What are typical or must-buy (non-alcoholic) souvenirs from Ireland?
From spending a year or so in Ireland as a student:
Not much is "must buy" - it depends on who you are. I found my greatest "buys" in Ireland were experiences, rather than things. So here's my list:
- A ticket to see the Book of Kells at Trinity College in Dublin. For that matter, just wandering Dublin.
- A ticket to the Guinness Factory Tour. You said no alcohol, but even if you have no intention to drink, it's worth seeing.
- Something from the Waterford crystal factory in Waterford - after taking the factory tour ;)
- Lunch in a random pub.
In terms of just merchandise? The Irish are a sweater people, given their climate, so Irish wool sweaters, scarves, etc. are decent buys. And if you're a slightly bigger dude, it is the land of the rugby shirt.
Irish lace is pretty famous, and some curtains or doilies or the like would make a nice conversation piece. If you are a "world music" kind of person, there will undoubtedly be CDs you can get of music that you really can't get any other way. Irish cheese is quite famous, but you may or may not be able to import it to where you're headed (check in advance.)
I would say that once you're there, concentrate on experiencing things. You may then want to buy something as a reminder (postcard, coffee table book, cookbook etc) or so that you can continue to experience something you enjoyed. Or if your intention is to bring presents home to those who didn't travel, choose the things that connect best to stories you can tell about your trip.
GAA memorabilia. The Gaelic Athletic Association is the governing body for two very popular Irish sports, Gaelic football and hurling (a ball and stick sport like field hockey or lacrosse, but physical like ice-hockey or Australian rules football). Get a jersey of the team for the county you feel an affinity for.
Linen, especially in N. Ireland where the historic industry was based.
Traditional musical instruments. The Bodhrán is a small hand held drum. The Irish tin whistle is a wind instrument with multiple holes, therefore multiple notes. They are quite easy for children to learn how to play.
Smoked salmon and/or breakfast meats such as rashers (bacon slices) and white pudding (a large sausage) and black pudding (white pudding with blood). Check your customs regulations about bring back meat.
Two other ideas make great gifts:
Tayto. An Irish brand of potato-chip or crisp. This is a great gift for Irish expatriates.
Inter Cert and Leaving Cert Books. Many expatriates read the same books for state exams. Some of these have been re-published due to the nostalgic feelings people have for them. Look for "Exploring English I", the middle school short story book or "Soundings", the high school poetry book. Look for them in Eason book stores in Dublin. People who went to school in Ireland in the 80s and 90s will appreciate these. Under no account get a copy of Peig