The Emerald Isle, with its patchwork quilt of green landscapes, is one of the most beautiful countries you can see. The people of Ireland are welcoming and armed with stories and a good drink to make you feel at home. Whether you’re interested in the history and folklore, the music and the arts, or world-class golf courses, Ireland is sure to exceed your expectations.
Visit Giant’s Causeway…where hexagon rock pillars stretch out of the sea. The site is named after the legend of Fionn mac Cumhaill, or Finn McCool, a giant, who with the help of his quick thinking wife, outsmarted Benandonner, a Scottish giant who was threatening Ireland. Finn wouldn’t stand for these threats so he began throwing chunks of the Antrim coastline into the sea, creating a path to cross over to teach Benandonner a lesson. But Benandonner was quite large, so Finn retreated. Finn’s wife disguised him as a baby and when Benandonner laid his eyes on the babe he thought…with a baby that size, his father must be huge…and decided to take himself back home to Scotland. Or maybe it was a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago that caused the fusion of these rock pillars…you decide.
The Irish have long been known for their storytelling and there are hundreds of stories like this one weaved throughout the country’s rich history and sites. Perhaps this is why the world fell in love with their music. Irish music is a display of verbal art, embedded with stories or yarns. What is a yarn, you ask? It is a story that is set up through song. First the songwriter sets up the geography, history and characters of the tune, we are then provided a glimpse of everyday life and circumstances of these characters, with the tune typically ending with a punchline.
“The Wild Rover” is the most widely known Irish song, though there is some debate about its origins. The song has been noted in records since the late sixteenth century. It is considered to be a typical Irish drinking song, recounting a young man’s return home after being away for a long time. His local alehouse will not allow him to drink until he pays for his drinks with the money he’s earned while away. The young man swears his days of roving are over and that he will settle down.
“The Black Velvet Band” recounts the story of an apprentice in Belfast who falls in love with a girl. She steals a watch and slips it into his pocket. When he is in court the next day the young man is sentenced to 7 years in prison, in Australia (a common punishment in the UK at the time).
The narratives conveyed through music have kept these and other tales alive for years.
Traditional Irish instruments include the harp, Uilleann pipes (traditional bagpipes of Ireland), the fiddle, tin whistle and the bodhrán, a traditional Irish drum used as a battle drum during the Irish Rebellion of 1603. It was used to announce the army and provide cadence for pipers and soldiers. The banjo has been accepted into sessions and performances after its introduction to Irish sessions in America.
A shift began in the 1960’s to Irish rebel folk music. A country torn apart by politics and ideology saw a rise in tension and aggression, particularly in the North. Groups like the Wolfe Tones formed who, many believe, showed pro-IRA sentiments.
Today you can visit a small traditional pub in the hills of Donegal and participate in a session. Bring your own instrument or simply sing along. Many players are happy to take requests and invite you to be part of their set. Or you can attend one of many folk music festivals throughout the country like the Doolin Folk Festival, a three-day event in Co. Clare or Ballyshannon’s annual Folk and Traditional Music Festival. Sing, clap, and dance along at Johnny Fox’s in Dublin with performances every night. Or visit Dingle for nightly sessions and performances throughout town. And don’t forget to stop for the street performers on Grafton Street. The truth is, you can find your fix for Irish folk music anywhere, just be ready to join in the fun when you do.
Ireland is also home to seven of the world’s best golf courses as stated by Top 100 Golf Courses, an independent publication that takes the input of everyday golfers and professionals to determine the best golf destinations. Pat Ruddy, famous course designer, states that “Ireland is made for golf. You can drive from coast to coast in just a couple of hours and play everything along the way. You have the luxury here of playing six or seven world-class courses within a one-hour drive of each other. In bigger countries you may have to drive hundreds of miles from one course to another,” says Ruddy. “We also have the perfect climate for golf. We don’t get six feet of snow in winter and it’s not 100 degrees in the shade in the summer. It can lash rain here but the ground will be dry within 30 minutes on a links course. There is very rarely a day here that you can’t play.”
Who remembers the 2006 British Open? Tiger Woods finished 18 under without hitting a driver over the last three days to win his 11th major and 3rd claret jug. His performance was one of the most talked about amongst golf enthusiasts around the world. Did you know that Tiger took a helicopter around Ireland to hop from course to course in preparation of this epic performance?
Take a tour down Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way and make stops in Ballyliffin, Rosapenna, County Sligo, or one of the other 25-30 links along your way to County Cork. Head to Portmarnock Golf Club, a short drive from Dublin Airport to play a championship course frequented by golfing greats such as Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods, Sam Sneed, Padraig Harrington, and many others. Down the road you’ll find Malahide Golf Club, one of Ireland’s largest golf clubs. No matter what region of Ireland you are in, there is a quality course to be played and it’s only a short drive to the next one.
From the Cliffs of Moher to Trinity College, touring the Ring of Kerry or a visit to Buratty Castle, and whether you find yourself in the Republic or the North, Ireland offers an unforgettable experience with majestic landscapes.
A few tips before we close…Don’t ask for corned beef and cabbage, that’s an American thing, and any establishment that serves it is simply catering to tourists. Guinness is good but try Smithwick’s if you’re not a fan of stouts. Have a full Irish Breakfast, known as a fry, at least once. Skip the dairy-free diet and indulge if you can, because there is nothing like an ice cream with a Flake thrown in it.
Let’s make your Irish dream a reality. Keep an eye out for tours with Elite Golf Experiences, or customize your own with us today. Cheers! Or as they say in the old country, Sláinte!
VP Business Development, Elite Golf Experiences