Long gone are the days when Ireland was one of the poorest countries in Europe and its natives fled to all corners of the globe in search of refuge.
Today, it is cool to be Irish and, thanks to the likes of The Corrs, Boyzone and U2, evocative images of Ireland now pervade popular culture across the globe.
The Ireland of the new millennium is a modern, progressive European nation whose ‘Celtic Tiger’ economy is booming, but it is not only Irish eyes that are smiling as more and more tourists discover Ireland for themselves.
Landscape and people are what bring most visitors to Ireland. Once there, few are disappointed by the reality of the stock Irish images - the green, rain-hazed loughs and wild, bluff coastlines, the inspired talent for talk and conversation, the easy pace and rhythms of life. What is perhaps more of a surprise is how much variety this very small land packs into its countryside.
Since March 2004 almost all places of work, including bars, restaurants, cafés etc, in Ireland have been smoke-free. Hotels and Bed&Breakfast are not required by law to be smoke-free, but many are.