Coming to Ireland always just makes me wonder how I ever managed to survive a lifestlye any different to the laid back, warm & friendly approach they have here. What’s more is that what feels like such a warm, heartfelt welcome which I’m always offered is so undeserved just by the fact that I’m an Englishman and it was the ancestors of my people who were responsible for such barbarity here over so many years… yet the Irish can still offer me this hand of kindness… it never ceases to amaze me, and never stops me from feeling so very humble. All I ever hear from the Irish when I talk about it here are things like “it’s in the past”, “what’s done is done”, “we’ve moved on from all that”… and while I’m sure not everyone here feels like that the general consensus of the Irish really hit me the other day when I met someone who reacted to me with expressions like this, yet in the same breath told me that his great grandparents were executed in the early 20th century by the Black & Tans (English soldiers), and he still didn’t express bitterness but only offered me friendship.
Regardless of my personal feelings and how the Irish make me feel so humble, this emerald isle with it’s 40 shades of green has an abundance of treasures to offer and while it’s people may be the most glorious of those treasures, there’s plenty more here to hold your attention as a tourist!
I’ve been here 4 days with my current group and we followed a fairly standard route around a small part of the country, starting from Shannon Airport in County Limerick which is on the west coast. There are connections from a few British Airports as well as a handful of European flights but there are also a few direct international flights, most of which are from American international gateway airports such as Atlanta, New York or Boston. This makes Shannon a hub for tourists but there’s not too much to keep you in the immediate vicinity so you’ll want to get on the road either with a tour operator on a tour you booked from home, by hiring a car, or you could use public transport but public services are not too frequent although they are generally pretty reliable. Bunratty Castle is only a 15 minute drive from the airport and is worth at least a half day visit so I’ll may be write about that another time, but we headed straight to the town of Killarney which is the main touring base in the south west of Ireland.
Killarney has a very strong music tradition and virtually all the pubs in town will offer music at some point every evening so it’s not hard to find something to your taste. There are only 3 main streets so you don’t exactly need a map to navigate around the town, but Killarney is best used as a base to visit the surrounding area during the day. There are quite literally hundreds of attractions which are impossible to do justice to in one post so this is just a taster for the next time I’m here when I’ll write a bit more about one of the specific visitor attractions. We spent a day touring around the famous Ring of Kerry which is the name of a traditional sightseeing route with various pretty towns and villages, visitor attractions, and spectacular viewing points which are all very accessible. The more discerning visitor would likely want to take a few days to do the Ring of Kerry justice as there are a few beautiful spots to stay but most seem to do the whole of the Ring in one day making stops like those we made at: The Bog Museum & The Red Fox (a recreation of an 18th century Irish village where people lived off the production of peat to use as fuel); a viewing point over Dingle Bay, Inch Strand and the Dingle peninsula (where the Dave Lee movie “Ryan’s Daughter” and the Tom Cruise/Nicole Kidman movie “Far & Away” were both filmed); the ruins of Daniel O’Connell’s birthplace (the man who campaigned for Catholic emancipation in the 1820s); the village of Waterville (where Charlie Chaplin used to vacation and where his descendants still own a house); Coomakista pass (a view over the Atlantic ocean); the village of Sneem (once home of the legendary wrestler Steve Casey); and the stunning Torc Waterfall which finished a spectacular day!
I’ve travelled the Ring of Kerry a number of times, and in all weathers and it never fails to deliver!
Yesterday we went to Blarney Castle and most of my group climbed up to the rather high ramparts to kiss the precariously located Blarney Stone in order to receive the gift of eloquence. Then we arrived in the country’s capital last night – Dublin, and we’ve spent the day shopping and just soaking up the Dublin atmosphere today.
We move on tomorrow but coming here again has once again rejuvenated me as I think it often does. My view over Dublin Bay from my hotel room window almost makes me sad simply because it means that tomorrow I’ll leaving from the bay on the ferry to Wales, but there’s lots more in store there, and plenty here to come back to so I can write about it in more detail next time.