Reasons Why I love Ireland
Just about anyone in the world knows of Ireland and the Irish people, renowned for their ability to tell jokes and free-spirited nature. The Irish don’t take life seriously and will often project a positive mindset over a negative mindset in any situation.
On arrival in Ireland, it was raining heavily. The weather was glum and depressing however an Irish person approached me and said: “this is a good day!”
And so I went on my journey through the small country, unsure of what to expect and the only beacon of hope is that everyone spoke English and smiled for no reason.
Ireland’s incredible prehistoric history
Even though Ireland is a relatively small country in comparison to its neighbours, I was surprised to the extent of the country’s history and the resilience of the Irish people. Most of us are familiar with the famine and the troubles of the north, but when I was travelling around the emerald isle, I was amazed by how many ancient monuments there was.
I found through the Irish tourism board website a program called the Ancient East. It’s a newly introduced touring region of Ireland with a collection of unique itineraries with themes focused on food, castles, kings to even Vikings. I opted for a program that involved seeing castles, heritage towns and museums. During those two days, I wasn’t disappointed. Some notable locations I came across include:
• Hill of Tara.
An archaeological complex during the Viking age with tombs as old as 3400 BC. A tour operator informed me that this was where the High King of Ireland use to stay.
• Brú na Bóinne.
Close to the Hill of Tara, this construction is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site that also has over 100 monuments dating as early back as the 35th century, older than the Egyptian pyramids.
This complex is home to 240 archaeological sites and 60 protected national monuments including ring-forts to burial mounds.
Before exploring these monuments, I only assumed Ireland was famous for whisky, Guinness and River-dance. After the tours, walks and events that were part of the program, I wanted a little freedom to explore Ireland’s west coast.
I headed towards Slea Head, a promontory known as the most western point of Ireland (and arguably Europe too). I managed to hitch a ride down its peninsula from a local farmer nearby though it was on a tractor. Even though it was noisy, the route was stunning. There were a few landmarks on the way to enjoy too such as Beehive huts, dingle famine cottage and a few cool beaches.
Then I went to prison for a history lesson
When I was in Dublin, I found myself in a prison, known as the forbidding Kilmainham Gaol. The building has strong connections to the struggles of the Irish and establishing their independence.
This huge prison was built in the late 18th century. Inside was declarations from ‘rebels’ scratched into the walls, names and numbers, a poignant reminder of oppression that wasn’t too long ago. The prison was a place to lock people up indefinitely, no recreation or education. One person’s terrorist was another’s freedom fighter.
All aboard the Titanic
Famously known as the ship that couldn’t sink (but then it did). The Titanic is one of the leading sources of tourism in Belfast, and the museum was not to be missed. Firstly, the museum had nine interactive galleries (always fun), dark rides, reconstructions and clever interactive features, all to help visitors envision themselves there. At one point, I could hop aboard the last remaining White Star vessel – SS Nomadic! A lot of visitors pretended to be pirates, go figure…
For ethical reasons, the museum didn’t include artefacts from the wreck site, but the Titanic Experience did contain a few things from other White Star Line vessels.
Why you would want an Irish best friend
Even after arriving in Ireland, I made friends very quickly. Small talk doesn’t exist in Ireland! I asked for directions after leaving the airport only for the driver to offer a ride. During the trip, the friendly driver engaged in conversation and was genuinely interested in learning more about me. He even gave me his phone number in case I had any problems.
At one point, I had to experience a traditional Irish bar. I mean there are Irish bars located everywhere in the world, but you would be stupid not to visit one while in Ireland. I learned all about the Irish “craic”, a term used to express good times, connection and having great conversation. It can also be used to excuse drunk, flirty behaviour too.
I spoke with a guy called Paddy. He told me stories about Ireland and how different the country was 20 years ago yet the Irish spirit was never vanquished. Irish aren’t concerned with fame, riches or ego, only the small things in life that matter and the people you are important in your life. I also learned a few words in Irish, even though the main language is English. The western provinces of Ireland have more native Irish speakers but also thankfully speak English too.
A traditional Irish band started playing after 8 pm, and everyone was up dancing. The locals were too drunk to dance, so most of them just waved their hands in a gesture of unison. The atmosphere was electric and at times, hilarious. A few people jumped onto the tables, performed an Irish jig before staff threatened to throw them out.
Irish culture celebrates living in the moment
St Patricks’ day is one of the most important holidays in Ireland. Everyone dresses in green and pretends to be Irish for a day though as the country has evolved economically and even furthermore on a global scale, tradition has become tweaked towards the more mainstream audience.
I’ve experienced traditional Irish music in small pubs with traditional Irish instruments such as the Bodhran and fiddle, but I wanted to see something more modern, what the locals’ rock too. I heard of a popular bar known as Lavery’s bar, a staple of Belfast. I played a game of pool with a local called James. He invited me to an EDM event later in the evening. I thought why not and then I met his friends, all highly sociable and great to talk with. We even performed an Irish dance on the way to the event because it was cold and something fun to do.
Hearty food that fills the void
Cuisine in Ireland is wholesome and nourishing but also a bit stodgy, on a cold rainy day which is common on the emerald isle, the cuisine tends to make you forget about the weather. A few dishes that I endorse to a fellow traveller include:
• Irish stew (made with lamb, mutton, or goat)
• Shepherd’s pie (meat and vegetables which are topped with potato)
• Bacon and cabbage (with potatoes)
• Boxty (a potato pancake)
• Coddle (sausage, bacon, and potato)
• Colcannon (mashed potato, kale or cabbage, and butter)
Irish coffee was also on the cards, which is basically a black coffee, whiskey and whipped cream. If you aren’t a fan of whipped cream, there’s always Baileys which has a smoother taste. I also managed to get my hands on the legendary Poitín, a normally home-made alcoholic drink that gets you drunk after one shot.
I am genuinely in love with Ireland, the culture, and its people. Ireland is one of my favourite countries to visit. What about you? Let me know which country do you like the most.
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