Ireland Travel and Culture

Travel in Ireland: Irish Shopping

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An American work colleague once asked me if we had shopping malls in Ireland. I had to hide my smirk and keep my answer to a simple "yes." Otherwise, I may have made some offensive sarcastic remark about her outdated ideas of Ireland as a backwater, backward country straight out of "The Quiet Man" movie.

The truth is that Ireland is a shopping Mecca for quality crafts, renowned foods, clothes from famous designers and fine jewelry - to name just a few examples. Shopping itself can be a great experience with more personal service than is common in the US and often you will have the opportunity to see crafts as they are being made. So if you come armed with money and a desire to spend it, then Irish shops will not be a disappointment.

If you like large shopping centers and international chain department shops then there are plenty to choose from. Dunnes Stores, Roches Stores and Marks & Spencer are probably the best known and there are enough shopping centers around Dublin, Galway, Cork and many other larger towns in Ireland to keep the most avid shopper happy.

However, for many visitors the charm of shopping in Ireland is not the large department stores but the more personal craft shops dotted throughout the country. Almost every town has some sort of craft shop stocking fine Irish made goods like china, crystal, jewelry, linens and knitwear.

There are, of course, some very famous ones worth seeking out. The Powerscourt Demesne near Enniskerry in Co. Wicklow has a great craft shop in the renowned 18th Century house. There are rooms dedicated to glassware, pottery and so on. The Blarney Woolen Mills in Co. Cork is a wonderful shopping destination with its pretty setting and fine selection of crystal, china and a myriad of crafts on offer. A trip to Kylemore Abbey in Connemara won't disappoint either, where the Benedictine nuns run a great craft shop and visitor center.

Many visitors enjoy seeing the craftsmen at work before they buy and finding such workshops is not too difficult. Shanagarry in Co. Cork is home to Stephen Pearce's workshop where he makes a fine collection of tableware. In Co. Kilkenny, seek out Nicholas Mosse in Bennettsbridge and his spongeware pottery. His work is so good that he has actually sold pieces to Tiffany in New York! There are also many craft villages in Ireland, drawing together a selection of craftspeople to show and sell their work in one location. Try the craft village in Spideal, Co. Galway.

Everyone's heard about Waterford Crystal. The best place to buy it is at the Waterford Crystal Visitors Center. The center has a dazzling display of this beautifully hand blown glass. However, this is not the only crystal produced in Ireland. Cavan and Tipperary also produce their own unique collections and each county has its own factory shop.

If it's clothes you're looking for then you have no lack of choice or quality. Beautiful knitwear can be found in almost any craft shop worth its salt. Two contemporary knitwear designers to look out for are Lainey Keogh and Michelina Stakepoole. Supermodels Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell have worn Keogh's work. The rows of shops in Killarney, Co. Kerry are piled high with traditional aran sweaters. For famous tweeds a trip to Donegal - the home of tweeds is a must. Magee Tweeds on the Diamond in Donegal Town is the best place to go and you can buy the clothes ready made or pick your own tweed by the yard.

Dublin, of course will be the shopping destination of most visitors and for good reason. You name it and you'll find it in the capital. The Crafts Council Gallery on East Essex Street is a wonderful two-story shopping paradise of ceramics, home furnishings and jewelry from artists all over Ireland. For souvenirs and other gifts try the Kilkenny Shop on Nassau Street and the House of Ireland. Also notable are the Dublin Woolen Mills, the Heraldic Shop and the Dublin branch of the Blarney Woolen Mills - all on Nassau Street.

For last minute shopping the Duty Free shops at Dublin and Shannon airports offer wonderful selections of Irish made goods and are especially good if you want to buy food just before your departure. Try some of Ireland's prize-winning cheeses like Milleen and Doolin. Handmade chocolates are also excellent gifts. Other food items to look out for are Irish smoked salmon, biscuits, homemade jam and brown bread.
Tags: ireland, shopping
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