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Destination of the month (1): Ireland
10 Things You Mightn’t Know About Ireland...(but we can't be sure, to be sure..!

Despite the recession hitting the country, it hasn’t dampened the Irish people’s love of a party or “craic” – the Gaelige word for “fun”. This fun-loving spirit, friendliness and the magic of the country’s many beautiful destinations has proved popular with its many visitors. This year Ireland was voted reader’s choice on Frommers.com beating out last year’s winner, Paris.
As well as this, the country was rated as the 'Most Popular Destination of 2010' at a high-profile travel awards ceremony in Shanghai in January. Ireland was voted in by the readers of the Oriental Morning Post as well as travel specialists from around China.

In case you’d like to know a little more before packing your bags,

here’s 10 things you might not have known about Ireland – and 10 perfect reasons to visit!


1/ County Wicklow is a Diva!

The beauty of the Wicklow Hills
Due to its natural beauty, County Wicklow, just south of Dublin, is also a movie star!  It has been the location for movies including "Braveheart", "Excalibur", "Into the West", "Michael Collins", "Reign of Fire" and "King Arthur". 

Diehard movie fans can appreciate the stunning settings while taking one of our tours of the area such as the "Excalibur Drive", the "Michael Collins Drive" and the "Braveheart Drive".

In addition, The Harbour Bar in Bray in Co Wicklow has scooped the prize for the best overall pub in the world according to Lonely Planet. A favourite of many celebs and locals alike – kick back and enjoy a pint of the black stuff there!

The view from Knockree Hostel on the Wicklow Way!

See Wicklow for yourself and revel in its beauty at the 5-star rated Glendaloch International Hostel and Knockree Hostel.

2/ The Irish Seventh Wonder of Nature

The Cliffs of Moher are contenders on the short-list of the global online campaign for the New 7 Wonders of Nature. You may recognise them also as the “Cliffs of Insanity” in The Princess Bride, and the location of Voldemort’s cave in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, as well as from a couple of episodes of Father Ted!

Lonely Planet are also fans – Co. Clare and the famous cliffs were selected in their top ten places in the world to cycle.

Check out the famed surf in Lahinch while you’re there and stay in Burren Hostel for this popular resort.

3/ Haunting Donegal Sounds

“The atmosphere of Donegal is part of the Clannad sound”, says singer and band member Moya Brennan. “There’s a haunting, surreal beauty and an earthiness to the old land.”
This peace and tranquility has proved popular in recent years with many travellers seeking to escape from the hassle of the modern world, including regulars Sarah Jessica Parker and her husband Matthew Broderick.

Donegal-born reclusive singer Enya also drew on the inspiration of the county and captured the feel of the land in her haunting sound. But the haunting doesn’t end there:  the renowned Poisoned Glen with its resident ghost 'The Green Lady' gives an eerie sense of mystery to the area as do the many ghost stories of the county you’re told while exploring the Bloody Foreland walk!

Whether you’re a ghost-buster or scaredy-cat, chill out at our Errigal Hostel.

4/ Adventurers choose Killarney

TripAdvisor Traveller's Choice selected Killarney as one of the Top 10 Outdoor & Adventure Destinations in Europe. The popular Kerry destination was voted in as no.5.

The TripAdvisor comment reads - "Forget fashionable footwear, only your most comfortable shoes will cut it in Killarney. It's a walking town, and every trail is a history lesson. Journey on foot through Ireland's first national park, 26,000 acres of woodlands, sandstone mountains and low-lying lakes. When your feet wear out, take in Killarney National Park via boat from Ross Castle". 

With EcoAdventure Ireland packages now available for groups at our Killarney International Hostel there’ll be an outdoor adventure pursuit to challenge your sense of adventure!

Pull on your hiking boots and forget the pedicure while staying at our Killarney International Hostel.

Killarney International Hostel - the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!

5/ No bottling it up in Musical Cork

Ireland’s second largest city is having a very musical 2011. From February 2nd – 6th it hosts its annual Trad Fest with the best Irish traditional musicians coming together for a 5 day party of concerts, céilis and sessions.

Then it’s time to warm up your vocal chords for The Cork International Choral Festival from April 27th - May 1st.  This world-class event celebrates the very best of choral and vocal music and includes prestigious international and national competitions, gala and fringe concerts, public performances, and an education programme.

From the 22nd – 25th October the city turns soulful and funky with the annual Guinness Cork Jazz Festival. One of Europe's top Jazz Festivals, it has hosted a "who's who" of international performers over the past 30 years including
Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Dave Brubeck, Cleo Laine and Chick Corea.  Be sure to book early for this one!

These three are by no means Cork’s only festivals – its full calendar shows why this city was European Capital of Culture 2005.

Sing your heart out and dance as though no one is watching at our Cork International Hostel.

6/ The Quiet Man revisits

Sticking with the movie theme, Cong is best known for the John Ford movie “The Quiet Man” starring the Duke, John Wayne, and Maureen O’Hara. However Hollywood looks like they’re coming back for a reprise with a movie based on the making of The Quiet Man itself called The Connemara Days.

So far, former James Bond actor Sir Roger Moore, Aidan Quinn and Geraldine Chaplin have signed up for the “romantic comedy”, based on the impact of director John Ford’s arrival in Cong, on the Galway-Mayo border.

Monkeying around in Cong? Follow the Duke’s footsteps and find tranquility and relax after excellent hikes among other quiet men at our Cong Hostel.

7/ World’s Oldest Alarm Clock?

Newgrange in County Meath is home to an Ancient Temple best known for the illumination of its passage and chamber by the winter solstice. At dawn, from December 19th to 23rd, a narrow beam of light penetrates the roof-box and reaches the floor of the chamber, gradually extending to the rear of the chamber. As the sun rises higher, the beam widens within the chamber so that the whole room becomes dramatically illuminated.

Newgrange's accuracy as a time-telling device is remarkable when one considers that it was built over 5,000 years ago (about 3,200 B.C.), 500 years before the Great Pyramids and more than 1,000 years before Stonehenge.

See where Hallowe’en got its origins and visit the pagan temple while staying at our Newgrange Lodge Hostel.

8/ Best Bar in the World – surprise, surprise!

The Harbour Bar in Bray in Co Wicklow has scooped the prize for the best overall pub in the world according to Lonely Planet.

Over the last century, The Harbour Bar has been home to a who’s who of international and national writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians alike including Brendan Behan, James Joyce (who once lived across the road), Peter O’Toole, Neil Jordan, Lawrence Oliver, Katherine Hepburn, U2, Sinead O’Conner, Def Leppard, Shane MacGowan, Brendan Gleeson, Beverly D’Angelo, Cillian Murphy, Jim Sheridan and Colin Farrell who number among its regulars.

But The Harbour Bar is no one trick pony: it also came in first in the ‘Off the Beaten Track’ category in this year’s Lonely Planet ‘Great Bars of the World’ competition!

Enjoy your Guinness in the best bar: visiting is easy – just a hop, skip and short bus ride from Knockree Hostel.

9/ Dublin City transforms into an Art Gallery

This autumn, Dublin makes like Venice, staging its own first Biennale from September 6 to October 31. 'Dublin Contemporary' is the most ambitious exhibition ever staged in Ireland, according to its organisers.

Taking inspiration from Joyce's 'Ulysses', it plans to treat the city as a gallery, with Irish and international artists mounting works across a host of landmark buildings, museums, galleries and non-art venues.

The theme is 'Silence', but we reckon there will be plenty to talk about especially as Dubliners are known for their willingness to chat to any and everyone they meet!

Become a culture vulture in autumn while staying at our Dublin International Hostel.

10/ Spin a yarn and tell your (fishy) tale in Cape Clear

Kissed the Blarney Stone and want to put it to test? Check out the Cape Clear International Storytelling Festival.
Here you can enjoy superb storytelling and music in Cape Clear’s spectacular scenic surroundings from 2nd – 4th September.

Situated on an island off the South West Coast of Ireland, this renowned weekend is now in its 17th year, each year gaining remarkable success. The festival offers a mix of international fame and multicultural diversity, suitable for all ages and nationalities.

As well as this, every year, at varying times, the seas around Cape Clear are visited in large numbers by Minke Whales, Finback Whales, Humpback Whales, Dolphins, Porpoises, Sun Fish, Seals, & Basking Sharks.  Scheduled and chartered Whale & Dolphin Watching trips are available - pre-booking is a must!

Check out the old Irish tradition and prepare to be enthralled by the beautiful surroundings of the island at our Cape Clear Hostel.

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