Ireland isn’t nicknamed the Emerald Isle for nothing. The island’s rolling green hills and historic cities have made it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, seeing more than 9 million visitors and generating more than $5.5 billion USD in revenue each year. The region’s culture, folklore, and traditions, from St. Patrick and his shamrocks to legends of leprechauns to limerick poems to a frosty pint of Guinness, have ingrained themselves worldwide. If you’re considering a trip to Ireland, make sure to purchase Ireland travel insurance in case the so-called “Luck of the Irish” isn’t on your side.
There’s a lot to consider when choosing a health insurance plan. It’s important to separate fact from fiction and understand why travel insurance is a necessity. Even in a relatively safe, friendly environment like Ireland, your flight could always get delayed, the airline could lose your luggage, or you might have to cancel your trip for work-related reasons. If you’re having trouble determining what plan is right for you, please call us or email us. Our licensed, experienced representatives will help you select the plan that’s right for you.
Ireland is the westernmost island of the British Isles and contains two political entities. The Republic of Ireland covers about five-sixths of the island and had a population of about 5 million as of July 2018. Its capital is Dublin, and the country’s official languages are English and Gaelic. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom; its capital is Belfast, and its population was a little more than 1.8 million in 2018. Cultural and political relations among Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, and the UK have been sensitive during the past fifty years, although overt conflict is commonly considered to have ended with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
Dublin, today the capital of the Republic of Ireland, was founded further back than modern historians can accurately pinpoint; archaeologists debate whether it was established in or before the 7th century A.D. The city has played home to some of the greatest literary minds of modern times, from W.B. Yeats to James Joyce to Bram Stoker to Oscar Wilde. Dublin was even named a UNESCO City of Literature in 2010. Indulge your inner book nerd with a trip to Trinity College in the heart of the city. The school’s permanent exhibitions include the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript from the 9th century, as well as the 18th-century Long Room, which holds more than 200,000 books and inspired the design of the library from the Harry Potter film series.
Grafton Street features, shops, cafes, buskers, street merchants, performance artists, and more. This area of the city especially has embraced the “café culture” of Europe at large. Bewley’s Oriental Café, founded in 1927, is the ideal spot to sit outside, enjoy a classic Irish breakfast, and watch the life of the city unfold. Whether you’re inclined to spend the day exploring the streets and alleyways or designer shopping at Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, Grafton Street is a must-see.
For those with an eye for historical sites, Kilmainham Gaol stands as a reminder of some of the country’s darker times. It was at this former prison that leaders of the 1916 Uprising were brought, convicted of high treason, and executed in the prison yard. Today, it serves as a museum regarding the history of Irish nationalism and a monument to the struggle to achieve it.
Just over 10 miles from Dublin lie the Powerscourt House and Gardens, a former 18th-century estate originally constructed as a castle in the 1200s. Featuring breathtaking scenery, lakeside walks, and stunning history, the grounds are one of Dublin’s most popular tourist attractions. The on-site Palladian home features craft shops, design shops, and a restaurant. It also plays home to the Powerscourt Golf Club and the Autograph Collection Hotel.
Cork, the second largest city in the Republic of Ireland after Dublin, lies on the island’s southern coast. Cork Harbour and the nearby coastline give the city a strong tradition of seafaring and trading. The English Market, a roofed food market, has been in business since 1788 and is the perfect spot to find homemade Artisan bread, fruit, and fresh seafood. Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain herself visited the market during her first state visit to the Republic of Ireland in 2011. Just a couple minutes’ walk away lies St. Patrick Street, the main shopping center of Cork. In addition to the legendary department store Brown Thomas, the area serves as a social gathering place for the city’s residents.
Blackrock Castle Observatory, built on the shores of the River Lee, was built in 1828 but looks like a castle straight out of a medieval fantasy story. Today, it houses an observatory; planetarium; cinema; interactive exhibits about science, nature, and space; and a visitors center.
Speaking of castles, slightly northwest of Cork lies one of the most famous tourist attractions in Ireland, Blarney Castle and the Blarney Stone. Originally built in 1210 and renovated in 1446, the castle offers tours of its battlements, dungeons, and everything in between. Most tourists visit to kiss the Blarney Stone, which legend tells will impart the gift of eloquence. Other attractions of interest at the castle include the gardens, the Wishing Steps, Badger’s Cave, the Witch Stone, and the Witch’s Kitchen.
The medieval city of Galway sits on Ireland’s western shore and is known for its arts, music, and culinary scenes. Eyre Square is a popular gathering spot for pedestrians. Also known as John F. Kennedy Memorial Park, it’s a common thoroughfare between the city and a popular shopping center. St. Nicholas’ Church was built in the 1300s and features gargoyles, tombs, and memorials. It’s rumored that Christopher Columbus attended church there during a visit to the city in 1477. Similarly, Galway Cathedral overlooks the River Corrib and is the youngest grand stone cathedral in all of Europe, built in the late 1950s.
The Aran Islands off the coast of Galway are a must-see sightseeing spot, a peaceful retreat from the urban developments of the mainland. The islands feature an outdoor museum with various Celtic churches, the prehistoric hill fort of Dun Aonghasa (dating back to the Bronze Age and Iron Age), and the Cliffs of Aran, home to an annual cliff-diving contest).
The Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher must be seen to be believed. Their image is plastered on every postcard, guidebook, website, and more about Ireland, but in person, they’re still guaranteed to take your breath away. The Cliffs of Moher are the most visited natural attraction in Ireland. Located on the Atlantic shore of the island, they rise more than 700 feet at their highest point and feature O’Brien’s Tower, a round stone tower built in 1835. The visitor center near the cliffs recorded almost 1.5 million visits in 2016 alone. Another popular pastime is the 11-mile Cliff Walk, the perfect hike to enjoy the scenic beauty of Ireland.
Irish cuisine is a blend of Ireland’s different cultures, primarily the English and the Irish, as well as the types of crops and animals cultivated in its temperate climate. Irish stew is traditionally made with lamb, mutton, or beef. Boiled bacon and cabbage is another iconic Irish meal, as are boxty (potato pancakes), coddle (skillet-fried sausage, bacon, potato, and herbs), and colcannon (mashed potatoes and kale or cabbage). A popular snack is Irish soda bread with butter and a pint of stout beer, usually Guinness.
Ireland Travel Insurance
We highly recommend that as you’re planning your trip, you purchase travel health insurance and travel insurance. Travel insurance primarily provides coverage for prepaid, non-refundable expenses in situations like emergency medical care, trip interruption, lost luggage, emergency cash transfers, rental car coverage, and flight accidents. Travel medical insurance protects against financial loss from any illness or injury that may occur while abroad. Standard benefits include coverage of trip interruption, emergency medical evacuation / repatriation, return of mortal remains, accidental death & dismemberment, as well as ancillary benefits like ID theft assistance, terrorism, and natural disaster relief. Be sure to read your plan thoroughly so you know what situations are covered.
As always, stay safe, and happy travels!