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There’s something about Ireland that inspires worldwide wonder and affection, and that global affinity will be celebrated this year. It’s called The Gathering Ireland 2013. It’s a yearlong opportunity to connect with this small yet majestic island. A nonstop series of events and festivals that will bring all aspects of Ireland – culture, music, the arts, sports, and heritage – to glorious indelible life.

Appropriately named the land of One Hundred Thousand Welcomes, Ireland is one of the friendliest countries I’ve ever visited. I remember standing on a corner in Dublin with a map in hand when I felt a tap on my shoulder, “Miss,” said the cheery older gentleman, “Do you need help getting somewhere?” Those sorts of encounters popped up throughout the country so I quickly learned it wasn’t a one-off experience.

For my clients, there are three preferred ways to visit and explore this fairly compact island (about the size of Ohio):  an escorted tour with a group, chauffeur drive vacation or a self-drive holiday. The most popular, by far, is the self-drive vacation. Accommodations range from B&B’s to in-town hotels to historic properties and castle stays, so customizing a self-drive Ireland holiday really allows travelers to create a vacation based on their personal tastes and preferences.

My trip highlights included a visit to Avoca Handweaving Mill (a longtime Irish family-owned business, and I still have that handmade soft kid wool throw tossed over my couch), just about every pub in every small village (a hub of social activity and music), driving through the Wicklow Mountains (just south of Dublin) and experiencing the dramatic beauty of the Dingle Peninsula and Ring of Kerry. What is tops on my list for my next visit:  the Aran Islands, Kinsale and Cork, and the Northern Ireland coast near Giants Causeway.

Whether you’re a golfer, whiskey lover, foodie, genealogist, beer aficionado, hiker, boater, shopper, fisherman, gardener or simply an appreciator of “all things Irish”, 2013 is a great year to plan that visit.