Intro to Ireland

A Whirlwind Tour of the Emerald Isle

          In the next series of articles to be published on Blue Orb Travel we will explore the Emerald Isle, traveling from Belfast and Londonderry in the north down to Sligo, Galway, Limerick, Tralee, Killarney, Cork and Dublin in the south.  We’ll see the picturesque seaside towns of Clifden and Dingle Town, walk along the spectacular Cliffs of Moher, take a bus tour of the Ring of Kerry, and kiss the Blarney Stone.  There will be plenty of photos, lots of helpful information about what to see and some great suggestions on where to stay.  Come on along…you won’t want to miss it.

Near the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

Near the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

Getting There and Getting Around

          Air:  There are a number of ways to get to Ireland, all fairly straightforward if not downright easy.  Dublin, the capital of the Republic of Ireland, is the main gateway city and many visitors fly directly into Dublin Airport and then travel west and north by land.  Others fly into the Belfast International Airport in Northern Ireland and travel south by land.

          Sea:  Irish Ferries operate on a number of routes between Great Britain and Ireland.  Some of the most popular connections are from Fishguard, Wales to Rosslare, Ireland and from Holyhead, Wales to Dublin.  In a previous post on Irish Ferries I describe how I took the ferry from Stranraer, Scotland to Belfast, Northern Ireland and found it to be an easy and pleasant way to get to the Emerald Isle.

          Land:  Once in Ireland, most visitors get around by either rental car or bus and to a lesser extent by train.  I found Ireland’s national bus service, Bus Eireann, to be the best way to get from town to town.  The buses were clean, safe, comfortable, reasonably priced and on time.  And all the drivers were friendly and helpful!

Bus Eireann, Ireland's National Bus Service

Bus Eireann, Ireland’s National Bus Service

Geography and Terminology

          Understanding the difference between the terms England, Great Britain, the United Kingdom or Ireland can be confusing even for the inhabitants of these various geographic areas, so here’s a quick run down.  Great Britain refers to the three countries that comprise the main island of the British Isles, which are England, Scotland and Wales.  The United Kingdom consists of these three countries plus the fourth one across the Irish Sea, which is Northern Ireland, and these four countries together are also known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) and Northern Ireland.

Dingle Town on the Dingle Peninsula of Ireland

Dingle Town on the Dingle Peninsula of Ireland

          Generally the term ‘Ireland’ refers to the entire island which includes Northern Ireland (part of the UK) and the Republic of Ireland, an independent country in the south.  Ireland was originally divided into four provinces, one of which was Ulster in the north.  Northern Ireland today is composed of six of the nine counties of the original Irish province of Ulster.  The term ‘Ulster’ is still often used to refer to Northern Ireland, particularly by ‘Unionists’ who favor the continued union with the United Kingdom.

A Rose of Tralee, Ireland

A Rose of Tralee, Ireland

Fasten Your Seatbelts

          Now that you know how to get to Ireland and have a basic understanding of the geopolitical terminology, I think we’re ready to go!  In the first article in our series on Ireland we’ll visit Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland.  In addition to seeing the sights and scenes of this beautiful city we’ll do a quick review of the complicated recent history of Ireland.  An understanding of this aspect of the two countries that share one island is essential for visitors who want the full Ireland experience.  All aboard!

The Temple Bar Area of Dublin, Ireland

The Temple Bar Area of Dublin, Ireland