Category Archives: Ireland Travel

Unusual places to go and things to see if you’re going over to Ireland.

Some lovely photos of Northern Ireland in winter…

…courtesy of the readers of

Click to see slideshow

Coney Island’s Irish Origin

The inhabitants of Coney Island, off the coast of County Sligo in Ireland’s northwest, claim that the New York neighborhood famous for its amusement park was named for their little outpost. Coney Island, Ireland, which you can walk to from the mainland at low tide, has a population of six. Legend says that a Sligo sea captain gave its name to the Brooklyn neighborhood in the 1700’s. Others argue that the American Coney Island was once known as Konijnen Eiland, or “Rabbit Island” by Dutch settlers, and that the word “coney” is simply the English translation of “konijnen,” the dutch word for “rabbit.” For what it’s worth, the American Coney Island was once an actual island, but is now connected to the mainland of Brooklyn.

New trailer for my book

OK, after a rather long process, here is a new trailer for my book. Let me know what y’all think. It’s me on guitar in the background, as well as that dreadful fiddle playing. I try. There’s some funny stuff as ever about Ireland and Irish culture.

Where the six best jewelry shops in Dublin are

An outstanding jeweler in Ireland named Leigh Maher just wrote an article for my website about her favorite jewelry shops on Grafton Street in Dublin. She knows her stuff! It gives inside tips on finding classic Celtic designs and more modern pieces, in a very wide price range. Great inside info if you want to get some great bargains on baubles next time you visit the fair city. Read it here

Where does the world’s best Irish whiskey come from? You’ve never heard of it…

According to a distillery business group that holds an “International Wine and Spirit Competition” every year, the best Irish whiskey on earth comes not from one of those top name brands, but from a lesser-known company. Cooley Inc, which operates two very old distilleries in Kilbeggan, County Westmeath and Riverstown, County Louth, has been dubbed as the finest quality maker of blended whiskey Aged 13-20 Yrs, Kilbeggan 15 Yr Old, best Irish single malt non-Aged, and two other types of single malts for the year 2009. Cooley has a short history – it’s only been making whiskey since 1987. It bills itself as the only independent Irish whisky producer in the world. All others are controlled by either Diageo or Pernod Ricard. If you want a taste of the good stuff, the company offers tours at it’s Old Kilbeggan Distillery, situated squarely in the middle of the Republic.

Whitewashing Barns For Christmas

There was once a time in Ireland where you would see whitewashed barns all over the countryside during the Christmas season. Farming families used to clean the barns, and sometimes all the buildings on a farm, and cover them with limewash or white paint. The idea was to purify the farm for the arrival of the savior, though cleaning the inside of all the buildings had the added purpose of preparing the place for the arrival of holiday guests. This custom is more than a thousand years old, and has been practised in central European countries too. It’s almost completely disappeared from Ireland, though you still may pass one or two whitewashed barns if you drive through rural areas in December.

Read the introduction to my new book: “The Great Little Book of Fun Things You Probably Don’t Know About Ireland”

The tiny nation of Ireland has always had a cultural “vibe” that seems to reach out and touch the entire world. While Americans, in particular, seem to accept this as quite normal, writers in Ireland have long questioned why everyone around the globe finds them so darned interesting.

Of course, the fact that the Irish often can’t see what’s so unique and wonderful about their country is a big part of their charm. In my own 30 years of visiting Ireland and dealing in various capacities with the Irish, I’ve learned that, under the surface, they’re more complex than they seem at first blush.

As much as any visitor, I appreciate their almost unbelievable warmth toward strangers. But I also know that, in spite of the easy banter and joking, getting an Irishman to express his real feelings about something can be the toughest thing on earth.

Under the surface of Ireland, there’s a world of ideas and customs that’s sometimes brilliant and often a bit nutty. I got interested in collecting facts about Ireland many years ago, and I’ve found that, no matter how many layers of Irish culture you peel back, there always seems to be another one beneath.

This list of Irish facts come from all sorts of places – from my Irish Nana (grandmother) who told me they used to call a young pig a “bonnif” in Roscommon where she grew up, to facts from Irish books, newspapers and websites I’ve looked through the years. I can’t absolutely guarantee the accuracy of each fact here, but I’ve made an effort to use trustworthy sources.

I hope you enjoy this survey of Irish culture, both old and new. The book is available here

Robert Sullivan