Ireland

Some of the oldest cultural highlights in Ireland include the Neolithic passage tomb at Newgrange (which, dating to 3200 B.C., is older than the Pyramids or Stonehenge) and the Book of Kells, which dates to 800 A.D. Everywhere you go in Ireland you’ll encounter music, dance, the performing arts, and literary festivals. Ireland has produced nine Nobel laureates including Seamus Heaney, Samuel Beckett, George Bernard Shaw, and W.B. Yeats. It's also the home of U2 and Riverdance. You’ll find traditional music sessions in pubs in nearly every town. The Irish-speaking areas in the country—known as Gaeltacht areas—are mostly in the west and northwest and there are Irish language TV and radio channels. For sports, the traditional pastimes of Gaelic football and hurling (played with a stick) are played in hundreds of Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) clubs all around the country.

The biggest annual festivals include St Patrick’s Day (March 17), when most towns have a parade and festival, the Galway Arts Festival (July), Cork Jazz Festival (October), Dublin Theatre Festival (September/October), Jameson Dublin International Film Festival (February), Galway Oyster Festival (September), and West Cork Food Festival (September). And most Irish towns have their own annual festival, usually during summer. Fair Day, on August 15, has been an annual festivity for at least two hundred years. Kenmare is one of the few remaining Irish towns that continue to honor the tradition. It’s the one day when farmers and animal owners can bring their cattle, horses, sheep, chickens, ducks, and donkeys to the town square to sell or trade in the streets. Over time the fair has grown to include stalls where all manner of other goods and services are sold—from antiques and bric-a-brac to fortune-telling.