited appreciation for the countryside, until I went to visit Ireland. This is every nature lover’s paradise, and, although I hate it myself, the benefits that rain provides to Ireland are unreal.
5. The beach
Wait, what?! The beach in the land of year-round rain? Believe it or not, Ireland has some gorgeous beaches! I wouldn’t actually swim in one, because I’m a baby about the cold, but just look at how serene Salthill is.
6. The cycling
Bikers, rejoice! While the vast countryside and small roads make bus tours here somewhat frightening, they’re the perfect place for you to hit the open road on two wheels. The best place to bike? The Aran Islands, where there are virtually no cars.
7. The folktales
Countries steeped in history often have crazy historical legends and superstitions, and Ireland is no exception. Did you know that kissing the Blarney Stone gives you the gift of gab? Or if you make a wish at the Castle’s wishing steps while climbing the steps with your eyes closed then your wish will come true within a year? If you’re as charmed by folktales as I am, well, the country is filled with them. Just another reason to visit Ireland.
8. The quaint towns
I studied abroad in the third largest city in Ireland, where the population is 75,000 people and you can actually ask someone “are you headed to town?” In fact, Ireland is only made up of 4.5 million people… I live in a city where the population is nearly quadruple that. So, you can imagine how lovely and peaceful it is when you visit Ireland and its tiny towns – some of them are just one street long! It’s a spectacular change from living in a big city.
9. The craic
“Craic” (/kræk/ KRAK) or “crack” is a term for news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation, particularly prominent in Ireland. Thanks, Google! The Irish know how to have fun, and they make sure you’re having fun too. While most of the craic happens at the pub, it’s the most accurate word to describe a visit to Ireland.
10. The music
Apparently I didn’t bother taking pictures of any of the Irish bands, which is such a shame. Either way, if you’ve ever been to an Irish pub, you know how great the music is. It’s lively and makes you want to dance and sing/scream along. If you’ve never had the pleasure of enjoying Irish music, let’s rectify that. This is one of my favorites. I’m biased. Deal with it.
11. The festivals
The entire world knows about the most famous Irish festival of them all: St Patricks’ Day. The day where most Americans get in touch with their Irish roots to collectively wear green and drink the day and night away. If you visit Ireland for the festival, you’ll see that they do more or less the same thing, except on a much larger scale. It’s pretty sweet. There are a bunch of other festivals that are celebrated in Ireland, and another famous one is the Matchmaking Festival in Lisdoonvarna. Yes, you read that correctly. It’s every September. You can check their website for more details ;). *Cue “Single Ladies.”
12. The natural wonders
Ireland’s most visited natural attraction, the Cliffs of Moher, isn’t just beautiful. The cliffs are breathtaking, especially around sunset. Plus, if you’re lucky enough to visit on a clear day, you can see miles of the coastline! However, my personal favorite natural wonder is actually Giant’s Causeway. These mysterious-looking formations were caused by an ancient volcano eruption, but are shaped so symmetrically that you would swear they’re man-made. I could go on, but I’ll keep it short and sweet: Ireland’s natural wonders are enthralling.
13. The traditions
Just like folktales, the list of Irish traditions is quite lengthy and it would take years to discover them all. That’s part of the fun! There’s the one where women can propose to men on leap day. There’s the traditional Christmas day swim. And there’s my personal favorite: the year-round tradition of jumping off the pier in Salthill, Galway. A few of my brave friends did it at the end of the semester. Let’s just say I opted to play photographer instead.
14. The food?
I know what you’re probably thinking. Irish cuisine, seriously? And yes, I have to admit that I ate my weight in potatoes when I was in Ireland (never had a bad potato dish, though!). But trust me – there are some good dishes if you dig past the pub food. Curry fries, fish and chips, brown bread and soup, and, of course, shepherd’s pie are just a few of the dishes worth a sample. The great thing about Irish food is that it’s locally sourced, which always makes for delicious and fresh dishes.
15. The sunsets
Didn’t I tell you that sunset at The Cliffs of Moher is breathtaking? But I have to admit, it’s pretty difficult to experience a bad sunset in the Irish countryside.
16. The people
I’ve been fortunate enough to visit a lot of countries in my life, but the friendliest people I’ve ever met are the Irish. All you have to do is pause and look confused and someone will ask if you need help. If you go to a pub, people ask, with genuine curiosity, what you’re doing in Ireland. And they seem appreciative that you’re taking the time to visit Ireland and learn about their country. I recently met an Irish girl who told me that lots of Americans come knocking on her family’s door, claiming to be distant relatives, and she always invites them in for a cup of tea and a chat. You can imagine my surprise when she said that – I was definitely raised with the “stranger danger” mentality. My point is that Ireland is one of the friendliest and safest places I’ve ever visited, which makes for an ideal travel environment.
17. The local goods
Murphy’s Ice Cream from Dingle. Galway Cream Tea. Aran Island Wool Sweaters. Waterford Crystal. Ireland may not have a whole lot of exports or well-known goods, but products made in Ireland are of superb quality – and the locals are proud of them. If you’re a fan of buying locally sourced goods when you travel, then you’ve totally hit the jackpot in Ireland…it’s all stuff you actually want to buy, and it’s not manufactured in giant sweatshops, either.
18. The street art
Carvings, graffiti, and political statements can be found all around the country. The most famous street art can be found in Northern Ireland, where numerous political murals line the city walls. Street art is deeply rooted in (Northern) Irish culture, and the best part is that the art is constantly changing to reflect global politics, not just Irish politics.
19. The tea shops
The English may hold the reputation of being the tea lovers of the world, but if there’s any place you can get an amazing cup of tea, it’s Ireland. Disclaimer: good coffee is really hard to find here. Unlike England (or at least, London), Ireland has a bunch of cute teashops where you can feel fancy and get a cuppa without breaking the bank. My favorite? Cupan Tae in Galway. I drank more Galway Cream Tea that semester than I care to admit.
20. The accents
No explanation necessary.
There you have it, folks. 20 reasons you need to visit Ireland. With St. Patrick’s Day around the corner, you really should go right now. But if you aren’t a last minute planner, then summer’s the best time to visit for “better” weather and long summer days. Extra daylight for extra craic. Slainte!
Have you ever been to visit Ireland? Did I miss any reasons to go? Share your thoughts in the comments below!