In association with: Tourism Ireland
Indulge in the arts across the island of Ireland and meet some great people along the way
Traditions on the island of Ireland stretch back centuries – but today, they can still be experienced in all corners of the destination. A rich history in the arts and the population’s passion for its heritage means you’ll never be short of things to see and do when it comes to culture.
Music and singing are synonymous, and one of the best ways to witness this is to pull up a stool in a cosy, traditional pub and listen to a band play some classic Irish tunes. You’ll find plenty of hidden gems dotted around the island, from the cosmopolitan hubs of Cork and Limerick to rural villages in County Kildare and County Meath – all filled with people keen to share long-told stories through music.
Why not consider walking Belfast’s Traditional Music Trail? Belfast was recently named a Unesco City of Music, and this is a perfect way to discover its musical history. Where there’s music, there’s dance – and Irish dancing is popular. Catching a performance (or having a go yourself!) is a highlight of any visit. Head to Dublin’s The Irish House Party to experience a traditional céilí.
Literature and language
There are some big hitters when it comes to literature. From James Joyce to Bram Stoker, Ireland’s impact on the literary world is impressive. You can discover Dublin’s publishing history on an authors’ pub crawl. Narnia fans should take in the CS Lewis Trail in Belfast, while Bellaghy in County Londonderry is the site of the Seamus Heaney HomePlace.
Another way to experience the island of Ireland is to learn more about its languages. Communities that speak Irish – also known as Gaelic – feature in different parts of the island, but the western coastline, or the Wild Atlantic Way, is where they are most prominent.
Achill Island in County Mayo, Connemara in County Galway, or the western parts of the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry are great places to visit if you want to hear people speaking Irish. In Northern Ireland’s County Antrim and along the Ards Peninsula in County Down you’ll come across speakers of Ulster- Scots, or Ullans. Their language, often expressed through music and dance, has helped keep traditional local cultures alive.
Sports and celebrations
Sports fans are well catered for across the island. It has a strong legacy in boxing, golf, rugby union and soccer, as well as a growing presence in cricket. Where it is truly set apart, however, is through its traditional games such as hurling, camogie, Gaelic football and Gaelic handball.
Head to Dublin’s Croke Park – the spiritual home of the Gaelic Games Association – to get to grips with the destination’s sporting history, or why not visit a local club in hurling-mad County Kilkenny, in Ireland’s Ancient East? Those feeling adventurous could even have a go themselves. Hurling is one of the world’s oldest field sports and among the fastest games out there – it’s a thrilling combination of speed, skill and grit that has captivated the population for centuries.
Ireland’s unique character is evident wherever you visit, but there are several festivals throughout the year dedicated to aspects of its culture. St Patrick’s Day in Dublin is legendary and the equivalent festival in Limerick is just as eclectic. Cities come alive as thousands pour onto the streets to celebrate all that’s great about the island. Those with a liking for the arts are bound to get a lot out of attending Belfast International Arts Festival or Galway International Arts Festival.
And when spooky season rolls around, there’s no better place to visit. Halloween emerged from the Celtic festival known as Samhain, and Derry~Londonderry in Northern Ireland is home to Europe’s largest Halloween festival. Visitors can also head to Ireland’s Ancient East to experience Púca Festival in County Meath – an ancient tradition celebrating the mysterious and mischievous púca, a creature in Celtic folklore.
Whatever you’re on the lookout for when it comes to living culture, you’re sure to find it on the island of Ireland. And with no more Covid restrictions, quick, easy access from Britain and year-round holiday options, there’s no better time to press the green button and book your clients’ trip.
PICTURES: Tourism Ireland/Brian Morrison; Fáilte Ireland/Fearghus Foyle; Killeavy Castle Estate; Kilkenny Arts Festival