Pictures: Rathina Sankari
Craggy cliffs, jaw-dropping valleys, a wild sea and mountains wrapped in clouds... one lifetime is not enough to experience all that Ireland has to offer. Steeped in history, architecture, literature, friendly locals, Irish whiskey, Celtic mythology, Irish music and dance, and Guinness are but a few of the many features that describe the Emerald Isle in the North Atlantic.
The picturesque island boasts unparalleled beauty at every turn. Self-driving routes to Giants Causeways, Wild Atlantic Way, Fermanagh Lakes, Sperrins Mountains and Game of Thrones and Star Wars locations are a must-visit when it comes to choosing between the attractions here.
The island is separated from England by the North Channel, Irish Sea and the St. George’s Channel. Ironically, this piece of island is split into two — the Republic of Ireland to the south, and Northern Ireland, which is part of Great Britain.
A tourist magnet all year around, this is one country that will surprise you, regale you and mesmerise you. Sprinkled with legendary stories of leprechauns and fairies the Irish so believe in, Ireland is a treasure trove for an intrepid, gastronomic, luxury seeker and even the slow-paced traveller.
Major airlines like Etihad, Emirates, Qatar, Turkish, Swiss fly daily to Dublin via Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Doha, Istanbul and Zurich
The Westin Dublin (from Rs 27,000; https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/dubbr-the-shelbourne-dublin-a-renaissance-hotel/)
VISIT AN IRISH WHISKEY DISTILLERY
The irish are very proud of their whiskey. Called the water of life, Irish monks are credited with the origins of this drink. When in the island, raising a toast is mandatory. And while you are at it, don't miss out on a crash course on its unique distillation process. After a lull of 125 years, Teeling Distillery opened in the famed Liberties area of Dublin in 2015. Do spare some time to enjoy a tour within the distilleries premises to understand the art of fermentation and distillation. Of course, you also get a chance to taste whiskey here. Sláinte!
A distillery tour experience starts from Rs 1,175 approx
Single malt tasting experiences start from roughly Rs 4,000
No matter where you are in the world, it's hard not to find an Irish pub. But to visit one in the country of its origin is the most authentic experience that shouldn’t be missed when in Dublin. Pub hopping with a liberal dose of traditional Irish music and Gaelic words is highly recommended to experience the city’s vibrant night life. Watering holes that have been running for centuries to some new kids on the block, Dublin offers an eclectic mix of both the worlds. Grogan’s Castle on South William Street, Mulligan’s at Poolbeg Street, Kehoe’s the pub frequented by Irish author Samuel Beckett at South Anne Street are few of the many pubs that dot the city. You could go on an immersive pub crawl experience with Dublin Pub Crawl conducted every Friday and Saturday.
Rates are roughly
Rs 1,000 per person
The golden era of Dublin is synonymous with the period when the four King Georges of Britain and Ireland ruled between 1714 and 1830. The city saw the emergence of a unique style of architecture — multi-storeyed with grand, colourful and distinctive arched doorways, numerous windows and cobbled streets that was a pleasant change from the medieval ages of Dublin. But by the 1880s these townhouses of the elite underwent a major transformation to tenements for the working class. By 1911, in 14 Henrietta Street, a classic example of Georgian architecture, there were about 100 individuals residing there. It continued to function as a tenement house until the late 1970s.
You can take a guided tour of the apartment to understand its history peppered with personal stories of its erstwhile inhabitants.
Tours run daily except on Mondays and Tuesdays
Individuals with Irish roots can be found across the globe. Many of these Irish emigrants who left their motherland for better prospects overseas went on to make it big in the world of Irish music, sports, fashion, politics and literature. One can understand the lives of renowned seafaring Irish emigrants and their descendants at the Irish Emigration Museum in Custom House Quay, on the banks of the River Liffey. Not many know, but 22 US Presidents have Irish roots including John F Kennedy and Barack Obama. There are many such stories which can be understood at the EPIC museum.
Tour cost for an adult is roughly Rs1,200
The museum is open all days of the week
The cosmopolitan city of Dublin is a vibrant and youth-friendly destination. An hour’s drive out of the city gives a completely different perspective to the place. Rolling hills, well marked trails for different fitness levels and the fresh mountain air are a perfect dose for the more adventurous.
You would be surprised to know that Dublin is privy to the wild scenic area where you are surrounded only by nature, away from the buzz of city life. For film buffs, there are trails that take you to the locations of famous movies — Brave Heart and P.S. I Love You, among others. For serious trekkers, there are routes that take you to the most picturesque places. You could also go on private or group guided walking weekend tours through Hill top treks.
Rates vary as per the tour selected
Belfast is two and half hours drive from Dublin. Coaches and trains ply daily between these two cities. http://www.irishrail.ie/rail-fares-and-tickets/dublin-belfast has details of the trains. Coach bookings can be done https://www.aircoach.ie/
Grand Central Hotel Belfast - Located in the heart of the city at Linen Quarter, the hotel is recommended for a layover when in Belfast
https://www.grandcentralhotelbelfast.com/ rates start from roughly Rs 13,000
GAME OF THRONES TOUR
If you are a die-hard fan of Game of Thrones series, Northern Ireland is what will interest you the most. The Belfast Winterfell Locations Trek is a full-day coach tour that also involves trekking in the Castle Ward Estate which has nine Game of Thrones film locations and the other being Tollymore Forest.
The tour also takes you to the scenic locales of Mourne Mountains which were an inspiration for C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series. The other interesting GOT tour would be the Belfast Iron Islands, Giant’s Causeway and Rope Bridge Adventure. These tours are only for adults.
Cost of each itinerary is roughly Rs 5,000 per adult
Steeped in ubiquitous Irish legend, Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, deserves a day trip from Belfast. Crashing Atlantic waves, dramatic cliffs, secluded bays and interlocking basalt columns offer a unique setting for the legendary giant Finn McCool’s story. Varied hiking experiences available for visitors to the causeway include the Cliff-top experience from the Dunseverick Castle. At the visitor centre one gets to understand wildlife and the life of the locals of this region.
The Giant’s Causeway, a geological marvel, is said to be the result of volcanic activity which took place 60 million years ago. It has managed to capture the imagination of many, and continues to do so.
https://giantscausewaytickets.com has all details about the region
It is accessible by bus, train and taxi from Belfast
As belfast is the hub for ship-building, it is no surprise that its harbour has seen countless ships docked in its hey day. The birthplace of the renowned Titanic and its sister SS Nomadic, the Belfast Quarters has lots in store. Titanic Belfast, a museum erected in memory of RMS Titanic which sank on its maiden journey from Belfast in 1912, deserves a visit. One gets to understand its construction, life on the luxury vessel, the artefacts it carried, and gives an overview of the turn of events in its final hours through innovative interactive features. Nearby, the Harland and Wolff (the builders of the Titanic ship) office, now converted into the Titanic Hotel, is recommended for a night’s stay.
http://www.titanic-quarter.com/ has all details
To understand the local produce and to get an insight into Irish cuisine, it is necessary to explore the Belfast food scene. Traditional Irish stew, sausages, cheese, gin, coffee, black-and-white pudding, local markets and fresh sea food are some culinary experiences which are not to be missed when in the city.
For different food and drink experiences when in Belfast
Named as the number one region in the world to visit by Lonely Planet in 2018, Belfast needs to be discovered, experienced and enjoyed. The city which was once at its prime during the Industrial Revolution, is a resurgent capital with its charming alleys and cobbled streets. The city centre, Linen Quarter, Gaeltacht Quarter, Queen’s Quarter, Cathedral Quarter are some of the areas best explored on foot. If you are pressed for time, hire one of those vintage London black cabs to give your experience a totally different feel.
While you are at it, do keep an eye out for the colourful murals on the streets: The rich Irish and British history, spanning centuries, will surely keep you occupied for hours.
http://touringaroundbelfast.com has details of the tours available