World ? Europe ? Republic of Ireland

Republic of Ireland: Introduction

At first glance, Ireland presents a familiar face to American visitors. The language is the same, only more lyrical, the faces are familiar, the food recognizable, and even the beer is well known. Many visitors, notably Irish-Americans, experience it as a kind of homecoming. It takes awhile for this superficial impression to wear off, but it will, because this is a unique country in its own right, a fact that becomes clearer the longer you stay here. The impenetrable Gaelic language is increasingly prevalent, and in some counties, road signs are exclusively in that language. This creates a kind of distance, a feeling of foreignness, that it seems many Irish do not mind cultivating. Once you overcome that feeling, though, you'll find so much to love here. The sheer number of sights, villages, charming pubs, and adorable restaurants and shops is overwhelming -- you always feel that you might be missing something.

For visitors this is an ideal country to traverse, and with its varied and extensive offerings within a compact frame, it's visually addictive. Within a few miles, you can travel from rugged coastline to smooth pastureland to towering mountains to gloomy peat bog. You can spend the night in ancient castles or modern spa hotels, dine on fine Irish cuisine or skimp on fish and chips. The country's varied offerings can be a bit dazzling, so it's nice to have somebody help you focus. That's why we've put together this list of some of our favorite places and things in Ireland. We hope that while you're here, you'll find a few of your own.

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