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Ireland

Ireland once consisted of 32 different counties. Today, the independent nation of Ireland is made up of a total of 26 counties in the northern area and the remaining six belong to the United Kingdom.

The history of Ireland began when Celtic tribes reached the island around the fourth century BC. Centuries later, their settlements were disturbed by invading Norseman, a disruption which lasted for over one hundred years. Invasions from the Normans began around the 12th century and continued to contribute to difficult relations between England and Ireland ever since. In 1800, an act was signed that made Ireland a part of the United Kingdom; however, Irish people continued to fight for autonomy. The Irish War of Independence broke out in 1919 and was followed by a civil war, lasting until 1923.

Gradually, the conditions in Ireland improved and 26 of Ireland’s former counties united to form what was known as the Irish Free State. They later formed Ireland, officially titled the Republic of Ireland, in 1949. The formation of Ireland marked the exit of the 26 free states from the British Commonwealth.

de_0050_ireland - Belfast Eye

Attractions

Ireland has a lot to offer travelers, including rugged coastlines, rolling green hills, excellent dining and drinking, and plenty of historical sites. One of the most famous attractions is Blarney Castle, which is located in County Cork. Built over 600 years ago, the castle comes with one very famous tradition related to the Blarney Stone. Those who kiss the stone are supposed to be bestowed with charisma and eloquence.

In County Clare, the Cliffs of Moher are not to be missed. Against the rough waters of the Atlantic Ocean, the Cliffs stand magnificently tall at nearly 230 meters. However, beware that as a top tourist destination in Ireland, they’re often overcrowded with visitors, especially in the peak season. In addition, the parking lot is a bit of a tourist trap, as you have to go through the gift shop in order to access your car once you park it.

Kilkenny bears the evidence of Ireland’s Medieval past. Located near Dublin, it is rife with Medieval architecture and naturally also has its own castle. But what makes this place unique are the numerous art and cultural festivals that are hosted there every year.

de_0049_ireland - Dunluce Castle, Northern Ireland

Local Food & Drink

Irish cuisine mainly involves hearty meat dishes with cabbage and potatoes as vegetables. Local dishes include Irish pancakes, or “boxty,” and “coddle,” a specialty found in Dublin that contains stewed pork sausages, bacon, and potatoes. Most options contain meat, but seafood is rapidly becoming a popular entree with dishes such as Seafood Pie on most menus. Food is fairly expensive, although the quality is good and meals are filling. Most pubs offer large meals for a consistent price. In smaller countryside towns, the locals obtain their food from the weekly markets.

In terms of drink, the Irish are famous for their love of alcohol. It is fairly cheap to drink in the country, with a pint of the national favorite, Guinness, starting at 1.50 Euros. In cities such as Dublin, prices can grow to more than triple that rate. Ireland is also home to some of the world’s most famous whiskeys. Although you might already be familiar with some of the well-known ones, there are hundreds of other lesser-known brands that are brewed in Ireland. Most Irish pubs sell everything from beer to whiskey, so you can sample according to your tastes.

de_0048_ireland - Ha'penny Bridge in Dublin

Safety

The Irish police force are referred to as “Gardai” or “Guards” in English. Members of the force are professional and courteous towards tourists. They do not carry guns and are eager to help those visiting the country. They can be reached by dialing 999 or 112 from a landline or a mobile phone.

Ireland is a relative safe country, similar to most other European nations. As in any country, crimes are more likely to occur in major cities and it is advised that you avoid walking alone at night in large cities. If you’ve decided to rent a car in the country, take the proper precautions. Do not drive over the posted speed limit and exercise caution on the winding, narrow roads in the countryside.