There’s a reason why Ireland is called the Emerald Isle. From jaw-dropping coast to coast, Ireland is literally a sea of lush green — with varying shades of watery blue. Nowhere is the physical beauty of the country more pronounced than The Wild Atlantic Way. Stretching 1,553 miles along the west coast, this spectacular drive offers breathtaking views of rugged cliffs dipping to the sea, moody lighthouses, and storybook castles. Combined with St. Patrick’s day (fast approaching), Ireland’s famous greenery is, alone, worth traveling for. But here are 10 equally compelling reasons — from staying in a prestigious country manor house or castle, to singing Oh Danny Boy in an Irish pub, to falcon flying, salmon fishing, and soaking in an Irish seaweed bath — to make the hop across the pond.
The Wild Atlantic Way
While California’s coastal highway (rightly) gets a lot of buzz, Ireland is actually home to the world’s longest defined coastal driving route in the world. The Wild Atlantic Way stretches 1,553 miles along the west coast offering breathtaking views of the rugged cliffs dipping to the sea, moody lighthouses, and storybook castles of course.
Real-life ‘Downton Abbey’
Fulfill your Downton Abbey fantasies with a stay in a real country manor house. Check into Ballyfin Demesne, a true Irish ‘Great House’ — home to elegant period furnishings, priceless art, stately gardens, and even its own tower and secret grotto. Dress up for dinner in period costume, complete with feathers and gloves. Arrive in style, by horse and carriage.
Traditional Irish music — fiddle, harp, banjo, tin whistle, and bodhrán (like a hand-held drum) — is a huge part of Irish culture. And for travelers, you can enjoy the sounds and culture-hit in any local pub. Even if you’re not a drinker, the lively chatter and friendly locals are worth a night out. Singing the standards like Danny Boy and The Irish Rover, will also inevitably startup.
If you like Guinness, you’ll love it here. Guinness in Ireland is said to taste significantly better than elsewhere in the world. The best-selling beer is easy to find — every local pub sells pints. But to learn more about the brewing process, go straight to the source and visit the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin.
Ireland’s long-standing tradition of bathing in seaweed dates back to Edwardian times when almost every seaside town offered private soaks in hot seawater and seaweed. Today, the still-popular bath centers largely around Strandhill Co. Sligo, where Voya Seaweed Baths offers restorative treatments (said to aid rheumatism and arthritis). The baths are set alongside a curving beach, perfect for a long walk afterward.
Ireland has no shortage of castles. The country has 30,000 castles and ruins to be exact. One of the best ways to experience Ireland’s fairytale architecture is to stay in a castle hotel. Opt for 800-year-old Ashford Castle, the former home of the Guinness family, overlooking Lough Corrib and an emerald green forest. The 83-room hotel, known for its high-end cuisine, is home to an equestrian center, impressive wine cellar, 32-seat cinema, and an intimate spa.
Falcon Flying and Fishing
Falconry and fishing enthusiasts rejoice. Birds and fish (particularly salmon) are plentiful here, and one of the best places to enjoy both sports is Sheen Falls Lodge in Kenmare. The hotel offers falconry classes — with owls and hawks too (wellies provided); while fishermen can cast right from River Sheen, just steps from the hotel.
Luxury spas are also abundant here — the ocean, greenery, mountains, and loughs conducive for healing and restoration. Most of the castle hotels and manor houses offer a tranquil spa setting but for a hip spa hotel, head to Espa at the g in Galway. We love the contemporary interiors by famed British milliner Philip Treacy and stunning views of the sea.
Ireland is far from Hollywood, but when the movie credits roll you’ll see it take center stage. The Emerald Isle is the setting for many a blockbuster. The Princess Bride, Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, PS I Love You, and Star Wars (to name a few) were all filmed here.
Leprechauns are legendary in Ireland. But fairies also play a prominent place in Irish culture. Locals point to ‘fairy trails’ (forests and ringforts) for spotting fairies, with the most popular including Grianán of Aileach, a 2000-year-old ring fairy fort, and Knockainey Hill, said to be a ‘hotbed for fairy activity.’