Ireland Eire (a’ rah) – she’ll take your breath away
By Joe Gschwendtner; courtesy photos
I smile at our Irish memories twice yearly, during lambing season in April and while remembering September oyster festivals. In spring, no one need ask why Ireland is called the Emerald Isle; the color green surely was invented there. Although Ireland’s history begins in ancient times, her allure is quite current.
For some, enjoying Ireland is about where the land meets the sea. Others believe crisscrossing her every which way is best. Frankly, there is little about Ireland that lacks magnetism. Dublin itself may be your prime destination. Not for us. We prefer the peninsulas and countryside. What follows is a 10-14 day itinerary depending on decisions made about Dublin and Galway.
Drive northwest from Dublin, using the M4 and M6 motorways – destination Galway. In July, she has an arts festival. In the fall, local oyster feasts abound. Shucks, one can eat his or her fill with no weight gain at all. (True if you avoid the side biscuits.)
From Galway travel northwest to Connemara and picturesque Clifden. Start there on the fringe of Connemara National Park. Take advantage of the sprawling landscape and hike bogs, heaths, grasslands and forest.
Visit Kylemore Abbey, viewing her 6-acre walled gardens.
Return south along the coast to Galway again. After rounding the bay, enter Clare County to the stark, gray, moonlike terrain in the Burren National Park. Within it, the most compelling draw is the monster Cliffs of Moher. Want inspiration from Irish fresh air and extraordinary seascapes? This is the place. Hike nearby, including Pancake Mountain. Savor the quaint towns of Finavarra and the village of Liscannor, the latter with one pub for every 26 inhabitants.
Motor south again, past the Shannon Estuary to Limerick and on to Tralee. Note that one can fly from the states, round trip to Shannon, avoiding Dublin.
Proceed to County Kerry and the dramatic Dingle Peninsula, extending 30 miles into the Atlantic. Its namesake town is reason enough to visit, with narrow streets, fine pubs and colorful buildings. The countryside is verdant with irregular fields separated by dry stack ancient stone walls – Ireland at its most picturesque.
If not fully mesmerized by Ireland’s peninsulas, zigzag through the Iveragh and then the Beara. The latter, a hidden, backwater gem has a tranquility all its own. Her roads would be better called lanes. This may scare some, enticing others. Consider yourself forewarned.
When you tire of Atlantic scenery, head east to Cork City, on the River Lee’s two channels. Colorful Cork with its many bridges and historic harbor is walkable with much to see. Short on luck? The Blarney Stone is 8 kilometers away, offering the chance to change yours with a pucker.
Further south on the Irish Sea is breathtaking Kinsale Head, the harbor and Charles Fort. Lusitania’s watery grave is 11 kilometers away.
Now, three hours from Dublin, stop at the Waterford Crystal factory. Buy a piece; you’ll please someone. Not far away, visit Wexford, home of the open-air Irish Heritage National Park. John F. Kennedy’s Irish roots started here. Want to swim? Wexford has wonderful dune beaches.
Erin go bragh!