Did you know that Dublin has more gay men and women per capita than San Francisco? Or that in recent years Ireland’s become a go-to destination for gay and lesbian travelers? Recent banner attractions for the GLTB visitor have included the Bingham Cup – sometimes referred to as the gay Rugby World Cup – which was held in Dublin in 2008.

If you’re one of those people who think that rugby and gay men don’t mix then spend five minutes watching these lads compete and all your preconceptions will be shattered. Named after Mark Bingham, one of the heroes of Flight 93 on September 11 2001, the Bingham Cup is the largest biennial amateur rugby tournament in the world. Each of these international gay teams are as tough as nails, and the competition is a real one.

It’s also a huge tourist draw, as Irish bookmakers Paddy Power realized, becoming the main Irish sponser. The 2008 Bingham cup had thirty teams drawn from clubs around the world competing in the three-day tournament. On the surface it looked like any other major rugby event, although the Irish lad making the first international try also hold the distinction of being Ireland’s Alternative Miss World.

The classic image of Ireland as a church controlled conservative backwater still endures in some places, and it’s an image that never really appealed to gay travelers, unsurprisingly. But it’s an image at odds with the times. Ireland hasn’t thrown off the shackles of respectability to turn into an anything goes party town like Las Vegas, far from it. But in the last 20 years burgeoning Irish gay scenes have emerged in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Belfast, Waterford and Derry that have helped to change perceptions.

In Dublin the gay or lesbian visitor will discover there are seven dedicated gay venues in the city centre, located on a strip from Capel Street on the North of the river to George’s Street on the South, via Parliament Street in Temple Bar – all within walking distance. If that’s not enough, there are one-nighter clubs to be found every night of the week in the city, with several competing for pink euros at the weekends, and plenty of gay friendly accommodation too. Visit www.gcn.ie for updates on what’s happening on the Dublin scene.

After 10 years of peace in Northern Ireland Belfast can claim to be the island’s second biggest gay venue. With over five dedicated gay bars and a host of club nights, you’ll have fun deciphering the local accents and the local scene. Visit gaybelfast.net for updates on what’s happening this week.

For a lively Logo special on Gay travel to Ireland visit http://www.logoonline.com/video/tripout-gay-travel-dublin-ireland/1598696/playlist.jhtml