5 reasons to visit Ireland

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5 reasons to visit Ireland

And there's no better time to visit, as the destination gears up for a momentous year with the Gathering 2013 approaching. Caroline Adam looks at five great reasons for your clients to plan a visit to the Emerald Isle

From a pint of Guinness at an Irish pub on St Patrick's Day to singing along to some of U2's iconic ballads, Australians have a soft spot in their hearts for Ireland. Even the occasional Irish joke has its place. Our countries, of course, have a strong historical connection, with many Irish coming to Australia in the 18th century as settlers or as convicts. These days, around 2.2 million Australians claim Irish ancestry.

And the latest figures show that more of us are visiting the Emerald Isle to experience it for ourselves. Data from the Central Statistics Office of Ireland shows that visitor numbers from Australia were up 5.7% for the January to June period compared with the same period last year, delivering the strongest level of growth among Tourism Ireland's various foreign markets.

Diane Butler, Tourism Ireland's manager for Australia and New Zealand, said it was promising to see such strong results. "We are confident that the Australian and New Zealand markets will continue the upward trend into 2013 when we have some fabulous drawcards - such as the many events connected to The Gathering 2013 and seeing Derry-Londonderry crowned the inaugural UK City of Culture in 2013," she said. 

Suggest the following ideas to your clients and they'll be heading off to the land of the leprechaun in no time at all.

DUBLIN YOUR FUN

One of Europe's oldest and greatest cities, Dublin has a deep and intriguing historical and cultural back story, but it's also a cosmopolitan place that exudes an energy and atmosphere like nowhere else. Medieval, Georgian and modern architecture provide a memorable backdrop to this fun-loving place that's a thriving centre for culture and is home to a great literary tradition. The likes of James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw and Samuel Becket all considered Dublin home.

Dublin Castle, which comes complete with a crypt, and Trinity Chapel, which boasts the famous Book of Kells - are two of the destination's must-see attractions. Then, of course, there's the Guinness Storehouse, the pubs and traditional music in great nightspots like Temple Bar, the charming River Liffey which flows though the city, as well as Dublin's beautiful beaches.

EXPLORE THE WEST COAST

The west of Ireland has long been a magnet for tourists visiting the destination, thanks to its ethereal beauty and astounding landscapes. Exploring the extensive coastline is a must for any visitor and driving is the way to do it - taking in sights like the dramatically beautiful Cliffs of Moher in County Clare - and in the same area you'll also find the rich, floral landscape of the Burren.

There's the hustle and bustle of Galway, and at the mouth of Galway Bay, the mystical Aran Islands that are steeped in heritage and history. Not to mention the picturesque Lough Key Forest Park in Roscommon, and Glenveagh National Park and Castle in Donegal. And the great thing about a self-drive journey down the west coast is experiencing the charming B&Bs and pubs along the way.

HISTORICAL RECONNECTIONS

Australians with Irish ancestry make up a signification proportion of the 70 million-strong global Irish diaspora. And the Emerald Isle is inviting all those with Irish heritage to return home for a major event known as The Gathering Ireland 2013. This event consists of a year of clan gatherings, festivals, special sporting events, music and concerts held around the country.

The Gathering will be the perfect opportunity for clients to find out more about their forefathers and forge a deeper connection with this country. There will even be a number of community-led genealogy projects taking place across Ireland - many of which have developed additional electronic sources. Those wanting to get a head start on their research can visit Eachtra's Historic Graves Initiative, a community-based heritage project.

NORTHERN EXPOSURE

Northern Ireland is a land of incredible variety, with wave-swept coastal drives, misty mountains and bustling towns. Completely safe to travel around, it's filled to the brim with breathtaking sights. The Causeway Coast takes travellers along endless stretches of some of the most beautiful coast imaginable; through charming villages, past crescent bays and sandy beaches to finally reach the wonderful geological jigsaw puzzle that is the Giant's Causeway.

But Northern Ireland isn't just about seeing awe-inspiring natural wonders - a visit to colourful Belfast is a must. Its exuberant architecture stands as testament to the city's vast history, with the iconic cranes of Harland and Wolff Shipyard (birthplace of the Titanic) framing Belfast's ever growing Titanic quarter.

MERRY IN LONDONDERRY

Another destination in Northern Ireland that deserves plenty of attention is the city of Derry-Londonderry, whose history stretches back 1400 years. Its 400 year old walls, complete with cannons, are among the best preserved city walls in Europe.

Next year will also be significant for the city, as it will be the first ever UK City of Culture, meaning it will play host to a year-long celebration of culture, opening its doors to visitors from across the world, with a string of festivals and events.