In association with: Tourism Ireland
With travel restrictions gone, the island of Ireland is rolling out the green carpet and is ready to welcome visitors back
From the breathtaking coastlines of the Wild Atlantic Way to the historical castles of the ancient east, the island of Ireland knows how to charm all year round. The destination lifted Covid restrictions in March, meaning visitors can now enter without needing to test, quarantine, show proof of vaccination or complete a Passenger Locator Form.
The Common Travel Area also means British travellers don’t need a passport or visa (although carriers may still ask for photo ID, so check first), and with nine airports and five ferry ports, it’s easy to access too. So whether it’s hiking the trails, driving the coast, exploring the cities or indulging in a hearty Irish meal, there’s no time like the present to press the green button and book your clients’ trips.
The island of Ireland is segmented into five experience brands: The Wild Atlantic Way; Northern Ireland: Embrace a Giant Spirit; Ireland’s Ancient East; The Hidden Heartlands; and Dublin: Surprising by Nature. Here, we round up what is unique about each one.
The Wild Atlantic Way
Stretching 1,600 miles along the west coast, this signposted driving route takes in some of Ireland’s most dramatic landscapes – classic villages, towering mountains, sandy beaches and craggy cliffs.
The vibrant city of Galway sits at its heart, while Cork, Killarney and the legend-steeped hills of Connemara are rich with heritage.
It’s also here you’ll find the Cliffs of Moher, the Aran Islands – the last land in the Atlantic before you reach the US – and the Dingle Peninsula, home of Ireland’s highest mountain road. Don’t leave without paying a visit to Doolin, for a night of traditional Irish music.
Northern Ireland: Embrace a Giant Spirit
Majestic cliffs tumbling into crashing waters, smugglers’ caves etched into basalt coastline and historic castles dating back hundreds of years – it’s not hard to see why Northern Ireland’s landscapes were the backdrop for much of Game of Thrones.
At its heart is the Causeway Coast, home to the likes of Dunluce Castle, Rathlin Island, famous for its wildlife, and the Giant’s Causeway – the Unesco-listed rock formation whose huge stone columns are said to have been formed by fighting giants.
Beyond the coast you’ll find historic whiskey distilleries, famous golf courses and charming villages, while Belfast was awarded Unesco City of Music status in 2021. There’s lots to see in Derry~Londonderry, home of Ireland’s only completely intact historic walled city.
Ireland’s Ancient East
More than 5,000 years of history collide in the ancient east, with megalithic tombs, medieval castles and elaborate monasteries telling tales of the Celtic era. It’s here you’ll find Ireland’s oldest city, Waterford, established as a Viking port more than 1,100 years ago.
Elsewhere, Kilkenny is one of the island’s liveliest cities, with cultural festivals, traditional pubs and a 12th-century castle. Legends abound in the region, and no trip would be complete without a visit to the mystical Hill of Tara in Meath – the dwelling place of the gods, according to the ancient druids, and once the ceremonial capital of the high kings.
The Hidden Heartlands
If emerald hills, sparkling streams and riverside villages come to mind when you picture the island of Ireland, you’re probably thinking of the heartlands.
Here forests, lakes and canals offer boating, fishing, kayaking and more in idyllic surrounds, with a slow, sleepy pace best felt in towns such as Carrick-on-Shannon – known for its cruising – and Killaloe, the birthplace of Brian Boru, an 11th-century high king.
The 310-mile Beara-Breifne Way is the country’s longest walking route with idyllic views over the rolling countryside. It’s scattered with villages that, like the wider island itself, are ready and waiting to welcome your clients with open arms.
Dublin: Surprising by Nature
Renowned as one of Europe’s friendliest cities, Dublin’s mix of medieval and Georgian architecture, modern museums, live music pubs and more needs little preface.
Trinity College makes an excellent starting point with its opulent buildings and cobbled squares, while the Museum of Literature is where visitors can hear more about the island’s myriad writers.
The famous Guinness Storehouse deserves a spot on the list too, with interactive exhibits tracing the history of the brand. Stop by the top-floor Gravity Bar to sample a pint with panoramic city views. Dublin is a city by the sea and a new coastal trail has been developed to showcase its hidden gems.
PICTURES: Tourism Ireland