We find the best Irish souvenirs, from iconic wool sweaters to an Irish Tartan to Guinness itself.
When most think of Ireland, they have visions of green, rugged cliffs, quaint pubs and a hearty people. The truth is that Ireland has a long and colorful past as well as more than a few things as unique as its people.
Whether you’re planning an Ireland trip in the near future or just want to get a small taste of what Ireland is all about, we have some of the best Irish souvenirs and gifts ideas for you to enjoy. From world renowned wool, to world famous poetry, to breads and cheese, to Guinness beer, and breakfast tea, there’s something for every one and every budget.
I can’t guarantee that you’ll ever get to set foot on the magical isle yourself, but I do hope you get the opportunity, I can guarantee that there’s at least one Irish souvenir that you’ll love.
The Best Things to Buy in Ireland: Irish Souvenirs You’ll Love
Now here’s our list of the best things to buy in Ireland.
Aran Fisherman Sweater
Ireland is a land of hills and valleys and green meadows, making it well suited to raising sheep. So much so that it’s said that there are more sheep than people on this small island nation. That means there’s plenty of wool to be found, and no wool product is more iconic to Ireland than an authentic Aran Fisherman sweater.
These thickly woven wool sweaters are typically hand knit (though there are cheaper machine made varieties), incredibly warm and durable, making them a great way to stay warm when it’s cold outside.
They were originally created by wives for their fishermen husbands on the Aran Islands, located at the mouth of Galway Bay on the Atlantic Sea and where both farmers and fishermen dwelled and worked together. A typical Aran fisherman sweater would take between 3 to 6 weeks to make and kept the fisherman warm and comfortable when out on the rough waters and would make a very memorable souvenir.
While whiskey is now common throughout the world, we actually have the Irish to thank for it. The word whiskey (or whisky as it’s known in certain countries) comes from the Irish term uisce beatha, meaning water of life. It’s believed to have been invented around the 12th century, when Irish monks returned from travels abroad and refined the distilling process until they obtained a drinkable cup.
While today’s single pot variety is higher quality than in those days, Irish Whiskey was once the most popular liquor in the the world before a downturn in the late 1800’s, when Scotch gained in popularity. Unlike the smokiness of Scotch Whisky though, Irish Whiskey doesn’t typically use smoked peat moss in its process and is considered much smoother.
While most of the original Irish Whiskey distilleries closed down in the early 1900’s due to that downturn, a couple remained open, notably the Old Bushmills Distillery, which is now a popular tourist destination, and Irish Distillers which produces notable labels such as Jameson and Powers, as well as celebrated Redbreast and Middleton Very Rare. Dozens of new Irish Whiskey producers have since opened, or re-opened, and Irish Whiskey is once again becoming popular around the world.
While the Scots take clan and family tartans to the extreme, Irish tartans (more commonly referred to as plaid on this side of the ocean) has a long history as well.
While tartans are predominantly linked to clans and families in Scotland, in Ireland they’re more commonly associated with a county or province. Regardless, there are plenty of colorful Irish tartans made from local wool, in everything from kilts and bags, to hats and sweaters and blankets, and even socks. Any one of them would make a great Irish souvenir or gift for a loved one.
Irish Soda Bread or Irish Brown Bread
Irish Soda bread is a staple at most bakeries the world over. Known for its lack of yeast, Irish soda bread relies on the combination of buttermilk and baking soda to create a chemical reaction allowing the bread to rise. When combined with the softer wheat grown in Ireland, this bread became the least expensive bread on the market and was a staple in Ireland in the early 1800’s into the 1900’s.
While soda bread is fairly well known everywhere, it’s less well known darker brethren, Irish Brown Bread (also known as wheaten bread), which is also quite common in Ireland. Both breads use baking soda to rise, but whereas Irish soda bread is slightly sweet and uses white flour, Irish brown bread has a deep, slightly nuttier flavor due to it using Irish oats and whole meal flour.
To truly enjoy Irish Brown Bread, make sure to slather on some authentic and deliciously creamy Irish butter.
Irish Cream Liquor
While Irish cream liquor isn’t a traditional Irish drink in the classic sense, it was invented in Ireland in the mid 1970’s by an enterprising group of individuals who wanted a way to incorporate Ireland’s delicious cream with their famous Irish whiskey. As such, Baileys Irish Cream Whiskey was born and quickly gained worldwide attention for its smooth blend of milk, chocolate and traditional Irish whiskey. Today there are several new brands of Irish Cream Liquor available including Kerrygold, Carolans and Brendan’s.
Irish Books and Poetry
While you might have heard of an Irish limerick or two growing up, Ireland actually has a long history of gorgeous poetry. In fact, Ireland’s oldest surviving poem dates back to the 6th century, and fine examples of Irish poetry exist in both English and Irish (Gaelic).
While Ireland has been producing novels and poetry for centuries, its current resurgence are in part thanks to Jonathan Swift and Oliver Goldsmith. Both 17th century authors put Ireland on the map in literary circles, thanks to books such as Gulliver’s Travels and The Vicar of Wakefield. While both men are well known for their books, they both enjoyed poetry as well and Goldsmith’s The Deserted Village won accolades over the years due its pastoral take on Irish life. An Irish book, novel or poetry anthology would make a great Irish souvenir to any Ireland lover.
Fogur gaítheSound of the wind in a branching wood, grey cloud; river-falls, cry of a swan – beautiful music. EXCERPT FROM AN EARLY LONG iRISH POEM
fri fid flescach,
While not always easily found in your local dairy aisle, Ireland has a long tradition of delicious dairy and their cheeses are no exceptions. While most Irish cheeses can be labelled under the cheddar style, in any country where the livestock outcounts the locals you know that the cheese isn’t going to be bad. You can find various cheeses throughout the country made from the milk of cows, goats and even sheep, in different styles.
Some of the more notable Irish cheese brands include Cashel Blue, Ireland’s original blue cheese and quite popular throughout the country (also one of the only ones that can be found around the world), Coolea, a gouda style cheese with mild flavors, Killeen Goat, another gouda style cheese made from goats milk, and Wicklow Blue, a supposedly delicious blue veined brie.
Irish Wool Socks, Wool Scarf or Wool Hat
Have I mentioned there’s lots of sheep in Ireland enough to drive the point home yet?
While a traditional Aran Fisherman Sweater may be the cream of the crop in most wool aficionado circles, a nice pair of Irish wool stockings, a trendy wool scarf, or a nice warm wool hat are just as Irish as it gets. Whether you choose to go with a smooth tartan-inspired motif, or opt for a heavier traditional weave, your choice is nearly endless when it comes to quality wool products in Ireland and any of them make a great Irish souvenir.
Known the world over for its dark color and thick creamy head, Guinness beer is as Irish as it gets.
Available in nearly every country around the world, Guinness, an Irish dry stout, has been produced in Dublin for over two and a half centuries. Started in 1759 at the St. James’s Gate Brewery by Arthur Guinness, the tradition lives on.
There are countless Irish souvenirs with the Guinness logo on them from mugs and t-shirts, to golf balls and towels. Any of them would make a great Irish souvenir or even a beer lovers souvenir.
Ireland isn’t called the Emerald Isles for nothing. In a country that’s covered in an endless sea of verdant fields you will likely find a cow or two or a thousand. With herds of cows by the thousands, you know that dairy is valued there. They say that the milk of a cow is only as good as the grass upon which it so feeds, so Ireland sure must taste creamy.
With dozens of different dairy producers in the country, and tons of exports, Irish Butter is highly praised whether you’re buying it in your local deli, or directly from the farm in Ireland. Brands such as Kerrygold, with its higher butterfat content, is valued by home cooks and pastry chefs alike. While you can’t prove whether Ireland’s deliciously creamy butter is worth a local visit, I guarantee you’ll want to take some home with you if you do.
Irish Breakfast Tea
While the English may lay claim to perfecting the afternoon tea, the Irish have their Breakfast Tea.
While more dark and intense than traditional teas, this black tea blend is heavy with Assam and Ceylon tea leaves, and lends itself well to adding in some local Irish milk or honey to lighten its flavor. Whether you serve it with a slice of Irish brown bread and Irish butter is completely up to you.
Blarney Stone rock
Acquiring the gift of gab or the gift of flattery draws many people up the ramparts of Blarney Castle, just a few kilometers outside Cork, Ireland. Said to imbue the kisser with great eloquence and wit without deception, kissing the Blarney Stone is a huge tourist attraction and is the highlight of the tour of the ancient Blarney Castle first constructed in 1446.
While you can’t take a piece of the actual Blarney Stone home, you can take a small sample of the local carboniferous limestone home to make your own kissing stone. Of course, results aren’t guaranteed, but if you tie it in a plaid wool scarf and place it on top of a can of Guinness the receiver will know exactly where it’s from.
Quick, when you think of Irish music, what song first comes into your head?
Is it a fun rover song by the Dubliners, the haunting voice of The Cranberries, the plead of Sinead O’Connor, catchy Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison, or the smooth lilt of Bono and steady guitar frets of Edge? The answer is any of the above. For its size, Ireland has left a definite mark on the worldwide musical landscape.
From traditional Irish folklore singers, to contemporary rock performers like U2, Ireland has it all. I say if you want the best of Irish music then start by listening to an Irish party favorites playlist and then go from there.
Feeling like you need a quick pick me up in the morning?
Well, this won’t help, but it might relax you on a morning off work. While there’s no definite Irish Coffee per say, the act of adding a little Irish Whiskey to one’s coffee definitely changes the flavor.
While traditional Irish Whiskey might be a little harsh for some, throwing a few drops of Baileys Irish Cream in definitely both sweetens and enhances a boring black coffee. If you’re not a coffee drinker, Baileys also enhances hot chocolate.
So, have a favorite Irish souvenir or Irish gift that didn’t make the list? I don’t believe you.
Prove me wrong and drop us a comment below and I’ll make sure to humbly beg your forgiveness.
Safe travels everyone!