In Search of the Leprechaun

Ireland – a land known for leprechauns, the Irish lilt, and less than perfect weather. So why do travelers flock to its shores? Some come in search of their ancestors, some for the music and culture, some for the scenery, and most for the mystery of what is Ireland. And yes, you can find all of these. I visited a few years ago – just exploring the east coast from Dublin to Cork – and can’t wait to return to explore the West. My biggest thrill was recognizing the places from the books of Maeve Binchey.

Christ Church Bridge, Dublin

Here are some places to explore in Dublin or within an afternoon’s round trip from there. There are great bus tours to orientate yourself to the city, and you can make note of places you wish to explore in depth later. Be sure to take your camera – even the variety of coloured doors on Dublin buildings makes great photos!

Trinity College Library – Here through a wee wrought iron gate, the cobbled path from the busy Dublin street leads to this library and the Book of Kells, your main reason for entering these scholarly walls. The Book is actually bound in four volumes . Each day a page is turned in two of the four books revealing a beautifully decorated page and in the other, two pages of script. The Book of Kells originated with Columban monks originally from Iona ,and later Kells, and was transcribed around 800 AD. It contains the four Gospels in Latin on vellum.

The Long Room in Trinity College

And then for a completely different experience, there’s always Guiness – Guiness in a pub, Guiness with your meal of lambstew in a restaurant, or a tour of the Guiness Brewery in Dublin. At the very least have your photo taken at the famous St. James Gate entrance to the brewery.

What major city is worth its salt without a great shopping district? That would be around the area of Grafton and Henry Streets in Dublin. Hold onto your purse or wallet!. The crafts are very tempting as souvenirs, from various woolens such as sweaters to china to bodhran drums. There are book stores, brand name shops, boutiques, restaurants, clubs and theatres. Truth be told, I saved my shopping for the little towns and villages where I hoped for more of a bargain. My advice: you won’t necessarily get a bargain outside the city so if you see something you like, go for it.

Stone of Destiny, Tara

Outside of Dublin, do head for the seat of Ireland’s kings –Tara. To get to the hill, situated in a very small community – not even a village – you must enter through the local church’s graveyard. Don’t be distracted by the fabulous view for miles at the top (it’s not high at all) because sheep graze here. Need I say ,watch your step? It is difficult to make out the ancient shape of the hill but standing stones are present. Afterwards there is the usual gift shop and restaurant/tea shop available but very enjoyable.

My personal favorite, I have left until last – Glendalough. This historic monastic settlement is in a deep valley at the end of a huge lake. There is a modern interpretive centre a short walk away from the ancient buildings themselves. Wandering around the ruins and in the paths beside the lake is like stepping back in time and into enchantment. You almost expect a faerie or a leprechaun to pop out from the greenery at any moment.

So don’t let the reputation of rainy dull weather put you off this wonderful land of Ireland. When I visited ( it was a September), it was comfortably cool – light sweater or jacket – and sunny as many or more days than those when there was a light mist of rain. The people and the land are welcoming and that is the best sunshine of all!

Article originally appeared in Real Travel Experts
Photos courtesy of and