Donegal Donegal is the northernmost county of Ireland and was one of the last areas of the island to succumb to English rule. First established as a Viking fortress, its name stems from the Irish "Dun na nGall," or "Fort of the Foreigners." From the fifteenth through the seventeenth centuries, the region was ruled by the O'Donnell family, who made their home at the imposing Donegal Castle. The castle, recently restored, is now one of the county's major tourist attractions. Visitors also flock to Donegal to visit Slieve League, the highest sea cliffs in Europe, as well as the region's miles of sandy beaches. The coastal town of Rossnowlagh is as famous among surfers as Donegal's golf courses, including the fairway-less hole of the Murvagh course, are among golfers. Each summer, Donegal hosts the Ballyshannon Folk Festival, a celebration featuring traditional Irish music.
Tralee Located in southwestern Ireland, Tralee is the capital of County Kerry. Since the late 1950s, Tralee has hosted the annual Rose of Tralee International Festival, a week-long celebration including street entertainment, music, singing, and dancing that ends with a contest to name the "Rose" of Tralee. The "Rose" is the woman deemed to best match the attributes relayed in a traditional Irish song called, The Rose of Tralee: "Yet 'twas not her beauty alone that won me; Oh no, 'twas the truth in her eyes ever dawning, that made me love Mary, the Rose of Tralee." Today, thousands of tourists come to Tralee each August to take part in the festival, which has become one of Ireland's best-known traditions.
Cork Cork, Ireland's second largest city, is found near the country's southeast coast. Irish legend says that Cork was founded in the late sixth or early seventh century by a saint who was sent there to kill Ireland's last dragon. Through the years, Cork and its people have played important roles in the resistance movement, which explains why the city is sometimes referred to as "rebel Cork." Tourists are drawn to Cork to visit the world-famous Blarney stone, which is housed five miles northwest of the city in Blarney Castle in the village of Blarney. The Blarney stone is believed to endow anyone who kisses it with the gift of "blarney" or eloquence. (According to Irish folklore, Blarney Castle was once saved from destruction by its defender's gift of gab.) Each summer, the city hosts the Cork Film Festival.
Waterford Waterford is the capital of southern Ireland's County Waterford. The area, which is extensively involved in dairy farming and tanning, is also well-known for its marble and limestone quarries. The town of Waterford, however, is famous for just one thing: handmade crystal and glassware. In 1783, George and William Penrose founded the Waterford Glass House in Waterford, Ireland. By the mid-1800s, the artistry and brilliance of their crystal had won acclaim throughout Europe. But in 1851, the factory was forced to close due to a poor financial climate and a heavy tax burden. In 1947, spurred by a renaissance of the traditional Irish arts brought on by Irish independence, a group of businessmen collaborated with the country's master artisans to reopen the Waterford Glass House. Just four years later, Waterford Crystal was re-launched into the world marketplace. Demand was so high that, in the late 1960s, a new, larger factory was built. By the 1980s, Waterford had become the largest producer of hand-crafted crystal in the world. Today, the company exports its glass and crystal to more than 100 countries.
Dublin Dublin is the capital of the Republic of Ireland, as well as its largest city, with over a million residents. Dublin was founded in the tenth century by Vikings, who then had control of the country. The name Dublin comes from the Irish phrase "Duibhlinn," which means "dark pool" and refers to the color of the Liffey, the river that divides the city. Famous for its old-world charm and frequent rainfall, the city is home to Dublin Castle, a fortress constructed in 1204. At one time or another, all of the following people have called Dublin home: George Bernard Shaw, James Joyce, Jonathan Swift, William Butler Yeats, and Bono (Paul Hewson), lead singer of the band U2. Dublin is also home to the St. James Gate Guinness brewery, founded by Arthur Guinness in 1759, which still produces 2.5 million pints of the world-renowned stout every day.