In 2017, over ten million tourists visited Ireland. This isn’t bad going for a country with a population of just under five million. Better still, they brought an estimated €8 billion into the economy according to official figures. But what is it that attracts so many people from all over the world?
Well, it’s a country that manages to combine stunning landscapes with a rich history and a lively culture. Add to that the famous Irish hospitality and love of the craic, and it’s easy to see just why the Emerald Isle provides such a strong draw for people across the world.
You’ll never find that you’re short of suggestions of things to see and do in Ireland, but here are our top five. Check them out and see if you agree with us.
Head for County Meath and you’ll find yourself surrounded by some of Ireland’s most significant historic sites – so much so that it’s been named as an official World Heritage site.
Probably the most famous individual place to visit is Newgrange. Built around 5,000 years ago – before Stonehenge and even many of the pyramids in Egypt – Newgrange is an ancient burial ground that is the site of a spectacular event held on the Winter Solstice on December 21st. As long as the sun is shining, its rays illuminate the interior in an alignment that doesn’t occur on any other day of the year.
Just like Stonehenge, it’s a mystery just how the stones were transported to the site, especially as it was some time before the invention of the wheel – a fact which makes its construction all the more remarkable.
The site has a first-class visitor centre which gives you all the background and context you need to enjoy your visit to Newgrange. It’s also the starting point for guided tours that cost €7 per adult and €4 for students.
The Sporting Emporium
If you’re a city slicker, you might well want to experience the urban delights Ireland has to offer – in which case, Dublin’s the place to go. The Irish capital has everything you’d expect – thriving nightlife and lots of world-class art galleries and museums – but one thing that’s a cut above the rest is its gambling scene.
The Sporting Emporium is one of the city’s most exclusive and prestigious casinos. Head here and you’ll get the chance to win back some of the cost of your holiday, and then some.
Opened in 2005 and locally owned by the famous Dublin entrepreneur, Dermot Desmond, the Sporting Emporium is a lavish and glamorous venue where you can play a variety of games including Blackjack, Poker Punto Bianco and Roulette. It also boasts the largest gaming floors and most up to date technology in the country where you can play from 6pm till 6am, seven days a week. There are hundreds of slot machines, including video slots and jackpot slots for the most engaging slot gaming.
Best of all, the Sporting Emporium caters for entry-level gamblers and high-rollers alike, with betting limits starting at 50 cents and high-value stakes available too. Visitors have praised it for its friendly staff, good craic and fun atmosphere – and some have even likened it to its equivalents in Vegas.
Roulette’s a particular speciality of the house and there are no less than six tables to play at. Roulette is surely one of the most exciting casino games ever, with large amounts of cash to be won in an instant with every spin of the wheel. While roulette might seem a game of complete chance, there are numerous approaches you can adopt to boost your chances of winning. By betting your money wisely, you can bring down the house edge and increase the likelihood that you’ll end up leaving the table with a hefty jackpot.
The popularity of roulette in the Sporting Emporium speaks volumes, many bricks and mortar casinos have seen a drop in the number of visitors, due to the convenience and the quality of the online games on offer, the Sporting Emporium is an exception. Although, it’s easy to see why many land-based casinos are feeling the pressure. The best online casinos offer a range of games and even various types of roulette, including European, low-stakes, American and French – the sheer range will ensure you’re spoilt for choice if you try online roulette at this exceptional and highly recommended casino.
The Ring of Kerry
For many people, the Ring of Kerry is quintessentially Irish. It embodies everything people expect to see in the Irish countryside – rugged islands, white-sand beaches and dramatic mountain passes. To take in the magic of the Ring of Kerry, you’re best touring it in a car. You’ll find ancient monuments almost everywhere you go along with spectacular castles, beautiful gardens and towns and villages positively bursting with life and character. There’s also the stunning coastline to explore, with its craggy inlets, dramatic cliffs and beautiful, deserted beaches.
The Ring of Kerry is equally famous for its many culinary delights which use the finest and freshest of produce from the land and sea. One town where you can experience this to the full is Kenmare. It’s said to be the only place in Ireland with more restaurants than pubs. But don’t worry – if you’re looking to enjoy a pint of the black stuff, it does have plenty of the latter, too. And while you’re in the area, make sure to stop by the Neolithic stone circle that’s in the middle of the town and which dates back to the Bronze Age up to 2,000 years BC.
No rundown of essential tourist spots in Ireland could possibly overlook this great way to explore the history of one of the country’s most famous exports. The Guinness Storehouse is Ireland’s most popular tourist attraction and for as little as €18.50 (provided you book in advance) you can learn about the legendary drink’s history and recipe.
Situated in the heart of Dublin’s equally renowned St. James Gate Brewery the building is a seven-floor high construction in the shape of a giant pint glass. As you make your way up the floors you’ll be treated to interactive displays featuring everything from how Guinness is brewed to many of the legendary ads that have helped make the brand what it is today.
All this learning about stout is sure to help you build up a thirst, so the final stop is on the top floor and the Gravity Bar where you’ll not only be able to enjoy a pint – you’ll also get one of the very best views of Dublin there is.
There’s been a long-standing rivalry between Trinity College and University College Dublin as to which is the best institution – but there’s no denying that when it comes to guided tours, it’s Trinity College that wins out every time.
Costing €14 and run by guides who use all their dramatic skills to bring the stories of the ancient college to life, these tours will teach you some truly fascinating facts. For example, did you know that the library’s Long Room is said to have been the inspiration for the Jedi Archives in Star Wars Episode II: The Attack of the Clones?
The college was originally established in 1592 so you’ll also find many ancient buildings to explore and the best time to visit is in May when the students have finished their exams and the college is still bursting with life and activity. And no visit would be complete without seeing The Book of Kells, the illuminated manuscript of the four gospels believed to have been produces in the first century and permanently on display in the Old Library.
So there you have them, five great reasons to make Ireland your holiday destination of choice, whatever the time of year. So as they say in the land of the Blarney Stone, “Céad míle fáilte” or a thousand words welcome.