Things to Do in Edinburgh

2015-10-30-1446213128-4267013-IMG_5574-thumbGo on a historical walking tour.

A walking tour in Edinburgh is a must as so much of the city’s history is in its streets, hidden in alleyways and market squares. There are loads of tour companies and last minute street tours you can join.

Wander through the shops on Victoria Street.

The collection of restaurants and shops in this colorful bend in the road is one of the hippest corners of the city. The Red Door Gallery is a great spot to grab some local souvenir artwork or take home a Harris tweed bowtie from Walker Slater.

Picnic in Princes Street Gardens.

If you’re lucky enough to have sunshine in Edinburgh, you have to spend at least one afternoon spread out in these gardens that are in the shadow of the castle. I buy bread, cheese, fruit and wine at the Marks and Spencer Food Hall to share with friends in the park.


Get your whisky on.

Right on the Royal Mile is a spot I try to pop into whenever I’m in Edinburgh. It is a bar called Whiski. They have live music (often Scottish folk) every night. With over 500 whiskys, they are sure to stock your favorite single malt, but they also offer tastings or “whisky flights” if you’re new to Scotch whisky.

I especially like the flights that highlight the different regions so you can taste the difference between an island malt (peaty/smoky) or a Speyside (usually more smooth).

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Climb a hill for a view of the city.

If you’re feeling energetic, head to the top of Arthur’s Seat for the best views of the city. The walk starts at the bottom of the Royal Mile in Holyrood Park, past the Palace of Holyroodhouse. A smaller hill to climb that also has a great view of the city is Calton Hill. It’s on the opposite side of town from the Royal Mile.

Go to a museum.

There are several great art museums in Edinburgh. My favorite is the Scottish National Gallery in Princes Street Gardens. Bonus: Admission is free. It boasts an impressive collection of both Italian and Dutch masters and of course, famous Scottish artists. Look for William McTaggart’s gorgeous landscape paintings of Scotland’s dreamy west coast. Also free to visit, the National Museum of Scotland is worth a wander just to view the building. It is usually my rainy day back-up plan to any outdoor activities because it is massive.


There are loads of great tea rooms in Edinburgh, which make it easy to stop multiple times for tea on a rainy day. Valerie Patisserie is our family favorite. Some of the loveliest tea rooms are inside the museums where you can pop in for a slice of cake and some tea to revive you after wandering the exhibits.

Every guidebook to Edinburgh will include touring both Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. These are both great places to visit, but I’ve omitted them because they are already well covered. If you only have one day in the city, you might view these buildings from the outside in favor of a few other choices, especially during the high summer season as they can be very crowded.
Whatever you do in Edinburgh, you are sure to fall in love and want to come back again and again to see the hilltop fort and spires rising up around you.



Ten best kept tourist secrets Dublin has to offer

Dublin is one of Europe's top tourist spots, attracting almost four million visitors every year.
But well-known tourist attractions like Trinity College and the Guinness storehouse are just some of great things travelers can discover.
Here are ten of the best kept secrets Dublin has to offer.


1. The U2 Wall

The graffiti-covered wall at Windmill Lane studios stands as a testament to where the iconic Dublin band recorded some of their greatest tunes.
A music lover must-see, this fan wall is more of an accidental gallery than a contrived piece of art
Situated at Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, it’s covered in cartoons, lyrics and declarations of love from home and abroad for the greatest band on the planet.
While the studio itself was demolished in April to make way for apartments, the wall – much like the band – remains intact.


2. National Leprechaun Museum

If you fancy something a little more left of center, why not visit the cute National Leprechaun Museum?
Learn the history of the leprechaun and other figures of Irish mythology at the museum on Jervis St.
Venture inside the house of a giant, find the crock of gold at the end of the rainbow and even learn how to spot fairy folk in everyday life.
Every bit as mad as it sounds.


3. Grangegorman Military Cemetery

Some might find visiting a graveyard spooky but this cemetery feels more like a chilled out sanctuary.
History buffs will enjoy learning about the World War I casualties buried throughout the graveyard.
The Graveyard is on Blackhorse Avenue, off the Navan Road so if it’s a nice day pack a picnic and head to the Phoenix Park afterwards.

Forty Foot

4. The Forty Foot

Swimmers have been diving off this bathing spot at the southern tip of Dublin Bay for over 250 years.
If you really want an authentic experience – and can stomach the mortification along with the cold – hop into the water naked as this bathing area was traditionally a nudist bathing haunt.
After drying off, head to the Martello Tower once inhabited by Oliver John St Gogarty and James Joyce right next to the baths.
Now the James Joyce Tower and Museum, it’s also where the opening of Joyce’s iconic novel Ulysses is set.


5. Experience a GAA Match

You’d be hard pushed to find a more exciting day out than watching a Gaelic football or hurling match in Croke Park.
Check the GAA website for fixtures so you can catch a game during your visit – or check out Experience Gaelic Games for a more hands on experience.


6. City of a Thousand Welcomes

Dublin is considered one of the friendliest cities in the world, so who better to show you around than a local with insider knowledge?
The City of a Thousand Welcomes is an innovative scheme which helps tourists connect with locals.
More than 3,000 Dubliners have signed up as ambassadors to guide tourists around the city.
Experience the capital with a local by your side and make sure they bring you for a pint of the black stuff.


7. Take a tour around Kilmainham Gaol

If history is your thing, a visit to Kilmainham Gaol is unmissable.
A tour through this former prison where 1916 rebels were executed will give you a real feel for Ireland’s resistance to English rule.
You’ll be horrified by tales of life and conditions of 18th and 19th century prisoners, where death in the cells was common.


8. The Little Museum of Dublin

This adorable little museum tells the incredible tale of Dublin in the 20th century.
Launched in 2011 with a public appeal for historic objects, this little gem has gone from strength to strength since.
The Irish public have responded generously and today there are over 5,000 artifacts in the collection.
Children attend free civics classes here every morning. The museum also launched the City of a Thousand Welcomes project.


9. Dublin Literary Walking Tour

Immerse yourself in the lives of our greatest writers like James Joyce and Jonathan Swift.
Tour participants visit the places where these famous Dublin writers lived, taking in some of the city’s most iconic landmarks at the same time.
You’ll learn which writer was a university athletics champion and who stole and married the gal of a fellow famous novelist.
Literary idols like James Joyce, Johnathan Swift, Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde will come to life on this tour, leaving you feeling both learned and cultural.


10. Howth loop cliff walk

The views on this breathtaking walk are simply spectacular. On a clear day you can see all the way out to Wicklow Head – and all it will cost you is the price of a Dart ticket.



Things to Do in Ireland and Northern Ireland

Things to Do in Ireland and Northern Ireland this autumn

Festivals and events highlight the fall season in Ireland. Get out and enjoy harvest fairs, sports championships, traditional music and arts, guided weekend walks, creepy ghost tours, and much more.

Attend a Sports Championship
Gaelic football and hurling are some of the top spectator sports in Ireland and Northern Ireland, culminating in the All-Ireland Senior Championship Finals played in Dublin’s Croke Park in September. Attending an All-Ireland is the experience of a lifetime, but plan ahead as all 82,300 tickets usually sell out. You can visit the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) Museum at Croke Park year-round to learn about the history, see game highlights, and test your sports skills. Get a feel for game day on a stadium tour—visit team dressing rooms, run through the players tunnel onto the field pitchside, and catch views of the field from the sidelines and VIP seats.

For bird’s-eye views of the stadium and Dublin’s skyline, take the guided Etihad Skyline Tour on the 17-story-high rooftop, where you will be hooked by harness to a railing.

Tour the Tombs at Glasnevin Cemetery
Ireland’s necropolis is Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin where 1.5 million people have been buried since 1832, including famous patriots, poets, writers, and musicians. A guided tour tells fascinating stories of slain revolutionary leader Michael Collins, writer Brendan Behan, and Daniel O’Connell, the Liberator, buried in an ornate crypt beneath a round tower. Touch his inner wooden casket for luck. The museum chronicles burial practices, highlights the noted and notorious resting here, and offers a genealogy research center.

A stop at John Kavanagh, also known as The Gravediggers, is a must after your cemetery tour. Established in 1833 and still run by the same family, the pub shares a back wall with the cemetery. Pub workers used to pass pints to the gravediggers through the cemetary railings during the workday. This is an authentic, old-style pub with a reputation for an excellent pint of Guinness.

Celebrate the Man Behind DraculaBram Stoker Festival
Bram Stoker, author of the 1897 horror novel Dracula, was born in north Dublin, educated at Trinity College, and got his start writing theater reviews for a Dublin newspaper. Although his horror novels and short stories were written in London, Dublin hosts an extensive four-day festival at the end of October to honor his life, work, and legacy. Events are held across the city, which is illuminated with red lights.

Sink your teeth into the Bram Stoker Festival with literary events, concerts of Gothic-inspired music, theatrical events, pop-up performances, and ghost walking tours. There’s also a Gothic Ball this year, plus a zip line through central Dublin—but only for those in costume.

Join A Walking Festival
Walking festivals offer many different guided treks, often hosted by rambling clubs, over a few days in a region. They provide access to hidden landscapes and overlooks, accompanied by local walkers happy to share stories. In the autumn, the colorful foliage is a bonus.

A highlight of the Fermanagh Walking Festival in Northern Ireland in October is the ascent of 2,182-foot Cuilcagh Mountain, offering 360-degree views over the scenic lakelands region. The Gortmacconnell walk passes through forests and a rare blanket bog in the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark, the only UNESCO geopark in Northern Ireland.

The four-day Footfalls Wicklow Walking Festival at the end of October offers eight hikes on three levels of difficulty. Hikes might take in Glendalough’s sixth-century monastic settlement, Wicklow Gap, or St. Kevin’s Way. Be sure to book a sports massage for the evening.

Enjoy Traditional Irish Music
Nothing can compare with the foot-tapping brilliance of a traditional Irish music session, which might include fiddle, flute, uilleann pipes (also known as Irish bagpipes), button accordion, banjo, guitar, bodhran, concertina, harp, drums, and tin whistle. At a festival, there are musical concerts, informal pub sessions, and workshops for students along with singing and Irish dancing.

The Mountshannon Traditional Festival in Clare at the end of September mixes boat trips to Holy Island on Lough Derg with music workshops, pub sessions, and a song competition. The John Dwyer Trad Weekend runs for three days in mid-October as part of Waterford’s larger Imagine Arts Festival.

The William Kennedy Piping Festival in Armagh, Northern Ireland, in mid-November focuses on the uilleann pipes with a piping academy, concerts, sessions, reedmaking and pipe maintenance workshops, and a “Music on Canvas” art exhibition. It’s named for an 18th-century blind piper and pipemaker.

Go Ghost Hunting at Belfast’s Crumlin Road GaolCrumbling Road Gaol
Crumlin Road Gaol was the prison for Belfast’s hardcore prisoners from 1845 to 1996. This Victorian jail held many death row convicts, and 17 of them were executed here by hanging, the last one in 1961. Year-round daily tours take in the tunnel connecting the courthouse to the gaol, the condemned man’s cell, the execution chamber, and the graveyard. Included are the tales of political prisoners, those executed, suicides, hunger strikes, riots, and escapes.

During the second half of October, take the Paranormal Tour that runs at night in low light for an extra creepy experience. This tour visits the flogging room and takes you to the hot spots of paranormal activity, as verified by paranormal investigators with detection equipment.

Appreciate the Arts in Northern Ireland
The vibrant arts scene in Northern Ireland is showcased in many popular fall festivals in Belfast. Culture Night Belfast is one intense night of free events held on a Friday in mid-September each year. Choose from around 240 different performances, workshops, gallery openings, concerts, tours, and dancing on the streets around the renowned Cathedral Quarter that night.

The Belfast Festival at Queen’s runs for two weeks in October with an extensive lineup. There are premieres, edgy productions, and international performers. Launched more than 50 years ago, the festival has featured artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Dizzy Gillespie, Van Morrison, and the Chieftains. The 2014 event features Elvis Costello, a world-renowned flamenco dancer, and The Gloaming, an Irish-American folk supergroup led by fiddler Martin Hayes.

Enjoy the Fall Harvest
Since pagan times, harvest festivals have been held to give thanks for the bounty of the season—and to share it with family and neighbors. The Waterford Harvest Festival in mid-September is all about food from farm to fork around the region. Take advantage of cooking demonstrations by noted chefs, workshops, food displays, grow-it-yourself seminars, and foodie films. Sample artisanal food, buy from farmers in the market, and stop by the oyster festival and craft beer fest. Setting the scene are live music, farm animals on display, and art installations.

The three-day National Ploughing Championships toward the end of September has become one of the biggest outdoor farming events in Europe, covering 700 acres. Established in 1931, it features international ploughing—or plowing, as it’s known in the U.S.—competitions, livestock shows, sheepdog trials, the All-Ireland Lamb Shearing contest, and the National Brown Bread Baking Competition. There’s vintage machinery, the latest farm equipment, and technological innovations too.

Root for Favorites at a Horse Racing Festival
Horse racing is keenly followed in Ireland and Northern Ireland, and race days are as much about the social aspects as they are about placing wagers. Some of the most popular racing is National Hunt or jump racing with horses running on grass tracks two miles long or more. Multiday race festivals offer a full-immersion experience; ladies, be sure to wear a hat on Ladies Day.

The Listowel Harvest Festival the third week of September has long enticed farmers to wager some of their harvest proceeds. The Guinness Kerry National Chase is the highlight of National Hunt and Flat racing events here. The Northern Ireland Festival of Racing is held the first weekend in November at Lisburn’s Down Royal Racecourse, which was granted a Royal Charter in 1685. The Champion Chase race is part of the festival and is for many who follow the sport the most prestigious National Hunt event of the year in the north.

Delight in Autumn Gardens
Two high-concept gardens enhance the region’s colorful fall foliage with unusual elements and unique events. At the Samhain Winter Garden at Brigit’s Garden in Rosscahill, Galway, a massive earthworks depiction of a sleeping woman represents the Earth at rest, cradling a reflection pool that symbolizes life. In the Bealtaine Summer Garden, tie a wish to the fairy tree. And in early October, join in the seasonal feast of foraged and harvested ingredients from the garden.

Named one of the top ten gardens in the world by the Daily Telegraph, Mount Stewart Gardens in Newtownards, Northern Ireland, features formal themed gardens, plus lake and woodland walks. There are still flowers blooming through the winter thanks to the mild climate, says head gardener Neil Porteous. He leads a special behind-the-scenes tour in early November. There’s an Autumn Fair in early October, and the Festival of Lights (the first three weekends in November), which transforms the grounds with colorful lights in the trees and ethereal fairy music.


Guide for summer festivals in Dublin

Trad fest














Summer is upon us here in Dublin. put together a list of the summer festivals happening around the city in 2014.


When: Saturday, 17th of May thru Saturday, 20th of September

Bulmers Live at Leopardstown
When: Thursday 12th of June thru Thursday, 14th of August

Taste of Dublin
When: Thursday, 12th of June thru Sunday, 15th of June

Dublin Garden Festival
When: Friday, 13th of June thru Sunday, 15th of June

Dublin Pride
When: Friday, 13th of June thru Sunday, 29th of June

Various Voices Dublin
When: Saturday, 14th of June thru Sunday, 15th of June

When: Monday, 16th of June

World Flower Show
When: Thursday, 19th of June thru Sunday, 22nd of June

Dublin Kite Festival
When: Sunday, 22nd of June

Summer Nights at Royal Hospital Kilmainham
Marlay Park
Who: Kanye West, Macklemore, Kings of Leon, Arcade Fire, Arctic Monkeys & More!

When: Tuesday, 1st of July thru Thursday, 31st of July

Laya Healthcare’s City Spectacular
When: Friday, 11th of July thru Sunday, 13th of July

When: Friday, 18th of July thru Sunday, 20th of July

Dublin City Soul Festival
When: Saturday, 26th of July thru Sunday, 27th of July

When: Thursday, 31st of July thru Monday, 4th of August

Discover Ireland Dublin Horse Show
When: Wednesday, 6th of August thru Sunday, 10th of August

Dalkey Lobster Festival
When: Friday, 22nd of August thru Sunday, 24th of August

Ukulele Hooley by the Sea
When: Saturday, 23rd of August thru Sunday, 24th of August

National Heritage Week
When: Saturday, 23rd of August thru Sunday, 31st of August

Dublin Fashion Festival
When: Thursday, 4th of September thru Sunday, 7th of September

Dublin Fringe Festival
When: Saturday, 6th of September thru Sunday, 21st of September