Ireland – The Emerald Isle
It is impossible to write a travelogue about this delightful place full of leprechauns in just one part, as I took over 60 pictures from Shannon to Dublin, and there is so much to see and do. Celtic tribes arrived on the Emerald Isle between 600-150 B.C. Invasions by Norsemen that began in the late 8th century was ended when King Brian Boru defeated the Danes in 1014.
English invasion began in the 12th century and started more than seven centuries of Anglo-Irish fighting due to harsh repressions. A failed 1916 Easter Monday Rebellion set off several years of guerrilla warfare that in 1921 resulted in independence from Britain for 26 southern counties, but six northern (Ulster) counties remained part of the United Kingdom.
In 1948 Ireland withdrew from the British Commonwealth, and joined the European Community in 1973. Ireland was neutral in WW11, and continues its policy of a military neutrality. It joined the Eurozone currency union in 1999. Their economy today is fuelled by foreign investment especially from US multi-nationals. A peace settlement for Northern Ireland, known as Good Friday Agreement was approved in 1998, but is being implemented with a little difficulty.
It is a strategic location on major air and sea routes between North America and northern Europe. Over 40% of their population resides within 100 km of Dublin. I visited Ireland several times flying in to Shannon and renting a car driving around County Clare and its lovely rolling hills, getting lost in the farm areas as a thick fog came floating down quickly blocking my route, so I stopped at a farm house to ask the way to the road to The Old Ground Hotel in Ennis. I was invited in for a chat, “American are ye?” and a cup of tea. “One of the lads here became a priest and moved to America. I believe his family all over here tell me he is in Florida.”
A must see are the dramatic Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, towering more than 650 feet, jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean. Spectacularly breathtaking!
I drove to Ennistymon and had lunch in Lahinch. From there I drove up winding roads amid the grazing sheep, passed the prehistoric tomb Pouolnabrone Dolmen, on the limestone pavement of The Burren, a haunting rocky landscape, then stopped in at a pub for a glass of ale and some steamed clams with black bread, and a natter with the locals in their thick brogue: “American ye must be!” Then continued on towards the beautiful County Mayo passing picturesque villages dotted with verdant landscapes enclosed by stone walls, and headed for my B@B.
Driving south through Killarney to County Cork where my husband’s grandfather came from, I dropped in to the O’Sullivan pub for a glass of whiskey: “uisce beatha,” (water of life; not to be confused with Scotch whisky with no ‘e’, and because of the natural rivalry (Scotch or Irish??) it is distilled three times instead of twice, and the barley is dried over hot air; which must give them the hot air or blarney every Irishman I know projects histrionically.
The following day I made my way to beautiful Bantry Bay. Continuing my sojourn to Kinsale and Waterford I drove to Kildare and settled in bustling Dublin where I visited Trinity College to see the famous Book of Kells, an eighth century rendering of the four gospels of the New Testament, with its brightly coloured images. After seven days of touring Ireland I took the ferry over to Scotland to visit my family. A year later, I flew in to Dublin and drove all the way to Galway, and I still have the northern part of the Emerald Isle to explore. Must see Portrush and Derry, and… next trip.
Photography: Alinka Zyrmont