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There’s the fantastic capital city, Dublin, bound in rich layers of history and now overflowing with trendy bars and nightclubs. Beyond, there are mountains, heather moors, coastline, valleys, waterfalls and lakes, dotted with prehistoric and religious sites and a wealth of dramatic castles. The most enduring features of the history of Ireland are, firstly, an unswerving commitment to Catholicism, the origins of which can be traced back to the pioneering monastic orders of the fifth and sixth centuries. Secondly, the frequent instability governing Anglo-Irish relations: Ireland was never so fully conquered that it absorbed the culture and way of life of its larger neighbour.

Practical Information

Area: 70 182 km² (27 097 miles²)

Capital: Dublin. Population: 1 million

Population: 4 million

Currency: Euro (Eur) = 100 cents

Government: Republic.

Tipping: The customary tip in Ireland is 10 to 12%. Many hotels and restaurants add this in the form of a service charge indicated on the menu or bill. It is not customary to tip in bars unless you have table service when a small tip is advised.

Legal drinking age: 18 Children under 18 years must leave establishments by 2100

Time zone: GMT (GMT + 1 from last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October)

Languages: Irish

Additional descriptions

Ireland: Social customs

The Irish are gregarious people, and everywhere animated craic (talk) can be heard. Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills (better known as Oscar Wilde) once claimed: ‘We are the greatest talkers since the Greeks.’Read more Close community contact is very much part of the Irish way of life and almost everywhere there is an intimate small-town atmosphere. Pubs are often the heart of a community’s social life. Visitors will find the people very friendly and welcoming no matter where one finds oneself in the country. A meal in an Irish home is usually a substantial affair and guests will eat well. Dinner is the main meal of the day and is now eaten in the evening. Even in cities there is less formal wear than in most European countries and casual dress is widely acceptable as in keeping with a largely agricultural community. Women, however, often dress up for smart restaurants and social functions. Handshaking is usual, and modes of address will often be informal. Smoking is banned in all public enclosed/working spaces, including pubs, bars and restaurants.

Ireland: Food and local specialties

Ireland is a farming country noted for its meat, bacon, poultry and dairy produce. The surrounding sea, inland lakes and rivers offer fresh fish including salmon, trout, lobster, mussels and periwinkles.Read more Dublin has a wide selection of restaurants and eating places to suit every pocket, as do the other major towns. Ireland has recently become a must-visit destination for food lovers. Cookery courses are available throughout the country. They vary from formal teaching in schools which offer classes all year round, to smaller, informal courses run by enthusiastic chefs in rural restaurants. Things to know: Table and self-service are both common. ‘Tea’ is often almost a full meal with sandwiches and cakes. Pubs, of which Ireland has plenty, are sometimes called ‘lounges’ or ‘bars’ and there is often a worded sign outside the premises rather than the traditional painted boards found in the UK. Pubs and bars have counter service. The measure used in Ireland for spirits is larger than that used in the UK, for example an Irish double is equal to a triple in the UK. The national specialties are: Dublin Bay prawns. Oysters (served with Guinness and wholemeal bread). Irish stew (traditionally made with mutton or old sheep, now mostly made with lamb or juicy beef, this dish is usually served with potatoes, stock, onions, carrots and garlic). Crubeens (pigs’ trotters). Colcannon (a mixture of potatoes and cabbage cooked together). Whiskey: popular brands are: Jamesons, John Powers Gold Label, Hewitts, Midleton, Old Bushmills, Paddy, Reserve and Tullamore Dew. Irish coffee is popular (a glass of strong black coffee, brown sugar and whiskey with cream). Guinness, one of the most famous, popular and distinctive drinks in the world, is found everywhere. One of the most popular lighter ales is Smithwick’s or Harp Lager, also available everywhere. Liqueurs such as Bailey’s and Irish Mist are both made from a base of Irish whiskey.

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