Ireland is a popular tourist destination due to its relaxed culture, fun-loving people, natural beauty, proud traditions, and its love of Guinness. The past decade has been a time of rejuvenation for this island nation. Country cottages have been converted into fine eateries and artisans' workshops, while the thriving capital of Dublin is famed for being a tourist-friendly city. Still, there are remote communities in which Gaelic is their first language. Whether you are listening to fiddle and accordion musicians in a lively pub, hiking through stunning landscapes, or kissing the famous stone at Blarney Castle, Ireland is sure to surprise, charm and delight you. All types of accommodation are on offer from high class hotels to quaint and economic lodging. The Irish are known for their good cheer and refreshingly laid-back approach to life. Besides a fantastic capital city, Dublin, bound in rich layers of history and now overflowing with trendy bars and nightclubs, are mountains, heather moors, coastline, valleys, waterfalls and lakes, dotted with prehistoric and religious sites and a wealth of dramatic castles.The 3500km of Ireland's coastline embrace remarkably diverse scenery. The shape and comparatively small size of Ireland means that nowhere is very far from the sea. Resorts and beaches in Ireland are pleasantly uncrowded, and the tourism infrastructure is supported by a network of tourist information offices, making Ireland an ideal holiday destination.
After the Monastic Age, Viking invaders built heavily fortified ports, laying the foundations of some major Irish cities. War between Irish chieftains and Vikings first led to the involvement of the English. Richard of Clare, Earl of Pembroke (nicknamed “Strongbow”) conquered almost the entire country in 1169-70. Many Norman families moved across the Irish Sea, effectively colonizing the country.
The turbulent and increasingly polarized political life of Ireland took a new and bitter twist after the English Civil War, when the Irish rose in favour of the deposed monarchy in 1649. The victorious Oliver Cromwell ruthlessly put down the rebellion. All Catholic land was expropriated and given to a new wave of Protestant immigrants.The subsequent Act of Union, passed in 1801, incorporated the whole of Ireland, along with England, Scotland and Wales, into the UK. However, the grossly inadequate response of the Government to the potato famine of 1845-46, which devastated the Irish population through death and emigration, highlighted its lack of interest in the welfare of the Irish people.
Various independence movements struggled until Home Rule was granted in 1920. The terms of independence partitioned Ireland into two parts because, in the Northern provinces, mostly Protestants settlements fiercely opposed being ruled by a Government drawn from a Catholic majority. Six of the nine counties of the historic province of Ulster therefore remained in the UK; the other 26 counties became the Irish Free State, given full sovereignty within the Commonwealth in 1937, and remaining links with Britain dissolved.
In 1973, Ireland became a member of the EEC (now called the EU) and adopted the Euro currency in 2002.