Ireland's Wonderful Cities
Posted by Niamh Allabyrne on the 31st of January 2013 at 10:47:49
You may not necessarily think of Ireland as a city-break location when planning your Irish vacation. You may just view her cities as somewhere to fly in and out of in-between your travels along Ireland’s winding hills and rolling green hills. And while Ireland has certainly much to offer in terms of her scenery and coastal trails, her cities are great bases from which to explore her beautiful attractions. Dublin, Galway and Belfast are perhaps the cities which many may think of immediately when planning a city break or visit in Ireland but we have several more which are just as interesting, vibrant and bustling.
As Ireland is such a small country, basing yourself in one of her cities or indeed larger towns does not mean that you cannot travel out on day-trips to the mountains, coastal views or heritage sites of which Ireland is so known for. Certainly, from most locations in Ireland, a hike in the mountains, swim in the sea and dinner in the city can all be achieved in one day!
So when planning your Irish vacation, think about basing yourself in one of the below and reap the benefits of town and country in one vacation!
Armagh – was once the ecclesiastical center and indeed heart of Christian Ireland due to Saint Patrick founding his main church there in the mid-5th century. Today it is still an important religious center with two cathedrals in the city Saint Patrick's Cathedral Roman Catholic and Saint Patrick’s Cathedral Church of Ireland. The site of the latter overlooks the city dates from 1268 and was last restored in 1834. The cathedral contains an 11th century Celtic Cross, several sculptures which date from the Iron age through to the 20th century and the grave of Brian Boru once High King of Ireland who died in 1014. Armagh city itself has lots to offer in terms of eateries, pubs, shopping and several good accommodation options. Other main attractions in the vicinity include Navan Centre and Fort, the Argory and the Armagh Planetarium.
Belfast – the vivacious capital city of Northern Ireland comes with a complex and enduring history. Learn the fate of the Titanic, visit the political murals and walk the historic paths of this enigmatic city. Settled from the earliest time, the city flourished in the 18th and 19th centuries with shipbuilding and engineering. The period known as “the troubles” had a marked impact on the city, but since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, the city has rallied, been revived, rejuvenated and redeveloped as a tourist destination with 4 four distinct quarters – Gaeltacht, Titanic, Queens and Cathedral . With hip shops and pubs, the fantastic Titanic Belfast and great base from which to visit the Giants Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede Rope-bridge and the beauty of the Antrim coast, Belfast really does have it all! For more on Antrim click here!
Cork – situated in the south of Ireland, Cork was founded in the 7th century and today is Ireland’s second largest city after Dublin. The city was built on several small islands although today it is almost impossible to discern this. Visit the English Market, St. Finbarr’s Church, the famous Shandon Bells, Cork City Gaol and enjoy the bustle of this friendly city with all the conveniences of a large city, but equally close to such attractions as Fota House and Gardens, Fota Wildlife Park, Blarney Castle, Jameson Experience. Read our blog on more ideas on what to do in Cork!
Derry/Londonderry – a walled city (the only completely walled city in Ireland or Britain) in Ireland’s north-west, comes with a fascinating history. Indeed, Derry/Londonderry offers a great mix of the old with its history and heritage and the best of the new with numerous festivals and cultural events and was voted in the Top 10 Cities in the world to visit by Lonely Planet. Vibrant, energetic, dynamic and historic, tour Derry’s attractions such as the Tower Museum and Free Derry Museum. Walk her city walls and take a taxi tour of her murals and political past. See for yourself why Derry/Londonderry proves such a popular tourist destination! Have a look at our blog for more attractions and ideas for Derry!
Dublin – Founded in 988, although with an earlier settlement dating to prehistoric times, Dublin really came into her own with the coming of the Vikings in the 10th century. Ireland’s capital city and her largest, it is walkable, navigable city where you can see the impact and influence of the Vikings, Normans and English and stroll through beautiful Georgian Dublin all in one day! With a plethora of pubs with traditional music sessions, restaurants with fine international cuisine and attractions such as Trinity College, Saint Patricks Cathedral, Christ Church Cathedral, Chester Beatty Museum and Dublin Castle and many more besides, all conveniently located close together, allowing you to easily walk her streets and soak up her electric atmosphere. From Dublin, one can take day-trips to the monastic settlement of Glendalough and the mystical Newgrange, travel to the coastal villages of Howth or Killiney or indeed simply watch the world go by in her many fashionable cafes. Have a look at my earlier blog on my favorite places in Dublin!
Galway –the City of the Tribes is located in the west of Ireland. Close to the Connemara Region, and attractions such as the Aran Islands and Kylemore Abbey, Galway is a busy university town with a heady mix, of local, visitor and student who all help to add an unique quality to the energy and vivaciousness of this city. Known as a great town for live and dynamic music, numerous festivals, eclectic shops and good food, enjoy staying in Galway as you travel the west of Ireland. Enjoy some more on Galway here...
Kilkenny -this gorgeous Medieval city is located south of Dublin. Dominated by the 12th century Kilkenny Castle with its enthralling history, a visit to Kilkenny really is like steeping back in time with its winding streets and alleyways. Visit Rother House , a 17th century merchant house, the 13th century Black Abbey and Saint Canice’s Cathedral and Round Tower. Don’t forget to drop into Kylter’s – once owned by Alice Kylter – Kilkenny’s famous witch and hear the story of her murderous ways!
Limerick – is situated just 15 minutes from Shannon airport and so is a handy location to start or finish a tour of Ireland or indeed an ideal base from which to travel the region. Founded by the Vikings and situated on the River Shannon, King John’s Castle which dates from the 1200 is arguably one of Limerick city’s most known and revered landmarks. Other attractions include the Hunt Museum (in the Old Customs House) houses a wonderful collection of antiquities from Ireland and abroad and Saint Mary’s Cathedral the oldest building in Limerick dating from 1172. You can also take a tour based on Frank McCourt’s Angela Ashes and see some of the places mentioned in the book. From Limerick city, take a cruise of Ireland’s longest river the Shannon or visit Bunratty Castle, Adare Village known for its thatched cottages or Lough Gur Heritage Park.
Waterford – Ireland’s oldest city was in 914 founded by the Vikings. Take a walking tour of this magical city and see how the Vikings, Normans and Victorians have left their mark and indeed still influence it today. Home of Waterford Crystal visit the factory and see how they have perfected their craft. Take a cruise on the River Suir and see the city and from a different angle and enjoy a relaxing cruise as you hear about the city’s long and intriguing history. Like most cities, Waterford has a number of great restaurants pubs and clubs along with numerous accommodation options. Looking further afield – visit the coastal towns of Dungarvan, Ardmore and Lismore or stay in Waterford Castle or explore the beautiful Mount Congreve Gardens.
Any visit to Ireland is full of stunning scenery, forty shades of green and a myriad of history and heritage all mixed with friendly natives, great live music and a hearty welcome. By staying in a city or large town, you can enjoy the proximity of numerous dining, entertainment and shopping options, but still take day-trips to various local and perhaps not so local attractions. We do city breaks of both Dublin and Belfast, so why not plan your Irish vacation around one of them? Contact us today and we can help plan your tour of Ireland to suit your budget, interests and schedule!
In the meantime have a look at some free things to do in Dublin City on your visit to Ireland's capital!