Despite the proximity and influence of the powerful UK, Ireland has managed to preserve and develop its amazing cultural heritage. Today it is one of the most exciting countries in the world. Millions of tourists come here each year to experience the taste of whiskey, feel the saturated spirit of this cool Atlantic island and enjoy the green scenery. The first settlers came to these lands, about 10,000 years ago when Ireland was still connected to continental Europe. Over the millennia the Celts settled different parts of Europe, but because of the arrival new tribes, they gradually were forced to retreat the populated lands.
Today Ireland remains the last Celtic bastion and one of the most successful countries in the 21st century.
Geographic location, boundaries and size of Ireland. Ireland occupies an area of 70,280 sq.km. It is located in the north-western parts of Europe, between 51.25 and 55.23°N and between 6.00 and 10.28°W. Ireland is located amidst the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, west of Britain. Ireland was initially connected to continental Europe.
After the last ice age however, this connection was interrupted because of the rising waters of the Atlantic. The country occupies the greater part of the eponymous island of Ireland, called by the Irish Eire. There is a land border with Northern Ireland, which is a part of Britain.
Nature of Ireland. Most of Ireland is occupied by hills and low mountains. Hilly lands and plains occupy mainly inland areas and the coast of the Irish Sea, while the coastal areas of the Atlantic are predominantly mountainous.
The highest peak in Ireland – Carrantuohill, rises to a height of 1041 meters. The coastline is a symbol of Ireland and its business card. Along the Atlantic coast there are very high and steep rocks, descending vertically to the raging Atlantic.
The Cliffs of Moher are among the most impressive landmarks of Ireland. They are located not far from the small town of Knosknahow on the coast of County Clare and rise more than 200 meters above sea level! The coastline is dotted by countless small and large islands, peninsulas and bays, which are a haven for sea birds and seals.
Once, most of Ireland was covered with dense deciduous and coniferous forests, but today they represent less than one tenth of the total area of the country.
The traditional Irish landscape today is emerald green. Vast meadows cut by dense network of deep rivers and crystal clear lakes are dominated by small trees. Here and there undisturbed under the dark and gray Irish sky you can see flocks of grazing sheep.
However, remote and secluded woodlands still exist. They are a haven for various species such as fox, wild boar, badger, deer and other animals.
Climate of Ireland. Although it is located quite far north, Ireland has a temperate-oceanic climate. Climatic conditions are strongly influenced by the warm Gulf Stream and could be described as eternal spring.
Winters are mild and summers – cool. Temperatures range from 7°C in January to about 19°C during the summer months of July and August. And if there is a country in Europe with more changeable and rainy weather in comparison with the UK, it is surely Ireland.
Precipitation is abundant throughout the year, but decrease slightly during the summer months. Each week there is average two or three rainy days. It is sometimes possible, however, to rain for days without stopping, and sometimes may have many days when it does not rain.
The rainiest month is December, when fall over 70 mm for a month. The average precipitation in July is comparatively low, but still reaches to about 40-50 mm. The Irish sky is often covered with lead-gray clouds.
Snowfalls in Ireland are quite rare, and yet when this happens, the snow cover is non-lasting. Typically, snow falls more frequently in the lower mountains. Local residents are not accustomed to heavy snowfalls and even very thin snow cover can cause serious difficulties.
Population of Ireland. The lands of present-day Ireland have been settled more than 10,000 years ago. The Celts, however, which today constitute the major part of the Irish population, come here in the 3rd century BC.
Christianity was introduced to Ireland by St. Patrick (one of the most revered saints of the island) in the fifth century A.D. The population of Ireland is now about 4.5 million people.
The official languages are English and Irish (Celtic), and the official religion is Christianity (Catholicism). Today the population of Ireland is among the fastest growing in Europe. The reasons are many.
On one hand, Ireland traditionally enjoys a high birth rate. On the other hand the high quality health care is important reason for the low mortality rate. In addition to its own natural growth, however, the Irish population increases also because of the great number of emigrants.
Ireland is considered to be one of the best places to live and work. It is also a great destination to do business and to receive a world-class education. It maybe sounds strange but only a few decades ago local residents sought a better life in the United States and other nations.
In modern days the number of Irish in the United States exceeds 40 million people! Today, the largest city in Ireland is Dublin. It is home to more than 400,000 inhabitants and the urban agglomeration has a population of about 1.8 million people.
Modern Ireland is a cosmopolitan country, home to large communities of Americans, Europeans, Asians and immigrants from Africa.
Economy of Ireland. Ireland is the fastest growing country in Western Europe. Because of its exceptional economic growth, it is often called the European dragon (because of the comparison with the rapidly developing countries of South-east Asia).
It is a member of the Euro zone and the European Union, but observes a policy of neutrality and therefore is not a member of NATO. The official currency of Ireland is Euro. When in 1973 joined the EU, it was the poorest of all states-members and relied heavily on primitive agriculture.
After a series of reforms affecting mainly tax policy, Ireland experienced a great economic boom, which was mainly due to strong exports. The Irish government stimulates exports through tax incentives.
Today Ireland has a versatile economy. It develops high technology, food industry and modern agriculture. The services sector, including tourism industry, is experiencing a real economic boom.
The country is visited by about 9 million tourists annually, who generate revenues amounting to billions of Euros. One of the most famous Irish products in the world is the Irish whiskey. Ireland is among the world’s leading producers of this high-quality drink.
Irish cuisine. Besides its great whiskey, Ireland is very popular for its culinary delights. Visiting this country you have to try the Irish lamb stew with potatoes. This is the local specialty and the most popular dish in Ireland.
On one hand, potatoes are the most popular vegetables of the island and on the other hand lamb enjoys the greatest popularity in local cuisine. Besides potatoes, however, lamb meet is often made also with cabbage or other northern cool-loving vegetables.
One of the main features of local cuisine is that it usually relies to the natural flavor of food and uses very few spices or sauces. Traditionally Irish avoid the combination of many different ingredients.
Since Ireland is famous for its dairy products is recommended to try also some local sheep cheeses that are characterized by strong and deep flavor. Seafood occupies an important place in the diet of the Irish.
Be sure to try the superb Irish salmon, which is famous for its extraordinary taste. Important role in the daily menu takes the consumption of oats and delicious berries that are used as an important ingredient to all kind of cakes and pastries, including the preparation of the unique local fruit bread.
The pearl of Irish cuisine, however, is the local pudding with whiskey and tempting custard. If you sit in a café in the center of Dublin be sure to drink a cup of Irish coffee that is made with whiskey and cream or a cup of the famous Irish black beer.
How to travel in Ireland? If you travel by car in Ireland is good to know that you have to drive on the left side of the road.
However, this is the best way to visit all the wonderful places that are worth seeing. It is a fact that the most important cultural and economic center of the country – Dublin, is located on the east coast, while the most impressive scenery and landscapes can be found on the west coast.
If you do not want to travel with your own car or a rental car, then you can choose between bus and train. A typical feature of Irish railways is that most of them lead to the capital Dublin.
On one side this is better because Dublin is a major tourist center. On the other side however, this may delay or complicate your travel between points within the province. In this respect, bus transport is more flexible since the bus lines connect a wide variety of routes to choose from.
Celtic crosses are one of the most specific elements of the authentic Irish culture. You can see them at various locations all around the Irish countryside, including the cemeteries of large and small cities.
However, it is advisable to visit Monasterboice. This is an early Christian settlement whose ruins are quite well preserved. This place is located north of the capital Dublin, near the town of Drogheda.
The Celtic cross differs significantly from the traditional. It has a circle that links its spokes. The Celtic cross symbolizes water, air, earth and sun. It is thought that it has emerged around the eighth century.
Irish castles are another very important part of local culture. One of the most beautiful is called Johnstown Castle. It is located in the south-east of Ireland, about 4 kilometers from the small coastal town of Wexford.
The castle, dating from the early 19th century, is situated on the banks of a small picturesque lake. In South-western Ireland on the outskirts of the small provincial town of Cork City is located the famous Blarney Castle.
It was built in the early 13th century and represents a complex of four buildings, nestled among lush vegetation. In North-western Ireland, near the small town of Cong is Ashford Castle.
It is situated on the banks of Lough Corrib and has venerable and impressive facade of the early 13th century. Today this amazing palace is turned into a luxury hotel that attracts the romantic minded travellers.
Be sure to visit Bunratty Castle, which is located on the coast of deeply cut into the land gulf on the west coast of Ireland. The stone castle was built in the first half of the 15th century and is considered to be one of the most beautiful in the country.
In Ireland there are a bunch of other castles, which can not be described within one breath, but you must include them in your travel itinerary if you are fortunate enough to visit the incredible land of the Celts.
What is the best time to visit Ireland? The best time to visit Ireland is summer, especially in July. In this period the weather conditions are most suitable for long walks, sightseeing and other outdoor activities. Unlike the countries in Southern Europe, here is no heat to make you spend the midday hours hidden in a shady and cool place.
What clothes to wear in Ireland? If you travel to Ireland in July or August you have to wear light summer clothes, but do not forget to add to your luggage also some warm clothing just in case.
Note that what for Southern Europeans, for example, is mild or cool spring weather for the Irish is very warm summer day. The feeling of warm and cold is different in different parts of the world.
In Ireland, even in summer there is a slight, but very cool and refreshing breeze, which is not appealing to everyone.