Pre-Trip Homework

Updated: Feb 15

Update: 20-May 2016

This blog is for those who believe trip preparation is as much fun as the trip. The subject is not about putting together an itinerary, hopefully my other blogs and travel websites help with that. I've assembled a list of things to better prepare you for the Culture and History of Ireland. In other words, this is your pre-trip World Cultures and History Class homework... But this will be much more fun than when you were in Middle School (6th class)!

I will now add the usual disclaimer: This is my opinion and is colored by my preferences. I'm assuming the average visitor is visiting Ireland to see the scenery, experience the culture, and learn a little history. I can't really help with preparation for the scenery other than to say bring good walking shoes and a good rain jacket, but I can help prepare for immersion into the culture and history of Ireland.

Additional disclaimer: The homework language and subject content is a little PG-13…. since Ireland is a little (or a lot) PG-13.


Music is everywhere in Ireland, and you should be able to experience it every evening if you want. Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons are very popular for Trad Sessions (a blog all about Trad Sessions later) but you will find them all week in the larger cities. Below is a sampler of some of the music you will hear in pubs. In addition, you may end up with a cover band doing American music... usually pretty good, but not why you came to Ireland.

The first recommendation is the Dubliners singing "The Fields of Athenry" (Athenry is where we live)

For some strange reason the sports fans sing The Fields of Athenry at the end of (and during) sporting matches ... especially when they are losing as in this video.

A Second song that you will hear often is "Galway Girl", a very popular song in Galway County and in particular Galway city.

This link is closer to the version one hears in a pub ... since the show isn't over until the band has played Galway Girl. Some would call this encore ... "wishful thinking" 😉

Delores Keane is sometimes called the Voice of Ireland. One of her famous songs is "Caledonia". Caledonia is a term the Romans used to refer to Scotland and the song (at least to me) is all about immigration. Delores Keane has been prolific. You can find most of her releases on iTunes.

Here are a couple more to enjoy:

Black Velvet Band ... things can be complicated in Ireland

And here are a couple of Irish jigs that you might hear in a Trad Session at a pub:

This is an Irish Reel that would also be played in a Trad Session, see if you can tell the difference... if you can, you're doing better than me. Here's another one that is one of my favorites.

See if you can find some examples of more modern Irish performers including Christy Moore, Glen Hansard, Van Morrison, and U2 (and Bono).


The Irish are very much into sports as participants, spectators, and punters(gamblers). The Gaelic sports are the most popular, followed by Rugby and European Football (soccer).

The Gaelic sports consists of Hurling, Gaelic Football, and Handball. Hurling and Gaelic Football are the most popular. The fanaticism is similar to Texas High School football. For example, you may show up to a small village on a Sunday afternoon and find it deserted ... and then you'll hear a crowd roaring just outside the village at the local GAA(Gaelic Athletic Association) pitch (field).

Here are a few links that give a little overview of Hurling and Gaelic Football, the two most popular Gaelic Sports

Here is a video of a Hurling Match (not a game)

Rugby is played professionally and semi-professionally throughout Ireland. It is similar to American Football ... but NOT. Here is a link.


Throughout my blogs I recommend many, many historical sights. Having an initial historical context is essential to not being totally confused. I've found reading "A Short History of Ireland" by Richard Killeen to be very helpful... if you read this, you will still be confused, but much less so. It is short; about 3 or 4 hours of reading, or about 1 or 2 pages per century. Definitely an overview.

If you want more in-depth info, but you don't want to read a "boring" text book, I would recommend two historical novels by Daniel Rutherford: The Princes of Ireland, and

The Rebels of Ireland. The Princes of Ireland starts at creation and ends at about the 1750's. The Rebels of Ireland starts about 1750 and goes through modern times. If you have the time, I would recommend both, but you can decide what period of history suits you best. They stand alone.

Newgrange Stone Age Passage Tomb talked about extensively in The Princes of Ireland

Newgrange Stone Age Passage Tomb

talked about extensively in The Princes of Ireland

Patrick Pearse speech re-enactment

at Glasnevin Cemetery

There are also several excellent movies to watch. My favorites for entertainment are Waking Ned Devine and My Left Foot. Waking Ned Devine is just a fun movie, and gives some insight to the Irish culture and character. My Left Foot is very uplifting and inspiring. Both of these are worth watching even if you are not planning to visit Ireland.

After getting a little historical context, watch “The Wind that Shakes the Barley” …. This is the best treatment I've seen of the Irish revolution and the subsequent civil war. It is a dark movie, but very enlightening. There are a few "grim scenes" where you can skip forward if you have a queasy stomach.

Michael Collins is a movie from 1996 that I haven't seen yet. I've heard good's the trailer. Michael Collins was a leader in the Irish war of independence from the U.K. The movie has a long list of stars including: Liam Neeson, Aidan Quinn, Stephen Rea, Alan Rickman, Julia Roberts.

GPO as seen in Michael Collins and referred to in Rebels of Ireland

If you want more homework, I wrote a blog in September of 2013 (check out the archives) that has a more extensive list of Irish books, movies, and TV shows.

This should be enough to keep you excited while stitching together your trip itinerary.

See You In The Pub!

Jet Lag Jack

[10-February Update: minor English and wording corrections]

[20-May Update: minor format and wording corrections]

[15-February Update: fix broken links]

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