Ireland has some beautiful unspoilt scenery and places to visit. Take your time as you browse through what you can see when you visit Ireland on your next Irish Rugby Tours tour.
It’s all quiet above ground but did you know that there are some astonishing stories just below the surface? Under the ground near picturesque Doolin, County Clare, is a cave that’s home to The Great Stalactite. At 7.3 metres it is the longest free-hanging stalactite in Europe.
Aillwee Cave is a cave system in the karst landscape of the Burren in County Clare, Ireland. The name Aillwee is derived from the Irish Aill Bhuí which means “yellow cliff”. Privately owned, it forms part of the Aillwee Cave and Birds of Prey Centre attraction.
KESHCORRAN MOUNTAIN CAVES
Keshcorran Mountain in County Sligo has 17 caves. With lots of legendary tales which includes the birth of Cormac Mac Art. Cormac was one of Ireland’s most famous kings, who was apparently born in a well beneath the caves.
Wildlife is treasured all over Ireland, with six national parks designated as areas of protection. We are a country of immense beauty and natural landscapes, while the somewhat unpredictable climate lends itself well to many unique plants and flowers. Our national parks are places of unspoiled ecosystems protected by law and open to the public. They are designated areas of safety for flora and fauna, making them very special places of interest to anyone visiting the Emerald Isle.
CONNEMARA NATIONAL PARK
Much of the present Park lands formed part of the Kylemore Abbey Estate and the Letterfrack Industrial School, the remainder by private individuals. Southern part of the Park was at one time owned by Richard Martin. Richard helped to form the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals during the early 19th century. The Park lands are now wholly owned by the State and managed solely for National Park purposes.
WICKLOW MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK
Wicklow Mountains National Park was established in 1991. At first glance, the influence of Man does not appear great in its 20,000 hectares of wild habitat. In fact, there are layers of history all around. The Wicklow Mountains were originally covered with forests. Neolithic farmers cleared the trees using stone axes. In doing so, they facilitated the development of the blanket bog that covers the hills today. Many years later, in the late 6th century, St. Kevin established a monastic settlement in Glendalough. It flourished for 600 years. The remains of several churches and crosses are still there today and are easily explored.
NORTHERN IRELAND’S CASTLES
Northern Ireland’s rich and detailed history spans over 2000 years and they have some impressive castles to show for it. With over 40 dotted around, there are plenty to choose from, and they open a window into the past. Many of these castles are open to the public, and with their stunning scenery and history, they are well worth a look around.
This castle is possibly the largest and most famous in Northern Ireland. It’s definitely one of the most visually striking. Still intact, Carrickfergus town is far older than Belfast, and the castle was built in 1177 by the Anglo-Norman knight John de Courcy, after he invaded Ulster. The castle itself has changed hands multiple times, from the Normans to the Scots and then the English, it is a reflection of the changing times. It has also been the stage of some defining moments in history. As it happens the last witchcraft trial was held there in 1711 and the American navy attempted to capture a warship in Carrickfergus harbour during the American War of Independence.
Enniskillen Castle was originally built in the 16th century and now houses the Fermanagh County Museum. It is also home to the regimental museum of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards. The first Enniskillen castle was built on this site by Hugh Maguire in 1428. It featured greatly in Irish rebellions against English rule in the 16th century. It was besieged by Captain John Dowdall’s troops at the start of 1594 and fell on 2 February after a short siege, when the occupants were massacred after they surrendered.
MUSIC & DANCE
Ireland has a long tradition of folk dancing. Solo dancing is characterised by its lightning footwork and high kicks, all executed while the upper body is kept rigidly straight; jigs and reels have always been popular. Irish traditional musical forms date from preliterate times. The Irish harp long had been the only instrument played, but many other instruments—such as the uilleann pipes, the fiddle, and the accordion—were added later.
TRADITIONAL SET DANCING
Set dances are based on quadrilles, which were court dances. These were transformed by the Irish into a unique folk dance of the Irish rural communities. When the Gaelic League was formed in 1897, it sought to discourage set dance, because it was perceived as being of foreign origins, and consequently at odds with the League’s nationalist agenda. In its place, the League promoted ceili dance, a process which continued during the 1930s and 1940s with the support of the Catholic Church in the form of the Public Dance Halls Act 1935. The rise of rock and roll in the 1950s caused the popularity of set dancing to fade. However, in the 1980s a revival started and many sets that have not been done for forty years or more are being recovered and danced again.
Irish music is music that has been created in various genres on the island of Ireland. The indigenous music of the island is termed Irish traditional music. It has remained vibrant through the 20th and into the 21st century, despite globalising cultural forces. In spite of emigration and a well-developed connection to music influences from Britain and the United States, Irish traditional music has kept many of its elements and has itself influenced many forms of music, such as country and roots music in the United States, which in turn have had some influence on modern rock music. It has occasionally been fused with rock and roll, punk rock, and other genres. Some of these fusion artists have attained mainstream success, at home and abroad.
FOOD & DRINK
As you are well aware when it comes to food & drink Ireland leads the way. Ireland produces some of the finest whiskey produced and our food is out of this world.
The word ‘whiskey’ comes from the Irish uisce beatha, meaning water of life. Irish whiskey was once the most popular spirit in the world, though a long period of decline from the late 19th century onwards greatly damaged the industry but now back where it belongs.
Arthur Guinness started brewing ales in 1759 at the St. James’s Gate Brewery, Dublin. On 31 December 1759, he signed a 9,000 year lease at £45 per annum for the unused brewery. Ten years later, on 19 May 1769, Guinness first exported his ale, he shipped six-and-a-half barrels to Great Britain.
Oyster cultivation in Ireland dates back to the 13th century but consumption of oysters in Ireland has been a tradition for over 4,000 years. Today, Irish oyster growers still use traditional methods to provide ideal conditions for their Irish rock oysters and native flat oysters to grow.