The island of Ireland is located in the North Atlantic, separated from Britain to its east by the North Channel, the Irish Sea and St George’s Channel. Politically, Ireland is divided between the Republic of Ireland (officially named Ireland), which covers five-sixths of the island and in the north-east, Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom.
The Emerald Isle is packed with the beauty of nature as well a romantic myths of knights and fair maidens.
Top nature beauty spots in Ireland
From the Atlantic Ocean on the west coast, the majestic River Boyne, majestic castles and landmarks, the stunning landscape of The Burren to the forests of Slieve Bloom, Ireland has something for everyone. Here are some highlights:
The intriguing lunar landscape of the Giant’s Causeway, in County Antrim, was Northern Ireland’s first World Heritage Site. This stretch of rock is a geological phenomenon, renowned for its columns of layered basalt. Ancient settlers believed the causeway to be the work of giant Finn McCool.
The Cork and Kerry coast is famous for its beautiful white, sandy stretches of beach, many of which have ‘Blue Flag’ status. The narrow roads of the Ring of Kerry offer some of the most scenic views in Ireland.
The Slieve Bloom mountains in County Laois are at the very heart of Ireland. Here you can hike along leafy forest trails, passing waterfalls and streams, or cycle down the peaceful country roads.
The Ring of Gullion, in County Armagh, is a unique geological land-form. A ring dyke not found anywhere else in Ireland, the Slieve Gullion is surrounded by a circle of low hills with rich associations with Irish myths and legends.
The Burren in County Clare includes sheets of gold and cream Arctic-alpine blooms even in May and twenty-two varieties of orchids that flower until September.
The Boyne Valley, through which the River Boyne runs, is home to some of Ireland’s most important archaeological sites. Newgrange is the most famous and pre-dates the pyramids in Egypt by hundreds of years.
Romantic Irish traditions
There is no limit to how many unique and interesting traditions Ireland inspires. When you begin to realize the romantic aspect of Ireland, you are just beginning to find out why the Emerald Isle holds so much enchantment for so many. Here are just some of the stories that have created romantic Irish traditions:
The romantic Irish story of the Claddagh ring centres around Richard Joyce. While enslaved by pirates, Joyce collected little flecks of gold each day and fashioned a ring for his true love who was waiting for him. His ring design was of two hands holding a crowned heart. This symbol of romantic Ireland has also come to mean true friendship and loyalty.
An Irish woman who wanted to woo her love, would knit him an Aran sweater using all the traditional stitches. In Ireland this was her way of showing she was prepared to be a wife. If the man wishes to accept her as his wife, he will take the sweater.
Lisdoonvarna is the largest single’s event in Europe, a romantic Irish tradition that has been taking place for years. Lisdoonvarna was a hot water spring where hundreds flocked to enjoy the warm waters and was said to be the perfect place to find a match for yourself. In September and October, with harvests safely in, farmers would come to find their brides.
The relics of St. Valentine are now part of the Carmelite Church in Dublin. The origins of St. Valentine are unreliable, but one story states that Emperor Claudius II thought single men made the best soldiers, so commanded that no bachelors be allowed to marry. St. Valentine disagreed. He continued to marry couples in secret until he was executed for his betrayal.
Romantic Irish stories have to include the story of haunted castles. One story is of Irish beauty Sabina, daughter of the Black Baron of Ross Castle. She wanted to marry an O’Neill, an arch enemy of her father. One night, they decide to elope. While crossing the river, the boat capsizes and her love dies. Sabina locked herself in the castle tower, refusing to eat or drink until she perished, all for the sake of love. Her broken-hearted ghost is said to haunt the castle for all eternity.
Leap year marriage proposals originated in Ireland, so legend tells us. St. Briget complained to St. Patrick about how long women had to wait for their men to propose marriage. St. Patrick allowed women to propose on one day of the year, February 29 which only occurs in a leap year, once every 4 years.
In Irish superstition, it was believed that the person to fall asleep first on their wedding night was going to die first. The Irish also say “honey moon” came from Ireland. For one month after marrying the couple would drink mead, otherwise known as honey wine. One moon of honey equals honey moon. The honeymoon period was a time for the couple to procreate, so that family could not tear them apart.