Get Lost in the Beauty of the Wild Atlantic Way
Do you know why I fell head over heels in love with Ireland? Well, it turns out that among the emerald landscapes and quaint townships, Ireland often has a lot more to offer off the beaten track. One of these treasures is the phenomenal Wild Atlantic Way. Stretching approximately 2,500 kilometres along Ireland's western coast, it's the world's longest signed coastal route. The sheer length and breadth of the adventure this route offers are beyond heavenly.
An exquisite journey through untouched land, the trip around Wild Atlantic Way can take weeks or even months if you choose to stop and explore each unique location along the way. Every stop along this stunning route offers a unique insight into the cultural profundity of Ireland that traditional tourists might miss.
The route is like an exclusive open-air museum, proudly displaying Ireland's history, culture, and nature. The timeless ruins, ancient castles, and quaint rural villages all whisper tales of a rich and tumultuous past.
So, why not pack a bag, book a rental car or cycle and let yourself be mesmerized by the beauty of the Wild Atlantic Way? From the raw beauty of Clare's majestic Cliffs of Moher to the breath-taking beaches of Donegal, it's a road trip that will invigorate your love for travel.
Immerse Yourself in the Artistic Scene of Galway
Galway, the European Capital of Culture 2020, is the beating heart of Ireland's arts and culture scene. This seaside town is an absolute must-visit for anyone yearning to experience authentic Irish artistic spirit. From traditional pub music sessions to innovative theatrical productions, Galway is an art lover's Eden.
The vibrancy of Galway extends beyond its lively music scene. Street art demurely hides in the crevices of lanes and alleyways waiting to be discovered, colourful murals celebrating a wonderfully diverse range of themes. This is a city where creativity reigns supreme in every corner, with its abundance of art galleries and boutiques showcasing local artisans and their diverse creations.
If your visit happens to coincide with the Galway International Arts Festival, you are in for a treat. Recognized as one of the best festivals in Europe, it attracts luminaries from around the world. Remember when I got a chance to meet Brian Eno, the man who coined the term 'ambient music'? Yes, it was at this very festival!
Stroll Through the Streets of Kilkenny
Kilkenny is a charming city bustling with history, and I'm telling you, it's a real walk into the past. Named after the majestic Kilkenny Castle which has stood guard over the city for more than eight centuries, Kilkenny offers a riveting mix of cherished traditions, ancient sites and electric ambiance.
Not only is it stunningly beautiful, but it's also a real hive of activity. The city is known for its vibrant nightlife and innumerable pubs, cafes, gourmet restaurants, and boutiques. As a self-proclaimed coffee enthusiast, I can attest that some of the best cups of coffee I've ever enjoyed were in the snug cafes of Kilkenny.
While walking the medieval streets, you might hear the distant sound of bagpipes and find a lively trad session in full swing at a local pub. Don't miss these unforgettable nights filled with foot-tapping music, soulful ballads, and a pint of the rich, creamy stout that Ireland is so famously known for.
Experience the Gaelic Games
Now, how could I talk about the non-touristy things to do in Ireland without bringing up the Gaelic Games? Introduced to me by my Irish friend, Sean, these are the native sports played in Ireland and offer a fun, offbeat way to bond with locals.
From hurling, resembling a mix of hockey and lacrosse, to Gaelic football, which is somewhat a combination of rugby and soccer, these sports are ingrained into the fabric of Irish culture. Trust me, going to a match is not just about the game; it's a show, a festival, a communal gathering that embodies Irish passion and spirit.
If you're more adventurous, several clubs run 'experience' days where you can try your hand at the sports. What was that? Do I have any Gaelic sporting glory under my belt? Well, let's just say I've tried, and that's a story in itself.
Visit the Skellig Islands
Are you a Star Wars fan? If yes, you might recognize the Skellig Islands as the backdrop of Luke Skywalker's hideout in 'The Force Awakens.' However, away from the Hollywood spotlight, these islands have a fascinating history of their own.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, the islands pose a raw and intriguing eco-system nurturing incredible wildlife. Additionally, the ancient Christian monastery perched high atop Skellig Michael is a testament to human endurance and belief, and the climb there is a rite of passage that should not be missed.
Seeing thousands of seabirds nesting on the jagged cliffs, or maybe even spotting a seal or dolphin in the surrounding waters, this is an unmatched experience cradled in the splendour of nature. But let me warn you, it's not for the faint-hearted! You should be comfortable with boat rides on relatively rough waters and uphill climbs.
Discover the Mysteries of Irish Folklore
Maybe it's the storyteller in me, or maybe it's my fondness for anything mysterious and mystical, but exploring Irish folklore has been one of my favourite non-touristy activities in Ireland. Ignored by many visitors, this is an aspect of Irish culture that adds an extra dimension to any trip.
Stories of mystical druids, heroic legends, magical fairies and leprechauns have been passed down through generations, making Irish folklore a rich and enticing realm to explore. If you're interested, I recommend checking out the National Leprechaun Museum in Dublin. It's not a traditional museum but offers engaging storytelling sessions and quirky exhibitions that bring these enchanting tales to life.
My walk through the museum was filled with laughter, surprises, and a dash of childhood nostalgia. Who knew that the quirky stories my gran once narrified, those of mischievous cloaked men with pots of gold, stemmed from the heart of this Irish tradition.
So go on, take a step off the beaten path, and I promise, Ireland will not disappoint you. It has so many hidden gems that capture the true essence of this wonderful country. Hopefully, my pointers will help you see Ireland through a different lens, one that goes beyond the typical tourist trail.