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You've probably heard that Guinness tastes better in Dublin (fresh from the factory), but what you may not know is that Dublin is a perfect destination for the whole family. No, we're not suggesting you let the kiddies drink a pint. Instead, take them to the Dublin Zoo, to feed the ducks in Stephen's Green or on a picnic in Phoenix Park. Scholars enjoy walking in the literary footsteps of such writers as Yeats and Joyce, while discerning shoppers have their pick of designer boutiques.
Don your most comfortable shoes for Killarney, where town trails offer history lessons and country walks traverse Ireland's first national park: 26,000 acres of woodlands, sandstone mountains and low-lying lakes. In the town centre, Killarney House and Gardens provide a break for urban explorers. Renowned Muckross House, with its 15th-century abbey ruins and massive yew tree, is just outside the town. If your feet wear out, take in Killarney National Park's legendary scenery from a boat trip from Ross Castle.
"The City of Tribes" provides a fun blast of the Ireland many first-time visitors expect. The compact city centre, with its winding streets, packed pubs and air of celebration, is easily walked - or pubcrawled. The west-coast city of almost 70,000 is home to merry bands of students, artists, writers and craftspeople, and is merriest during summer's Galway's Arts Festival. Don't miss shopping for Claddagh rings, the Druid Theatre or having a pint o' the black stuff at the atmospheric Tigh Neachtain pub.
Perched on the hem of the Atlantic in Ireland's southwest, charming Dingle looks out over Dingle Bay to the Blasket Islands. Chock full of friendly pubs where live traditional music plays, the Irish-speaking area fills to the brim with tourists on weekends and through summer. Another regular visitor to Dingle's Gulf Stream-warmed waters is Fungi, the dolphin, the town's unofficial mascot. Popular tourist attractions include the beaches, Mount Brandon and Ballydavid and Ballyferriter villages.
You can expect to cross many bridges when in Cork. Ireland's third- largest city began life as an island and now spans both banks of the River Lee, with watery channels running beneath some of its main thoroughfares. The best way to experience this hilly southern seaport is on foot, following the signposted walking tour past St Finn Barre's Cathedral and the riverside quadrangle of University College up the hill to red and white Shandon Church. Along the way, you'll meet plenty of the city's talkative residents.
Kilkenny is over 400 years old, but it sure doesn’t show its age. Yes, it's an awe-inspiring throng of medieval cathedrals, castles, abbeys and other massive stone buildings, but Kilkenny loves to party. An endless stream of arts festivals celebrating theater, comedy, bluegrass and dance is constantly pumping the city with new life, toe-tapping energy and international flavor.
A true family destination, Westport boasts magnificent scenery, golf facilities, recreational fishing, sailing and yachting, beach swimming, hiking and cycling trails, and (to top it all off) a placed called Pirate Adventure Park. What kid wouldn't love this place? Visit in September and you'll witness the exciting Westport Arts Festival, perfect for all ages. And Westport was Google Earth's first fully 3D town, so you can relive the memories from your computer when you get home!
Donegal Town is a fairytale of a place, featuring a charming harbour, serene beaches and stoic stone remains of centuries past, like those of 15th-century Donegal Abbey. Stern-looking Donegal Castle, recently restored to its one-time Gaelic glory, is the crown jewel of the area. If you’re looking for souvenirs, snag a hand-woven tweed or carpet, the signature goods of the area. For a good craic, the pubs of The Diamond area are a sure bet.