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Visas: For citizens of the EU and most Western           Full country name: Ireland & Northern Ireland (part
countries no visa is required. UK nationals born in      of the UK)
Great Britain or Northern Ireland do not require a
passport to visit the Republic                           Area: 84,421 sq km/52,341 sq mi (70,282 sq
                                                         km/43,575 sq mi in the Republic; 14,139 sq
Health risks: None, but keep in mind that abortions      km/8,766 sq mi in the North)
are illegal, except for in special circumstances.
Contraception is widely available.                       Population: 5.5 million (3.9 million in Ireland; 1.6
                                                         million in Northern Ireland)
                                                         Capital city: Dublin (population 1.5 million)
Electricity: 220V, 50Hz
                                                         People: Irish
Weights & measures: Imperial and metric
                                                         Language: English, Irish (around 83,000 native
Tourism: More than 4 million visitors annually           speakers)

Currency: euro (EUR), formerly Irish pound or punt       Religion: 95% Roman Catholic, 3.4% Protestant in
(IR£)                                                    the Republic; 60% Protestant, 40% Roman Catholic
                                                         in the Northern Ireland

The weather is warmest in July and August and the daylight hours are long, but the crowds will be greatest,
the costs the highest and accommodation harder to come by. In the quieter winter months, however, you
may get miserable weather, the days are short and many tourist facilities will be shut. Visiting Ireland in June
or September has a number of attractions: the weather can be better than at any other time of the year, it's
less crowded and everything is open.


Dublin                                                      AD, making it one of the oldest books in the
The Republic's capital, and its largest and most            world. The masterpiece is housed in the Library
cosmopolitan city, Dublin makes a fine                      Colonnades. Other magnificent buildings include
introduction to the country. It's a curious and             the imposing Bank of Ireland, originally built to
colourful city of fine Georgian buildings, tangible         house the Irish Parliament; Christ Church
literary history and extremely welcoming pubs, all          Cathedral, parts of which date back to the
on a scale that's very human. The city is bisected          original wooden Danish church of the 11th
by the River Liffey, and is bounded to the north            century; and St Patrick's Cathedral, said to have
and south by hills. Most of the sights of interest          been built on the site where St Patrick baptised
are located south of the Liffey, which unlike most          his converts, and dating from 1190 or 1225
city rivers is a rural-looking stream with real fish        (opinions differ).
living in it. The area to the north of the Liffey may
be more run down than the south, but, according             Another of Dublin's more obvious landmarks is its
to Roddy Doyle, it's got more soul.                         castle. More a palace than a fort, it was originally
                                                            built on the orders of King John in 1204, although
While heading south over the Liffey, you can't              only the Record Tower survives from this original
help but notice the huge white expanse of the               construction. One of the oldest areas of Dublin is
1780s Custom House on the northern bank, just               the maze of streets around Temple Bar, now
one of Dublin's many fine Georgian buildings.               home to numerous restaurants, pubs and trendy
Also on the north of the Liffey, the Four Courts            shops. Dublin's fine museums include the
were built by the same architect, James Gandon;             National Museum, with an enviable collection of
their shelling in 1922 sparked off the Civil War.           treasures dating from the Bronze Age onwards;
There are fine views of the city from the upper             the National Gallery, with particularly fine
rotunda of the central building.                            collections of Italian art; the Heraldic Museum,
Trinity College is uppermost in the list of                 for those interested in tracing their Irish roots; and
attractions south of the river. Founded by                  the Dublin Civic Museum.
Elizabeth I in 1592, the university complex boasts
a campanile and many glorious old buildings. Its            Dublin's fine Georgian buildings can be see to
major attraction, however, is the Book of Kells -           their best advantage from St Stephen's Green -
an illuminated manuscript dating from around 800            a nine-hectare expanse of greenery right in the
city centre. Other notable vantage points for                     Its university attracts a notable bohemian crowd,
spotting Georgian architecture include Merrion                    and its boisterous nightlife keeps them there.
Square, Ely Place and Fitzwilliam Square.                         Galway's tightly packed town centre lies on both
Dublin has a wide range of accommodation                          sides of the River Corrib; most of the main
possibilities, though it's wise to book ahead in                  shopping areas are east of the river. The
summer. There's a congregation of hostels                         Collegiate Church of St Nicholas of Myra, with
around O'Connell St, north of the Liffey, while the               its curious pyramidal spire, dates from 1320 and
south side is given over to neater, cleaner (and                  is Ireland's biggest medieval parish church. Its
more expensive) places. The area just north of                    tombs are particularly noteworthy. Among the
the river is packed with restaurants of all types.                many interesting stone buildings are Lynch's
The old, interesting and rapidly revitalising                     Castle, a townhouse which dates in part back to
Temple Bar area, south of the Liffey, is Dublin's                 the 14th century, and the Spanish Arch, which is
most concentrated restaurant area.                                about all that remains of the city's old walls.
                                                                  Galway's many fine cultural festivals include the
Cork                                                              February Jazz Festival, the Easter Festival of
The Irish Republic's second largest city is a                     Literature and the Galway Arts Festival in July.
surprisingly appealing place - you'll find time
passes effortlessly during the day, and by night                  Belfast
the pub scene is lively. The town centre is                       Superficially, Belfast is a big, rather ugly industrial
uniquely situated on an island between two                        city dating in the main from only last century. But,
channels of the Lee River. North of the river, in                 of course, Belfast is not just any city - politics,
the Shandon area, is an interesting historic part of              history and religion are inescapable parts of its
the city, if a bit run down today. Sights to the                  fabric. For visitors it is compact, with relatively
south include Protestant St Finbarr's Cathedral,                  light traffic and conveniently located points of
the Cork Museum (largely given over to the                        interest. The major central landmark is Donegall
nationalist struggle in which Cork played an                      Square, surrounded by imposing remnants of the
important role), the 19th century Cork Jail, the                  Victorian era. It is in the west of the city that the
City Hall and numerous churches, breweries and                    poverty shows and that (Protestant) Shankill Rd
chapels.                                                          and (Catholic) Falls Rd run - Six O'Clock News
                                                                  names if ever there were. Separate taxi services
Cork prides itself on its cultural pursuits, and apart            run tourists around the two mural-lined precincts
from a heap of cosy pubs, the Cork Opera                          for around £10.
House, Crawford Art Gallery and Firkin Crane
Centre offer both traditional and mainstream fare.                Donegall Square is dominated by the City Hall, a
A popular day trip from Cork is to Blarney Castle,                true example of muck-and-brass architecture.
where even the most untouristy visitor may feel                   Also on the square is the Linen Hall Library,
compelled to kiss the Blarney Stone. Cork is                      which houses a major Irish literary collection. The
around five hours to the south of Dublin by bus.                  area north of High St is the oldest part of Belfast,
                                                                  and is known as the Entries. It was badly
Waterford                                                         damaged by bombing during WWII, and today
Waterford has a decidedly medieval feel, with city                only a handful of pubs are left to reflect the
walls, narrow alleyways and a Norman tower -                      character of the past. The River Lagan runs
Reginald's Tower. Georgian times also left a                      through Belfast, and the cranes of its shipyards
legacy of fine buildings, in particular those on the              still dominate the western skyline. Queen's
Mall, a spacious 18th-century street. Important                   Bridge, a lovely bridge with ornate lamps, is just
buildings include the 1788 City Hall (including a                 one of those spanning the Lagan. The Crown
remarkable Waterford-glass chandelier) and the                    Liquor Saloon displays Victorian architectural
Bishop's Palace. The city's many churches are                     flamboyance at its most extravagant. As much a
also noteworthy, in particular the sumptuous                      museum as hostelry, the Crown's exterior is
interior of Holy Trinity Cathedral. Waterford is                  covered in a million different tiles, while the
first and foremost a busy commercial port city,                   interior is a mass of stained and cut glass,
situated on the River Suir whose estuary is deep                  mosaics and mahogany furniture. It's impossible
enough to allow large ships to berth at the city's                to get a seat, and even standing room is rare, but
quays. The famous Waterford crystal is created                    the Crown is well worth putting on your itinerary.
2km (1.2mi) out of town at the firm's factory.
Waterford is in the south-east corner of Ireland; it              The Grand Opera House across the road is
is well serviced by both buses and trains.                        another of Belfast's great landmarks. It's been
                                                                  bombed several times, and at the moment has
                                                                  been restored in an abundance of purple satin.
Galway                                                            History and culture are on show at the Ulster
With its narrow streets, old stone shopfronts and                 Museum near the university; the collection
bustling pubs, Galway is a delight. It's the west                 includes items from the wrecked Spanish Armada
coast's liveliest and most populous settlement,                   of 1588. On the outskirts of Belfast are its
and the administrative capital of County Galway.                  splendidly located and well laid-out zoo; the Cave
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Hill Country Park; Belfast Castle, which dates in
theory from the 12th century, but the existing                  Buses run to the Burren area from Limerick,
structure was built in 1870; and Stormont, the                  Galway City and Ennis. Services in summer are
former home of the Northern Ireland parliament,                 fairly regular, but in winter you'd do well to plan
and now home to the Northern Ireland Secretary.                 your journey carefully to avoid getting stuck in a
                                                                timetabling black hole.
The bulk     of   Belfast's   restaurants and
accommodation cluster south of Donegall Square                  Clonmacnois
and along the inner-urban stretch known as the                  Situated in County Offaly, this is Ireland's most
Golden Mile.                                                    important monastic site. It's superbly placed,
                                                                overlooking the River Shannon from atop a ridge.
Derry                                                           It consists of a walled field containing numerous
The River Foyle curves picturesquely around the                 early churches, high crosses, round towers
old walled town of Derry, creating a cosy setting               and graves. Many of the remains are in
which jars horribly with the reality of this city's             remarkably good condition and give a real sense
recent troubled history. The old centre of Derry is             of what monasteries were like in their heyday.
the small walled city on the west bank of the river,            The site is surrounded by low marshy ground
with the square called the Diamond at its heart.                which is home to many wild plants and bird life.
Barbed-wire     barriers     detract   from      the            The museum at the site exhibits graveslabs,
magnificence of the city walls, though also giving              original crosses and other artefacts uncovered
resonance to their history. From the top there are              during excavation. Clonmacnois is not serviced by
good views of the Bogside and its defiant murals                public    transport;   the    nearest    town   is
- 'No Surrender!' - and the Free Derry                          Shannonbridge, 7km (4.3mi) to the south, from
monument. Inside the walls, the Tower Museum                    which you can hitch or take a taxi.
tells the story of Derry from the days of St
Columcille to the present. St Columb's                          Connemara
Cathedral stands within the walls of the old city               The wild and barren region north-west of Galway
and dates from 1628; it's usually surrounded by                 City is known as Connemara. It's a stunning
barbed wire and surveillance cameras. Last                      patchwork of bogs, lonely valleys, mountains and
century, Derry was one of the main ports from                   lakes, with only the odd remote cottage or castle
which the Irish emigrated to the USA. The                       hideaway for company. There's tremendous hill
Harbour Museum has a small collection of                        walking over the peaks of the Twelve Bens,
maritime memorabilia on display. Derry is only                  which offer views over to the sea and its maze of
just over one and a half hours from Belfast by                  rocky islands, tortuous inlets and sparkling white
bus.                                                            beaches. The coast road from the settlement of
                                                                Spiddal meanders through the maze, but more
                                                                unforgettable still is the journey through the
Off the Beaten Track                                            Lough Inagh Valley and around Kylemore Lake
                                                                - it would be hard to surpass the beauty of this
                                                                landscape. Spiddal is only 17km (10.5mi) from
The Burren                                                      Galway City, and is the gateway to these open
In northern County Clare, the Burren region is an               landscapes and wild coastlines.
extraordinary place. Miles of polished limestone
karst stretch in every direction, and settlements               Aran Islands
along the coast are few; they include the popular               The three Aran Islands - Inishmor, Inishmaan and
Irish music centre of Doolin and the attractive                 Inisheer - are long, low limestone moonscapes of
coastal village of Ballyvaughan. Underground                    bleak but rare beauty. They are home to some of
caverns, cracks, springs and chasms are the                     the most ancient Christian and pre-Christian
major features of the Burren, which is ringed by                remains in Ireland; the massive Iron Age stone
caves. Flora includes a bizarre mix of                          forts at Dun Aengus on Inishmor and Dun
Mediterranean, Arctic and Alpine plants, and the                Conchuir on Inishmaan are of particular note.
region is the last bastion of the rare pine marten.             Almost nothing is known about the people who
In Stone Age times, the Burren was covered in                   built these structures. Some of the earliest
soil and trees and supported quite large numbers                monastic settlements were founded here by St
of people. At least 65 megalithic tombs remain                  Eanna in the late 4th and 5th centuries; the
from this time; however, the vegetation was                     remains surviving today date from the 8th century.
destroyed in this early version of land clearing,               The islands' isolation allowed Irish culture to
resulting in today's eroded limestone mass. Iron                survive when it had all but disappeared
Age stone forts (known as ring forts) dot the                   elsewhere. Irish is still the native tongue, and until
Burren in prodigious numbers, and castle ruins                  recently people still wore traditional Aran dress.
add a touch of medieval mystery. Unpaved, green
roads crisscross the region, reaching the most                  The islands are criss-crossed by intricate stone
remote places; they date back many thousands of                 walls, built over thousands of years and creating
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tranquil avenues of much-needed shelter from the               with native families and chieftains. They founded
wind. Inishmaan is the least visited island, while             Dublin, which in the 10th century was a small
Inishmor is the most popular with day trippers.                Viking kingdom. The English arrived with the
Inisheer lies closest to land, just 8km (5mi) from             Normans in 1169, taking Wexford and Dublin with
Doolin in County Clare. Ferries to the islands                 ease. The English king, Henry II, was recognised
operate from Galway City, Rossaveal and Doolin.                by the pope as Lord of Ireland and he took
                                                               Waterford in 1171, declaring it a royal city. Anglo-
                                                               Norman lords also set up power bases in Ireland,
                                                               outside the control of England.
                                                               English power was consolidated under Henry VIII
Walking is one of Ireland's biggest attractions,               and Elizabeth I. The last thorn in the English side
and the country has miles of tailor-made walks.                was Ulster, final outpost of the Irish chiefs, in
They include the Kerry Way, Beara Way, Ulster                  particular Hugh O'Neill, earl of Tyrone. In 1607
Way and Wicklow Way. It's a great way to open                  O'Neill's ignominious departure, along with 90
up the country and reach its most beautiful and                other chiefs, left Ulster leaderless and primed for
fascinating corners. Cycling is another good way               the English policy of colonisation known as
of getting away from the hordes, although some                 'plantation' - an organised and ambitious
areas are prohibitively hilly. There are a number              expropriation of land and introduction of settlers
of excellent mountain-climbing opportunities,                  which sowed the seeds for the division of Ulster
particularly Mt Gabriel (407m/1335ft) on the                   still in existence today.
Mizen Head Peninsula, Hungry Hill (686m/2195ft)
on the Beara Peninsula and Croagh Patrick                      The newcomers did not intermarry or mingle with
(763m/2500ft) just outside Westport.                           the impoverished and very angry population of
                                                               native Irish and Old English Catholics, who
Ireland is renowned for its fishing, and many                  rebelled in a bloody conflict in 1641. The native
visitors come to the country just to cast a line.              Irish and Old English Catholics supported the
Permits are required (IR£5 a day), and a state                 royalists in the English Civil War and, after the
national licence is required for salmon and sea                execution of Charles I, Oliver Cromwell - the
trout. With a coastline measuring 5630km                       victorious Protestant parliamentarian - arrived in
(3490mi), let alone its rivers and lakes, Ireland              Ireland to teach his opponents a lesson. He left a
offers many opportunities for water sports. Good               trail of death and destruction which has never
surfing spots include Easkey in the west of                    been forgotten.
County Sligo, the Castlegregory Peninsula and
Barley Cove on the Mizen Head Peninsula. The                   In 1695 harsh penal laws were enforced, known
west coast offers some of Europe's best scuba                  as the 'popery code': Catholics were forbidden
diving, especially at Bantry Bay and Dunmanus                  from buying land, bringing their children up as
Bay in County Cork, the Inveragh Peninsula in                  Catholics, and from entering the forces or the law.
Kerry and around Hook Head in County Wexford.                  All Irish culture, music and education was
Sailing has a long heritage in Ireland, and the                banned. The religion and culture were kept alive
country has over 120 yacht and sailing clubs. The              by secret open-air masses and illegal outdoor
most popular areas for sailing are the west coast,             schools, known as 'hedge schools', but by 1778,
especially between Cork Harbour and the Dingle                 Catholics owned barely 5% of the land. Alarmed
Peninsula, the coastline north and south of                    by the level of unrest at the end of the 18th
Dublin, and larger lakes such as Lough Derg,                   century, the Protestant gentry traded what
Lough Erne and Lough Gill.                                     remained of their independence for British
                                                               security, and the 1800 Act of Union united Ireland
                                                               politically with Britain. The formation of the
History                                                        Catholic Association by the popular leader Daniel
                                                               O'Connell led to limited Catholic emancipation but
The Celts, Iron Age warriors from eastern Europe,              further resistance was temporarily halted by the
reached Ireland around 300 BC. They controlled                 tragedy of the Great Famine (1845-51). The
the country for 1000 years and left a legacy of                almost complete failure of the potato crop during
language and culture that survives today,                      those years - during which Ireland exported other
especially in Galway, Cork, Kerry and Waterford.               foodstuffs to England - led to mass starvation and
The Romans never reached Ireland, and when                     set up a pattern of emigration that continued well
the rest of Europe sank into the decline of the                into the 20th century.
Dark Ages after the fall of the empire, the country
became an outpost of European civilisation,                    The bloody repercussions of the 1916 Easter
particularly after the arrival of Christianity,                Rising in Dublin added impetus to the push for
between the 3rd and 5th centuries.                             Irish independence and in Britain's 1918 general
                                                               election the Irish republicans won a large majority
During the 8th century Viking raiders began to                 of the Irish seats. They declared Ireland
plunder Ireland's monasteries. The Vikings settled             independent and formed the first Dail Eireann
in Ireland in the 9th century, and formed alliances
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(Irish assembly or lower house), under the                        plan that offered a degree of self-government for
leadership of Eamon de Valera, a surviving hero                   Northern Ireland and the formulation of a North-
of the Easter Rising. This provoked the Anglo-                    South Council that would ultimately be able to
Irish war, which lasted from 1919 to the middle of                implement all-Ireland policies if agreed to by the
1921. The Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 gave                         governments in Belfast and Dublin. As part of the
independence to 26 Irish counties, and allowed                    plan, which was fully endorsed by a referendum,
six, largely Protestant, Ulster counties the choice               the South gave up its constitutional claim to the
of opting out. The Northern Ireland parliament                    North. The whiff of peace is definitely in the air.
came into being, with James Craig as its first
prime minister. The politics of the North became                  By the late 1990s the Republic's economy was
increasingly divided on religious grounds, and                    booming, mainly thanks to an injection of
discrimination against Catholics was rife in                      investment funds from the EU that have helped
politics, housing, employment and social welfare.                 renovate the country's infrastructure. It's been
The south of Ireland was finally declared a                       said that Ireland has skipped straight from an
republic in 1948, and left the British                            agricultural economy to a post-industrial one, as
Commonwealth in 1949.                                             large computer and telecommunications firms
                                                                  have been moving in, bringing jobs and
Instability in the North began to reveal itself in the            investment. The century and a half tradition of
1960s and when a peaceful civil rights march in                   emigration has slowed and possibly even
1968 was violently broken up by the Royal Ulster                  stopped, as young people are staying or returning
Constabulary (RUC), the Troubles were under                       from abroad for new jobs in new industries. The
way. British troops were sent to Derry and Belfast                downside? Try and buy a modest two bedroom
in August 1969; they were initially welcomed by                   house in Dublin now and you're looking at little
the Catholics, but it soon became clear that they                 change from US$1 million.
were the tool of the Protestant majority. Peaceful
measures had clearly failed and the Irish
Republican Army (IRA), which had fought the                       Getting Around
British during the Anglo-Irish war, re-surfaced.
The upheaval was punctuated by seemingly                          The best way to see Ireland is by car, especially
endless tit-for-tat killings on both sides, an array              as many sights of interest are not served by
of everchanging acronyms, the massacre of                         public transport. However, car rental is expensive;
civilians by troops, the internment of IRA                        in the high season it can often make good sense
sympathisers without trial, the death by hunger                   to arrange a package deal before you leave
strike of the imprisoned and the introduction of                  home. The Irish, like the British, drive on the left.
terrorism to mainland Britain.                                    Don't be fooled by Ireland's size: getting around
                                                                  by public transport is not as easy as you might
Northern Ireland lost its vestige of parliamentary                like to think. Distances may be short, but in
independence and has been ruled from London                       Ireland getting from A to B never follows a straight
ever since. The Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985                     line. Rail fares are particularly expensive, there
gave the Dublin government an official                            are notable gaps in the routes, and the frequency
consultative role in Northern Ireland's affairs for               of both bus and train services can leave a lot to
the first time. The jubilantly received ceasefire of              be desired. Winter bus schedules are drastically
1994 was undermined by further murders, the                       reduced, with many routes simply disappearing
reoccurrence of terrorism in Britain and the                      after September. Apart from Ireland's wealth of
perceived intransigence of the British government                 walking and hiking opportunities, cycling is a great
in Whitehall. The mood shifted again with the                     way to get around - if you can ignore the hills,
election of Tony Blair in 1997 with a huge Labour                 poor road surfaces and wet weather. Tourist
majority to support him. The two sides resumed                    offices all have regional cycling maps to help you
discussions and, in 1998, formulated a peace                      plan your tour; West Cork in particular is ideal.

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