Looking for things to do in 2018? Below are 20 Irish experiences you can try out this year.
1. Gather for a story in Ireland’s oldest pub
The Brazen Head on Bridge Street lower has been around since 1198 and is still wining and dining guests. The story-telling nights by expert Seanachaí will bring you through a world of tales and sceals. The evening includes dinner and entertainment from €48pp every evening from March to December. Irishfolktours. com, 01-2188555.
2. Hit a sliotar
At the GAA site in Mobhi Road, Glasnevin, Dublin you can learn all about Ireland's national games of football and hurling. The trainers are all accredited coaches and will impart the basic skills of Gaelic games. It costs from €25-35 per person and is also available in Cork and Galway. Experiencegaelicgames.ie. Take it to the next level and go to a real game: there are matches on all around the country, usually at weekends, see fixtures and buy tickets on gaa.ie.
3. Get a taste for Irish whiskey
Whiskey distilling is having a revival. In 2013 there were four distilleries in Ireland making whiskey and there are now 18. Many of the new distilleries welcome visitors to see and taste their products. Two opened this summer, the Pearse Lyons Distillery in the Liberties area of Dublin and Slane Distillery on the grounds of the stately Slane Castle in Co Meath.
There are four places to taste whiskey in Dublin: Jameson Distillery in Smithfield; Teeling Whiskey in New Market, Dublin 8; Irish Whiskey Museum, Grafton St; and Pearse Lyons Distillery James St. It is hard to choose a whiskey, but Teeling single batch has fine notes. For a lovely day out, the Slane Distillery will allow visitors to see the distillery and the castle. See all things whiskey on whiskeytrail.ie.
4. Learn to pour the perfect pint
One thing to learn on a visit to Dublin is how to pull the perfect pint of Guinness. It will be the finale of your visit to the Guinness Storehouse in the historic Liberties area of the city. The tour takes you through the whole process of brewing from the very start to the ultimate act of pouring and tasting a pint in the Gravity Bar. The views from here of the city are stunning and sunset is perfect time of enjoy it. Tours from €17.50 each, www.guinness-storehouse.com.
5. Go backstage at the Abbey
Get behind-the-scenes with a backstage tour of the National Theatre with one of the in-house tour guides who will bring you on a journey through the theatrical history. You will get an up-close look at the set and design of the current production by visiting the Abbey Stage, see the extensive portrait collection, explore the day-to-day life of a national theatre and learn about the history and cultural significance of the Abbey. Tours last for approximately 75-90 minutes and start from the foyer at 4pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and at 11am on Saturdays. Tours are scheduled to match the dates of productions. Tickets are €10, book on www.Abbeytheatre.ie.
6. Visit Kerry, make chocolate
On the Glengariff Road from Kenmare is a former post office at Bonane, which has reformed as French chocolatier - Lorge. After working in Ireland as a chef Benoit decided to concentrate on his first love; making chocolate. In his chocolate atelier he produces sweet treats for Ireland's top hotels, weddings, and gourmet shops. During the year he also teaches chocolate-making classes. Make a booking for the experience of being a chocolatier and taking home a bag of chocolate goodies from scratch: www.Lorge.ie.
7. Canoe down the Barrow
Absorb yourself into nature with Go with the Flow, who offer self-guided and guided canoe tours, from one night to week-long river trips on the River Barrow. You can start from as far north as Monasterevin in Co Kildare, or any of the towns and villages down along the river. Owner Charlie Horan can provide equipment, tents, or organise B&Bs or luxury accommodation along the river. Go with the Flow also provides guided day trips, a great way to learn canoeing skills. See www.gowiththeflow.ie.
8. Party like a pagan
At different times of the year we celebrate the seasons or events. Try to plan a trip to take in these indigenous festivals. In spring, it is St Brigid's Day on February 1st, mostly in Kildare and Faughart, Co Louth. The vernal equinox is marked at Lough Carew in Meath in March, when you can go into Cairn T to see the sunrise, see knowth.com. The fire festival for Bealtaine in May takes place at Uisneach, believed to be the centre of Ireland, see Uisneach.ie.
The summer solstice is celebrated on June 21st at the Hill of Tara; there will be an eclectic mix of people with druids chanting, music and song. The winter solstice takes place on the morning of December 21st and many people flock to Newgrange in Co Meath. A few lucky people will be able to enter the ancient passageway to see the light first enter the chamber above the doorway: www.Newgrange.com.
9. Go treasure hunting
Geo caching helps you discover Ireland in depth as you go treasure hunting by using GPS to track down hidden treasures. Geo caching is a worldwide game anyone can get involved in. The treasures are not usually worth much, but it is the fun of joining the game, solving the clues and exploring new places. See geocachingireland.com for details of events.
10. Climb Skellig Michael
Is there a more experiential experience that recreating a day as a monk perched on the top of a rocky outcrop in the Atlantic? Visitors to Skellig Michael can climb the island from May to September. You will have the whole experience of taking a boat to the almost sheer-faced island, negotiating the landing and then climbing up 218m, about 600 steps, without a handrail. There are no toilets either, so be prepared for about six hours without facilities, though a visit behind a rock is not unusual.
11. Spend a day at the races
To get a real feel for Irish racing, there is nothing like a country meeting. During the spring and summer there are often evening meets. You would be surprised at the level of the horses racing. It is not unusual to see American horses or French horses taking a turn around Kildare, Gowran Park, Kilbeggan, Dundalk, and other small racecourses. Get into the fun of the races and back your favourites after watching them in the ring. See www.goracing.ie.
12. Tour a garden like no other
Walking into the Ewe Experience in west Cork will transform your day and rejuvenate you. The quirky interactive gardens are full of sculptures, trees, games and nature. Covering 280 acres the gardens is a nature reserve for forest, woodland, wetland and mountain habitat. There are wild deer and grazing sheep. Try your hand at making a sculpture. Open June, July, August, 10am to 6pm, €7.50 adults and €6.00 children: www. theewe.com. Tel: 027-63840.
13. Find a country pub
Book a night out with Rural Tours and you can be singing and drinking away in the highest pub Johnnie Fox's, the Blue Light, the Merry Ploughboy or the Glenmalure Lodge and more. The tours run most evenings of the week and Sunday afternoon from €35. See www.ruraltours.com, 01-4958111.
14. Climb an Irish mountain
The satisfaction when you climb a mountain like Carrantuohill is overwhelming. High up at the cross, the wind can be whistling, but you have to have that photograph. Kerry has dozens of great mountains to climb but best done with an experienced guide. Hidden Ireland tours can take you to some extraordinary places to climb in Ireland: www.hiddenirelandtours.com.
15. Eat your way across the Burren
The Burren food trail aims to uncover for you the journey from farm to plate and meet the producers of this bounty. The newest Michelin star restaurant is based in the Burren at Lisdoonvarna, the Wild Honey Inn, and a first for a pub in Ireland. The trail is a map you can download from www.burren.ie and then follow it.
16 Learn to make Irish coffee
Make an Irish coffee on a food tour of Belfast. Taste and Tours in Belfast have been surprised by the popularity of their tours. They are reorganising the calendar to add more tours. Many people taking the tours are local to Belfast and surprising themselves with what they learn. There is a food tour that uncovers Belfast bites, food specific to Belfast. There is also a gin tour to try some of the newest spirits. There's also a tour when you get to pull a pint and make an Irish coffee: www.tasteandtour.co.uk.
17. Milk a cow in west Cork
Many of us take it for granted that we know all about farming and where food products come from. But how many of us have been on a farm and seen what actually happens? West Cork farm tours will give you a great inside look, visiting farms and talking to farmers about their lives. The tours will also include history talks and visits to places of interest:www.westcorkfarmtours.com.
18 Gallop the Wild Atlantic Way
There is an image in many people's head of galloping on a beach in Ireland hair flying and hooves turning up clumps of sand, and it can be done. Book a horse and guide from Donegal Equestrian centre near Bundoran and let your dream come true. The stunning beach is perfect for a gallop. One-hour rides from €45. See www.donegalequestriancentre.com.
19. Take a writing class in Dublin
Do you want to be inspired by the home of many Irish writers? The Big Smoking writing workshops are a good way to start that novel or tell a story you always wanted to. There are one-day workshops throughout the year in Dublin on varying topics. It could be writing a crime novel, fairytales or marketing your work through multimedia: www.bigsmokewritingfactory.com.
20. Learn Irish Dancing
On Monday nights at O'Sheas Merchant on Bridge Street, Dublin, there is a chance to learn Irish step dancing. Take to the floor and someone will show you what to do. The Walls of Limerick is the easiest to learn. There is Irish traditional music every night in the pub. See www.osheasmerchant.com.