The island of Ireland is packed with things to see and do throughout 2012. From its famous Gardens and Castles to its amazing festivals to the many small islands scattered around its coast – there are many hidden gems just waiting to be explored!
DUBLIN FESTIVAL SEASON
Dublin is renowned for its world-class cultural credentials, which include several Nobel prize-winning authors, its designation as a UNESCO City of Literature, and a non-stop celebration of the arts. Come September, the city ratchets up its output to celebrate an abundant cultural harvest that’s written in the very stones of its streets and buildings. Forget hushed museums and hallowed halls – this fall visitors are invited to jump into the explosion of vitality that is Dubiln’s Festival Season.
Absolut Fringe (September 8-23)
It’s Ireland´s biggest multi-disciplinary arts festival encompassing theatre, dance, music, comedy, street and international arts.
Dublin Culture Night (September 21)
This annual event invites locals and visitors to boldly go where they may not have gone before, by taking advantage of the extended opening times and free entry into more than 150 art galleries, museums, studios, churches, historic houses and cultural centres across the city.
Arthur’s Day (September 27)
Here’s an opportunity to enjoy two things that the Irish love – a pint of Guinness and a good party.
With concerts and music sessions in pubs, clubs and streets across the city, the only decision required is where to be at 17.59 to toast the man who invented the ‘black stuff’ – the legendary Arthur Guinness.
Dublin Theatre Festival (September 27 – October 14)
Europe’s oldest specialist theatre festival will stage an amazing array of Irish and international theatre productions.
Open House weekend (October 5-7)
Delivered by the Irish Architecture Foundation is an exploration of the vitality of Dublin through its architecture, and the people who live, work and play in it.
HOUSES & CASTLES
This mansion is surrounded by a large area of parkland, garden and woodland, with breathtaking views of Benaughlin and the backdrop of the Cuilcagh Mountains. You’ll also find the famous Florence Court Yew – reputedly the ‘parent’ of all Irish yew trees.
Huntington Castle & Gardens
Part of an ancient hallowed site, nearby is a little Neolithic stone, used in pre-Celtic times for healing, and the River Slaney, known as the river of healing. The castle itself is located at what’s known as the Crow’s Foot, the confluence of the River Slaney and the River Derry, named after the druid oak.
This 18th-century house and its award-winning gardens are situated on the tranquil shores of Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland. With its manicured formal terraces, grand lake, overflowing and colourful gardens, and rare plants, the estate, now owned by the National Trust, will leave a lasting impression on its visitors.
Mount Usher Gardens
Located in Ashford, Co Wicklow, this private estate is home to exotic flowers from around the globe, truly spectacular magnolias in spring, trees and shrubs and a beautifully classic rose garden.
Set in Co Wicklow at the foot of the Great Sugar Loaf Mountain, the captivating gardens on the estate are among the most impressive in Europe. With its giant sequoias, dwarf copper chestnuts, azaleas, magnolia and rhododendrons – this is a garden-lover’s paradise!
Located near the village of Ballon, Altamount houses a fascinating collection of ornamental gardens and lakeside walks with soaring redwood trees and the atmospheric multi-coloured Chinese dawn redwood.
Belfast Botanic Gardens
First established in 1828, the gardens have been enjoyed as a public park by the people of Belfast since 1895. With an extensive rose garden and long herbaceous borders, tree enthusiasts can also seek rare oaks planted in the 1880s. Near Queens University, the Botanic Gardens are an important part of Belfast’s Victorian heritage.
As part of the Irish National Stud, which is home to some of Ireland’s finest thoroughbreds and is Ireland’s only stud farm open to the public, the Japanese Gardens are Europe’s finest and Saint Fiachra’s also includes woodland and lakeside walks.
Located in Saintfield, Co Down, this enchanting garden was laid out from the mid-1860s by the Reverend John Moore and afterwards by Hugh Armytage Moore, who established connections with botanic gardens throughout the world.
The star of this Co Down garden is the hornbeam maze, which was planted in 1975. Its intricate pattern can easily be observed from above by looking down from a new Moghul Tower. The Tropical Butterfly House features a large flight area with hundreds of exotic butterflies.
Inish Turk Beg
Inish Turk Beg is a private island in Clew Bay, off the West Coast of Ireland. Home to award-winning accommodation, spectacular scenery, free-spirited adventure and fine artisan produce, Inish Turk Beg means “small island of the wild boar”. It is the tallest and one of the largest islands in Clew Bay, and has borne witness to a wide variety of historical events. On a trip to Inishturkbeg, visitors can look forward to exploring its local whiskey distillery, its many restaurants and food specialties and a tour of its local Stud Farm.
An island off the coast of Co Antrim, Rathlin is the only inhabited offshore island in Northern Ireland, with a rising population of now just over 100 people. One of 43 Special Areas of Conservation in Northern Ireland, it is home to tens of thousands of seabirds, including common guillemots, kittiwakes, puffins and razorbills – about thirty bird families in total.
Lying south-west of Co Cork, Cape Clear Island is the southernmost inhabited part of the island of Ireland and has a population of over 100 people. It’s officially a Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) area but most inhabitants speak Irish and English. Seals, basking sharks and dolphins are found in the surrounding water, while sea pinks and honeysuckle are common plants on the land. Cape Clear is also home to a lighthouse and a bird observatory. The first weekend of September, it plays host to the Cape Clear Island International Storytelling Festival, which has been running annually since 1994 and features professional international storytellers from around the world.
This mountainous island guards the entrance to Clew Bay in Co Mayo. Famous as the home of the pirate queen, Gráinne O’Malley (the formidable ruler of the district around Clew Bay during the second half of the 16th century), today it’s home to approximately 125 people. Overlooking the harbour is the 15th/16th-century O’Malley castle, which was modernized in 1831 to serve as a coastguard station.
Ireland’s largest island is easily accessible by Road Bridge from the beautiful Currane peninsula. Achill encompasses dramatic land and seascapes, which have provided inspiration for artists and writers for many years. Join the breathtaking Atlantic Drive along the coast and continue to Keel village to view the magnificent Minaun Cliffs. Achill has a rich cultural heritage, with painting, writing and archaeological schools, traditional music and dance and, as a bilingual community, Irish is spoken in a relaxed natural environment.