THE best thing about Ireland is the pub, according to the latest addition of a top travel guide, 'Lonely Planet'.
The 'local' comes out on top of a list of 21 attractions beating Connemara, traditional music, the Rock of Cashel and even Dublin itself.
Launched today, the 10th Irish edition of 'Lonely Planet' notes that the love of a good drink "remains the country's most popular social pastime with no sign of letting up".
The book also trumpets the new-found confidence of younger people, as it chronicles the mood on both sides of the border.
"For the first time, the Irish, particularly the under-30s, have no problem relaying their achievements and successes, in contrast to the older generation who were brought up in the belief that telling anyone they were doing well was unseemly and boastful," it states.
The guide's coordinating author is Irish-born and Dublin-based Fionn Davenport.
It says Ireland's economic crisis has not dampened the spirits of the resilient population, who are described as adaptable to whatever comes their way.
"The Irish -- fatalistic and pessimistic to the core -- will shrug their shoulders and just get on with their lives," it says.
Dublin is described as a city that knows how to have fun, with world-class museums, superb restaurants and the best collection of entertainment in the country.
Everything good about Ireland can be found in Co Cork, while Derry comes as a pleasant surprise to many with its great riverside setting, fascinating historical sights and determined can-do optimism that has made it the powerhouse of the North's cultural revival.
Kilkee, in Co Clare, is compared to the Caribbean with the white, powdery sands of its beach.
Athlone is one of the country's most vibrant towns, Kilkenny is the Ireland of many visitors' imaginations, while Limerick has welcoming locals, an intriguing castle, a lively art museum and contemporary cafe culture to go with its uncompromised pubs, it states.
But Donegal's largest town, Letterkenny, has been ruined by the excesses of the Celtic Tiger era through mindless development.
The guide says the town has a complete lack of soul, with traffic problems and its faceless retail parks lining the roads.
Last night the town's mayor, Gerry McMonagle, laughed off the review, insisting:
"It's a very contradictory review, saying the town is 'soulless' in one sentence and 'buzzing' in the next.
"Sounds to me as if the reviewer had such a good time here that he or she forgot what happened."
And the book adds: "While Ireland's economic woes may be depressingly familiar to the older generation and forced many of the country's younger people to try their luck elsewhere, this is not the Ireland of yesteryear.
"The two decades since 1990 have transformed the country immeasurably, with prosperity, modernity and multiculturalism helping shift traditional attitudes and social mores."
'Lonely Planet' says its authors personally visited thousands of hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars, galleries and museums in Ireland and elsewhere and they do not ever take freebies.