1) The Wild Atlantic Way
The Gathering was Tourism Ireland’s big play in 2013. This year it’s The Wild Atlantic Way, a spectacular new touring route following 2,500km of the western seaboard from Inishowen to Kinsale. Expect a big splash at the official launch in April. wildatlanticway.net.
2) Waterford 1100
Waterford (or should that be Vadrarfjordr?) celebrates its 1100th birthday this year. Ireland’s oldest city was founded by Vikings in 914AD, and the highlight of a busy year looks like a major new midsummer festival (June 21-22), but there’s plenty else besides. waterford1100.com.
3) The Battle of Clontarf
The Battle of Clontarf took place on Good Friday in 1014, and anniversary events planned for this Easter include an exciting, real-life enactment in St Anne’s Park on April 19th and 20th. Historical exhibitions and talks will run throughout the year, with a special Viking Big Dig in Dublinia at Easter. clontarf.ie.
4) Dive into the Blueway
You’ve heard of The Great Western Greernway, now get ready for Ireland’s Blueway. The new marine-trail is set to open in 2014 in Co Mayo and Galway, with canoeing/kayaking and snorkelling experiences in Achill, Old Head in Louisburgh, Killary Harbour, Inishbofin Harbour, Glassilaun Beach near Renvyle and Mannin Bay, just outside Clifden. See Discoverireland.ie for more on Ireland Travel 2014.
5) 40 Years of Ireland’s Blue Book
Ireland’s Blue Book celebrates its 40th Anniversary in 2014, with new additions including Thornton’s Restaurant, Clare Island Lighthouse and Liss Ard Estate. Life begins at 40, so expect lots of anniversary deals throughout the year. Irelands-blue-book.ie.
6) Limerick: City of Culture 2014
Ok, limerick’s big year suffered an inauspicious beginning, but surely things can only get better from here. Ireland’s first ever National City of Culture has a packed programme of events, and I reckon this could finally be the year The Treaty City starts to seriously compete with Cork, Belfast, Galway and Kilkenny for visitors. Limerickcityofculture.ie.
7) Ballymaloe at 50
Ballymaloe celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2014, a fitting time to recognise one of the most seminal food and hospitality brands this country has produced. Supper clubs will be run every Tuesday, but the biggest celebration of all will be the Ballymaloe Litfest, for which René Redzepi has been confirmed. Liftfest.ie.
8) Arthur’s Way, Co. Kildare
Kildare Fáilte and Kildare County Council are teaming up to launch “Arthur’s Way” in Spring 2014. The route includes the birthplace of Arthur Guinness at Celbridge, the locations of his first brewing experiences and Oughterard, his final resting place. The Way is based on Patrick Guinness’s book, Arthur’s Round. Intokildare.ie.
9) Kilkenny’s Medieval Mile
The magical strip linking Kilkenny’s castle and cathedral has always been there (well, since medieval times anyway), but this year it’s upgrading to a whole other level. The Medieval Mile, which could launch as early as spring, will focus on the city’s rich history and include a new museum in St. Mary’s Church. 2014 also sees a new Smithwicks Experience open in Kilkenny. Visitkilkenny.ie.
10) Ryanair’s Allocated Seating
It’s not a birthday, or a new brand. But the gob-smacking extent of Ryanair’s new charm offensive merits inclusion anyway. Customer service improvements continues with the introduction of allocated seating on all flights from February 1st. Selecting a seat during the booking process costs €5-€10, but seats allocated at check-in (from seven days to two hours before the flight) are free. Ryanair.com