If you’re on your first trip to the island of Ireland, or even if this is one of many journeys here, you’re guaranteed to make cherished memories that you’ll never forget… Eight past (and probably future!) visitors share their most treasured memories, and we show you how you can experience them for yourself!
The traveller: Hannah Reichman, US
The memory: “My husband and I went to Ireland for our honeymoon. My favourite spot was the Wicklow Mountains National Park with its endless peaks and breathtaking views. It was just us and the mountains and I felt my soul at peace.”
The lowdown: Explore 40 shades of green and everything in between on the island of Ireland. Take a trip to the stark limestone landscape of the Burren in County Clare and you'll feel as though you’re walking on the moon. Or take in the magnificence of the Mourne Mountains in County Down, where CS Lewis found much of his inspiration for Narnia.
Traveller: Zita Csenge, Hungary
The memory: “Ireland is absolutely stunning. I’ll never forget the goosebumps on my arms when I heard my favourite Irish song for the first time in a traditional Irish pub with live music!”
The lowdown: There’s nothing like the electric atmosphere of a traditional Irish music session. Music is in our DNA, so throughout the year, you’ll find traditional tunes pouring out of pubs, as well as festivals and events around the island! It all kicks off in January when everyone gets their toes tapping in Dublin at TradFest Temple Bar, which showcases the best of established, as well as new, musical talent.
Traveller: Harry Paige, UK
The memory: “I travelled to Ennis to support my brother in the Junior Tour of Ireland. It was the first time I had visited Ireland. It was amazing to watch the young cyclists race in some of the most mesmerising scenery in the world.”
The lowdown: Looking for a dose of adrenaline on your travels? Get on your bike and enjoy traffic-free cycling along the Great Western Greenway in County Mayo. And while cycling in Ireland is not to be missed, there are lots of other outdoor activities to enjoy, too. Take in the views from the water, meet local seals and visit arches, sea stacks, caves and blow holes on a guided kayaking tour along the Copper Coast in County Waterford. Or enjoy the thrills and spills of surf lessons on the north Antrim coast – an exhilarating experience you’ll never forget.
The traveller: Kate Munroe, Canada
The memory: “I took a ferry from Galway to Inishmore and rented a bicycle to tour the island. I stopped in a little restaurant where locals spoke Irish and I ate the most delicious stew. The most traffic I saw that day was a horse crossing the narrow street in front of me.”
The lowdown: Ireland’s islands each have a personality of their own. The Aran Islands in County Galway are a haven of tradition, craft and storytelling. While a trip to Dursey Island in County Cork delivers amazing views from Ireland’s only cable car. In Northern Ireland, Rathlin Island in County Antrim is home to swooping seabirds and Ireland's only "upside down" lighthouse.
Traveller: Sylvia Braster, US
The memory: “My granny emigrated from Ireland to America in the 1950s. I went with her on her last trip home and I will never forget the memories we made exploring Ireland – kissing the Blarney Stone, meeting Fungie the dolphin in Dingle and soaking up the history at Glendalough…”
The lowdown: A reported 70 million people claim Irish ancestry around the world, so a trip to Ireland is the perfect opportunity to trace your long-lost family and to explore the lands your ancestors left behind. Each person who has emigrated brings with them a story, but nothing can prepare you for the unforgettable experience of meeting long-lost relatives when you finally make it to Ireland.
The traveller: Stephanie Hancock, UK
The memory: “I stayed in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter. On my first morning I was awake very early and opened my window to see St Anne's Cathedral lit up in the pink light of dawn. It was a beautiful and unforgettable sight.”
The lowdown: Believe it or not, Ireland is home to 11 cities – each with their own personality. Belfast brims with Titanic tales, a great weekend food market at St George’s Market and fascinating Black Taxi Tours. In Cork, get in touch with your creative side with a visit to Crawford Art Gallery or discover the darker side of the city's history at Cork City Gaol, which is now an intriguing museum. And for history buffs, it's got to be the Viking city of Waterford, with medieval treasures aplenty.
The traveller: Isabella Gagliardi, Italy
The memory: “We arrived at our cosy B&B and received a warm welcome from the owners. In the morning we took pictures of the sunrise and found out we had slept literally by the sea. Our hosts served us fresh oysters for breakfast! It was an amazing experience, the Irish are so kind.”
The lowdown: You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to places to stay in Ireland. Love a personal touch? You’ll feel right at home with a B&B stay. Looking for luxury? Feature in your own fairytale with a stay in a dreamy castle. Want to sleep under the stars? Look up to the skies inside the bubble domes at Finn Lough in County Fermanagh.
The traveller: Karen McCallum, Canada
The memory: “Never have I been so far from home and at the same time felt totally at home. In Sean’s Bar in Athlone, we spoke to an elderly lady and her family. She told us all about her wedding day and the amazing celebrations. I still chuckle when I think of it.”
The lowdown: The spirit of the people you meet in Ireland can’t be captured; it has to be experienced. Those 100,000 welcomes you always hear about, they’re woven into the fabric of the people. They say you should always listen to your heart. Right now, Ireland can fill your heart with the good stuff.