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Holidays in Ireland

Understanding Ireland

The island of Ireland historically consists of 32 counties, of which six, collectively known as Northern Ireland, have remained as part of the United Kingdom since the rest of Ireland gained independence in 1922 The name "Ireland" applies to the island as a whole, but in English is also the official name of the independent state ie, the 26 counties which are not part of the United Kingdom, since 1937

Celtic tribes settled on the island in the 4th century BC Invasions by Norsemen that began in the late 8th century were finally ended when King Brian Boru defeated the Danes in 1014 Norman invasions began in the early 12th century and set in place Ireland's uneasy position within England's sphere of influence The Act of Union of 1800 - in which Catholics, 90% of the Irish population, were excluded from Parliament - saw Ireland joining the United Kingdom In the latter half of the 19th century and early 20th century the subject of Irish home rule was a major debate within the British parliament After several failed attempts, a Home Rule bill finally passed through parliament in 1914 though the start of the first world war saw its indefinite postponement A failed rebellion on Easter Monday in 1916 showed a hint of things to come with years of war to follow, beginning with the Irish War of Independence 1919-1921 and continuing with the Irish Civil War 1922-1923

Eventually a somewhat stable situation emerged with the independence of 26 of Ireland's counties known as the Irish Free State; the remaining six, located in the north of the country comprising two-thirds of the ancient province of Ulster, remained part of the United Kingdom — a status that has continued to the present day In 1949 the Irish Free State became the Republic of Ireland and withdrew from the British Commonwealth

Ireland's history post-partition has been marked with violence, a period known as "The Troubles" generally regarded as beginning in the late 1960s saw large scale confrontation between opposing paramilitary groups seeking to either keep Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom or bring it into the Republic of Ireland The Troubles saw many ups and downs in intensity of fighting and on many occasions they even spread to terrorist attacks in Britain and continental Europe Both the government of the UK and Ireland were opposed to the terrorist groups A peace settlement known as the Good Friday Agreement was finally approved in 1998 and is currently being implemented All signs point to this agreement being lasting

Though a relatively poor country for much of the 20th century Ireland joined the European Community in 1973 at the same time as the United Kingdom and since then has seen massive economic growth placing it amongst Europe's richest countries today

Talking in Ireland

English is spoken everywhere but Irish Gaeilge is the first official language Contrary to a common misconception, the Irish language is not simply a dialect of English Unlike many other European languages including English, Irish is neither a Germanic, Romance nor Slavic language Rather, it is part of the Goidelic branch of the Celtic family of languages

Most people have some understanding of Irish but it is used as a first language by only about 30,000 people, most of whom live in rural areas known as the Gaeltacht About 40% c 1,500,000 of people in the Republic claim to understand and speak the language, although some people will exaggerate their fluency in Irish when discussing the matter with foreigners

As the Gaeltacht are generally scenic areas it is likely that visitors will go there Tourists will not be expected to speak Irish but it will be noticeable on road signs, etc For instance, a law was recently passed that changes the name of Dingle, County Kerry to An Daingean, the Irish version This should not confuse visitors, as almost all recent maps carry placenames in both languages in Gaeltacht districts

In order to enter certain Irish Universities, it is necessary for Irish citizens to have taken Irish to Leaving Certificate Examinations taken on leaving secondary or high school level, and passed Indeed it is a compulsory language at school in the Republic, although its method of teaching has come under criticism Nevertheless, although it has come under threat, and some resent being forced to learn the language, others see use of the language as an expression of national pride

There is some Irish language broadcasting on TV and radio Irish is related and very similar but not identical to Scots Gaelic Of the Four Provinces, only one Leinster does not have its own dialect in the language The Ulster dialect has most in common with Scots Gaelic However, some Irish people may take offense if you call Irish "Gaelic" as this is seen as being an incorrect term and refers to the entire family of languages that includes Irish, Manx, and Scots Gaelic Referring to it simply as "Irish" is a fine alternative It is not necessary to know any Irish in order to get around in Ireland See also: Irish phrasebook

Tourist keen to learn a few words of the Irish language often fall for a prank where they are taught swearing in Irish but told they are learning a greeting or other similar phrase This can cause embarrassment when this is later pointed out to them


What to see in Ireland


OPW Heritage Card - Any visitor can purchase one of these cards for admission to any of the Heritage Sites in Ireland which is funded by the Office of Public Works This card can be used to see many historic castles throughout Ireland

Blarney Castle- Located in County Cork , this historic castle is known for its "Blarney Stone" Tradition is that if the Blarney Stone is kissed, one will be blessed with great eloquence, better known as the "gift of the gab" One kisses the stone by laying back and being held by an employee of the castle Photographers are there to capture the moment!

Cliffs of Moher located in County Clare - One of Ireland's Biggest and Most Visited Tourist Attraction The Cliffs are 230 meters in height and tower over the Atlantic Ocean There is a souvenir shop Safety is at visitor's discretion, there are no safety barriers, because it would ruin the natural tourist attraction The Cliffs are an absolute site to see

Kilkenny, one of Ireland's favourite tourist spots, the Medieval Capital just 1 hour 40 minutes train out of Dublin City is a must see Its beautiful buildings and of course imposing Norman Castle - not to mention the numerous festivals including the Arts Festival and Rhythm and Roots Festival - make Kilkenny a most desirable location

Buying stuff in Ireland

The Republic of Ireland is part of the Eurozone, so as in many other European Union countries the currency here is the Euro symbol: € Stand Alone Cash machines ATMs are widely available in every city and town in the country and credit cards are accepted in 90% of outlets Fees are not generally charged by Irish ATMs but beware that your bank may charge a fee

Along border areas, as the UK pound sterling is currency in Northern Ireland, it is common for UK pounds to be accepted as payment, with change given in Euro Some outlets, notably border petrol stations will give change in sterling if requested Fuel is now generally cheaper in the South, resulting in many Northern motorists purchasing their fuel South of the border

Recent diffrences in prices of goods between the Irish Euro and the British Pound have resulted in increasing numbers of Irish shoppers crossing the border to purchase goods which are a lot cheaper in Northern Ireland than in the Republic A November 2008 article in a Northern Newpaper highlighted how up to €350 Euro can be saved by buying your Christmas shopping in Derry & Belfast in the North than in the likes of Letterkenny in Donegal

Only a few years ago when the Celtic Tiger was still very much alive and well the economic situation was reversed

ATMs

ATMs are widely available throughout Ireland Even in small towns it is unlikely that you will be unable to find an ATM

Credit Cards

Mastercard, Maestro and Visa are accepted virtually everywhere American Express and Diners Club are now also fairly widely accepted Discover card is very rarely accepted and it would not be wise to rely on this alone Most ATM's allow cash withdrawals on major credit cards and internationally branded debit cards

Food and eating in Ireland

Food is expensive in Ireland, although quality has improved enormously in the last ten years Most small towns will have a supermarket and many have a weekly farmers' market The cheapest option for eating out is either fast food or pubs Many pubs offer a carvery lunch consisting of roasted meat, vegetables and the ubiquitous potatoes, which is usually good value Selection for vegetarians is limited outside the main cities The small town of Kinsale near Cork has become internationally famous for its many excellent restaurants, especially fish restaurants In the northwest of the country Donegal Town is fast becoming the seafood capital of Ireland

Cuisine

Irish cuisine can charitably be described as hearty: virtually all traditional meals involve meat especially lamb and pork, potatoes, and cabbage Long cooking times are the norm and spices are limited to salt and pepper Classic Irish dishes include:

  • Boxty, potato pancakes
  • Champ, mashed potatoes with spring onions
  • Coddle, a stew of potatoes, pork sausages and bacon; a speciality of Dublin
  • Colcannon, mashed potatoes and cabbage
  • Irish breakfast, a famously filling spread of bacon, eggs, sausages and white and/or black pudding, a type of pork sausage made with blood black or without white Irish Breakfast is often just refered to as a "fry", and is usually available well past normal breakfast times in restaurants
  • Mixed Grill Similar to the Irish Breakfast, but with added lamb chop, chips, and peas
  • Irish stew, a stew of potatoes and lamb not beef!, with carrots, celery and onions in a watery broth full of flavour
  • Bacon and Cabbage, popular and traditional meal in rural Ireland, found on many menus
  • Seafood Pie, a traditional dish of chunky fish pieces topped with mashed potato and melted cheese

Note that the first four listed dishes and their names vary regionally, and are not common throughout the entire country

But the days when potatoes were the only thing on the menu are long past, and modern Irish cuisine emphasizes fresh local ingredients, simply prepared and presented sometimes with some Mediterranean-style twists Meat especially lamb, seafood and dairy produce can be of a very high quality

Try some soda bread, made with buttermilk and leavened with bicarbonate of soda rather than yeast It is heavy, tasty and almost a meal in itself!

Etiquette

Only basic table manners are considered necessary when eating out, unless you're with company that has a more specific definition of what is appropriate As a general rule, so long as you don't make a show of yourself by disturbing other diners there's little else to worry about It's common to see other customers using their mobile phones - this sometimes attracts the odd frown or two but goes largely ignored If you do need to take a call, keep it short and try not to raise your voice The only other issue to be concerned about is noise - a baby crying might be forgivable if it's resolved fairly quickly, a contingent of adults laughing very loudly every couple of minutes or continuously talking out loud may attract negative attention However, these rules are largely ignored in fast-food restaurants, pubs and some more informal restaurants

Traditionally, tipping was never considered to be a necessity and was entirely optional However, recently it has become common to tip up to 10% of the bill total Some establishments will add a 10-15% service charge on top of the obligatory 135% Government VAT charge, especially for larger groups If a service charge is levied, a tip would not normally be left, unless to reward exceptional service

Drinking in Ireland

Alcohol is very expensive in the republic Pints of Guinness start at €360 per pint, can get as high as €750 in Dublin, and does not become less expensive until you reach Northern Ireland While in the North, pints of Guinness instantly become cheaper by €150 euro on average Ireland is the home of some of the world's greatest whiskey, having a rich tradition going back hundreds if not thousands of years With around fifty popular brands today these are exported around the world and symbolise everything that is pure about Ireland and where a visit to an Irish distillery is considered very worthwhile

Another one of Ireland's most famous exports is stout, a dark, dry beer The strong taste can be initially off-putting but perseverance is well-rewarded! The most famous variety is Guinness, brewed in Dublin and available throughout the country Murphy's and Beamish stout are brewed in Cork and available mainly in the south of the country Murphy's is slightly sweeter and creamier-tasting than Guinness, while Beamish has a strong, almost burnt taste Several micro-breweries are now producing their own interesting varieties of stout, including O'Hara's in Carlow, the Porter House in Dublin and the Franciscan Well Brewery in Cork Ales such as Smithwick's are also popular, particularly in rural areas Bulmers Cider known outside the Republic as 'Magners Cider' is also a popular and widely available Irish drink It is brewed in Clonmel, Co Tipperary

It is important to note that it is illegal to smoke in all pubs and indeed places of work in Ireland Many pubs and restaurants have provided 'smoking areas' outside their premises where space has allowed them to

The other competitor for national drink of Ireland is tea The Irish drink more tea per capita than any other people in the world Cork, Dublin and Galway abound with slick, stylish coffee bars, but if you visit any Irish home you will probably be offered a cup of tea usually served with milk, unless you explicitly state otherwise! Coffee is also widely drunk in Ireland If you don't drink tea, you drink coffee!

Accommodation in Ireland

There are hotels of all standards including some very luxurious Bed and Breakfast is widely available These are usually very friendly, quite often family-run and good value There are independent hostels which are marketed as Independent Holiday Hostels of Ireland 39, which are all tourist board approved There is also an official youth hostel association - An Óige 40 Irish for The Youth These hostels are often in remote and beautiful places, designed mainly for the outdoors There are official campsites although fewer than many countries given the climate Wild camping is tolerated, although you should seek permission if it is directly within eye shot of the landowners house Never camp in a field in which livestock are present There are also specialist places to stay such as lighthouses, castles and ringforts

Working in Ireland

Ireland is part of the European Union/European Economic Area, and as such any EU/EEA excepting Bulgarian and Romanian or Swiss national has an automatic right to take up employment in Ireland Non EU/EEA citizens will generally require a work permit and visa Further information can be found on Citizens Information 41, the Irish government's public services information website

Cities in Ireland

abbeyfeale  abbeyleix  ardee  arklow  ashbourne  athboy  athenry  athlone  athy  bagenalstown  bailieborough  balbriggan  ballaghaderreen  ballina  ballinasloe  ballinrobe  ballybofey  ballyhaunis  ballyshannon  banagher  bandon  bantry  belturbet  birr  blarney  blessington  boyle  bray  buncrana  bundoran  cahir  carlow  carndonagh  carrickmacross  carrick-on-suir  carrigaline  cashel  castlebar  castleblayney  castlecomer  castleisland  castlerea  cavan  celbridge  charleville  clane  clara  claremorris  clonakilty  clones  clonmel  cobh  cootehill  cork  dingle  donabate  donegal  drogheda  dublin  duleek  dunboyne  dundalk  dungarvan  dunmanway  dunmore east  dunshaughlin  edenderry  enniscorthy  ennis  enniskerry  fermoy  galway  gorey  gort  granard  greystones  kanturk  kells  kenmare  kilcock  kilcoole  kilcormac  kilcullen  kildare  kilkenny  kill  killorglin  killybegs  kilmallock  kilrush  kinsale  laytown  leixlip  letterkenny  lifford  limerick  listowel  longford  loughrea  lusk  macroom  malahide  mallow  maynooth  midleton  mitchelstown  moate  monaghan  monasterevan  mountmellick  mountrath  moville  mullingar  naas  navan  nenagh  newbridge  newcastle  new ross  oranmore  passage west  portarlington  portmarnock  prosperous  rathangan  rathcoole  rathdrum  rathkeale  ratoath  roscommon  roscrea  rush  sallins  shannon  skerries  skibbereen  sligo  swinford  swords  templemore  thomastown  thurles  tipperary  tower  tralee  tramore  trim  tuam  tullamore  tullow  waterford  westport  wexford  wicklow  youghal  

What do you think about Ireland?

How expensive is Ireland?
(1 EUR = 1.17 USD)
Meal in inexpensive restaurant13.28 EUR
3-course meal in restaurant (for 2)56.51 EUR
McDonalds meal6.83 EUR
Local beer (0.5 draft)4.99 EUR
Foreign beer (0.33 bottle) 4.05 EUR
Cappuccino3.03 EUR
Pepsi/Coke (0.33 bottle)1.48 EUR
Water (0.33 bottle)1.35 EUR
Milk (1l)1.18 EUR
Fresh bread (500g)1.67 EUR
White Rice (1kg)1.95 EUR
Eggs (12) 2.45 EUR
Local Cheese (1kg) 7.97 EUR
Chicken Breast (1kg) 8.72 EUR
Apples (1kg) 2.14 EUR
Oranges (1kg) 2.05 EUR
Tomato (1kg) 2.24 EUR
Potato (1kg) 1.76 EUR
Lettuce (1 head) 0.96 EUR
Water (1.5l)1.5 EUR
Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range) 11.01 EUR
Domestic Beer (0.5 bottle)2.65 EUR
Foreign beer (0.33 bottle) 2.13 EUR
Cigarettes10.66 EUR
One way local bus ticket2.43 EUR
Monthly pass for bus104.79 EUR
Taxi start4.83 EUR
Taxi 1km0.95 EUR
Taxi 1hour waiting20.74 EUR
Gasoline (1 liter) 1.66 EUR
Utilities for a "normal" apartment126.79 EUR
Tennis Court Rent (1 Hour on Weekend) 19.88 EUR
Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre 826.18 EUR
Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre 783.45 EUR
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