In my various travels (I would say “vast” but unfortunately I know too many people who have traveled more) I have been queried as to which country I have found the most beautiful or interesting. Well, it’s a tough choice but I am forced to chose Ireland, a spectacularly beautiful land which I have visited three times, and plan to return. You can’t do badly with Ireland–though I met a man once who considered it “despicable: dirty and without merit.” Of course, you can’t please everyone.
To be frank, the “Emerald Island” has been called “achingly beautiful” by not a few people and I would have to agree. This is an example. It has a wild and untamed feel about it which is tempered by the warmth and friendliness of the people. If you get lost–and you can–and are forced to stop, say, a city worker on the road, it is likely you will have a fifteen-minute conversation about your family background, etc., before you can once again be on your merry way. And he’ll recommend a good pub before you leave.
The country is beautiful, the people are friendly, and the pubs are great. This is Muckross House. You can stay at an upscale place like this or you can stay at a much cheaper Bed and Breakfast. Being parsimonious, I tend to look at the expensive places from afar while staying at the modestly priced establishments.
I never drank Guinness beer until I visited Ireland for the first time. I was sitting next to an Irishman on the flight over and he thumped his hand on the arm rest and said, “If you visit Ireland, you’ve got to drink Guinness, Yank.” So I did, and now I love it. Wouldn’t drink anything else. The danger is if you frequent an Irish pub and tell a couple of good jokes that the locals like, they’ll all insist on buying you a Guinness. The next morning your hangover will be so bad you can’t eat your free breakfast at the Bed and Breakfast. Tough choice!
This is an average road in Ireland. You average 35 miles an hour wherever you go, unless you are on a major highway–and if you are, you aren’t seeing much of the country. It is necessarily to stop for sheep, cows, and other stuff. They all wander freely on to the roads. Plan for it and enjoy it. That’s what you’re there for.
This is Dingle Bay, or rather a beach near the town where the movie “Ryan’s Daughter” with Robert Mitchum was filmed. There is a cave back there where one of the more dramatic scenes of the movie takes place. Americans like to film in Ireland because there’s always a pleasant backdrop. Have you seen “The Quiet Man” with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara? I’m not a John Wayne fan but he did a good job in that one, and you get a great feel for the country and the people– even their flaws. Here is the same place from afar.
If you visit, you just rent a car and drive around. It’s hard to get lost if you’re hugging the coastline. If you go inland, where the larger mountains are, you often find few tourists and many signs in Gaelic, if there are signs at all. And you are expected to pick up hitchhikers. I wrote an article called “The Decline and Fall of Hitchhiking” which can be found in my list of publications in which I described an incident where young girl chastised me for not picking her up when I was lost in the mountains. “We don’t have many cars here,” she said. “You’re supposed to pick us up.” I said, “What about crime?” “We don’t HAVE crime,” she responded.
Wow. . . .
This is called Ashford House. You can stay there but it is quite expensive. I went in to use their toidy (when you gotta go, you gotta go, as they say) and found it to be an excellent toidy as toidies go. I’m sorry I couldn’t afford to stay there. I’m sure the toidy in my room would have been just as nice.
There is a little-known town near Shannon airport called Kilkee which caters mostly to the locals. I found it accidentally. It has beautiful rock formations as you can see above. Go to Kilkee when you visit Ireland but don’t tell anybody else about it. I don’t want the place spoiled. Another nice town is Kenmare. I stayed there for three days in the ’80’s and was so impressed with a local restaurant that I wrote a letter to the Michelin Guide people and recommended the place be put in their book. They did, and the next time I visited Kenmare I couldn’t afford the restaurant because it had doubled its prices. I should have kept my mouth shut.
This is called Kilmallock. Ireland has a lot of castles that are shells now, but they are beautiful shells. They also have an interesting history, not to mention the recent “troubles.” It rains a lot there but not necessarily in the summer. Though, you never know. They’re so used to the rain that I was staying in a Bed and Breakfast once and the proprietor learned that I was a tennis player and offered to play me on the spot. “But it’s drizzling outside,” I objected. “Yeah, it’s pretty nice, ” he said. “But we better hurry before it starts RAINING.”
Well, this is the end of the slide show. I am closing with a picture of the mystery bridge. I don’t know where it is or what I was doing there. But this is as close as I can get to artistic photography. But, then, in Ireland, all your photographs will be artistic.
Go visit. You’ll be glad you did.