Ireland, the country of welcomes is a great place to visit, with a mythical ancient past visible everywhere in its landscape, wonderful countryside and fast-growing urban centers with excellent shopping and sophisticated nightlife. Something for everyone except sunshine, although there can be some wonderful weather at times and while the rainy days supply the lushly colored landscape you can always escape to the pub for a pint of Guinness.

In the last ten years the Irish economy has grown at a huge pace and the traditional view of Ireland as an old fashioned, cute and rather backward place is no longer true. It can be an exhilarating place to visit, with the possibility of experiencing a wide variety of surroundings in a very small country. Ireland can be an urbane European destination, with Art Galleries, Concerts and all kinds of cultural activities. It can also be a great wilderness, with areas of natural unspoilt beauty such as Connemara and the Burren in the West and Donegal in the North. There are soft rolling landscapes with cozy farms and little villages in the midlands and great coastal areas, including some excellent surfing locations in Sligo with lovely beaches in almost any coastal area you visit. Galway City is worth a visit for alternative, colorful and arty types, full of lovely small pubs and friendly locals and is close to some of the most striking countryside on the island. There is also the tourist mecca of Kerry, famed for its striking landscape and the highly recommended Puck Fair, a unique festival with ancient origins.

Other interesting festivals are the match-making festival in Lisdoonvarna and Milltown Malbay’s annual Willie Clancy summer music festival in Co. Clare. Ireland has a lot of really good festivals; the Listowel Writer’s Week in Co. Kerry, the Galway Arts Festival, local Fleadh Cheoils or music festivals around the country and several other well known writers festivals that are well worth checking out. There are also a number of live rock music events, agricultural fairs and arts festivals in nearly every part of the country. There are writing, painting and music holidays, weekends and events everywhere, so that anyone with a creative bent will be sure to find something to stir the imagination and the soul. It really is a great place to travel for a quietly unassuming culture.

Ireland’s ancient heritage is worth visiting in its own right, with prehistoric megalithic sites such as Newgrange and Lough Crew, early Christian Celtic crosses, the Book of Kells and monastic settlements, to name but a few, scattered across the island and displaying a richness that is hard to find elsewhere.

Outdoor enthusiasts will find a lot of places in Ireland to satisfy their search for adventure as there are a host of outdoor activities in a variety of locations. Ireland is one of the best places to travel for hunting and fishing, for sailing and surfing, for golf, horse-riding and hillwalking. Getting around is easy as Ireland is such a small country, car-hire gives a lot of freedom and there is also a good bus network and trains to and from most of the major cities.

And last of all the Irish people, known for their hospitality and friendliness have a rich love of language that ensures they are always entertaining.

The best place to go for information on how to get there or where to go in Ireland is the Irish Tourist board – Bord Failte – www.ireland.ie, other useful sites for more information are www.lonelyplanet.com and www.world66.com.