Image: Druids Glen
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Go to Ireland for the story-telling, tradition and beer, but the beautiful, and often reasonably-priced golf courses will make you want to stay.
updated 3/14/2008 5:53:17 PM ET 2008-03-14T21:53:17

The draw

  • Well-known for its storytellers, Ireland is the ideal place to grab a leisurely drink with the locals and enjoy a bit of the craic, or local gossip
  • Home to some of the world’s most scenic golf courses — a staggering number of which are reasonably priced
  • A city center that has become trendy without losing touch with tradition

The scene
In the 1980s, Ireland was looking at 18 percent unemployment, derelict city centers and another potential mass exodus. But thanks to a tech industry boom, the ‘90s saw the Celtic Tiger come roaring back to life, luring young graduates to stick around. The result: a new, youthful bourgeoisie and an ever-modernizing city with a more cosmopolitan feel. Now Dublin is one of Europe’s fastest growing urban destinations. A burgeoning restaurant scene includes the country’s only Michelin two-star dining establishment, Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, as well as the highly touted Kevin Thornton’s, home to Ireland’s only native two-star Michelin chef. The rapid gentrification of the Temple Bar district has attracted more foreign nighttime revelers than the locals would like, but it’s added a host of cultural institutions as well. Temple Bar is also home to the Clarence Hotel, which was purchased and restored by U2’s The Edge and Bono.

To be seen

  • City Center. College Green is the center of town and a good place to start. Pass by Trinity College (home to the Book of Kells, a collection of illuminated manuscripts written by Celtic monks in the seventh century), then wander the pedestrian-only shopping thoroughfare, Grafton Street, where you can follow in Leopold Bloom’s footsteps and stop into Bewley’s for coffee and cake. Meander through St. Stephen’s Green, a lovely park ringed with elegant Georgian townhouses, on your way to the nearby National Gallery and National Museum.
  • North of the Liffy. Head north to visit the James Joyce Cultural Center and the Dublin Writers Museum, housed in a Georgian mansion. Downstairs from the museum, you’ll find the culinary gem Chapter One Restaurant — your best bet in Dublin for sampling upscale regional cuisine.
  • Temple Bar. In the daytime, these cobbled streets are bustling with artists and lined with little restaurants and coffee shops. There’s also an art house cinema, film center, photography gallery, center for the arts, music center and the DESIGNyard, which sells jewelry and furniture from Ireland’s best designers.
  • The Old City. Here’s where you’ll find a wealth of historic architecture, including Dublin Castle, Christ Church and St. Patrick’s. Guinness fans may also want to tour the nearby brewery.

For The VIP

  • A private tour with the Irish Georgian Society, Ireland’s Architectural Heritage Society, run by a charming and knowledgeable husband-and-wife team, Tom and Odeile Murphy.
  • The areas outside Dublin offer an embarrassment of riches for the avid golfer, including the ultra-exclusive Kildare Hotel and Country Club (known as the “K” Club), the nouveau riche fave Mount Juliet, the magnificently landscaped Druid’s Glen (longtime home to the Irish Open) and the century-old seaside links of Royal Dublin.
  • Kildare County, west of Dublin, is horse country and a fantastic place to take in a horse race or go for a leisurely ride. The more adventurous may want to consider a foxhunt — lessons on hunt etiquette can be arranged — with one of the legendary hunt clubs and a stay at a nearby country manor.
  • Dirty Boots Treks is a local favorite for hikes of all levels in the breathtaking Wicklow Mountains. They’ll whisk you away in a Land Rover for a day of rambling past mountain streams and herds of deer.
  • Become an Irish whiskey expert with a private tasting at the Celtic Whiskey Shop.

Overrated
Temple Bar nightlife scene. A charming area by day, but by night, staggering foreigners outnumber the locals as the area becomes a theme park of overpriced touristy pubs.

Slideshow: A European tour

Underrated
Irish Cheese. From Knockanore to Cashel Blue, Boilie Goat’s to Blarney Castle, Irish dairies produce some of the world’s best cheese. For heavenly samplings of the country’s artisanal farmhouse cheeses, pop into Sheridan’s Cheesemongers.

When to go
Anytime between April and September. The summer months bring pleasant weather, daylight until 10 p.m. and packs of tourists. Fall and spring are less crowded, but with less predictable weather.

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