Inside information & tips on what to see, do, eat, & special places to stay; Ireland, London & beyond!
Vibrant Ireland

All posts in Information: Ireland

Littlewoods Ireland BOPs awards 2014I’m going to be honest.

This is how I really felt about being a finalist in, but not winning, the Littlewoods Ireland BOPs awards:

winning Fake vs For Real

No, really, I’m happy for you as I sit in bed in my pyjamas eating all the chocolate I can find ūüėČ

Damn, I didn’t win, but OMG I’m not surprised because did you SEE who I was up against? Pro, award winning, travel journalists who also do TV! Seriously, people, I was thrilled to have my blog up in the finals against them. I even got onto KCLR radio to talk about just that.

I’ve only recently started trying to make Vibrant Ireland something more than a hobby. I’m going to crow about having my blog in such fantastic company until Vibrant Ireland wins its own award one day ūüėÄ

More Honesty

It turned out that I couldn’t make the trip to Dublin for the awards ceremony as I wasn’t yet well enough. Instead I followed along on Twitter from the comfort of my pyjamas and bed. Interestingly, there were 2 sets of ties! One in Food, and the other in my category of Travel where both¬†Pol O’Conghaile & Tom Sweeney¬†won. Since I AM being honest, there being 2 winners was a little weird for me; with just us 4 finalists (the aforementioned men, Julianne Mooney & I) I kinda felt like it illustrated that Vibrant Ireland was definitely in last place. *Self indulgent sniffle* But, to be honest, I know my writing isn’t as good as their writing. (Yet!) I don’t go back and edit enough, and my writing clarity, word choice & much more needs to improve. But I’m working on it!

What Do You Want?

Readers, I’d love your input in regards to what you want to read here. Do you want more hotel reviews, things to do, photo posts, or maybe less of something? Vibrant Ireland is for YOU; I don’t intend it to be my personal travel journal– I want it to give you ideas, tips and inspiration for your own excursions & travel (including enjoying Vibrant Ireland simply as armchair travel!) You can email me your thoughts at hello @ or you can also go to the Vibrant Ireland Facebook Page and leave a comment or message me there. You may also comment at the bottom of this post. Just be aware that 1 week after I publish a post, comments here close & you’ll have to use the other methods. Thanks a mil for your feedback!

Give Up or Go On?

Being a finalist with the top travel journalists in Ireland at the BOPs Awards- that’s¬†Blogs & Online Publications, to give it the full title- has been a privilege and a needed boost for me. Again, in the honesty vein, sometimes I think of just stopping doing Vibrant Ireland. It takes lots of work, and as I don’t earn from it it can seem a waste of time and money; particularly because I’m no longer employed. But then positive things like the BOPs happen and it gives me another impetus to up my game so I can turn Vibrant Ireland / writing / sharing Ireland & cultural travel into a career. So, thank you everyone who enjoys and interacts with Vibrant Ireland, thank you to who nominated & voted, and thank you to the BOPS folk! ¬†

Conratulations and thanks readers and Bops awards

Cheers and THANK YOU to all the Vibrant Ireland READERS! And CONGRATS to ALL at the BOPS!

 Here is the full scoop on the awards & the winners of the Littlewoods Ireland BOPs:

Ireland’s Digital Journalists Celebrate The BOPs

Irish bloggers and online journalists came together last night in Caf√© en Seine to celebrate the¬†2014 Blog and Online Publishing Awards¬†(BOPs) in association with Littlewoods Ireland. The first year of the event, digital movers and shakers mixed with celebrities and industry insiders to celebrate all that is good about Ireland’s digital media.

Over¬†23,000 votes¬†were cast to decide who went home with the awards and celebrity guests at the awards party included Cathy O’Connor and model and ¬†Miss World contestant¬†Holly Carpenter.

Emma Power, CEO of PRSlides said ‚ÄúWe’re very excited to help acknowledge the work of so many talented bloggers in Ireland. We have such great homegrown talent in Ireland and there is a great culture of¬†blogging here across fashion, food, interiors, motors, tech and so many other fields,‚ÄĚ

Cathy O‚ÄôConnor hosted the ceremony, while Holly Carpenter presented each award.¬† ‚ÄúI was thrilled to be asked to present the awards for this year‚Äôs BOPS.¬† It‚Äôs great to see online journalists being appreciated like this,‚ÄĚ Holly said.¬†

Littlewoods Ireland  BOPs Winners 2014

Here are the BOPs Winners 2014

The award  or Best Fashion Read went to the fabulous while Emma Henderson was delighted with her Best Beauty Read award for Fluff and Fripperies. In the Best Lifestyle & Family Read category, Where Wishes Come From booked the babysitters and celebrated until the early morning with their award.

For the Best Business blogging award, went away with the honours and the team at Silicon Republic were in high spirits after being announced as the winner for Best Tech Read. To the delight of petrolheads everywhere, took the award for Best Motoring Read.

French Foodie in Dublin & Donal Skehan’s Homecooked Kitchen Blog¬†were voted joint Best Food Read while there was also a tie for Best Travel Read with¬†Pol O‚ÄôConghaile & Tom Sweeney’s Travels¬†both taking a gong. One Fab Day delighted brides everywhere with an award for Best Wedding Read.¬†

The big prize on the the night was The Journal who took the award for Best News & Current Affairs as well as an award for Online Publisher of the Year.

As well as the more established publications, the BOPs also kept one eye on the future with Carolyn Moore overjoyed at being voted One to Watch in 2014 for her blog The Dress Down.

Here’s to 2015’s!

St patrick's day boat parade graiguenamanagh ireland

We’re not really alone on our little island boat! There mightn’t be 10s of millions of us on the island of Ireland, but we’ve made a big impact! Pic of the Graiguenamanagh St Patrick’s Day parade by GraigueBikeHire

Little island, big impact, much love.

Much of the world celebrates their links with Ireland on St Patrick’s Day, a day when it is said everyone is Irish ūüôā

I certainly feel Irish after living here almost 20 years, and I totally understand the strong longing some non-Irish people have for Ireland- she snared my heart & soul, that’s for sure! And even though here in Ireland we often kinda cringe at some of the promotions of our well-meaning tourist board, (the ridiculously dramatic voice-over on the Wild Atlantic Way video, anyone?) the major consensus is that we all love the video below.

Part of it is to do with how we love James Vincent Mcmorrow ( if you get a chance do see him live!) and part of it is just how uplifting this video is. Yeah, Ireland has its problems, but we do love her– and what’s so amazing that many of you elsewhere in the world do, too. Celebrate & enjoy ūüôā

[youtube_sc url=”” title=”Ireland%20Inspires!%20St%20Patrick%27s%20Day”]

For more on Patrick’s Day, including photos & videos of the parades in our medieval village, past & present, browse here.

I hope you enjoyed the Ireland inspires on St Patrick’s Day (& beyond!) video, and if you’d¬†like to see my¬†10 reasons why I love Ireland, click!

To see what’s on in county Wexford on Paddy’s Day, including a beach parade, click here.

valentines day heart

Love conquers all!

What do Queen Victoria, Walt Disney, and Buffy the vampire slayer all have in common?

Claddagh rings!

But do you know the full story behind this Irish ring?

It began in a fishing village in¬†Galway around 1675, and yes, it is a very romantic love story although it doesn’t involve vampires or escaping hell for your beloved.

Still, it does involve capture by pirates and years and years of separation!

Buffy wears a claddagh ring from Angel

Buffy wears a Claddagh ring from Angel

Now, there is a bit of a catch to this story– well, actually two!

I’ve been given a special Claddagh ring offer for readers of the Vibrant Ireland newsletter (you can sign up in the box above on the top right hand corner; if you’re on mobile the box is at the bottom of this post, after the comment section)¬†— 20% off any Claddagh jewellery and/or any other of the Irish-made craft products on the Ireland’s Showcase website. So, catch 1 is that you’ll need to sign up to the newsletter for the discount code. Of course, if you don’t enjoy the newsletter you can easily unsubscribe any time.

Catch 2 is that part of my deal with the very nice people at Ireland’s Showcase is that I write a post for their new blog; so click here to read the¬†the love story behind the Claddagh rings! But sure, you want to go have a nosey at their site anyway, to see what ¬†Irish products you might like to get with your discount ūüôā They’ve perfect gifts for Valentine’s day, from all sorts of jewellery to clothing items, beauty products,¬†& more- plus things for kids!

Do you have a Claddagh ring or other Claddagh jewelery piece? If you’ve a romantic Claddagh ring story of your own, let us know in the comment section below ūüôā

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Silver and gold Irish Claddagh rings, from

Irish Claddagh rings, from


What you need to know about Ireland

What you need to know about Ireland

The feedback on this informational post I wrote has been brilliant, from both Irish folk & visitors, so I’m sharing some of it here with you, so you can see what you think.¬†

What you need to know before visiting Ireland

When I visited Ireland, it changed my life. Really. It touched a part of me, and then I think it kept a part of me, because when I returned home to The States I felt bereft and miserable for a long time. So I took a huge leap. I sold my car, gave away my things, and moved to Ireland on a wing and a prayer. Nearly 20 years later I’m still here and I’ve never regretted it.

This post isn‚Äôt about my story, but it is about some of the reasons I was able to have such a wonderful experience in Ireland, & what I‚Äôve discovered is useful to visitors through my years living here‚ÄĒ I‚Äôve translated it all into some tips for your visit.


Open Your Mouth

Busy talking on phone

It is true-Ireland is full of friendly people who are happy to suggest things to do, or offer up interesting info about their area.¬†Don‚Äôt be afraid to ask people if you are lost, want a suggestion on where to eat, what to see, etc. Most people are pleased to share their favourites & their local knowledge. On my first visit, my 2 girlfriends & I got off the train in Derry and stood around with our giant backpacks, looking unsure. Some young men came up to us & asked if we were lost. We told them we were thinking of going to Donegal, but weren‚Äôt sure exactly where yet. They excitedly suggested we go to Buncrana, as the festival was on that weekend, and that we‚Äôd have a brilliant time there along beautiful Lough Swilly. We thanked them, and they went on their way‚Äď no hassle, just friendly advice about a place they loved. (Whew! We took their advice & had a fantastic time!)


There May Be A Bit Of ‚ÄėRudeness‚Äô

As an expat American, I must add this: most North Americans are accustomed to a level of immediate customer service that is not overly common in much of Ireland. You could have the same expectations where you are from, too. North Americans are used to being acknowledged when entering a cafe or such, especially when it is not always apparent if you seat yourself, order at the counter, or wait to be seated. (Also in regards to staff being on the phone; in The States we are used to the customer physically present being acknowledged, & then they may also take precedent over someone/customer on the phone. I find this doesn’t often happen in Ireland.) BUT don‚Äôt be put off‚Äď it doesn’t mean that the employee is actually unfriendly‚ÄĒI find that usually if you say a cheery Hello/ ask a question people are friendly & helpful. (Same for once they are off the phone. Not that I enjoy those differences in customer service, but it is good for you to be aware of them. I know many tourist businesses are trying to improve on this aspect of customer service).


Here’s the catch!

This post is continued over on¬†¬† I wrote it as a guest post, and, so if you’d like to continue reading, please head over there. Thank You! ūüôā


irelandHere are some sites/blogs & apps you may also enjoy, for Ireland. I’ve mainly linked Android apps, but most are also on itunes, so look for them there, too ūüôā

I’ve not listed big sites like Discover Ireland here, because I reckon you know about those already! This list is not exhaustive, & is a work in progress.


What to Do/See in Ireland

 Mark attended 3 a year in 2011/12, and is continuing in 2013!  He writes with humour, & has some great photos.

Cork and About

Cork Billy has great ideas of things to see & do in Cork City, & beyond.

Out and About

Tatjana is an active fan of the arts, and writes a new blog about the exciting arts performances in Dublin, as well as some travels around Ireland.


Mark from A Year Of Festivals has a fab app letting you know what’s on where, & more cool features. The itunes version is here.

Ireland Travel Kit has ‘off the beaten track’ things to see & do. Not a freebie, but certainly worth the euro or two! Who knows what gems you’ll discover ūüôā

For families, Are We There Yet, Ireland looks to be a great app, for just over 2 euros. Android and also itunes.

Outdoors/Nature in Ireland

Catherine has a beautiful blog of photography, mainly taken along the Waterford coast.

This site is full of wonderful things to do with nature, especially in the area of Derrynane, Kerry. Vincent regularly shares his photos on the Wild Derrynane Facebook page, too.


Knowing the high/low tide times is quite helpful, as some beaches will nearly disappear at high tide. If you have a smartphone, a tide app is useful. I have Tides Near Me РFree  (Android)

If you enjoy nature identification, there are free apps on Android for Irish Butterflies, plus bees, and mammals.

Another good app is Ireland Green Travel, for¬†Android¬†and on¬†itunes. ¬†As well as outdoor activities, it has info on green places to stay and so on. It isn’t free, but is certainly worth the couple of euros.

Eating In Ireland

Ken is a  foodie who has his fingers in lots of pies but still finds time to be in the know about foodie happenings in Ireland.

Irish Food Bloggers

This site usually has the scoop on the latest food events in Ireland, and they have an extensive list of Irish food bloggers you can peruse.


Billy has great info & tips on restaurants, & food & drink in the Cork area, and sometimes beyond.

The Dublin Diary

Writing about food, drink & goings-on in Dublin town, Laura will make you want to eat out in Dublin.


Planning to visit Ireland? These sites have some tips

Got Ireland

An Irish person  across the Pond in the States, Liam is a font of useful tips & articles on Ireland.

Irish Fireside

At the Irish Fireside you’ll find a wealth of posts on most all things Ireland, plus podcasts!

Ireland Favorites

Brian is an American who has visited Ireland many, many times, and is has some information & tips you mightn’t get elsewhere.

Null and Full

Agata is a world traveller who visited Ireland for the first time this year. She has many interesting posts on Ireland (as well as other places.) I did a guest post on Ireland travel tips here, too.

Agata on the Inishmore cliffside during her 1st Ireland visit

Agata on the Inishmore cliffside during her 1st Ireland visit


A 1st Ireland Visit

A fair few people find their first Ireland visit is marked by an appreciation of Nature (yep, capital N- often a bit of awe in the feelings the Irish landscape inspires.) But what about visitors who are slightly iffy about Ireland before they arrive?

Like Agata, who visited Ireland for the first time in a record cold May. As she says herself, she didn’t have Ireland on her bucket list, and “considered it too cold and windy.” Did she enjoy Ireland, or was the weather in Ireland too chilly and damp? I’ll let her tell you what she thought in her own words:


Ireland As I Saw It

Ireland was never on my bucket list. I considered it too cold and too windy as for holiday destination. While it is windy and it is rainy this country has so much to offer! I’ve just got back from my first trip to Ireland and I must admit it was fabulous!¬†My short description of Ireland would be: green, changeable, picturesque and fascinating.



It is called ‘The Green Island’ and it really is green. I was lucky to see it in spring time when endless pastures were vivid green but I think that due to intense rain it remains green all year round. This color is everywhere: green ties, green neons, green bags, green pillows. If you pay attention you’ll see a green color everywhere. It is hard to imagine St.¬†Patrick’s¬†Day when even Irish beer becomes green.

Ireland is not only green in terms of color. It also favors green solutions like recycling or bicycles. Two examples: the length of cycling roads in Dublin and bike rentals on the Aran Islands. Although it might be tricky to cycle around Dublin without knowing the city, it is extremely comfortable in remote places, like Inishmore. Treating it as a mean of transportation adds pleasure to sightseeing.



Change is good. In the Irish case this is even excellent because what I mean here is changeable weather conditions. I stayed in Ireland for a week and each day I had bit of sun, bit of rain and bit of wind. It seams very unlikely to rain for longer than couple of hours or- as in the case of my stay on Inishmore- for couple of minutes. As a result you get a certainty that at least part of your holiday will be blessed with the sun.

I’ve noticed there is a sort of general method how to deal with changeability of the weather. In a citycenter people tend to wait in a shop until the heavy rain passes and nobody makes any fuss of it. On the island the weather influences your daily routine and the¬†sightseeing. You’ll learn appreciate every minute of sun here.

Aran Island cottage, Ireland

Aran Island cottage, Ireland


Breathtaking views are pretty much everywhere. I crossed the country from the east to the west and saw hundreds dream-like places. Blue sky, green grass, white tiny houses, stone walls, cows, sheep and ponies. A mixture of tradition and fairytale like views. Living in big cities full of noise, rush and stress people are deprived from a country side so when they finally see it their mind blows up. Ireland might not have exotic beaches nor high mountains but what it has is the idyllic countryside. On the other hand, the island also brought some epic vistas: the cliffs were absolutely marvelous. At some point you realize that although Ireland has a relatively mild climate some parts are extremely difficult to live in. The Aran Islands are a good example of rough conditions and bravery of people who live there. As a result the natural beauty is framed with human activity and you can admire a picture of stone walls, white houses along a huge variety of plants and birds.


Celtic crosses on the Aran islands, Ireland

Celtic crosses on the Aran islands, Ireland


Irish culture is¬†captivating. Think about music, dance and prehistoric spots, to name just a few elements of the endless cultural heritage. I’m not saying that you’re able to absorb it all in two weeks of your holiday but coming to Ireland¬†definitely¬†gives you an opportunity to touch some of these miracles. For me the most spectacular was visiting prehistoric spots on Inishmore and listening to live music in a local pub. I think that strong attachment to the tradition is admirable. Moreover, Ireland does not close its culture in a museum with a sign “do not touch works of art”. You can actually experience it in many various ways. One of the biggest pleasures of my visit in Ireland was listening to the Irish language spoken by the locals. It is truly fascinating to hear the sound of cultural heritage and its rich history while sitting in a pub.

Don't get too close! Sea cliff edge, Ireland

Off into the sea. Cliffs on Inishmore, Ireland

To wrap up: Ireland is an interesting holiday destination for many reasons and I am pretty sure that each tourist will find his own. What you can expect from this country is a perfect mix of tradition and modernity, natural wonders and outstanding architecture, idyllic landscape and wilderness. In one word: you need to visit Ireland!


Agata has been always fascinated with travel literature and finally she decided she should travel herself. To date she has visited 20+ countries, focusing on Swedish Lapland, Italy, the United States, Canada and Ireland. Her blog brings interesting stories from remote and chilly locations.

She is currently working on her first book about philosophy of travel. I’m quite looking forward to reading it!

 I also want to say a huge thanks to Agata for writing this post! Give her a follow: 







Aran Isle cottage, Ireland. No rain on this wee bit of Agata'sIireland visit ;-)

Aran Isle cottage, Ireland. No rain on this wee bit of Agata’s Ireland visit ūüėČ

I may want to get out..

I may want to get out..

Some very interesting places in Ireland are off the main public transport routes, and not served by the tour companies, even if tours are your thing. You may be wondering what  is it REALLY like driving as a visitor in Ireland- can I do it?Рand what are the ins & outs and  rules?

Driving in Ireland can be a shock to visitors.

I learned to drive in the States, & drove there- on the right hand side- for years before I moved to Ireland; so I’ll have some tips for you based on my own experience.


            Til then, have a look at the driving advice here.


cliffs of moher ireland in the sun

Some days the Cliffs of Moher seem to stretch on forever

I’m one of those people who think Ireland is very special.

As an ex-pat American living here for years,  these are a few of the Reasons Why I Love Ireland.

(NOTE This was one of the first posts I wrote here on Vibrant Ireland, back in 2010)

1. The stunning natural beauty of much of the countryside, easily reached even if you are in the middle of Dublin. You can also reach the sea from anywhere in about a 90 minute drive.

2. In rural areas¬†particularly, people are friendly, nodding & saying hello on the street or giving the (nice) finger wave when passing by in the car. Folks aren’t afraid to talk to strangers.

man & his pet fox on his shoulder

People stop to talk, even with their pet foxes!

3. Yes, I know we are angry at our government right now, but in Ireland there is generally the feeling that we do have a say in the politics;  that we can be heard, (vs the feeling of being a very very small drop in a humongous ocean in larger countries.)
4. Mild climate, very few natural disasters, no poisonous insects or snakes, not many ticks, fleas, mosquitoes; no roaches or bedbugs- the only pesky insects, really, are midges & a few nipping flies at certain times & places.
5. Even in Dublin, you don’t hear ‘random’ gunfire– guns aren’t everywhere. (This helps make #2 much more possible, I think.) The ambient fear level is low.
6. The Irish national game show- Winning Streak- where everybody playing wins!
7.¬†Yes, many of the Irish really are funny/have a way with words ūüôā
8. Hurling! It’s a really exciting, fast paced sport. (& many of the hurlers have very nice legs!)
9. Festivals! There seems to always something interesting going on with in driving distance. Food, music, comedy, art, craft, science, literature, history, wildlife, walking, gardening- there are so many events throughout the year.
Ireland countryside rainbows

Ireland is full of rainbows

10. The sense of community. I know in our own little town it is quite strong; it is the same for ¬†many places in Ireland, in Ireland as a whole, and in its diaspora. I’m very,¬†very,¬†happy to live in Ireland, and all the sensational financial disaster news reports won’t change that.

Hooray for our little country ūüôā