Ireland has a way of burying its way into your heart. Perhaps it’s the affable nature of the Irish, who seem to engage you in a chat at any chance and wield their derisive humour in even the grimmest of situations. Or the truly magnificent scenery of castles on rugged coastlines, whitewashed stone cottages set amongst green hills and haphazard stone walls running the breadth of the land. Then there are the dynamic cities filled with Gothic, Georgian and Victorian architecture, stellar art scenes and an enviable night-life, which are beautifully contrasted by enchanting villages where you can understand how faeries and elves came into being.
And sure, it rains ALL the time and the days are more grey than not, but the warmth of the pubs, the beauty of the scenery and the charm of the people make this more than bearable.
And most importantly, Guinness really does taste better in Ireland.
Ireland Tours & Travel
All our Ireland trips
Articles on Ireland
At a glance
- Trips Available:
- Capital city:
- Dublin (population 500,000)
- 4.7 million
- English, Gaelic
- Time zone:
- (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time : Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London
- Type D (Old British 3-pin) Type G (Irish/British 3-pin) Type M (see D)
- Dialing code:
Best time to visit Ireland
Don’t forget your umbrella! Although the wettest time of year is from October to April, rain is pretty much a guarantee year round. Summer, June to August, promises better weather, and the long days are welcome even if the sun isn’t shining. May, June and September are great months to travel to Ireland, as there are fewer tourists, more daylight and it’s usually relatively warm for Irish standards). July and August are the country’s busier months, but the festivals, events and good craic that take over the country more than make up for the increase in tourists.
History and government
Tumultuous is a good word to describe Ireland’s often troubled and sorrowful history, which is filled with invasion, repression, deadly conflict, religious discrimination and emigration.
Ireland’s history dates back to 8000 BC, and progressed from a hunter-gatherer society to an agricultural one. Christianity came to the island in the 5th century, replacing the old tribal and Druid societies, though many of the Celtic traditions were preserved.
In the 800s, the Vikings started invading and regularly raided and plundered the island for upwards of two centuries. They set up settlements (most notably Dublin), but were eventually pushed out of Ireland by the Irish king Muirecán. (Ireland was then made up of many small kingdoms, who fought each other for dominance of other counties and the entire island.)
Then came the Normans. When an exiled Irish king sought help from (English) King Henry II, he sent Norman forces to (successfully) recapture the Irish King’s counties. This event established Norman lords in Ireland, who soon ruled big tracts of Iand. This worried Henry II so much he invaded in person in 1172. Now it was not only Irish lords that were battling for control of the country, but Norman and English ones as well.
Fast forward to 1536 and Henry VIII, who tried to conquer Ireland and extend English law over the country. This was met with fierce resistance, especially when he tried to convert the Irish Catholics to Protestants. This opened up a brutal few centuries, where the endeavour for Protestant rule over Ireland led to many atrocities and battles. In the 1600s, land was confiscated from Catholics and given to Protestant settlers (known as the Plantations), triggering the first wave of mass Irish emigration. Remaining remaining Catholics were subject to persecution, with their rights becoming less and less as time went on.
The Irish Rebellion of 1798, led by the republican United Irishmen (who wanted to overthrow British rule and have a non-sectarian republic) was brutally quelled and Irish self-government was abolished. From 1845¬–49, Ireland suffered the Great Famine, which saw over a million people die from starvation and disease, and a million or more emigrate. Understandably, relations between the Irish people and the British got worse, as the government had many means to stop the severity of the famine. Another tragedy was that this period (along with other factors) contributed to English largely replacing the Irish language.
From this time until 1912, there were many attempts at reinstating home rule (Irish self-government) and a number of rebellions were instigated but failed. It was also when two distinct groups emerged: the Irish nationalists (who wanted Ireland to be independent and governed by the Irish) and Irish unionists (who considered themselves British and wanted to remain in the union).
In 1922, after the Irish War of Independence and many years of fighting, the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed and Ireland was divided into Northern Ireland (six counties) and Southern Ireland (26 counties), known as the Irish Free State. This lead to the Irish Civil War, fought between those who wanted a unified Ireland and those who wanted to keep Northern Ireland under British rule. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) lost, and Northern Ireland remained ruled by Britain.
The Irish Free State was a predominantly Catholic state and the Roman Catholic church had a massive impact on the formation of the country, as it had over much of Irish history. In 1949, the Republic of Ireland was established and left the British Commonwealth. Up until the late 1990s, the economy of Ireland struggled and emigration was an ongoing problem. Unfortunately the economic boom of the 90s and 2000s has faltered, and economic troubles have once again returned. That said, the conservatism of the Catholic church has lost its grip over society, with many social reforms that would have once been unthinkable being implemented in the 90s.
After the division of the counties in 1922, Northern Ireland became a predominantly Protestant state. Years of violence between pro-British Unionists and pro-Irish Republicans have marked its history, which is a complicated and bloody beast woven with political, ethnic and religious differences. It is as fascinating as it is heartbreaking, and worth reading about in a sphere that can do it justice. See our list of recommended books for books detailing this period.
Top 5 Irish mythical creatures
2. They are Ireland’s most well known mythical characters. They are male faeries who take the form of an old shoemaker and are depicted with mischief in their eyes. Leprechauns are the source of practical jokes, have the ability to grant wishes and have untold riches buried away.
4. A banshee is a female faerie who is said to emit an other-worldly wail when someone is about to die. While usually heard rather than seen, reports of sightings range from the sight of a beautiful woman who utters a low, pleasant singing to a crone who emits a soul-chilling shriek.
6. They are creatures that are seals in the water but are human once they shed their skin on land. They are often linked with tales of ill-fated romance, where either a human has stolen the selkie’s skin so they can’t return to the water (and must marry the human) or a human is taken to the depths of the ocean to be their spouse.
8. A dullahan carries its head under its arm and rides a black stallion – and sometimes drives a wagon made out of skeletons! Its mission is to claim souls, stopping only to call out the name of the person who will die. Those who try to watch him will endure a bucket of blood thrown at them or a whip made out of a spinal cord. Only gold can scare it.
10. A merrow is the Gaelic version of a mermaid/merman – a half-human, half-fish creature with an amiable and benevolent nature. They are known to lure handsome men to live under the sea, but are also capable of living with humans and marrying them. They have a special hat called a cohuleen druith, and can’t return to the water if they lose it.
FAQs on Ireland
City public transport ride = 2.5 Euro
Simple cafe lunch = 15 Euro
Nice meal in a restaurant = 40 Euro
Mar 18 St Patrick’s Day
Apr 21 Easter Monday
May 5 Bank Holiday
Jun 2 Bank Holiday
Aug 4 Bank Holiday
Oct 25 Bank Holiday
Dec 25 Christmas Day
Dec 26 St Stephen’s Day
These dates are for 2014. Check this link for other years: www.worldtravelguide.net/ireland/public-holidays
Health and Safety
Intrepid takes the health and safety of its travellers seriously, and takes every measure to ensure that trips are safe, fun and enjoyable for everyone. We recommend that all travellers check with their government or national travel advisory organisation for the latest information before departure:
From New Zealand?
Go to: http://www.voyage.gc.ca/
Go to: http://travel.state.gov/
Go to: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/
The World Health Organisation
also provides useful health information:
Go to: http://www.who.int/en/
Ireland Travel Tips
Top responsible travel tips for Ireland
1. Be considerate of Ireland’s customs, traditions, religions and culture.
2. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Fill a reusable water bottle or canteen with filtered water.
3. Always dispose of litter thoughtfully, including cigarette butts.
4. Shop for locally made products. Supporting local artisans helps keep traditional crafts alive and supports the local community.
5. Refrain from supporting businesses that exploit or abuse endangered animals.
6. Please ask and receive permission before taking photos of people, including children.
|Making Sense of the Troubles||David McKittrick and David McVea|
|Modern Ireland 1600-1972||RF Foster|
|The Van||Roddy Doyle|
|Journeyman Tailor||Gerry Seymour|
|McCarthy’s Bar: A journey of discovery in Ireland||Pete McCarthy|