Get to Know the Emerald Isle

Familiarizing yourself with the various regions of this island nation will make planning a trip to Ireland more fun.

By FamilyTIme


Ireland beckons many Americans when they plan a trip overseas. With its expanses of green fields, wide blue ocean vistas, rugged cliffs, and charming stone villages, the island appeals even to those who are not of Irish descent.

Dublin is a bustling international capital; Galway, where James Joyce spent time, is a charming coastal city; Cork, in the south, is a graceful, modern city. Scattered between these and other cities are small villages and towns, all with their own allure.

The Southeast
This region of Ireland was home to Waterford Crystal, made in Waterford, Ireland, as well as to Kilkenny, a city with a medieval castle and monastery but also very modern restaurants, pubs, and clubs.

Glorious beaches, rushing rivers, and verdant hills made this part of the Ireland a favorite with vacationers in search of relaxing, golfing, fishing, and hiking. The sun shines often here, but just as often the gentle rains fall, leaving the area green and sparkling.

The Midlands
Not as well traveled as other parts of Ireland, the midlands have their devotees. There are fine golf courses here, as well as space for walking tours. Here you will find lovely lakes and breathtaking views along the Cooley Peninsula.

Birr Castle Demesne is worth a visit, nestled among thriving towns such as Birr that welcome tourists. Explore Clonmacnoise, one of the country's earliest Christian settlements.

The Northwest
Here in the city of Sligo, W.B. Yeats was born. As perhaps Ireland's greatest poet, Yeats is loved the world around and literary pilgrims visit his grave at Drumcliff churchyard.

This rugged area of Ireland is home to spectacular beaches and glorious countryside. Donegal is legendary for its hand-woven fabrics, as well as Donegal Castle.

The West County
A trip to the West Country provides opportunities to visit the windswept Aran Islands, as well as meander along a coastline that affords astonishing views of the sea and rocky meadows where flocks of sheep seem to run wild.

Galway, the major city in the region is known for its pubs, clubs, and great nightlife. But don't miss smaller, lovely towns such as Clifden, Westport, and Spiddal.

Burren is found in the West Country, where limestone formations take your breath away. You will also find the Cliffs of Moher overlooking the roiling Atlantic.

The Southwest
Many believe this to be the loveliest region of Ireland with its stunning natural beauty, beaches, and lakes. Cork is well known for its jazz and film festivals and great seafood.

This is the part of Ireland where you'll find the Blarney Stone, Rock of Cashel, and Limerick's castles. Explore the Ring of Kerry, the lakes of Killarney, and the Blasket Islands. You'll find yourself planning many more trips to the Southwest.

Northern Ireland
Don't neglect the dramatic north of Ireland with its incredible natural phenomenon called the Giant's Causeway, the sweeping Mourne Mountains, and waterfalls of the Glens of Antrim.

Here in the north you can visit the walled city of Derry and admire the town's cathedrals, view the standing stones of Tyrone, and enjoy fishing in Fermanagh's magnificent lakes.

Ireland is a small country, easily traversed by car, train, or bus. By all means, begin your journey in Dublin, with its cultural attractions, fine restaurants, lovely shopping streets, and lively music.

But don't neglect to explore other regions to get the most from a trip to this small, amiable, and naturally beautiful country.