What you need to know about Ireland

By Noel White

Diplomats tell us what Kiwis need to know about their homelands.

Noel White suggests visitors to Ireland drive the Wild Atlantic Way. Photo / 123RF
Noel White suggests visitors to Ireland drive the Wild Atlantic Way. Photo / 123RF

The thing you probably know about my country is: The warmth and friendliness of the Irish people is known throughout the world, and there is nothing quite like an Irish welcome.

But the thing you really should know is: The Irish have a unique culture, spanning music, art, literature, language, and sport. A visit to Ireland — at the rugged edge of Europe — is like an epic journey through an ever-changing landscape, the perfect beginning or end to any European trip.

Over there, we think Kiwis are: Friendly laid-back people, who are not bad at rugby.

On a short visit, you should: Try not to do too much. See one or two places well. Immerse yourself in the area; and meet the locals.

On a longer visit, you should: Rent a car or go on a coach tour — get out and see the countryside. Highlights include Ireland's Ancient East — Ireland's newest touring trail — a journey of scenic grandeur and prehistoric monuments and also the Wild Atlantic Way.

The Wild Atlantic Way is the world's longest defined driving route, hugging the rugged West Coast and stretches for 2500km along Ireland's Atlantic seaboard.

Our national sport is: Gaelic Games — hurling and football.

The one food thing you really should try is: Our seafood. Being an island, the seafood scene has given rise to many famous food festivals including the Galway International Oyster Festival, Kinsale Gourmet Food Festival and the Dingle Food Festival.

Make sure you avoid: Driving around the Ring of Kerry clockwise. Not a good thing. Drivers are advised to travel anti-clockwise — it minimises traffic problems on the narrow stretches of road.

The weather is: Changeable. The temperate climate is a result of the influence of the Gulf Stream. The warmest months, July and August, get about 18 hours of daylight; it gets dark only after 11pm.

Best way to get around is: By hiring a car or booking a coach tour. Our public transport system is also excellent.

A handy phrase you should know is: "Grand." You will hear this used very often while you are in Ireland. It means "fine" or "okay" and generally indicates that matters are in order.

Noel White is the Irish Ambassador to New Zealand.

- NZ Herald

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