Ireland is just like you have probably imagined. It really does come with a storybook landscape of castles, sheer cliffs and swans gliding across looking-glass lakes. There are old-fashioned horse fairs, cozy pubs where fiddle music rings out into the night and seaside towns with houses painted all shades of the paint-box.
Green fields are hemmed with little stone walls. Cheery farmers wave at you from tractors. Narrow lanes are the haunt of stray sheep, stray cows and the occasional stray donkey. And you are never too far away from a beach, a fishing spot, a golf course or a literary gathering.
Today, lambs are gambolling in my neighbor’s meadow, primroses bloom in the hedgerows and robins and chaffinches are busy nest-building. It’s gorgeous…the kind of spring day that begs you to pull on boots and go for a hike.
One of the joys of living in Ireland are the changing seasons. Thanks to the Gulf Stream, it rarely gets bitterly cold. Even in winter, you can be out and about. Sure, there’s a rain shower now and again—but without them you would never see a rainbow.
Over the past couple of years, the price of property has returned to sensible levels. Whether you intend to buy or rent, you’re certain to find something to suit your budget.
Where to Live in Ireland
The difficult thing will be deciding where to settle. From the heathery mountains of Donegal down to the witchy-fingered peninsulas of Kerry, the entire western seaboard delivers a bonanza of scenic splendors. Connemara, the Aran Islands, Galway City, the Cliffs of Moher and the Ring of Kerry are all rightly on the tourist trail, but not so many visitors explore the historic seaside town of Westport or the myriad islands of Clew Bay in county Mayo. (There are supposedly 365 little islands—one for every day of the year.) Nor do many follow in the footsteps of the poet W.B. Yeats who was entranced by the legendary landscapes of county Sligo.
On the south coast, Cork is Ireland’s largest county. Along with the cultural delights of Cork City, its charms include the harbor town of Kinsale, noted for its gourmet restaurants and foodie weekends, color-washed Clonakilty with its hand-painted shop-fronts, and historic Youghal—and we do mean historic. Sir Walter Raleigh was its mayor back in 1588.
In the “sunny southeast,” the old Viking settlements of Waterford and Wexford are small cities with magnificent beaches on the doorstep. (If you enjoy opera, Wexford lays on an opera festival every October.) A short distance inland, Kilkenny is Ireland’s best-preserved medieval city, and the surrounding countryside is absolutely peppered with the timeworn ruins of abbeys and monasteries.
On the east coast you’ll find the Wicklow Mountains, neolithic Newgrange, and of course Dublin, Ireland’s vibrant capital. But don’t neglect to explore Ireland’s inland counties too. It’s not “a long way to Tipperary” at all—nor to counties Westmeath or Offaly or Roscommon. Many of the country’s best fishing loughs (lakes) are in the midlands, and the riverbank towns of the Shannon often have a history going back to the days of Saints and Scholars.
Ireland has so many wonderful locations, but the great thing about living here is that it’s a fairly compact island. So whether it’s for a day-trip or a weekend break, you’ll never be too far away to go and explore them all.
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- Population: 4,775,982
- Capital City: Dublin
- Climate: Temperate maritime; modified by North Atlantic Current; mild winters, cool summers; consistently humid; overcast about half the time
- Time Zone: GMT +00:00
- Language: English (Official), Irish (Official)
- Country Code: 353
If you’re considering a home in the Emerald Isle, now is a great time to buy. After years of price falls and stagnation, the property market is starting to come out of the doldrums. And for North American buyers, the currency exchange rate means that your dollars now go further than they have in a decade.
Before the automobile came along, people lived life on a more intimate scale. You shopped at the local butcher, baker, and grocer (whom you knew by name). The café downstairs, or down the street, was your second home, and its patrons your second family. You scheduled your day by how long it took to walk from place to place…and nobody was in a rush, anyway.
One of my favorite things about Ireland is its festivals. Then, of course, there’s the castles…and the gardens…and the music…and the people… I started out by researching my Irish ancestry and now I’ve been guiding tours to the island for 18 years. It’s a natural calling for me and I picked it up really quickly. Anyone can do it.
Ireland is about the best place I can think of for genuine hospitality. Folks speak English—which is a big plus—and hopping around Europe from your Emerald Isle retreat is a synch thanks to low-cost airlines. (For example, flights of a couple of hours to France cost from $80.) I’m sure you know the country’s real estate market took a beating during the crisis. It’s picking up, but there are still great-value properties to be uncovered.
September is a special time in the South African town of Hermanus. The end of this month heralds the arrival of giants just offshore, as the southern right whales return to mate and reproduce. You can get amazing views of these 50-ton behemoths from your hotel room, or catch one of the many chartered boats for an even closer look. Right whales are famously friendly and will often approach boats…a trait that made them an attractive target for the whalers of old. The waters off Hermanus are home to another, more terrifying denizen of the deep: the great white shark. And this is one of the best places in the world to get up close and personal with this awesome predator…from the safety of a cage, of course. For around $110, you can even get a cameraman to ﬁlm your dive for you.
Though the evenings come sooner and the cold is beginning to bite, there’s still enough sunlight in an Irish September to enjoy the splendor of the countryside. Summer leaves are fading to shades of brown, amber, and ﬁery orange. On the telegraph wires, swallows gather in preparation for their annual migration to southern Africa. I enjoy all four seasons in Ireland, from the ﬁrst winter snowdrops to the summer strawberries. But it’s days like today, the last vestiges of fading summer warmth before winter arrives in earnest, that you really appreciate walks in the countryside.
A cobbled square, an outdoor café, a sky full of stars. Vincent van Gogh’s Café Terrace At Night is laden with the romance of place—I always want to step into the picture and sit at one of the tables…drink a glass or two of wine…join the patrons in idle conversation. Van Gogh painted the picture during his time in Arles—a small city in Provence in the sunny south of France.
In the northwest corner of Spain you ﬁnd a land where the bagpipes, known locally as the gaita, is the preferred instrument, a hallmark of the region’s Celtic heritage. The Galicia province, one of the least-known Celtic nations, is littered with Celtic sites. These include ancient places of worship and stone huts similar to those found in other parts of the Celtic world. Festivals with Celtic origins continue to be celebrated. And the local language, Gallego, even has several words of Celtic origin. Today the region is an autonomous community within modern Spain.
Every Reek Sunday, the last Sunday in July, as many as 50,000 pilgrims clamber up Croagh Patrick’s stony slopes to a tiny oratory on the summit. Twenty years on, my feet still remember the day I joined them and reached the top of Ireland’s holiest mountain. Looming 2,507 feet over the coastal village of Murrisk in County Mayo, Croagh Patrick is affectionately known as “the Reek.” Legend tells that after fasting and praying on its summit for 40 days and nights, St. Patrick supposedly cast out Ireland’s snakes from this spot.
Ever wonder what it would be like to work with elephants for a day in the jungles of northern Thailand? At the Patara Elephant Camp, you can. Not all elephant camps are created equal but this is one of the highest on the list when it comes to ethics and dedicated mahouts (elephant handlers).
As a travel photographer, I stayed for free in a vacation rental, a charming little authentic cottage tucked away in the lush green countryside. I photographed the cottage and interesting things one might see and do, both in the immediate area of County Limerick and as far away as Dublin, for the same publication.
Right now the U.S. dollar buys more in Europe than it has in over a decade. It means that this is a smart time to buy property in certain markets—including Ireland, Portugal, and Italy—according to the live-overseas experts at InternationalLiving.com. A €100,000 property that would have cost $139,000 last March costs just $106,310 right now, a discount rendered by the currency-exchange rate alone. “In good-value markets that made sense at ‘full’ price, this favorable exchange rate is effectively putting properties on sale, and the bargains can be unbelievable. The timing is right for Europe today,” says InternationalLiving.com’s real estate expert Ronan McMahon.
Property markets in Europe are moving again—and right now you can find some great bargains in stunning settings. At time of writing, the U.S. dollar is strong which means you get more bang for your buck. In fact, your U.S. dollar buys you 24% more euros than it did this time last year. And, right now your dollar goes further in Europe than it has in over a decade. If you’re looking to buy real estate on the continent, now is the time to buy. A €100,000 property that would have cost you $139,000 last March costs $106,310 today, a discount rendered by the currency-exchange rate alone.
In the early and mid-2000s, Europe’s real estate markets embarked on a massive tear. People re-financed, often to buy a vacation home or make a speculative investment in Europe’s sunnier locales. Values rose and rose…until everything stopped. The market imploded and real estate owners found themselves deeply under water. By 2009, with a few exceptions, Europe’s real estate markets had halted. Transactions simply stopped. The gulf between sellers’ expectations and what buyers were willing to pay was so great that there was nowhere for them to meet. Now markets are moving again. And in four countries in particular—Ireland, Portugal, Greece and Spain—I see opportunity today. An added plus is the current strength of the U.S. dollar. At time of writing, your U.S. dollar buys you 24% more euros than it did in March 2014. Now, I’m not a currency guy, and I’m certainly not making a call on future euro-dollar exchange rates, but it makes European opportunities all the more attractive right now.
Imagine waking up in the morning and enjoying a leisurely cup of coffee before heading out your back door to get breakfast. You gather eggs from your hens. Tomatoes, peppers, and herbs, all from your kitchen garden, as well as homemade goat cheese, are added for an excellent omelet. The fresh-squeezed orange juice comes from your trees. Life in the cities and suburbs of the U.S. can mean being far removed from the origins of the food we eat. If you dream of getting back to the land, you’ll find hobby farms with fertile soil, ideal growing conditions, and great locations throughout the world.
“When looking at great retirement destinations overseas, low costs and affordable real estate may be well and good, but you need to feel at home,” says InternationalLiving.com editor Steenie Harvey. “How easy is it for expats to integrate into each country? Do the locals speak good English or do you need to speak the local language? Are the locals welcoming and friendly toward expats, and is there an existing expat community with lots of groups and clubs to join?” InternationalLiving.com’s just-released annual Global Retirement Index ranks and rates the best retirement havens in the world today in eight categories and Ireland, New Zealand, Malta and Belize each receive a perfect score of 100 in the Index’s “Fitting in” category.
Some things haven’t changed at all since I moved to Ireland. Friday night’s throb of bodhran drums in Cryan’s bar. The shy Sitka deer flitting out of the woods like shadow creatures from a Celtic twilight. The swans that come to over-winter on the loughs (lakes). The man with the van selling home-grown potatoes… Others things have changed. The house prices that soared ever upwards during the boom years have come now down, down, down. In Lakeland counties and villages along Ireland’s longest river—the Shannon—numerous properties are on the market for under $150,000.
The decade leading up to 2006 saw Ireland suffer through one of the biggest real estate bubbles on earth. The real estate market stalled in 2006/2007, amid rumors that transfer taxes were set to be reduced. Then in 2008 the crisis hit. In 2009, the global financial crisis rolled through, flattening Ireland’s entire banking sector and economy. In your July 2011 edition, I reported how Irish real estate was available at a discount of 80% on peak prices. Today, Ireland’s real estate market is bouncing back. News stories are filled with talk of housing shortages and fast-rising values. These reports are correct. There has been a strong surge in demand for family homes in desirable areas of Ireland’s main cities. The big buying opportunity here has passed, but right now Irish real estate is a tale of two markets.
When looking at great retirement destinations overseas, low costs and cheap real estate may be well and good, but you need to feel at home. How easy it is for expats to integrate into each country? Do the locals speak good English or do you need to speak the local language? Are the locals welcoming and friendly toward expats, and is there an existing expat community with lots of groups and clubs to join? Whether it’s through shared passions, shared learning experiences or volunteering, the easiest way to become part of a community or acquire a friendship network is to get involved in an outside-the-home activity. This will help tremendously with integrating.
My next trip is Las Vegas. No complaints—I’m one of those sinners who enjoys Sin City. The trip is for an International Living conference where I’ll speak on Italy and its sweet life. I’m not wearing my travel-writing hat for this conference, but I’ve visited Italy so many times—at least 20—I’ve gained a great insight into places unknown to the tourist hordes.
England is a magical place. The weather is unpredictable and this day was no different. The mists were heavy. The morning hours were marked by drizzling rain. The land around us was barren, exposed to the elements. Filled with stories of Merlin and the Giants of Mount Killaraus arranging stones on the open vista, we made our way to one of the medieval wonders of the world…Stonehenge. Overcome by the majesty of the sight before us, everything else seemed miniscule.
Pundits are divided on whether Spain’s property market will see further price falls. A huge overhang of unsold homes remains, but for the first time in seven years, sales in Málaga province showed an increase in 2013. Spain will always be a popular retirement destination for northern Europeans, and the number of U.S. citizens registered as living in Spain has increased, too.
Thanks to Europe’s financial and economic crisis, you’ll find some of the best real estate values in the best parts of Europe right now—and some of the best opportunities to profit. Specifically, the deals are to be found in Ireland, Portugal, and Spain. These places were hit hard by the crisis—and pricings finally reflect that.
We live in the wild west of County Cork. It offers the natural beauty and the rugged remoteness we desired. Because I am a professional artist, I wanted to be in an area rich in painting sites. The laid back lifestyle is a pleasant change from the hurriedness we felt at home.
Many folks in the know want Penang kept a secret. This tropical Malaysian island in the Andaman Sea is one of Southeast Asia’s most attractive retirement havens. For the expats already there it ticks every box…
What’s not to love about cultural riches and cobbled charms? Throughout most of Europe, the property market remains in the doldrums, which means you can find bargains. From the Atlantic to the Mediterranean…from Ireland to Greece, there’s a tempting array of move-into properties that will leave you change from €100,000 ($137,000).
It’s called the “Old World” for a reason, and despite two world wars and decades of development, history is evident in the architecture of Europe. You can stroll cobbled streets where lords and ladies once rushed to galas, climb castle steps in the footsteps of armored knights, and explore villages preserved for 500 years or more.
Visit the old royal capital of Kyoto, Japan, the weekend of June 1 for Takigi O-Noh to celebrate Japan’s ancient musical-theater traditions at the city’s Heian Jingu Shrine. Burning torches illuminate the stage and the costumed performers. Across the East China Sea, the Dragon Boat Festival in Xiamen, China, falls on June 2. Gorge on sticky-rice snacks, watch the race, and place a rice parcel in the water in memory of ancient poet Qu Yuan.
Do you like the idea of a life at sea…but only in short doses? Sunset cruises, fishing excursions, day trips, and the occasional long weekend jaunts to anchor off a remote island…? The ocean can be your playground.
Five months ago I spent two weeks scouting through Thailand—most of that was spent in Chiang Mai, for that is where the opportunity lies. This is a complicated market, as I explain in a special edition of Real Estate Trend Alert—ready to download here.
In this special edition, you’ll also discover… How to profit from inefficient markets… The condos in Medellin, Colombia that you should avoid… And lots more…
If you don’t hold a second passport yet, what’s stopping you? When you hold a second passport, a world of opportunities opens up to help you protect your finances, safeguard your privacy, and to grow your financial nest egg free from high taxes.
From 1993 to 1999, I traveled and lived all over the world. And during that time, I got to experience wonderful places like the white-sand beaches of the British Virgin Islands…the cafes of Aix-en-Provence, France…the wild summer parties of Corfu, Greece…the exotic culture of Bali, Indonesia…and more.
Recently, I attended a conference in a college which was introduced by a seasoned media veteran. He acknowledged the advances in technology by describing the whiz-kid students in the audience as “natives of the digital world” while he described his own generation as “digital tourists.”
A special edition of Real Estate Trend Alert—on my buy of the decade on the Riviera Maya. In this special edition, you’ll also discover…
What happens when unstoppable tourism demand meets limited land opportunities… The excellent protection offered by Brazilian “reciprocity” contracts (I just got a check for $20,000)… A new real estate investment trust in Ireland… The opportunity in retirement care in Ecuador… Incentives to invest in Panama City’s 341-year-old historic quarter…
When moving abroad, renting a place to stay is an attractive option that offers a lot of advantages, whether you’re headed to Costa Rica, Malaysia, France, Mexico, Ecuador, Ireland…or any country. If you plan to buy or build a home eventually, renting allows you to investigate a region and/or community…or several…before you put down roots. You don’t want to be stuck in a neighborhood, region, or home you don’t like.
If Ireland tugs at your heartstrings, Galway is a wonderful retirement location. On the west coast, this historic maritime city combines a modern urban lifestyle with scenic beauty, deep-rooted traditions, and a staggering array of activities. Whether your passion is for the outdoors, the arts, traditional music, horse-racing—or a combination of them all—you’ll be spoiled for choice. And Connemara is on the doorstep. Established as a National Park in 1980, this unspoiled region of stone walls…
Sitting alongside the banks of the River Garonne in southwest France, the red-tile-roofed city of Toulouse hosts its annual Flamenco Festival from April 1 to 15, with local venues filled with music and dance throughout. Another marathon-length event to consider begins its 18-day run in Jaipur, India, on April 2.
Is Malta the Safest Bet in Real Estate You Can Make Today? Could Be…Case Study: The Last Great Crisis Investment in Ireland…The Window is Closing on Our “Spanish Triple”…Burma—New Condominium Law that Allows Foreign Ownership…Will U.S. Flights Ever Land at Planned New Airports in Costa Rica and Nicaragua?…The Latin Currencies That Mean a Buying Opportunity for You…And More.
Not the safest religious tradition we’ve ever heard of, but the Fire Wheel Festival in Sinca Noua, located near the city of Brasov, Romania, does sound like quite a sight. Celebrating the start of Orthodox Lent on March 3, the village asks its young men to roll hay wheels to the top of a local hill before each wheel is set alight. What follows is a true feast with music, drinking, and dancing.
Its parks are filled with roses, myrtle and the sound of nightingales. Water still splashes and trickles over marble fountains in the courtyards of its kings… “A pearl among emeralds” was how Moorish poets once described the royal palace of the Alhambra. It was from here that Spain’s last Muslim kingdom, Granada, was ruled and it’s just one of the gems you’ll find in Andalusia, Spain’s huge southern province.