When on the east coast of Ireland make sure to explore the endless lakes, mountains, forests and walking trails that Offaly, Laois, Monaghan and Westmeath have to offer. Then, delve into rich and deep seeded history in Meath and Wicklow before soaking up the incredible uniquely Irish ambience in Ireland’s capital of Dublin.
Wicklow, fondly referred to as ‘the Garden of Ireland’, is the perfect place to start when discovering the grandeur of the East coast of Ireland. Wake up slowly and take it easy by discovering the picturesque gardens that surround Powerscourt house where you can tackle one of many walking trails along the lakes or opt for adventure when on the fantastic award-winning Wild Wicklow Tour.
The tour, which runs all year round, gives people a chance to see sights such as Dun Laoghaire Harbour and the beautiful little village of Dalkey before stopping in Avoca Handweavers for some morning coffee and then to Glendalough and the Sally Gap in co. Wicklow, the location for such blockbuster movies as Braveheart and P.S. I Love you.
Glendalough, located in County Wicklow and impressive in its own right, is made up of several different monastic ruins most notable the Round tower which stands 30metres tall over the rest of the city.
Dublin’s neighbouring county of Kildare is a must for all horse racing enthusiasts as it is here that you will find the National Stud and adjoining Japanese gardens. Not only is this location a hive of activity during the racing season it is home to the tranquil St. Fiachra’s Garden, patron saint of Gardeners. The tourism centre is open all year round for visitors to explore.
Those with a passion for golf must also make a stop in Kildare and visit the world acclaimed 5* K club, AA hotel of the year for 2010-2011 and host to the international golfing tournament, the Ryder Cup. If one golf club is not enough for you then why not make a visit to the Killeen Castle and Golf Club in co. Meath?
Newgrange, a UNESCO heritage site also located in co. Meath, is a magnificent Stone Age passage tomb that is older than the Pyramids. Coupled with two other monuments known as Knoth and Dowth this site is known as Brú na Bóinne. Guided tours of Brú na Bóinne and Newgrange are available from the visitor centre.
Newgrange itself is best known for the lighting of the tomb that occurs by natural sunlight each year around the time of the Winter solstice (around December 21). Beginning at dawn, a narrow beam of light enters what is known as ‘the roof-box’ of the site gradually flooding the entire tomb in sunlight.
Entry into the tomb to see this awe inspiring display is quite rare save for a lucky few who get to experience it have to win a lottery held by the heritage centre.
For those who are after a more active holiday when in the east then why not try and conquer the Slieve Bloom Mountains in County Offaly. Walking trails are in plentiful supply around these beautiful mountains and walking festivals are in abundance all year round.
Nearby to the mountains is Birr Castle and the magnificent Clonmacnoise, a 6th century heritage site comprised of the ruins of a cathedral, seven churches, two round towers, three high crosses and the largest collection of Early Christian graveslabs in Western Europe.
Also well worth a visit is the Tullamore Dew heritage centre, where Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey is crafted. Tours of the centre, either guided or self-guided, are available all year round complemented by a whiskey tasting at the end of the tour.
Last but not least no trip to Ireland would be complete without a visit to the capital city of Dublin. It is a city that is alive with activity from the crack of dawn when the many food markets are bustling with traders to well into the night when the legendary Temple bar comes to life!
A great way to see all that Dublin has to offer is by taking a Hop on Hop off tour of the city. For approximately $25 (€16) you can visit such spectacular places as Christchurch Cathedral; Dublin Zoo; the Guinness Storehouse and its Gravity bar, the highest bar in Ireland with panoramic views of Dublin city; and the magnificent Trinity College and its key exhibit the Book of Kells.
The book itself dates back to 800 A.D. and is a Gospel Manuscript written in Latin. Each day in the old Library at Trinity College, where the book is kept, the book itself is opened to a new page for people to view.
Recently claiming the title of UNESCO city of literature, taking place beside other cities including Melbourne, one day spent retracing the steps of great Irish authors’ makes you can easily see why. Take your picture with Oscar Wilde in Merrion Square or join a literary pub crawl around the city where you can stop in pubs and bars to hear the works of Beckett, Joyce, Swift and Wilde being recited.
Or why not visit The Dublin Writer’s Museum in Parnell Square where you can marvel at such exhibits dedicated to those who have contributed to literary history both in Ireland and worldwide also?
Watch Dublin city transform itself every year from June 12th to 16th, on Bloomsday, where Joyce enthusiasts come together all over the city to re-enact the scenes depicted by the author in the world famous book Ulysses.
Of course, literature is not all that Dublin is famed for! Spend hours picking up a bargain on O’Connell Street and Grafton Street, two of the main shopping streets or take a break from it all in Phoenix Park, the biggest park in Europe.
Marvel at great art in the National Gallery of Ireland where Irish artists such as Jack B. Yates are celebrated and or savour the unique atmosphere of a hurling or rugby match in Croke Park Stadium and Landsdowne Road.
At night time delve into the social circuit. Watch a play in the Abbey or Gaiety Theatre, go for a meal in one of several Michelin star restaurants, listen to one of Irelands most up and coming bands perform and watch the people go by in one of the many pubs that all add to the unforgettable Temple bar experience.
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Story and photos courtesy of Tourism Ireland