Large enough to keep you endlessly amused, but small enough to walk around easily, Dublin is Ireland’s vibrant and infectious capital city. While it doesn’t, with the exception of its fine Georgian squares and townhouses, have the architectural grandeur of many other European capitals, a stay in Dublin will provide you with fantastic memories – the people are as witty, eloquent and sharp-humoured as any you will find elsewhere, and chances are you will find yourself becoming acquainted with the black beer and whiskey with considerable ease.
Of course in between meeting the locals in the pubs, there’s plenty to do. Culture vultures can marvel at the Book of Kells, an extraordinary sixth-century illuminated manuscript kept in beautiful Trinity College, take a literary walking tour following the footsteps of James Joyce and hear traditional Irish music in a number of venues. You can visit the Guinness Storehouse or the Teelings Irish Whiskey Distillery to see how and where the magic is created; visit a haunted library; even learn a few steps of Irish dancing.
Dublin is also within easy striking distance of a number of incredible places to visit. The Boyne Valley in Meath is one of Europe’s most incredible prehistoric ritual landscapes, and sites like Newgrange and Knowth are well worth visiting. South of Dublin, the Wicklow Mountains are a scenic delight, in whose heart the wooded valley of Glendalough with its two lakes and early Christian monastery and round tower offers as much spirituality and serenity as anywhere in Ireland. There are also great gardens to visit and grand country houses to visit – one of which at Ballyfin in County Laois is now unquestionably Ireland’s grandest luxury hotel.
Head down to Ireland’s southeastern corner, into sleepy Wexford and Waterford, and you’ll find green and gentle landscapes and a gorgeous beach-lined coast with pretty coastal towns like Kilmore Quay and Dunmore East that are perfect for enjoying some gentle relaxation interspersed with the odd horseback beach gallop or sea kayaking trip. Inland are medieval castles such as Enniscorthy as well as Cistercian abbeys to explore, while Inistioge in Kilkenny is a must for movie buffs – both Widow’s Peak and Circle of Friends were shot here.