Ross Castle © Jim Linwood
The lure of Ireland lies in its landscapes and its people, and it is through involvement with both that visitors get to experience the soul of this ancient land of saints and scholars.
Ireland's hills are a walker's paradise, not only because of the extensive network of trails, but because by being on foot one gets to appreciate the lakes and rivers, the coastal views and ever-changing sky-scapes that are so much part of the Irish landscape. Watersports such as angling, sailing and surfing are popular too, and many visitors come for the golf, but the real passion of the Irish is horses - there is a potential Derby winner in every valley and a packed betting shop in every high street.
The Irish weather is not the most predictable in the world, but then much of the beauty of the Irish landscape is due to its climate and there has to be a price tag on being nicknamed the 'Emerald Isle'. Poor weather has had positive influences on the Irish way of life. Music and song plays an integral part in day-to-day routine and visitors are able to experience this in the many pubs so characteristic of the social landscape of Ireland. Irish music is captivating - arguably some of the best in the world - and Irish pubs are a highlight of a journey through the country.
Over the years, Ireland has survived invasions, famine and civil war, but has recently come into its own, benefiting from peace in the North, support from the EU, and a new vitality which has caused the country to be dubbed the 'Celtic Tiger'. There has never been a better time to visit.