Ireland has been named one of the top countries to visit next year thanks in part to the success of the Wild Atlantic Way.
Tourist and traveller guide Lonely Planet put us at number five on its 2015 must-see destinations with a overview of festivals and culture designed to “separate blarney from the bumkum”.
The top billing gives a glowing review of Ireland as the “real deal”.
The 1,500km Wild Atlantic Way is described as a scenic drive which is being sold as a rival to California’s Pacific Coast Highway and Australia’s Great Ocean Road.
“It snakes its way round every nook and crook of the western seaboard from Donegal to Cork – start your journey with a feast of crab claws in Inishowen and reward your endeavours with some smoked salmon in Kinsale,” it says.
“Along the way, explore Connemara, the Aran Islands, the music bars of Co Clare and the scenic splendours of Co Kerry. Go west.”
Travel writer Fionn Davenport penned the review for Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015.
In it he says the economy remains the big talking point, and finding who should be blamed for the meltdown.
“As the country reels from five years of body blows, it’s trying to figure out why, how and, especially, who,” he says.
Lonely Planet said the selected countries and cities were picked because there is something special next year to draw travellers or a recent development or buzz about the place, or because Lonely Planet regards it as up-and-coming and urges travellers to get there before the crowds.
It says: “Ireland is stunningly scenic, its traditions – music, dance, whiskey and beer – firmly intact and the cosmopolitan, contemporary Irish are just as friendly and welcoming as their forebears were known to be.”
Among the highlights singled out are the St Patrick’s Day Festival, any time in the summer in Galway, All-Ireland finals and the Ennis Trad Festival.
But it also reserves a special mention for “Ireland’s quirkiest festival” the Puck Fair in Killorglin, Co Kerry, where it says “a goat is crowned king and everybody drinks for three days”.
Other recommendations include surfing on Rossnowlagh beach in Donegal, a cross country walk “on a soft Sunday” or a pint and a chat in a local pub.
Lonely Planet again points to hospitality being the key to Ireland’s continued success on the tourism front.
“The Irish themselves are inevitably at the heart of the best the country has to offer,” it says.
Lonely Planet spokeswoman Noirin Hegarty added: “With the Wild Atlantic Way now fully open and a new sense of optimism surging through the country, 2015 really is the time to go to Ireland.
“The country’s stunning landscape and incredible hospitality are on par with the globe’s top tourist destinations. Ireland should be on everyone’s must-visit list.”
Ireland featured fifth on the list of top countries ahead of Republic of Congo, Serbia, The Philippines, St Lucia and Morocco.
Singapore took the top spot ahead of Namibia, Lithuania and Nicaragua.
English city Salisbury was recognised as being one of the best cities to visit next year as it celebrates the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta.
Washington, DC takes the number one spot, followed by El Chalten in Argentina.