Ultimate Guide to Irish Regions
There is no denying that the island of Ireland is a magical place. Rolling green hills, stunning scenery, and bustling, vibrant cities combine to create a region steeped in history, mystery, and excitement.
But just how good is your geography? Can you tell your Leinster from your Munster, and distinguish Ulster from Wicklow? How about figuring out where the hell Northern Ireland starts, and just how can County Antrim be half and half?
If the answer is hazy, we are here to help! Read on for our ultimate guide to Irish regions, and make sure you can answer every query with confidence!
The first thing to note is that the geographic regions of Ireland are simultaneously related to and separate from politics. For the purposes of this piece, we will be focusing primarily on geographic history, the central regions which have existed throughout time, and which remain roughly accurate to this day.
In short, there are four primary provinces of Ireland. These four counties consist of Leinster to the East, Munster to the South, Connaught to the West, and Ulster to the north. These provinces were designated in the 17th century by King James I. They are now primarily understood in historical and cultural terms, as opposed to holding a particular political affiliation.
The division of the regions into these primary four provinces was merely one chapter in the tumultuous history of Ireland; before this act, the island was ruled by kingdoms; the start of the 9th century saw Airgílla, Connachta, Laigan, Northern Uí Néill (Ailech), Southern Uí Néill (Mide), Mumu, and Ulaid listed, and this altered and changed throughout the medieval period as kings fought for dominance.
The Norman invasion changed the goalposts again, with Connacht, Desmumum Login, Mide, Tusd Mumu, and Uliad combining to create Connacht, Desmond, Leinster, Meath, Thomond, and Ulster.
By the time the 17th century rolled around, the boundaries had changed again, and James set down the perimeters in 1610.
Today, there are seven recognized regions. Each has its own unique charms and quirks and offers its own advantages for tourists and natives alike.
The modern regions are as follows:
The South West Region
The South West region is home to Cork and Kerry, two of the most picturesque and famous counties in Ireland. The region is overrun with ancient history, from the Skelligs to the Ring of Kerry, the Dingle Peninsula to Blarney Castle.
This region is the area to head to for major history buffs, and a fantastic opportunity to step back in time.
The Shannon Region
This area is a region renowned for the finest traditional Irish music and covers Limerick and Clare. Here lies the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren region, as well as stunning rural views, Bunratty castle, and a chance to really get back to nature and surround yourself in some truly breathtaking beauty.
The South East Region
The south east of Ireland is home to the oldest city in the country, Waterford. This area is a blend of rich history and culture, including the internationally famous Waterford Crystal, as well as a dive into the ancient relics of the land.
The Carlow Celtic relics are housed here, as well as the Rock of Cashel in Tipperary and the medieval beauty of Kilkenny. Get up close and personal with the medieval past as you track down the High Crosses of Ireland, each with their own unique story and personality.
The annual Waterford Opera festival is beloved by fans and makes the South East region a hotbed of amazing culture and historical significance.
The West Region
The West Region is home to Galway, a name that is often synonymous with Ireland. If you are on the hunt for super romantic scenery, wild, rugged landscapes, and breathtaking coastlines, this is the place for you.
Lose yourself in the beauty of the Connemara National Park or the Aran Islands, and take the chance to get back to nature with an epic walk.
The East Coast and Midlands
This region covers an enormous area, consisting of a total of 8 famous counties. Kildare, Longford, Laois, Louth, Offaly, Meath, Westmeath and Wicklow make up the region, full of gorgeous inland landscapes. This area is also home to Dublin, an incredible, diverse city full of culture and history – and the perfect place to try that must-have Guinness!
The Midlands is also home to the Hill of Tara – the seat of the High Kings in Meath. This is an amazing opportunity to return to the roots of Irish civilization, and a visit to Newgrange is an essential trip for a truly humbling, magnificent experience.
The North West
Head up to the North West of the country for an eclectic array of villages. This area is consistently regarded the most romantic of Ireland. The coastline of Donegal gently wraps around the inland areas of Cavan, Leitrim and Monaghan – a haven for lakes, mountains and lengthy walking trails. This is a chance to escape from the city and lose yourself in the wild, unspoiled wilderness of natural Ireland.
Don’t allow the bad press of Northern Ireland to cloud your judgment; this is, without doubt, one of the most beautiful regions of the island of Ireland. The entire area is steeped in incredible history. The beautiful city of Belfast is a center any country would be proud of.
Head further north to Derry to surround yourself in living history. This majestic walled city is encased by the stunning Glenshane mountains, and some of the friendliest people you could hope to meet! Carry on heading north, you take in the Giant’s Causeway, a World Heritage site with incredible views. Then, enjoy a sunset over the Mourne Mountains.
If you are a Game of Thrones fan, don’t forget to head out to Antrim to get up close and personal with unmissable landscapes and must-see experiences!
Trip of A Lifetime
If you’re planning a trip to Ireland, of course you need some Irish gear! If visiting the Emerald Isle is just a dream, stock up on some Irish things, instead.
Some of our favorite Irish things are:
- Irish flag
- Irish kilt pin
- An Irish belt buckle that goes with any outfit
- Claddagh earrings, necklace, or ring
- Irish scarf
- Irish pub glass
There is no denying that taking a trip to Ireland is a life-changing experience. By getting to know the nuances of each region and the history of the provinces, you can take the chance to really enjoy the scenery, check out some incredible cities, and head back in time with amazing artifacts and historic sites. Time to explore!