The lure of Ireland lies in its landscapes and its people, and this is the best way for visitors to experience the soul of this ancient land that is so famous for its beauty, its saints and its scholars. The Irish weather is not the most predictable in the world, but then much of the beauty of the Irish landscape is due to its climate. There has to be a price tag on being nicknamed the ‘Emerald Isle’!
Over the years, Ireland has survived invasions, famine and a civil war that was connected to its English history. This conflict was endless but, when peace finally came to the north, Ireland came into its own with support from the EU and a new vitality, which caused it to be dubbed the ‘Celtic Tiger’. And there’s good shopping – there are great deals to be found.
Experience Ireland’s beautiful countryside on foot. Its hills are a walker’s paradise, because of the linking of the extensive network of trails. ‘Looped’ walks explore the coastline and islands, mountains and hills, bogs and moorlands, historical and archaeological sites. Climbing holidays urge you to strap on your hiking boots and dominate some of Ireland’s most challenging peaks and hills.
Courtesy counts.A lot of land in Ireland is privately owned and hiker access is only available with the goodwill of the owner. Most landowners don’t object to recreational users on their land, but some do, so comply with a landowner’s wishes. Always shut gates after you have opened them and observe the countryside code.
Top Tips for Walking
Don’t get stuck on the top of a mountain armed with only a bottle of juice and an umbrella! Come equipped with:
- Strong walking boots with ankle and Achilles support.
- Thick socks, plus spares, no jeans.
- Warm pants, warm sweaters and spares for layering.
- Waterproof and windproof coat/jacket and splash/rain pants.
- Gloves and hat (for non-summer walking).
- Shorts, hat and sunglasses (for sunny days).
- First aid kit bandages, Aspirin, insect repellent and sunscreen.
- Backpack to carry food and extra clothing (a plastic liner is useful).
- Plenty of water, sandwiches and other snack foods.
- Walking poles, if you know how to use them.
- Blanket, for lunch stops.
Watersports such as fishing, sailing and surfing are part of the culture, but many visitors also come for the golf. The Emerald Isle offers more golf than any country of comparable size on the planet! Fringed on all sides by the sea and with a landscape that is spectacularly varied, a golf break in Ireland is unforgettable. The real passion of the Irish, however, is horses – and the optimistic Irish are always certain that there is a potential Derby winner in every valley, which explains why there is a packed betting shop in every high street!
Castles and Ancient Lore
Ireland is as famous for its castles as it is for its Guinness. These monuments to the past contain their own dark secrets, and a trip through the Midlands gives a dramatic taste of treachery and skullduggery, because Ireland has been shaped by heroic events through the centuries. You can crawl through ruins or relax in castles that have been converted to 5-star luxury hotels.
Here’s just a sample:
- Trim Castle, in County Meath, was the largest and most important castle in Ireland for several centuries. Uninvited guests were treated to boiling water, tar, arrows, rocks and other early weapons of mass destruction that rained down on them from above.
- Dunluce Castle, in County Antrim was besieged by the British in the 16th Century. It’s reputed to be the inspiration for Cair Paravel, the famous castle in C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia.
- Leap Castle, in the village of Clareen, is reputed to be the most haunted castle in Ireland. Its spectre is a particularly smelly one – it was even witnessed by poet W.B. Yeats during a stay in the castle.
- Carrickfergus Castle, in County Antrim, represents more than 800 years of military might as it was besieged in turn by the Scots, Irish, English and French.
- Birr Castle has a massive telescope that was built in 1825 and was the biggest in the world until 1917.
- Enniskillen Castle, in County Fermanagh, guards one of the few passes into Ulster.