With the state visits of the Queen and the Obamas to Ireland this year, programmes like Terry Wogan’s Ireland, and the anniversary of the launch of the Titanic in Belfast, there’s never been a more popular or exciting time to visit Northern Ireland or the Irish Republic.
Visitors to both are on the rise, and Ireland has become the “third biggest” country on Facebook, with over half a million fans.
No visit to the Emerald Isle would be complete without taking in Northern Ireland’s capital. Having undergone something of a Renaissance, Belfast now boasts a vibrant cultural scene: cool night clubs, incredible shopping and restaurants that will spoil you for choice without costing the earth.
With excellent air, road and rail transport links from the Republic, the UK and beyond (for example it’s just two hours by train from Dublin), Belfast is a small city with an intimate feel, and a wealth of Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian architecture.
You won’t want to miss City Hall, whose copper dome dominates the city centre, the Grand Opera House, Queen’s University or Belfast Castle. Take a trip out to Stormont to learn more about the history of its stunning Parliament buildings.
There have already been a string of events this year to mark the centenary of the Titanic, in the area of the city now known as the Titanic Quarter, where the ship was designed and built. In 2012, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Titanic’s only voyage, the city will open a â‚¬100m visitors’ centre in April.
High-tech displays will tell the tale of the famous liner, and one highlight will be a trip through a recreation of the boat as it was being constructed. This six-storey new building, clad in more than 3,000 aluminium panels, it is already a Belfast landmark.
Finally, make time for the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum in nearby Cultra. Look out for John DeLorean’s iconic Belfast-built 1980s sports car.
No wonder the Northern Irish capital was recently named the fourth favourite city in the whole of the UK!
When it comes to find accommodation in Belfast, you’ll find a wide range of options, from upscale hotels such as the Malmaison and the Hilton to convenient and comfortable smaller city centre venues. HotelClub offers a wide range, and you’ll receive a warm welcome wherever you go.
Over the border, Galway, on the Republic’s west coast on the River Corrib between Lough Corrib and Galway Bay, is both Ireland’s fastest growing city, and its fifth largest. It’s also the nation’s vibrant cultural heart, and there’s always something going on here.
Stroll the narrow streets of this ancient capital and take in the cathedral, castle and docks as well as a raft of other attractions. The city is also a fantastic base for exploring the beautiful Connemara region, Corrib County and the Aran Islands.
Try and time your visit so you can take in the popular Saturday market in the centre of Galway, and remember to catch the Galway City Museum.
For such a small place, you’ll find a range of accommodation, including 5 star hotels in Galway. The city’s G Hotel is surrounded by world-class golf courses, and offers dozens of well-appointed rooms and an incredibly warm welcome.
Another popular destination, in south-western Ireland in County Kerry, Killarney is steeped in history and close to the Dingle Peninsula and on the Ring of Kerry, making it a wonderful base to visit some of Ireland’s showcase attractions. You’ll also find a wonderful range of activities to do here, from golf and fishing to hiking and cycling.
For accommodation, make hotels in Killarney by HotelClub your starting point, from cosy guest houses to starred hotels you’ll find the perfect place to stay.
With more to enjoy north and south of the border than ever, isn’t it time you made time for Ireland?