When most people think of Ireland, they tend to conjure up images of moody Dublin pubs — the kind James Joyce or William Butler Yeats would frantically scribble away in while drinking a pint of Guinness. But contrary to stereotypes, Ireland’s countryside is where you’ll get a real taste for the Gaelic sláinte. From the dramatic cliffs of the Atlantic coastline to its unspoiled beaches and rocky peninsulas, green pastures and crystal lakes, Ireland’s natural charms have inspired everyone from the Vikings and the Druids to U2 and the Obamas. With a temperate oceanic climate warmed by the North Atlantic Current, this verdant island is perennially green and home to a range of animals, from puffins and whales to dolphins and Connemara ponies.
The man-made world, however, isn’t so bad either. Dotted throughout the country are epic forts, tombs, castles, impressive lighthouses and medieval stone villages - the most popular of which is Kilkenny, also known as the ‘Marble City’.
But for a taste of traditional Irish culture head out to the islands, like Skellig Michael, home to an abandoned 7th-century Christian monastery, or the rustic Aran Islands, where all 1,200 of the local residents speak primarily the indigenous Irish language. But don’t worry if you’re rusty, as the local saying goes: “Is fearr Gaeilge briste, ná Béarla clíste,” or “Broken Irish is better than clever English.”