Ireland

Irish FlagIreland is more than just the land of Guinness and Shamrocks, it is a land of mythic beauty that is hard to forget. From the ancient Celts to the early European Christians, Vikings, and finally the Normans, Ireland has seen more history than many other places on earth. But the country has emerged from tumultuous past into the modern world as a leader in technology and economic development. The Irish have come a long way over the past few generations, but don't let the new modern ways fool you--you can still expect to find that good old Irish hospitality all over the country. Ireland MapWhile the Republic of Ireland gained its full independence in 1949, the long struggle against England is still alive, as seen daily in Northern Ireland. But despite what happens in the north, the Irish have never lost their spirit. When you travel around the countryside you will quickly learn why so many people believe this is a purely magical place. From the juxtaposition of the ultra-chic with poignant history in Dublin, to the ancient limestone-armored hillsides at The Burren, to the dramatic soaring coastlines and solemn quietude of the western isles, Ireland bears many faces. And every  one of them is fascinating and fun. Traveling in Ireland There are many ways to get to Ireland, depending on where you originate. Major airports are located in Dublin; Shannon; and in Northern Ireland, in Belfast. A number of major cities around the world have flights direct to these cities, and there's plethora of options if flying through England. Also, ferry service runs between England; Scotland; Wales; and even Cherbourg and Le Havre, France, to various cities in Ireland. Most sights in Ireland are not accessible by public transportation, which means that the only way to truly see all of the countryside is by car; however, renting a car can be very expensive, and if you do plan on driving in Ireland remember to stay on the left. There are trains and buses that can get you around the country, but they do not travel to all places and their schedules can vary. If you do plan on traveling around Ireland extensively, it's best to have a good plan before you head out--getting from hear to there is typically not as easy as on continental Europe. Weather in Ireland The weather is best in July and August, when it's warm and the days are long. This is also the most crowded time to visit Ireland. In the winter, weather can be miserable, and the days maddeningly short. This, combined with the fact that a lot of tourist facilities are closed, makes traveling to Ireland in the winter hard on many tourists. If you're looking for fair weather and smaller crowds, it may be wise to go there in June or September. Ireland Information Europe Map Population: 3.9 million Government: Democracy Square Miles: 43,575 sq mi (70,282 sq km) Capitol: Dublin (pop. 1.5 million) Official Language: English, Irish (around 83,000 native speakers) People: Irish Religion: 95% Roman Catholic, 3.4% Protestant in the Republic; 60% Protestant, 40% Roman Catholic in the Northern Ireland Major products/industries: Computer software, information technology, food products, brewing, textiles, clothing, pharmaceuticals, tourism