By LISA KLEIN
A visit to Ireland is like one of its beloved fairy tales in many ways, with breathtaking green expanses and towering cliffs along the sea, ancient stone ruins and majestic castles and fun and friendly people to welcome weary travelers.
Luckily, the Emerald Isle’s small size allows for a trip that takes in all the nature, history and culture the country has to offer.
“Ireland is magic at any time of the year,” said Karen McBride of Irish Luxury Tours. “Even the most mundane areas of the country are beautiful, especially in summer when the fields and countryside turn lush and green.”
Ireland may be small, but it has no shortage of green spaces to explore, with nature-packed sights around every corner.
While just about any drive outside of urban areas will provide a dose of rolling hills babbling brooks, some spots are tailor-made for outdoor adventures, especially along the country’s west coast.
“A drive along the Wild Atlantic Way is stunning,” Ms. McBride said.
The route follows the western coastline and hits countless fantastic natural wonders, including Slieve League, a mountain and sea cliffs in the north, the famed Cliffs of Moher and the Ring of Kerry in the south.
National parks such as the Wicklow Mountains, Connemara, the Burren and Killarney offer sweeping views and hiking trails from easy to challenging.
The country’s renowned golf courses are another way to get some fresh air, from the famous Ballybunion Golf Club to the seaside Tralee Golf Club and beyond.
Ireland’s thousands of years of history are also visible at every turn, with castles and ruins seemingly as numerous as sheep.
Ms. McBride recommends Newgrange, a Neolithic monument built around B.C.E. 3200, and the 12th-century Trim Castle.
Other hits include Glendalough, a monastic settlement dating to the 6th century, and the Rock of Cashel, a fortress complex with structures built between 1100 and 1400 that includes a historic graveyard.
Saints and scholars
Ireland’s cities are no less impressive than the wild countryside.
“All of our cities hold their own unique appeal,” Ms. McBride said.
“Dublin, the capital, is vibrant, bustling and full of energy,” he said. “Home to attractions such as the Guinness Brewery, the Phoenix Park and Trinity College, Dublin also boasts a vibrant food and drink scene as well as a lively music scene.”
From the Medieval Christ Church and St. Patrick’s cathedrals to views of the River Liffey from the circa-1800s Ha’penny Bridge to pints in a 17th– or 18th-century pub, Dublin packs it all in.
“Cork has its own special magic and is home to a wonderful foodie scene,” Ms. McBride said. “Limerick is well-known for its music scene and Kilkenny is famous for its Medieval heritage.
“Galway captures everybody’s heart with its cobbled streets and artisan shops and restaurants,” she said. “It is famed for being the festival capital of Ireland.”
No matter where a traveler lands, they are sure to encounter the warm welcome of the Irish, who love storytelling and sports, beer and whiskey, and song and dance.
“Irish dancing is an important part of our culture and traditional Irish music is known and loved the world over,” Ms. McBride said. “If you get an opportunity to experience a ‘ceilidh’ (Irish dance party) on a visit to Ireland, it will be an experience you will not forget.”
With its bountiful nature, historical sites and friendly culture, Ireland has something to suit any traveler’s taste.
“The energy of the place is something that will stay with you for a long time,” Ms. McBride said.
“I think a visit to Ireland is something that leaves people feeling refreshed, energized, rested, often nostalgic and definitely entertained,” she said.