Ireland Shopping and nightlife
Shopping in Ireland
Ireland does souvenirs well. Special purchases include hand-woven tweed, hand-crocheted woollens and cottons, sheepskin goods, gold and silver jewellery, Aran knitwear, linen, pottery, Irish crystal and basketry.
You’ll find no shortage of rather less classy knick-knacks too, particularly in the heavily touristed areas. If you want nothing more than to fill your luggage with leprechaun hats, inflatable shamrocks and poor-quality U2 T-shirts, there’ll be opportunity aplenty.
Slightly more meaningful gifts might include a copy of James Joyce’s Ulysses from an Irish bookshop, a bottle of Jameson or Bushmills whiskey from their home distilleries, or Irish salmon.
In more general shopping terms, Ireland has a lot to offer. Pre-credit crunch, Dublin’s Henry Street was said to be the busiest shopping street in Europe, and the capital is still a great place to hunt around for fashion items and one-off crafts. Yes, there are familiar global chain stores throughout the centre, but you’ll also uncover some superb independent shops selling high-quality locally sourced goods.
Cork and Galway, too, are further examples of cities with strong shopping potential. There’s an arty spirit in a great number of Ireland’s larger settlements, in fact, which usually translates into at least a handful of specialist outlets, whether focused on music, antiques or leisurewear.
Under the 'Retail Export Scheme', it is possible to claim VAT back on some goods bought in Ireland on leaving the EU. For further information, contact the VAT Interpretation Branch, Stamping Building, Dublin Castle, Dublin 2 (tel: (1) 674 8858; www.revenue.ie).
Mon-Sat 0900-1730/1800. Many towns have a late night opening on Thursday or Friday until 2000/2100 and smaller towns may have one early closing day a week. On Sunday, main shopping centres and some of the larger department stores open 1200-1700/1800. Many smaller supermarkets in towns and villages also open.
Nightlife in Ireland
Most towns in Ireland have clubs, bars and pubs with live music. It is still reasonably common to find pubs holding a seisún (a live session of traditional Irish music) – if you hit the right pub on the right night, the experience can be a hugely enjoyable one. Despite the informal, improvised nature of the music, the sessions themselves are usually scheduled, so ask around wherever you happen to be staying. They take place in villages, towns and cities, and usually last several hours.
For those after some electronic entertainment, the dancehalls and discos of previous eras have now been replaced with clubs similar to those found throughout the UK and western Europe. Special events and themed nights often take place at large attractions such as the medieval banquet at Bunratty Castle in the Shannon region, and there’s a good choice of theatres and cinemas.
Ireland is also a rewarding place for gig-goers. Cities like Dublin and Cork attract more than their fair share of touring and home-grown bands. Check websites like www.totallydublin.ie and www.corkgigs.ie for listings.
On a more basic note, the best of Ireland’s pubs remain quite wonderful places to while away an evening over a pint or five. Where there are stone floors, peat fires and pints of the black stuff, there are good times to be had.