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Ireland Cruises

Dublin, Ireland

About Ireland

Ireland conjures images of castles cradled in verdant hills, quaint villages full of friendly locals, and fertile farmland draped in a patchwork of greens and browns. The Emerald Isle and its people have left an enduring mark on Northern Europe and the world, from its long literary tradition to its lively pub culture where a pint is as close as the next pour.

Ireland’s long and storied history begins at the conclusion of the last Ice Age, when retreating glaciers cleared the way for human habitation as early as 10,500 BC. Stone circles and ruins dot the landscape still today, a testament to the earliest settlers. The Newgrange mound in County Meath, for instance, is thought to be over 4,500 years old, predating both Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids of Giza.

While Ireland has been home to a variety of peoples, it is most closely associated with the Celts. Celtic society first appeared during the Iron Age. Archaeologists disagree about the Celts origins, but their influence is undisputed. They brought with them a rich culture which included the Gaelic language and pre-Christian religious traditions. While English is now the dominant language in Ireland, a significant minority of people still regularly speak Gaelic.

With its location near Great Britain and mainland Europe, Ireland had interactions with many nations, including the Roman Empire. However, the island largely maintained its independence. When Christianity came ashore in the 5th century, the old pagan traditions faded in the wake of the revered St. Patrick. Vikings arrived in the 9th century and founded some of today’s great Irish cities, including Dublin.

Ireland fell under the influence of both Norman and English rulers from the 12th to the 15th centuries. The 17th century brought both political and religious conflict to Ireland, costing hundreds of thousands of Irish lives. Ireland formally merged with Great Britain in 1801, though it was a marriage marred by strife.

Irish emigration to the United States accelerated in the 1840s due to the Great Famine, also known internationally as the Irish Potato Famine. The nation lost 2 million people during this period, half to starvation and half to the diaspora. That accounted for almost a quarter of the population at the time.

The partition of Ireland occurred in 1921, when most of the island became an independent republic. Northern Ireland remained in the United Kingdom.

Ireland Lifestyle and Culture

The modern Irish are heirs to a rich culture and history. In a nod to tradition, students still learn the Irish language in school. And more Irish follow Roman Catholicism than any other religion.

Perhaps Ireland’s most beloved tradition is its pub culture. Short for “public house” and dating back to Roman times, these welcoming establishments have long opened their doors to friends and strangers. The traditional drink of these establishments, Guinness dry stout, has been brewed in Ireland since 1759.

Ireland has given the world some of its greatest literary minds, including James Joyce and Oscar Wilde. Sharp-eyed bibliophiles will spot tributes to these figures in Dublin, such as a statue of Joyce on North Earl Street.

Ireland Sights and Landmarks

Home to both natural and man-made wonders, Ireland is a visual delight. In its rural reaches, emerald-hued landscapes roll out like a carpet. Stunning coastal mountains slope down to low plains in the island’s center. Tidy villages and dramatic cliffs hug the coast. The world-famous Ring of Kerry, the 100-mile circular drive along the west coast, reveals all these stunning natural features.

At Blarney Castle, just outside of Cork, kissing the world-famous Blarney Stone is rumored to bestow the gift of gab. The stone has been part of the castle since the 15th century. Even if you don’t fancy kissing the wall, the castle itself is well worth exploring.

The people of Dublin, the nation’s capital, have long celebrated the written word, nowhere more deeply than at the library of Trinity College, the hallowed home of the inspiring 9th-century illuminated Book of Kells, a collection of the four Gospels of the New Testament painstakingly penned and painted by Columban monks. Today, the devout of Dublin flock to the soaring, 12th-century St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the nation’s spiritual touchstone and a Gothic masterpiece adorned with richly decorated floors, and to the Gothic-Romanesque Christ Church Cathedral. The city’s and nation’s political heart is Dublin Castle, with its impressive keep, built after the Norman invasion that unseated the Vikings here. The regal Bedford Tower is topped by a copper-green dome, suitable for the Emerald Isle.