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If you need any encouragement, here are just some of the unique experiences to add to your bucket list…


1. Follow in Giant’s footsteps

Belfast and the Giant’s Causeway hold the title as one of Lonely Planet’s best regions to visit in 2018 and it’s easy to see why. The Giant’s Causeway is breathtaking, with basalt formations stretching as far as the eye can see. Then Belfast is a joy, packed with history and innovation.

Highlight: The comprehensive Ulster Museum is located in central Belfast. Its exhibits cover everything from dinosaurs to the Peace Process. If the weather’s nice, walk just outside to explore the Botanic Gardens.


2. Star Wars road trip

Fans of the latest Star Wars film are dying to explore the otherworldly landscapes from the film. Have the road trip of a lifetime and drive the Wild Atlantic Way. Along the way, witness the blockbuster scenery from Donegal’s Malin Head down to Brow Head in County Cork.


Don’t miss: Take a pitstop at The Cliffs of Moher Retreat. Admire one of Ireland’s most famous sights and settle in for a weekend of yoga, seasonal food and hot tubs.


3. Get a real Dublin welcome

National Geographic Traveler has Dublin on its 2018 Best of the World destinations list, confirming what locals already know. The magazine praised the city’s “friendly, village vibe”, so hop on a plane for your very own Dublin welcome.


Hidden gems: Discover Francis Bacon’s studio in the Hugh Lane Gallery. Afterwards, pop around to the leafy Georgian park Blessington Basin.


4. Festival fever in Galway

Known as the City of the Tribes, Galway has a busy cultural calendar. Expect excellent events all year round, including the Midwinter FestivalGalway Food Festival and the Galway International Arts Festival.

Day trip: Sail to Inis Mór and get an insight into life on the Aran Islands. While you’re there, join the sartorial set and pick up a jumper. The traditional Irish knit is currently part of an exhibition celebrating iconic fashion in MoMA, New York.


5. Cork’s culinary chops

County Cork has a foodie heritage to be proud of, and it even made international news in 2011. During her historic visit, Queen Elizabeth II went to the English Market and met its butchers, cheesemongers and other producers. This foodie scene has boomed ever since, with foraging tours, specialist cafés and more opening up around the city.

Local tip: Head to Miyazaki in Cork’s city centre and prepare to be blown away. Its chef, Takashi Miyazaki, worked at a five-star hotel in Japan before opening this tiny takeaway in 2015.


6. Music to your ears

With impromptu singalongs in cosy pubs and giant acts filling stadiums, Ireland is a hub of musical activity. Why not plan your trip around a special event? Choose from the iconic Wexford Opera Festival, the trad music mecca Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann and many more.

Undiscovered talent: The buskers on Grafton Street are legendary. Famous names like the Oscar-winning Glen Hansard started out here. Meanwhile, stars such as Bono from U2 take part in the odd charity gig on the cobbled street. Will you spot the next big act?


7. Unlock Stone Age secrets

Travel less than an hour outside Dublin and see prehistoric structures older than the Egyptian pyramids. The most famous of these is Newgrange. This 5,000-year-old passage tomb is part of a 90-monument complex in Ireland’s Ancient East.


Sleep tight: Stick around and spend the night in the nearby Conyngham Arms Hotel. The attention to detail is impressive, with pretty floral cushions and gorgeous handmade toiletries.


8. Pamper yourself

Some say Ireland’s natural beauty is a tonic, but if you want to go the extra mile, check out the country’s luxurious spas. There are options all over the country, including Farnham Estate Spa and Golf Resort in Cavan, Galway’s G Hotel and Monart in Wexford.

Best buy: Bring Irish luxury home with an exciting new skincare brand. Pestle & Mortar has cult status thanks to rave reviews in Vogue, Vanity Fair and the New York Times.

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