Irish people are famous for their friendliness. They’re always ready to stop for a chat, in shops, pubs, even when you ask for directions. B&Bs and hostels are great places to stay because they offer plenty of opportunities to meet other guests and get their tips. The owners will be locals, too, so they’ll have information that might not make it into the guidebook. Join an organised tour where you can let someone else take the lead, while you just enjoy the fun without having to worry about checking your map all the time. Or you can amble at your own pace and soak up the atmosphere by self-guiding through our friendly towns and villages. Don’t be shy The Irish pub is famous for a reason. Yes, it’s a place to buy a beer like around the rest of the world, but in Ireland it’s all about socialising and fun – and everyone is welcome! Walk in, say hi to the bar staff and a casual conversation can lead to some fabulous stories. Look out for signs that say a traditional music session is about to kick off. They draw lots of people indoors, especially in the west, and you’re just one of the crowd. And do say yes if you’re asked up for set dancing – traditional Irish dancing but in a group. Musicians will be in heaven in Ireland. If you play an instrument, many pubs – particularly in County Clare – offer open sessions where you can join in the session. Not quite confident enough for that yet? There are lots of Irish trad music workshops in summer, though you generally sign up for a whole week. If you’re tight for time, try the Irish Music Taster at Walton’s New School of Music in Dublin for a tin whistle or bodhrán (drum) session. Join the party atmosphere The festival season in Ireland is a year-long affair. Kicking off in January with the annual TradFest in Dublin’s Temple Bar, you’ll find festivals celebrating just about everything. From Belfast to Cork, there are film, theatre, music and arts festivals, of course. But there is also the uniquely Irish Rose of Tralee celebrating women with Irish roots from across the globe, The Matchmaking Festival in Lisdoonvarna – and its LGBT+ offshoot, The Outing – which puts love for everyone on the agenda over in County Clare, and the Galway Races, which is as famous for its party atmosphere as it is for the excellent horse racing. Get active Sports fans should try their hand at GAA (Gaelic football and hurling). These all-amateur sports are played all over the island. You can get into the spirit as a spectator, or you can see how hard it is to get that sliotar (ball) over the goal line yourself at The Kilkenny Way Ultimate Hurling Experience or Experience Gaelic Games in Dublin. Keen on walking? There are plenty of beautiful, safe and clearly marked walking trails across the island. Or perhaps time your visit to join a walking festival. These are usually a long weekend of walking and talking with locals and fellow walkers, followed by evenings in the pub with these new friends. Learn a new skill Master the Irish surf by heading west to Ireland’s Surf Coast on the Wild Atlantic Way or to Portrush on the North Antrim coast. Wetsuits and boards can be hired from local surf schools and people of all levels are welcomed, including beginners. Or check out stand-up paddle boarding lessons on the River Roe in Limavady, County Londonderry. The tutors are local and will show you the hidden parts of this beautiful waterway. Yoga lovers can indulge their passion and learn new poses in a retreat at The Courtyard in Coolattin, County Wicklow, or beside beautiful Lough Erne at Lake Isle Retreats. From inner peace to an outward focus, brush up on your photography skills with a one-day course at the Gallery of Photography in Dublin, or do a day tour with a professional on the Causeway Coast with Photograph Ulster. Get creative Sign up for lessons at the most famous cookery school on the island, Ballymaloe. Not only is the teaching top-notch, but the scenery is beautiful and you’ll meet lots of other wannabe kitchen wizards looking to craft great dishes. Get closer to nature with seaweed foraging and cooking class in Dingle, or learn how to handle fantastic freshly caught fish at the Mourne Seafood Cookery School. Feeling artistic? Then try a basket-weaving class with Ciaran Hogan in Spiddal, County Galway. Alternatively, turn your hand to some jewellery making at a workshop at NI Silver in Holywood near Belfast, or catch up with jewellery maker Cormac Cuffe at his school in Monkstown, County Dublin. Travelling solo can be daunting, but in a place that’s as small and friendly as Ireland, not only will you make some lifelong memories and some lifelong friends, you might even discover a whole new you! Off The Beaten TrackDiscover a host of hidden gems on this little island, from dazzling light shows to amazing architecture. Trip IdeasEvery trip to Ireland is full of possibilities. Check out these ideas for where to go to along the way. Slow Travel in IrelandHere are 6 slow travel experiences on the island of Ireland to be savoured, including caves, lakes and quaint village retreats.