The Emerald Isle - Golf and Much More
You are here, of course, for the golf, for The Ryder Cup, for the experience of watching the leading golfers from Europe and the USA compete for the greatest prize in the sport. But you can also do much more on this visit to Ireland and when you next return to our Emerald Isle.
Play golf, for instance. Here in the Ryder Cup region of the East Coast and Midlands, and throughout the country, you will find some of the great golf courses of Europe. You are here to experience the scenic beauty and challenging courses at The K Club, home of The 2006 Ryder Cup and the Smurfit Kappa European Open Championship. Close by is Carton House, host of this year's Nissan Irish Open, and you are just a short drive from Druids Glen which has been the venue for The Seve Trophy.
Indeed, Ireland is dotted with more than 400 golf courses, including 40 percent of all the genuine links courses on the planet. World famous courses like Ballybunion, Lahinch, Old Head of Kinsale, Killarney, Baltray and Portmarnock are strung around the coast like a golfing necklace, while magnificent parkland courses, including some designed by legends like Jack Nicklaus, Colin Montgomerie, Seve Ballesteros and our own Christy O'Connor Jnr. are to be found in almost every county of the land. We Irish have taken golf to our hearts. More people than ever, of all ages and from all walks of life, are now playing the game, encouraged by the superb facilities and inspired by the successes of elite Irish golfers like Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley. Of course, we love the social side of the game and like nothing better than welcoming visitors to our golf courses. The Irish golfing experience is also most accessible, with green fees pitched at affordable levels everywhere. For instance, you can play three of the great courses in the Ryder Cup region, The K Club, PGA National and Carton House, by buying a Kildare Quality Golf Passport for €300.
For some visitors, the ideal Irish holiday comprises golf and scenery, golf and food, golf and socialising and - golf. Ireland, however, also has much more to offer the sporting tourist. This is in many ways the Island of the Horse. Racing takes place several times a week at high quality tracks throughout the country, including the famous Curragh which is very close to The K Club and is home to the Budweiser Irish Derby and, for that matter, The Shelbourne Hotel Goffs Million - the richest two-year-old race in Europe run on Ryder Cup Race Day on Tuesday, September 19. From Leopardstown in Dublin to Fairyhouse in Meath and Punchestown in Kildare, you will find great racing throughout the year, including famous racing festivals at Galway, Tralee, Listowel and other locations. Punchestown is also the home of eventing in this region and we have a full calendar of equestrian sports, including the world-famous Dublin Horse Show in August. And if your preference is greyhounds - you will find them racing in modern stadia on most nights of the week.
The Irish have been described as being 'sports mad' - and we are. You can join us as we converge on Croke Park in Dublin and Gaelic Athletic Association stadia around the country to cheer on our counties in our own national games of hurling and Gaelic Football, which are unique in the world of sport. You will find us too at Lansdowne Road supporting the Irish team in the Six Nations, the Rugby World Cup or the Heineken European Cup. We play hockey and cricket, squash and basketball, polo and tug-o-war, frequently hosting international events in these and many other sports.
For the more leisurely visitor, Irish lakes and rivers beckon the angler and sports fishers in search of salmon, trout and many other freshwater fish, while our coastline provides a rich harvest for sea fishing. But you can be active on the coast too, surfing the waves or sailing on the Atlantic Ocean or Irish Sea.
The most popular outdoor activity among visitors to Ireland, however, is walking. Quiet roads, way marked paths and the unique Irish landscape open up the hills and valleys, the canal banks and the network of forest walks and National Parks.
Travelling throughout Ireland, be it on foot, on bike, on horseback or by more conventional means such as car or train, enables the visitor to engage with the rich heritage of a land that has been populated for more than 6,000 years. Megalithic monuments, like the unique burial chamber at Newgrange in County Meath or the pre-historic farm at the Ceide Fields in County Mayo, conjure up graphic images of a distant past. The Celtic era is recalled through a web of monastic settlements like those at Glendalough in Wicklow and Clonmacnoise on the banks of the River Shannon. Add the many Norman keeps, mediaeval castles, historic churches and cathedrals and the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian houses which are to be found in our cities and towns to complete a rich tapestry of living history.
You can sample the richness of Irish culture, too, by calling at the many Visitor Attractions to be found at historic sites, by visiting museums, art galleries and heritage centres, by attending Irish traditional music festivals (Fleadhs), by experiencing Irish theatre and dance and, of course, by visiting any of Ireland's 10,000 pubs where you will find that special mixture of conversation, fun, music, food and drink that we Irish call 'craic'. Ireland is also known in Europe as the 'Food Island' and is home to an array of restaurants, ranging from Michelin star properties to simple bistros and coffee shops, serving menus based on the produce of our farms and the catch of our fishermen.
Ireland is a land of open roads, including several new motorways, of more than 1,000 registered hotels and guest houses, of many more bed and breakfast homes, of farms where you can stay and even help out, of self catering accommodation, of horse-drawn caravans and river cruisers, of health retreats and spas - of accommodation to meet every visitor requirement. It is a land of history and heritage, of culture and art, of sport and activity - and, most of all, a land of people. It is no accident that the traditional Irish greeting of 'Cead Mile Failte' means 'One Hundred Thousand Welcomes'.
You will find these 'Welcomes' at The K Club this week, at the golf courses where you might play golf during this, or your next visit, in the pubs of Dublin and Kildare and wherever you choose to socialise and stay during The 2006 Ryder Cup.
Sunday Video Recap
Check out all the great highlights from Sunday's European victory. Watch