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Ireland is divided into four provinces, which mostly bear historical significance today as administration is organized on a county level today. But the provinces keep their importance, especially when it comes to sport events and local identity.
“Cúige Chonnacht” - the land of the descendants of Conn is located in the West and Northwest of Ireland and is made of the counties Galway, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon and Sligo. Historically, the province was the poorest in Ireland with wide areas covered with poor soils and bogs. During the famine in the 1840’s, the area was hardest hit resulting in high immigration.
Today, the province forms the cultural heart of Ireland, where
nearly 40% of the population speak Gaelic/Irish in everyday life and efforts center around the conservation of traditional cultural heritage. The main city of Galway is a young and vibrant university town art and music festivals take place all around summer. The image of the traditional Irish pub with seemingly effortless and spontaneous live music can best be met in Galway and the surrounding area. Galway is also the gateway to Connemara, the former poor house of Ireland has become a popular touring destination and visitors are drawn by the beautiful unspoiled scenery with golden bogs dotted by deep loughs, a stunning rugged coastline and countless sheep flocking around roads and pastures.
Connacht is home to the Connemara and the Ballycroy National Park and the beautiful rugged coastline continues all the way up to Co. Sligo. The coast is shaped by small islands, lonely peninsulas and dramatic cliffs while the land is characterized by traditional small towns and villages, prehistoric settlements and relics and iconic mountains.
“Cúige Laighean” or Leinster is located in the East and Southeast of Ireland and is comprised of the counties Carlow, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, Offaly, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow.
Over 50% of the Irish population lives in Leinster and the Irish capital Dublin is by far the biggest city in the province and on the whole island with nearly a third of the whole population of Ireland living in Dublin City and the
surrounding Co. Dublin.
The area North of Dublin is rich in historical heritage with the Hill of Tara, the ancient seat of the high Kings of Ireland, and valley tombs of Newgrange and Knowth in Co Meath dating back to 5,000 years ago. The tombs contain some of the largest assemblage of megalithic art in Western Europe and have been recognized by the UNESCO in 1993.
To the South, the Dublin mountains and Wicklow Mountains National Park border on the capital. The mountains are a popular recreational destination with plenty of choice for outdoor activities and the area is also home to the historic monastic site of Glendalough. Further South, the medieval towns of Enniscorthy, Kilkenny and Wexford tell tales of Norman and Viking history.
Munster - “Cúige Mumhan” - encompasses the Southern and Southwestern counties of Clare, Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford. Munster is home to Ireland’s largest centers outside Dublin - Cork and Limerick - the first being the center of the home ruling efforts in Ireland in the late 19th and early 20th century.
Munster is world-known for its iconic scenery like the Ring of Kerry, the Dingle peninsula or the Cliffs of Moher in County
Clare and the area is home to the Burren and Killarney National Parks.The most Southern point of Ireland lies at Mizen Head in West Cork and Slea Head on the Dingle peninsula marks the most Western point in Europe! Munster has a long tradition in Irish folk music, which is still alive in the traditional pubs and many historic castles and monasteries are spread across the province. From Kinsale in Co Cork all the way up to Galway, the coastline is mapped on the Wild Atlantic Way touring route. Cork is also known for its gastronomic specialties and especially Kinsale has made itself a name as the gourmet capital of Ireland. Waterford in the Southeast of Munster is worth a visit for its Norman heritage and the famous Waterford crystal.
“Cúige Uladh” - Ulster - covers the Northern part of Ireland and besides the Northern Irish counties of Antrim, Armagh, Derry, Down, Fermanagh and Tyrone also includes the Irish counties Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal.
English and Scottish Protestants have been settling in the area since the early 17th century and the so-called Ulster plantation later became the foundation of the Northern Ireland conflict.
The province encompasses areas of great natural beauty, including the Glenveagh National Park in Donegal, the Mourne Mountains in Antrim, the lakelands in Fermanagh and the beautiful Antrim coastline leading up to the world-famous Giant’s Causeway. Ulster is also home to an abundance of megalithic and early Christian monuments.
Besides it’s troubled history, the Northern-Irish capital Belfast is world-famed as the birth-place of the Titanic and surprises visitors with an exciting and vibrant cultural and arts scene.