Belfast City Hall Christmas

Photo: Belfast City Hall

Ireland is the fifth best country in the world to visit in 2015, according to the folks at influential travel guide, Lonely Planet. Published last month, Lonely Planet’s Top Ten guide for next year’s vacation destinations describes Ireland as: “stunningly scenic.” “It is the real deal … its traditions—music, dance, whiskey and beer—(are) firmly intact, and the cosmopolitan, contemporary Irish are just as friendly and welcoming as their forebears were known to be.” The guide singles out the famous Irish hospitality as one of Ireland’s “true” qualities.
There’s more: “The Irish themselves are inevitably at the heart of the best the country has to offer. Attend a traditional music session in a small pub in County Clare. Hook up with a walking club and do a little cross-country ambling on a soft Sunday afternoon. Go surfing at Rossnowlagh Beach in County Donegal. Or just strike up a conversation over a pint with the gang sitting next to you in the pub.
“It’s these connections that will make you want to come back … Ireland is small, but it packs a big punch,” says Lonely Planet.
The Irish tourism industry has gone through a fantastic resurgence in recent times. Each year the numbers of visitors just keeps growing and this year the country is on target for yet another record number. The numbers visiting from north America are even more impressive. The re-introduction of the direct Aer Lingus flight between San Francisco and Dublin has helped a lot, as has the continued reduction in the value-added tax rate for tourism-related products and services, the historically favorable exchange rate between the US dollar and the euro and other macro economic factors. But at the heart of this reinvigoration of Ireland as a world class destination is a refocus on the things that traditionally have delighted visitors to the Emerald Isle. The beautiful scenery, the abiding sense of history and culture and—as Lonely Planet and others have highlighted—the spectacular hospitality of the Irish are among the key ingredients for the recent rise in the country’s popularity.
Over the next few month’s we will be gathering and celebrating the holidays, Thanksgiving, then Christmas and then the New Year. The Fall, and the end of year festivities are very special times in Ireland.
Ireland is a bouyant and joyful place this time of year. The arrival of Fall brings with it almost a ‘national mood change.’ The long summer days are over and Christmas is around the corner.
Things slow down a wee bit, especially in the countryside where the turf has been dug, the hay made and most of the crops brought in. In the cities too, the shortening days have an effect on the psyche, and along with the hustle and bustle of everyday life, people quietly are going about the business of preparing for the year end celebrations.
It’s a fabulous time to visit Ireland. For one thing, the crowds of holiday makers have thinned out quite a bit, which as any seasoned traveler knows, means easier access to attractions and better value. There are great deals to be had on airfares. Car hire and accommodations are also good value this time of year. Tour operators have put together a wide variety of packages available to help you enjoy a very special fall or mid-winter break. A quick visit to
www.ireland.com will allow you access to all the information you need to plan a great holiday.
A City break is perfect for the coming months and there are a great many options. Among them are Dublin, Belfast, Cork, Limerick and Galway, which all provide their own unique experiences, and are gateways to many other attractions you may want to visit. Common to them all however is the famed Irish welcome, spectacular nightlife, rich history and culture and a street scene the envy of Europe, replete with restaurants and cafés to suit any taste or budget.
In recent years Dublin has cemented its position as one of Europe’s most attractive cities. A previous winner of the prestigious ‘European City of Culture’ award, this burgeoning capital is positively alive with energy. Chic urban cool is on display in every quarter. Lush rolling parklands, an eclectic variety of hip boutiques and restaurants, a plethora of cultural and historical sights and attractions and a ‘buzzing’ nightlife all combine to make Dublin a premier destination. A singularly laid back atmosphere, lively and welcoming pubs and streets filled with the best of the modern and the ancient, this metropolis has survived and thrived for more than 1,000 years. It’s all there for you to explore at your leisure.
If you want to see 2014 out with a bang there is no better option than the hugely popular New Year’s Festival Dublin, which runs again this year from December 30 to January 1.
Three action-packed days of music, comedy, arts and even a Food Village, will take place across Dublin city.
NYF Dublin likes its music mixed and its venues spectacular. This year’s Countdown Concert line-up boasts indie chart-toppers Kodaline alongside four other incredible acts. You can also catch live acoustic, and pop-up sessions in cafés and restaurants scattered across the city.
Stages will be raised at some pretty spectacular locations, too, including College Green, Christ Church Cathedral and Meeting House Square in Temple Bar.
The festival has plenty of free fun-filled activities and events planned for everyone. Dublin Castle’s historic grounds open up for a fabulous Food Village and live entertainment, as well as the launch of the Irish Design 2015.
On New Year’s Eve, the People’s Procession of Light will illuminate the city streets with dazzling colors—and spectators are invited to bring their own lanterns to light up the skies. And across all three days, Dublin’s iconic landmarks will come alive with 3D activations during the fantastic Luminosity event.
Spending the holidays in Ireland is truly an experience like no other. The Irish no how to have a good time, and everyone is welcome to join in the merrymaking. And going in the fall or early winter offers a chance to experience all the country has to offer at incredible value. www.Ireland.com

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