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Two exciting developments make 2013 the year to see Ireland. Firstly Emirates are now flying daily to Dublin, making it easier than ever to get to the Emerald Isle, and 2013 is also the year of the stupendous Gathering!
The whole country is going to be in celebration mode, welcoming back immigrants from the four corners of the world and throwing countless parties to induct anyone without a drop of Irish blood into the family. Countless volunteers are already tracking down long-lost relatives to entice them back for a visit, and a calendar that’s already stuffed full of festivals is packing in even more. There’s going to be something for everyone, from unforgettable nights in country pubs with the Porter flowing and live bands banging out traditional tunes, to surf festivals, culinary extravaganzas and street theatre.
The Irish are renowned for knowing how to party, and they’ve definitely geared up for this one. A year-long celebration from the hills of Antrim to the shores of Galway Bay – there’s never been a better time to be there, it’ll be the best craic (Irish for fun) you’ve ever had!
There's a lot to see in Ireland, particularly if you're visiting the North as well, but as the roads aren't generally motorways you'll have to give yourself plenty of time for a tour. In Ireland it's not unusual to intend staying in a town for one night, only to have so much fun that you're back in the same pub, listening to another local band the following night. So accept the fact that the craic might derail your plan and allow for it.
No doubt it will be either Dublin or Belfast that welcomes you to Ireland, and both cities deserve at least a few days devoted to them in your itinerary. In Belfast they're riding the wave of the 2012 Titanic Centenary. The exhibition tracing the construction and maiden voyage of the doomed vessel features full-scale reconstructions, interactive features and special effects. If you've seen the movie (and who hasn't), this is your chance to get up close to the reality of a magnificent and ultimately heart-rending story.
Down in Dublin they're bursting with events for the Gathering, but make a point of seeking out some of the more permanent attractions while you're in town. Dublin can trace its origins back over 1,000 years, so fine examples of medieval, Georgian and Victorian architecture are scattered throughout the city,
Dublin also has a renowned literary heritage, with Dubliners like James Joyce, Yeats, Wilde and Bernard Shaw proudly celebrated in numerous exhibitions and literary trails. The city is also home to the fabled Book of Kells. Written in 800 AD, it's one of the most beautifully illuminated (illustrated) manuscripts in the world, and attracts over 50,000 visitors a year. You can see it in the Old Library of Trinity College.
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