Over the last decade Dublin has carved out a reputation and position as one of Europe’s leading city break destination. Ireland has made great efforts to promote itself, and its’ capital, as a tourist destination and has made great strides in doing so. But still the majority of visitors to the country fly in and out of Dublin without ever leaving the city boundaries. Whilst Dublin has much to offer in terms of culture and nightlife it seems a shame that much of this rich country remains unexplored by tourists.
Ireland is a small country but retains diverse offerings for the tourism market. With easy access from the UK and mainland Europe thanks to the expansion of airports at Dublin, Cork and Shannon in recent years, Ireland has placed itself firmly on the tourist map. Attracting short break visitors from the UK has proved relatively easy – a short hop on a plane or ferry has helped Dublin to carve it’s reputation as a city break highlight. But Dublin commands an abnormally high number of tourists and with Ireland looking to attract longer term visitors, perhaps it is time to look beyond the capital to explore Ireland’s tourism credentials.
Ireland’s effort to promote the rest of the country was helped by the EU in 2005 when Cork was announced as European City of Culture. Irelands’ second city has become much more accessible in recent years with a busy international airport taking users direct to the South West of Ireland. Warmed directly by the Gulf Stream, Cork might surprise visitors who are welcomed by palm trees and bamboo adding a flavour that is perhaps more Cannes than craic. Its’ history as a seaport is evident in Cork life woth bustling markets and restaurant scene. The city skyline is dominated by St Finn Barre’s Cathedral, a spectacular triple spiralled French Gothic structure. Cork is a sizeable, yet compact city that offers a refreshing and altogether different alternative to Dublin.
Kerry is a hill walkers’ paradise. With rugged coastline, mountain ranges and national parks, Kerry is perhaps the most suited area to outdoor activities. Golf is popular throughout the country and the fabulous K Club in County Kildare is host to the 2006 Ryder Cup. The North West of Ireland from Sligo up to Donegal offers outdoor activities such as Atlantic surfing, mountaineering and, of course, more golf.
Ireland is compact and, although internal flights are infrequent, travelling by road can offer a rewarding experience. Most cities and towns have readily available car hire in Ireland. The coastal routes in particular are a spectacular driving experience and you’ll be certain that you’re out of Dublin.