The third-largest island in Europe, Ireland has both a sweet charm and a savage beauty, with faith and poetry in evidence everywhere.
The Dingle Peninsula is a magical place where the past is very much alive and can be experienced at places like the 11th century Gallarus Oratory, a small, stone-built chapel in the shape of an up-turned boat, and 70 stones scattered across the peninsula inscribed with writing in Ogham, an alphabet that dates to possibly the 4th century.
Inis Mór is the largest of the three Aran Islands and includes many ancient structures--the stone fort of Dun Aengus is a stand-out among the island's antiquities. The neighboring island of Inis Meáin, whose name translates from Gaelic as "the Middle Island," is the quietest and most traditional of the three Aran Islands, with a population of 102 people. Both islands offer rich history, friendly hospitality, and spectacular scenery with miles and miles of rambling but sturdy stone walls.
For a relatively small place, Ireland's contribution to the world's culture has been significant, with four Nobel Prize winners in literature; renowned traditions in folk music and dance; and the visual arts span carvings on megalithic tombs, The Book Of Kells and other early manifestations of Christianity, and Celtic metalwork, to name but a few--all influenced by the country's spectacular geography.