Christmas really brings out the best in Ireland and the Irish, from cheerful festivities to wild acts of machismo, happy reunions, musical celebrations in church, and partying for weeks. In Ireland, Christmas lasts for about two weeks and is joyfully celebrated as a respite from the winter, although the weather has not been too bad the last few years. Here are just a few of Ireland’s favorite things at Christmas – some old, some new, but all activities and aspects that make Christmas in Ireland particularly special.

Christmas Day Swim:

Christmas

Christmas day swims take place all over Ireland on Christmas morning. On Christmas Day, hundreds and hundreds of people can be seen jumping into the Irish Sea wearing only their bathing suits. The water in the Irish Sea on Christmas Day is usually around 50F / 10C. Unfortunately, the temperature outside the water is usually far below that, making the experience pretty intense. This is certainly not for the faint of heart but is a proven hangover cure, and participants often receive sponsorship for charities.

Christmas Jumpers:Christmas

This started off with aunties, grandmothers and relatives handing over hideous jumpers as presents for Christmas, but somehow Christmas jumpers have turned into a competition on the streets of Ireland. The woollier, hairier, and more ridiculously decorated the better.

The Wren Boys:

During penal times, a group of soldiers was about to be ambushed. They had been surrounded, but a group of wrensChristmas pecked on their drums and woke them. The wren became known as “The Devil’s Bird.” To remember this, on St. Stephen’s Day people have a procession and go door-to-door wearing old clothes, blackened faces, and carrying a dead (now more often fake) wren on top of the pole. Then, crowds of “strawboys” dressed in straw suits and masks march to celebrate the wren. This later evolved into a caroling event. Although this door-to-door tradition is mostly found in small country villages, carolers can be heard on many main streets over Christmas raising money for charity. It there’s one thing the Irish love doing is making music and Christmas is the perfect excuse to make some noise.

Decorations/Holly Wreath:

Christmas decorations in Ireland traditionally were just a wreath of holly on the front door of the house. However, ChristmasNational Lampoon’s “Christmas Vacation” seems to have been a blue print for many Irish households as they are now lit up like Rockefeller Center. Also traditionally, decorations would go up on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and come down on Little Christmas, January 6. A tradition that was very widespread in the 1970’s but which seems to be dying out somewhat and especially in urban areas is the ‘candle in the window’. Symbolically the candle represented a welcome to Joseph and Mary as they wandered in search of lodgings. The candle indicated to strangers and especially to the poor that there may be an offering of food in the house within.

The Panto:

ChristmasThe Irish pantomime is now a traditionally popular form of theater incorporating song, dance, buffoonery, slapstick, cross-dressing, in-jokes, audience participation and mild sexual innuendo. There are a number of traditional story-lines and a fairly well-defined set of performance convention. This is one of the most popular Christmas traditions usually most enjoyed by parents and children.

Little Christmas:

Also known as ‘Women’s Christmas’ or Nollaig na mBan this falls on the 6th of January, and marks the official end of the Christmas season. Traditionally the men of the house take over for the day, preparing meals and allowing the women to have a rest.

 

 

With a cultural map in one hand and a culinary compass in the other, savor the treasured sights then seek the best places nearby to grab some food.

 

NATIONAL GALLERY OF IRELAND

While manyfood of the highlighted works in the National Gallery are Irish in origin, it’s Italian master Caravaggio’s “The
Taking of Christ” that gets much of the attention. The 1602 painting was once presumed lost or destroyed, only to be rediscovered in Dublin in the 1990s and put on indefinite loan to the museum. Certainly take a peek—but don’t miss the Yeats room, and particularly, Jack B. Yeats’s painting “For the Road.”

Classic food option: It’s easy to walk right by Pearl Brasserie, a subterranean French restaurant tucked under Merrion Street—do your best not to miss it. Once inside, the open fire, artfully presented food, and alluringly cozy dining nooks make it an excellent choice for intimate get-togethers. Once you’ve eaten, go for a Guinness at O’Donoghue’s. You won’t have the place to yourself, but the traditional Irish music played live seven nights a week is worth sharing.

Trendy food option: You know you’re in for a fresh, seasonal meal when the menu is stamped with a date and changes daily. At Etto, a small Italian place right on Merrion Row, a rotating repertoire of small plates includes dishes such as tuna crudo and braised pig cheek. A meal here is best finished with a stiff Italian espresso and a trip to the theater afterward, where you might be lucky enough to see the work of Shaw, Wilde, Beckett, or Yeats on their home soil.

Unexpected food option: If it’s a nice day, you can cut through St. Stephen’s Green on your way to the National Gallery, stopping to pay respects to the bust of Dublin writer James Joyce along the way. But it’s perhaps more entertaining to lunch with the flamboyantly colored statue of Oscar Wilde, who reclines in perpetuity in Merrion Square Park. Either way, pick up a freshly made sandwich from the Green Bench Café first. The soups are gluten free, produce and bread arrive fresh daily, and the meats are cooked, roasted, or baked on-site. Lunch is served promptly at noon—don’t be late.

THE GUINNESS STOREHOUSE

Even if yofoodu’ve never had a pint of Guinness, it’s impossible to ignore the long-running advertising campaign claiming “the Black Stuff” gives you superhuman strength. True or not, the Guinness Storehouse is a fascinating tribute to the legacy that began in 1759 when founder Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000-year lease for the brewery. The view from the top-floor Gravity Bar is undeniably better these days, but the brew is still (basically) the same.

Classic food option: Any bar that claims to be the oldest in Ireland and has hosted everyone from James Joyce and Jonathan Swift to Van Morrison is likely to attract a crowd; lucky for the Brazen Head, it has more than enough character to absorb the fame. The beef-and-Guinness stew is legendary here, but the seafood dishes give it a run. Frequent live music and traditional storytelling sessions keep the atmosphere jolly and the Guinness flowing.

Trendy food option: The carefully mismatched chairs, a list of fermented drinks, and a street food-inspired menu are your first clue that the Fumbally isn’t another generic coffeehouse. The comfy vibe and plentiful windows make it feel like you’re having a cup of tea at a friend’s house, while the Fumbally’s legendary falafel and diverse menu remind you that you’re in the hands of professionals who know their stuff.

Unexpected food option: Nestled among the kebab shops, halal restaurants, and ethnic supermarkets of Leonard’s Corner is the Irish-as-it-gets Bastible. While the eatery’s sourdough may not be baked in the cast-iron pot for which the restaurant is named, the bread is made in-house and served with delectable Euro-style butter. It’s a 20-minute walk from the Guinness Storehouse, but well worth it. Take a quick detour to Mannings Bakery if you need a sweet treat to fuel the journey.

 

TRINITY COLLEGE

food

Trinity College, founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I, is Ireland’s most prestigious college, but few visitors to its lovely campus are interested in its graduating class. Instead, most head straight to the treasury in the Old Library, where the magnificent Book of Kells resides. The richly illustrated manuscript is thought to be the work of monks from Iona who fled to Ireland in A.D. 806. Also take a moment to appreciate the whole of the Old Library, with its 210-foot-long tribute to the written word and its illustrious graduates, including Nobel laureate Samuel Beckett.

Classic food option: You may share the room with Trinity College students being treated by their parents, but Trocadero is a classic pre-theater destination that serves excellent food and drink in an atmosphere reminiscent of The Great Gatsby. All red velvet and ornate light fixtures (some even sourced from the grand old Theatre Royal) and housed in two elegant Georgian buildings, the “Troc” prioritizes locally sourced ingredients—and its fillet steak with béarnaise sauce is legendary.

Trendy food option: With a name like Bear, it’s not particularly surprising that this South William Street eatery is a haven for carnivores. Meat may be the main event at this trendy spot—with its reclaimed-wood ceilings and Edison bulb “chandeliers”—but you’ll find plenty of inventive brunch dishes, too. And don’t worry: You can always have a rasher of bacon with that salad.

Unexpected food option: Perhaps 777 doesn’t look like much from the outside, with its all-black exterior and a single neon sign, but once inside you’ll discover a hip crowd digging into authentic Mexican food and washing it down with blue agave tequila. You won’t find cheddar- or sour cream-drenched tacos here, but rather marinated steak tartar, pig’s head carnitas, and sashimi tostados, all served up on a bright orange Formica bar.

ST. PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL

foodWhile St. Patrick is celebrated every March 17 with parades, plentiful Guinness, and the waving of shamrocks, the patron saint of Ireland attracts a more pious crowd here. Built on the site where the saint baptized converts around A.D. 450, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is now Ireland’s largest church. You can attend services for free, or pay to view the busts, monuments, and memorials (including author Jonathan’s Swift’s) inside.

Classic food option: Despite being tucked quite literally into the walls of Dublin Castle, Chez Max feels Parisian through and through. The menu isn’t huge but is well executed, and the café has a charming back garden. If you prefer a complete departure from tradition after your visit to church, head to Chameleon, which specializes in rijsttafel, or Indonesian small plates to share.

Trendy food option: There’s no gastronomic trickery on view at Fade Street Social, just excellent, locally sourced food. It doesn’t hurt that it’s accompanied by a neat little cocktail list and is served in a cool space of exposed brick and timbers. You can also head next door to Fade Street Social’s tapas joint, or finish your evening in its swanky rooftop cocktail bar for cool tunes and city views.

Unexpected food option: When the Whitefriar Grill moved into its current location on Aungier Street, it was wedged between a run-down Internet café and an off-license liquor store and pub. Since then, the owners have bought the pub next door and opened Bow Lane, a late-night cocktail bar also serving an inventive weekend brunch menu and modern Irish dishes for dinner.

Ireland is full of incredible, majestic places and sometimes it’s hard to know where to start planning your journey. We’ve selected 10 of the most incredible sights around the country.

The Hill of Tara

10 of the most scenic places in Ireland
10 of the most scenic places in Ireland

This historic site was famously the seat of the High King of Ireland during the 6th Century and still has the remnants of stunning ring forts and a Neolithic Passage Tomb. The Smithsonian Museum has listed it as one of the top 15 endangered cultural treasures in the world.

The Giant’s Causeway

top 10 scenic places in Ireland
top 10 scenic places in Ireland

This stunning display of over 40,000 interlocking basalt columns – the result of an ancient volcanic eruption – The Giant’s Causeway in Antrim is a world wonder. Legend says that it was originally built as a bridge to Scotland by Irish warrior Fionn Mac Cumhaill, but was ripped apart by Scottish giant Benandonner.

The Skelligs

10 of the most scenic places in Ireland
10 of the most scenic places in Ireland

These two islands located off the Iveragh Peninsula in Kerry are veritable bird sanctuaries. With thriving Puffin and Gannet populations coexisting with a 6th century Christian monastery on Skellig Michael these steep and rocky wonders are beautiful yet mysterious.

The Aran Islands

10 most scenic places in Ireland
10 most scenic places in Ireland

Another set of off-shore beauties are the Aran Islands, a shrine to a bygone Ireland. These three Atlantic islands, located just beyond Galway Bay, are still populated predominantly by Irish speakers. The islands have a fairly temperate climate throughout the year.

Killarney National Park

top 10 most scenic places in Ireland
top 10 most scenic places in Ireland

This beautiful parkland was the first area to be designated as a national park in Ireland and contains forest, lakes, mountains, and Ireland’s only herd of native red deer.

The Burren

top 10 most scenic places in Ireland
top 10 most scenic places in Ireland

The Burren is renowned for its rugged, natural beauty – a ‘Karst’ landscape of limestone pavements formed as a result of glaciation. Its unusual structure supports Mediterranean, Arctic and Alpine plant life side by side, giving it a rather unusual appearance.

The Cliffs of Moher

top 10 most scenic places in Ireland
top 10 most scenic places in Ireland

Ever the iconic image to sum up Ireland’s beauty, the Cliffs of Moher stretch along the Clare coast, rising 400 feet above the Atlantic Ocean. On a clear day it’s hard to find a more magnificent sight, seeing the cliffs jut out for miles. Just make sure not to walk too close to the edge.

Kylemore Abbey

top 10 scenic places in Ireland
top 10 scenic places in Ireland

Rising out of the forest on the banks of the Pollacapall Lough, Kylemore Abbey looks more like a fairytale castle than a Benedictine monastery. This is a magnificent building containing 33 bedrooms, a library, a gun room and a smoking room along with extensive Victorian gardens built during its time as a private estate.

Glendalough

top 10 scenic places in Ireland
top 10 scenic places in Ireland

Just an hour’s drive outside Dublin, this beautiful monastic settlement dating back to the 6th century is surrounded by lakeland. The famous round tower was once a place of refuge during times of attack, and the monuments surrounding the picturesque Upper Lake include amazing remnants of churches and enclosures.

The Ring of Kerry

top 10 scenic places in Ireland
top 10 scenic places in Ireland

The Ring of Kerry refers to a tourist trail spanning over 100 miles that takes in some of the best of southwest Ireland. The circular road passes through the unparalleled beauty of places like Muckross House, Torc Waterfall, Moll’s Gap and the Ogham Stones, and represents the perfect day trip when the sun comes out.

 

 

Irish weather can be unpredictable, so we like to discuss it, a lot!! It’s often said that in Ireland you get four seasons in one day.

Ireland’s climate is mostly influenced by the Atlantic Ocean. As a result, it does not have the extreme temperatures that other countries at similar latitude would have. The average temperature is a mild 50 degrees Fahrenheit or 10 degrees Celsius.

A major warm ocean current called the North Atlantic Drift keeps sea temperatures mild too. Hills and mountains, mainly around the coast, shelter the rest of the island from strong winds coming off the ocean.

So while the weather can be changeable – it’s rarely extreme. 

Ireland In The Summer (Samhraidh)

During the summer months, rainfall is generally quite light and doesn’t last for too long. The warmessummert months are July and August. They have about 18 hours of daylight and it gets dark only after 11 pm.  In summer there can be surprisingly warm weather, on occasion temperatures can get up to 25- 30ºC (75-85ºF). 99’s, the beach, farmers tans, barbecues, sunburns, hay-fevers, beer gardens and paddling pools are all characteristics  of an Irish summer but the best part of an Irish summer is the sunsets and sunrises. The summer months are considered high season for visitors. They come for the long sunny evenings, parks in full bloom and eating al fresco in cafés. Of course in summer, there are festivals around every corner.

 

Ireland In The Spring (Earrach)

The first day of Spring is St. Brigid’s Day on the first of February. Spring time in Ireland is particularly beautiful, flowers start to bloom, little lambs are born the evenings start to grow longer as we say goodbye to winter. Spring weather in Ireland can be cold and the ground is dry. The weather is very pleasant and the temperature often warlambsms up as the day goes on. Vibrant yellow daffodils can be seen growing all over the Irish terrain during spring. St. Patrick’s day also takes place in spring on the 17th of March.  

 

 

Ireland In The Autumn (Fhómhair)

In autumn,  highest temperatures hit between 64 and 57°F. September is considered a mild, temperate month. There’s a lot to be said for the Irish countryside in the autumn, as the land prepares itself for the winter autumn-in-wintermonths. Nature walks are really beautiful this time of the year as the leaves turn brown and crunch under your feet. Vivid reds, oranges and golds, which pop against the seemingly eternal verdant landscape set Ireland aside from other countries during this time of the year. There is so much to do in Ireland in the autumn, there are lots of festivals and many attractions for children, not to mention Halloween which the Irish actually created.   

 

Ireland In The Winter (Gheimhridh)

The temperature rarely goes below 8 degrees Celsius or 46 Fahrenheit. Most days would be closer to 10 degrees 50 witer-in-irelandFahrenheit. However, occasionally the temperature will drop to 0 Celsius or 32 Fahrenheit but this is quite unusual. And we may get some days of 14 degrees Celsius or 57 Fahrenheit  even in December or January. Ireland rarely get rain that lasts too long, and always get a break in the weather to get out. Many Irish winters are free from major snowstorms, but because of its infrequent and irregular occurrence, snow in large quantities causes serious disruption. It can completely disrupt traffic, close airports and seriously damage overhead power lines and communication lines. However the daylight hours can be very limited, Ireland is quite far north (more in line with Anchorage, Alaska), so days start off with only about 7.5 hours of daylight, compared to the summer months which have about 17 hours of light.

 

A weather-friendly wardrobe

Wondering what to bring? You’ll need to be adaptable. Go for layers that you can put on or take off as the temperature changes. Bring a sweater/jumper, even in the summer time,  bring waterproofs to accompany all outdoor activities. Sunglasses, comfortable walking shoes and an umbrella are a must!

Don’t be fooled into thinking you won’t need sunscreen in the summer months, when the sun shines in Ireland it’s quite strong, so wear a high factor and bring a sunhat. Short-term forecasts are view-able at Met Éireann.

It does rain in Ireland, but long bouts of rain are pretty rare. So, you can either put on suitable clothes, or duck into a nice cosy pub to wait out the shower.

 

  • Irish Summer

You have booked your trip with Irish Life Tours, good for you! We hope your ready for a once in a life time opportunity to explore our lovely little country, stress free! You may have heard of the Irish Brogue and the way in which the Irish language is spoken in Ireland. The Irish way of speaking is very unique and won’t be found anywhere else in the world, we have our own twist on the English language, we have lots of odd little phrases and saying! But not to worry, before you pack your bags and hit the road, check out this list that we have composed to give you a helping hand along your way, it will help you to interpret what exactly is being said on your visit. By the time you finish reading this blog you will feel right at home AND will be well able to understand what exactly the locals are talking about.

The Irish Way
The Irish Way

The words highlighted in green are the Irish way of using them words and right beside them you will find the translations.

 

  • Minerals – soda
  • Half Pint – glass
  • Shorts -liquor
  • Banjaxed – broken
  • Eejit – fool
  • Craic – fun
  • Bate – tired
  • Green – nieve
  • Jacks – bathroom
  • Jammers – lots of people
  • Steamin’ – drunk
  • Rotten – drunk
  • Black stuff – Guiness
  • Fluthered – drunk
  • Langers – drunk
  • Cure – a drink the next day to cure your hangover
  • Arseways – back to front
  • Queer/ Quare – very
  • Press – wardeobe
  • Runners – sneakers
  • Jumper – sweatshirt
  • Wrecked – tired
  • Boot – trunk
  • Pint of Gat – Guiness
  • Chips – fries
  • Fear – hangover
  • Naggins and Shoulders – different size of spirit bottles
  • Messages – erens
  • Wild – crazy
  • Chipper – fish and chip shop
  • Coddin’ – joking
  • Dear – expensive
  • Gaff – appartment/house
  • Gas – funny
  • Dose – annoying/sick
  • Grand – fine
  • Jar – pint
  • Kip – sleep
  • Dive – messy
  • Messin’ – kidding
  • Neck – nerve
  • Rake – large amount
  • Savage – impressive
  • Scoop – drinks
  • Slainte – cheers
  • Sound – okay/ cool
  • Thick – annoyed
  • Yoke – thing
  • Whist – quite

Beautiful crisp days, rustling leaves on woodlands walks, and just cold enough for a real turf fire in the evening. This year we are having pretty much a perfect autumn in the west of Ireland. The low light casts long shadows making the mountains really spectacular and in the morning there are mists rising off the lakes. This is a great time to visit Ireland and a good time to get great deals on travel and accommodation.