&'Why Ireland?&' : because it is simply irresistible!
Not knowing what to expect and perhaps slightly apprehensive, I boarded the plane bound for Cork, for a week-long tour of the southwest coast of Ireland. Asking myself repeatedly ‘Why Ireland? A country, often noted for its similarities to Scotland, my native land, I was sceptical that Ireland could ever be compared to undoubtedly the most beautiful country in the world – well, was I wrong!
Think of the Irish and immediately you are taken back to the first time you tasted their legendary Guinness whilst listening to the beat of the bodhrán along with the sound of the fiddle and tin whistle in one of many Irish bars across the world, and yes the pub lies at the heart of cultural, social and musical life in Ireland, however in my opinion the Irish have much more to be proud of than just their hospitality.
Trust me getting lost in the Emerald Isle would be no hardship as every turn you take there is something more fascinating to discover. Its natural beauty is world-renowned; wild, rugged, dramatic coastline, the spectacular peninsulas of the southwest, unspoilt landscapes, vast National Parks and outstanding beaches, it is literally cocooned in unbelievable scenery.
But its natural beauty is just a very small part of the story. Everywhere you turn history presents itself along with Irish folklore, bustling cities and gastronomic excellence, it is no wonder Ireland has made a mark on the world map, however for me, there was this sense that this incredible country is still relatively unknown, untouched and undiscovered.
The list is endless but below are my five highlights from my tour of south west coast of Ireland
1. The people: Céad míle fáilte – a hundred thousand welcomes
Proclaimed by Lonely Planet in 2008 as the world’s friendliest country, it is easy to understand why. The Irish have this unique ability to welcome visitors; not as a stranger but as a friend. Their warmth and charm is infectious and as the Irish tradition of story telling is passed through the generations, it is no wonder we all love the Irish Craic!
2. Whale & wildlife watching boat trip, southwest Cork
The waters of the south west of Ireland are exceptionally rich in marine life and probably one of the best spots on the island to see dolphins and whales. Be greeted at Baltimore harbour by some friendly seals and step aboard to explore the waters, catching a glimpse of these incredible mammals.
3. Gap of Dunloe, Killarney
The Gap is a narrow mountain pass between MacGillycuddy Reeks (to the west) and the Purple Mountain (to the east) and five lakes all connected by the river Loe. This area is often described as one of the most spectacular glaciated valleys in Western Europe.
Step back in time and experience Ireland’s most traditional mode of transport with a jaunting car (pony & cart). Uncover the history and folklore of the area as you ramble along through the gap. Afterwards, enjoy an idyllic boat ride as you travel through the Lakes of Killarney passing by the oak woods of Derrycunnihy and Tomies mountains.
4. Cliffs of Moher
Standing 214 metres at their highest point and stretching for 5 miles along the Atlantic coast of County Clare, it is no surprise that the Cliffs of Moher are Ireland’s most visited natural attraction.
With views of the Aran Islands and Galway Bay, as well as the Twelve Pins and the Maum Turk mountains in Connemara, Loop Head to the south and the Dingle Peninsula and Blasket Islands in Kerry.
5. Horse riding through Killarney National Park
Situated south west of Killarney town, Killarney National Park is famed for its world famous lakes and home to Ireland’s tallest mountain range, the McGillycuddy’s Reeks with the peaks top out at over 3,280 feet.
There are many ways to explore the park but for me there was only one way to truly appreciate the stunning views of the mountains, lakes and of course the flora and fauna – by horse! However having never ridden before, to say I was nervous was an understatement. I should not have been as trekking through the park on Jimmy (the horse!) was for me an unbelievable experience. The native red deer on my left and the impressive McGillycuddy’s Reeks to the right, this definitely was a highlight for me.
So now ask me the question ’Why Ireland?’ Why, because it is simply irresistible.
At Macs Adventure we offer a range of walking & cycling adventures in Ireland. Visit www.macsadventure.com for ideas and inspiration to help you explore the Emerald Isle, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.