The dark haired flight attendant smiles at me as I show her my ticket. Those two tiny words spoken with her Irish lilt and a warm smile make my heart leap. Although it’s going to be six hours until I officially land, the Irish hospitality on our Aer Lingus flight already has me feeling I’m home. Like I’m back in Ireland.
For those of you who have been following me for a while, you will know that Ireland was the first place I ever travelled to. I spent few months living in the west coast city of Galway, and those months were some of the best of my life. Ireland is where I learned to love travel, and a lot of other things as well. Silly things like budgeting and planning, but also things like trusting others and becoming more self-assured and confident. It seems crazy that I impulsively threw myself across the ocean to live alone with no travel experience but, without a doubt, I picked the best place to do it.
It’s been nearly six years now since my first visit, and this was my fifth time back. With over forty countries under my belt so far, Ireland remains one of my all-time favourites. It’s somewhere I know I will always return to. And while I still live (happily) in Canada, Ireland holds a huge part of my heart and every time my flight lands in Dublin airport I feel like I am coming home.
So why Ireland? What is it that makes me love this country so much? I have a million reasons, but in a nutshell: because there is so much more to this country than the typical stereotypes.
Let’s be honest, the first thing that probably comes to mind when you think of Ireland is along the lines of pubs, beer, and St. Patrick’s Day. You wouldn’t be wrong, all three are amazing Irish experiences and definitely worth visiting for, but these things are not the charm of Ireland.
Ireland is Natural Beauty
Ireland is one of those places that manages to be beautiful in the rain or the sun. I can stand on the top of the hills of the rocky Burren in lashing wind and rain and still be able to admire the unique landscape around me.
The landscapes are not marred by unsightly skyscrapers or fences. I can sit on the cliff edges of Inis Mor and literally watch the waves crash against the rock 100m below my feet. Even the famous cliff of Moher, which now have a barrier, have managed to do it in a natural way that serves its purpose without taking away from the site itself.
Ireland has so much nature that is often close to the city centers making it easy to explore and experience.
Ireland is Adventure
A visit to Ireland means I can be surfing- yes, Ireland has lots of surfing-in the Atlantic Ocean one day and hiking through the sheep-covered hills of Connemara the next.
I can explore the ancient forts such as Dun Aonghasa, wander through castle ruins, and wonder at the legends of fairy rings.
I can have incredible animal encounters; learn about the birds of prey in the Burren, say hello to the friendly local dolphin in Dingle, or whale watch off the coast of Cork.
From common activities like hiking and cycling, to more intense sports like scuba diving and parasailing, Ireland has no shortage of activities for the adventurous traveller.
Ireland is History
Like many other Canadians, I claim some Irish heritage. I find it fascinating to be able to explore the county where my ancestors once walked. To imagine what their life must have been like all that time ago.
Ever for those that don’t have Irish blood, the history of this country is incredible. From the ancient tribes who built the forts, to the 4000-year-old bodies of kings that can be found in the National History Museum. From the medieval castles to the famine walls. And, of course, you can’t forget about the legendary Titanic.
For those travelers who, like me, love to be able to get a glimpse of the past when visiting a new destination, Ireland is a dream.
Ireland is Magic
We all know I’m a sucker for fairytales and legends, and nowhere does them better than Ireland. Stories of leprechauns and fairies can be found nearly everywhere you go alongside tales of the saints and goddesses. It’s easy to get lost in these amazing stories, and with a landscape dotted with ribbon-filled fairy trees and castle ruins, it’s not hard to imagine ‘what if?’
Ireland is Genuine Hospitality
The beauty and adventure, history and magic are all amazing, but the biggest reason that I love Ireland is because of the people. I have been to over forty countries so far and nowhere else makes me feel as welcome as Ireland does.
When I first came here half a dozen locals gave me their phone numbers and contact information “just in case.” They loved that I had chosen Ireland as my first country to live in and explore, but understood that it could be overwhelming or even intimating and were quick to offer kindness and help if needed. At the pubs, I can sit alone at the bar and chat up the bartender, or an older man on the stool beside me. I’m not judged or leered at for being a young woman alone in a bar. When I walk through the streets I can approach anyone with a question or ask for help, and no matter whether I enter a shop, pub, or my accommodation for the night, I’m always greeted with a warm and genuine ‘hello’.
Ireland is known for its hospitality, a reputation is absolutely deserves.
I could talk for days about why I love Ireland and why I think it’s perfect not just for solo travellers and women, but for everyone.