Ireland has so much going for it as a holiday destination, and it’s easy to forget that considering it’s just a short hop across the sea. If you’re looking for a relaxing holiday somewhere beautiful, though, there’s a lot of charm to a place that doesn’t cost the earth, is quick to get to and doesn’t require you to dust off your A-Level French or German.

In fact, that’s damning Ireland with faint praise. The whole island is filled with spots that grab you by the wrist and demand your attention. The greenery, the small towns and the buzzing cities all have a real pull and once you come back, you’ll be aching to return there. Interested? Then have a look at some possible destinations and get planning.

Belfast

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First up, a place where you won’t even need to calculate exchange rates. Belfast is in Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK — but it’s got a character that mixes the best of British and Irish to make it one of the finest cities in Europe for a family holiday.

The shopping is excellent – get yourself to Victoria Square and Castle Court and pick up a few bargains. For some culture, pick one of the many museums here — the Titanic Museum is well worth the visit, and the area around it has been regenerated into the Titanic Quarter, a thriving slice of the city filled with attractions. Then head back to the city and experience fine dining Irish style. Irish stew, Ulster Fry, or something a bit more esoteric? The choice is yours.

Cork

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The people of Cork have a saying: “Irish by birth, Cork by the grace of God”. This irritates people from elsewhere in Ireland, and might seem arrogant to you until you visit Cork. It really is a gem. Like many of Ireland’s cities, it’s on the coast, and the waterfront areas are beautiful. Nearby, you’ll find Blarney Castle, home to the stone of the same name. Legend has it that if you kiss the stone, you’ll be blessed with the “Gift of the Gab” — which given that most of Ireland’s history has been passed down orally, may be true!

Head back to the city for the night time, which is a special experience. Take your choice from some fine lodgings, including two of the best Maldron Hotels in Ireland, and check out Main Street’s great pubs. There’s live ceilidh music most nights, which is a thing you must experience if you’re on the Emerald Isle.

Dublin

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Finally, the capital city. Dublin has everything that a city needs: it’s soaked in history, some of it tragic and some more uplifting; it’s beautiful, with busy streets lining the banks of the Liffey; most of all, it’s one of Europe’s most vibrant capitals. There’s shopping to be done, and plenty of places to give your credit card a workout. Of course, there are also pubs — a pint of Guinness in Temple Bar is more or less a rite of passage for holidaymakers here.

On top of all that, if you want culture, Dublin has it in spades. Once home to Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw and W.B. Yeats, there’s a poetry and a linguistic charm to Dublin reflected in museums to all of those names. In short, it’s a perfect place to round off a trip to a part of the world that will leave you wanting more.