Tracing Your Roots

Roughly 80 million people worldwide can claim to be part of, or descended from, the Irish diaspora, with about 41 million of those in the USA alone. Most major towns have a heritage centre with a genealogical service.

Genealogy Office Based in the National Library in Dublin, this is the place to start your search for your Irish ancestors.

PRONI (Public Record Office of Northern Ireland) Belfast’s purpose-built centre is the place to go to track down your Ulster family history.

Cobh, The Queenstown Story Cobh's superb heritage museum houses a genealogy centre.

Dún na Sí Heritage Centre A folk park 16km east of Athlone with an associated genealogical centre attached.

Ulster American Folk Park Ulster’s rich links with the USA are explored in one of Northern Ireland’s best museums.

Rothe House & Garden An excellent genealogical service is housed in this 16th-century merchant's house in Kilkenny city.

Literary Corners

Four Nobel laureates for literature are just the highlight of a rich literary tradition. Ireland is one of the English-speaking world’s most notable heavyweights of the written word, a tradition that continues to thrive through contemporary writers and literary festivals.

Cape Clear Island International Storytelling Festival The storytelling tradition is kept alive by tales tall and long from all over the world.

Seamus Heaney Home Place A new museum and arts centre in the Nobel laureate's home town of Bellaghy, County Londonderry.

Cúirt International Festival of Literature Galway attracts writers from far and wide to its April literary showcase.

Dublin Literary Pub Crawl A fine selection of literary tours take full advantage of the city's rich literary reputation.

Listowel Writers' Week The Irish literary festival, held in June in the home town of John B Keane.

Town of Books Festival The Kilkenny town of Graiguenamanagh aspires to be Ireland's answer to Hay-on-Wye with this annual festival.

Traditional Pubs

Everybody’s got their favourite, so picking the best ones is a futile exercise. What can be done, however, is to select a handful that won’t disappoint you, especially if you’re looking for a traditional pub in the classic mould.

Blakes of the Hollow Ulster’s best pint of Guinness in a Victorian classic.

John Benny’s Stone slab floor, memorabilia on the walls and rocking trad sessions in this Dingle pub most nights.

McCarthy’s A pub, restaurant and undertakers, all in one, in Fethard.

Tigh Neachtain In Galway, one of Ireland’s best-known traditional pubs.

John Mulligan's The most famous of the capital's traditional pubs and a star of film and TV – where it usually plays itself.

Vaughan’s Pub Superb bar in Kilfenora with outstanding reputation for traditional music.

Great Views

Irish scenery is among the most spectacular in Europe, with breathtaking views and stunning landscapes throughout the whole country. There are the famous spots, of course, but they’re not alone.

Binevenagh Lake Spectacular views over Lough Foyle, Donegal and the Sperrin Mountains from the cliff top at the height of Bishop’s Rd.

Kilkee Cliffs Jaw-dropping views of soaring cliffs that aren’t the Cliffs of Moher.

Powerscourt Estate The view of the Sugarloaf from the entrance road to this Palladian mansion is one of the best along the east coast.

Connor Pass Stand at the top of the 456m pass through the mountains of the Dingle Peninsula and inhale the views of the valley below.

Poisoned Glen The views down this Donegal valley are breathtaking; the final touch is the ruined church at the foot of the glen.

Priest's Leap A scenic mountain pass near the Beara Peninsula with sensational views of Bantry Bay and its eponymous town.

Sky Road Astonishing views over the sea from this dramatic coastal road just outside Clifden in Connemara.

Traditional Music

Western Europe’s most vibrant folk music is kept alive by musicians who ply their craft (and are plied with drink) in impromptu and organised sessions in pubs and music houses throughout the country; even the ‘strictly for tourists’ stuff will feature excellent performances.

An Droichead Excellent music sessions at a Belfast arts centre dedicated to Irish culture.

Matt Molloy’s The Chieftain’s fife player owns this Westport pub where the live céilidh (session of traditional music and dancing) kicks off at 9pm nightly.

Miltown Malbay Every pub in this County Clare town features outstanding Irish trad sessions.

Tig Cóilí Galway’s best trad sessions are held in a pub whose name means ‘house of music’.

Marine Bar Wonderful music nightly during summer months at this 200-year-old pub on the Ring Peninsula.

Cobblestone The nightly sessions in this Smithfield pub are the best in the capital.

Golf

If Scotland is the home of golf, then Ireland is where golf goes on holidays. There are over 400 courses spread throughout the island, but for a proper Irish golfing experience, tee it up on a links course by the sea.

Ballybunion Golf Club A perennial favourite with visiting celebrities and professionals – the course is as tough as the views are beautiful.

County Sligo Golf Course Stunning links on a peninsula in the shadow of Ben Bulben.

Lahinch Golf Club One of Ireland's most beloved links was laid out by Scottish soldiers in 1892.

Royal County Down Hallowed links designed by Old Tom Morris often rated as the best course in Ireland.

Royal Portrush A stunner that hosted the Open Championship in 1951 and will do so again in 2019.

Waterville Golf Links A world-class links with views to match.

Family Days Out

There are plenty of family-friendly activities throughout the country, from heritage museums to ziplines across a forest canopy.

Castle Ward Estate Game of Thrones was filmed at this National Trust property, which also has an adventure playground and farm animals.

Lough Key Forest Park This 142-hectare adventure playland includes a 300m-long canopy walk and an outdoor adventure playground.

Tayto Park Lots of fun for all the family, including Europe's largest wooden inverted rollercoaster, a zoo and a 5D cinema.

Great Western Greenway Flat and popular bike path from Westport to Achill with plenty of castles and sites to see along the way.

Fota Wildlife Park Huge outdoor zoo just outside Cork city with not a cage or fence in sight; the cheetah run is especially popular.

Tralee Bay Wetlands Centre When you're done learning about the habitats of this 300-hectare reserve, you can hop aboard a boat for the 15-minute safari ride.

Ancient Ruins

Thanks to the pre-Celts, Celts and early Christians, ancient and monastic sites are a feature of the Irish landscape. Thanks to the Vikings and Henry VIII, many of these are ruins, but no less impressive.

Glendalough Ruins of a once-powerful monastic city in tranquil surroundings.

Brú na Bóinne Europe’s most impressive Neolithic burial site.

Clonmacnoise Ireland’s finest monastic site.

Athassel Priory Sublime and haunting ecclesiastical ruin.

Carrowkeel Megalithic cemetery and majestic views.

Athenry A magnificent castle, Dominican priory, an original market cross and lengthy sections of town walls.

Devenish Island Ruins of an Augustinian monastery and near-perfect round tower on the biggest island in Lough Erne.

Dun Aengus Stunning Stone Age fort perched perilously on Inishmore's cliffs.