Travelers looking for charm, friendly people, solid service without a "touristy" feel and plenty of places to explore should plan a vacation to Ireland. In addition to pubs and Riverdance-style step dancers, you also can find local musicians, stunning scenery, ruins and historical sites, golfing and other outdoor activities to enjoy at a relaxed pace.

Nearly everyone will find something to enjoy in Ireland, be it the green countryside, Irish whiskey, shopping, bicycling tours or wandering sheep. Traditional culture still thrives, and the Emerald Isle's people and way of life have not been significantly altered by modern trends. Travelers will find good service, lots of accommodation options and little crime aimed at visitors. Even the souvenir shops seem rather low-key.

Once, we asked an old man for the Irish-language equivalent of manana ("tomorrow" in Spanish). He paused for a moment, then took off his cap and scratched his head, pondering the question. Then he took an old, battered pipe from his pocket, a knife from the other and started cleaning out the bowl. When he had done that, he rummaged in his pockets and produced a plug of tobacco. He cut off a few slices and placed them in the pipe, tamping them down with the blade of his knife.

Then he searched his pockets once again, produced a box of matches and proceeded to light his pipe. Once he had it going well he took off his cap and scratched his head once more. Putting the cap back on, he smiled at us and said, "In all truth, sir, I do not think that there is a word in all of the Irish language for expressing such urgency."

Take your time when traveling around the country. Although it's possible to drive the length of Ireland in less than a day and to traverse the width of the country in a few hours, we prefer to settle in and explore a particular region, whether on foot, on horseback or behind the wheel—mindful, of course, of wandering sheep on small back roads.

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