Republic of Ireland
My Visit to Ireland
There are two things high on the list of every visitor to Ireland- downing a pint or two of Guinness and kissing the Blarney Stone. After scrambling up a spiral staircase to the top of the crumbling castle, Stretching out into the void, face up, to smooch this ancient relic, I wished I'd gulped the Guinness first.
I also hoped that the man who was clinging to my legs to stop me plunging 27m to the ground hadn't gulped Guinness first. Ireland is famous for its 40 shades of green, but I always thought that meant the lush landscape-not my face. Phew, time for that Guinness!
I was hopping around Ireland on a luxurious Trafalgar coach tour, having the time of my life with an assortment of friendly Americans, Canadians, Kiwis and Aussies. Visiting Ireland was like coming home-I had never been here before but there was something strangely familiar about this charming land of saints and Scholars.
Dublin is the perfect starting point-just asks the Vikings-a lively city easily navigated by foot, offering narrow cobbled streets among wide European boulevards. At the heart is the 400-year old Trinity College, where inside the Harry Potteresque Library I gazed upon the intricate Book Of Kells-an ancient illuminated manuscript dating from the 8th century.
This tour was as much about the local characters as the places we explored. I especially enjoyed the Inishowen Peninsula on the wild far north coast. We were taken there by an engaging Child of "the Troubles"-tour guide. The landscape was at times as harsh as the violent stories the guide told us. Thatched-roof cottages nestled among ancient granite cliffs that plunged to the icy sea below. And Dingle Bay offered the perfect surf break-for those who'd dare brave the North Atlantic Ocean.
Thanks to amazing guides, our tour was more of a drama lesson than a history lesson, laden with limericks and tow-tapping music.
Everywhere the scenery was breathtaking-tidy farms in a patchwork of green hedges, colourful rhododendrons overgrowing stone ruins, and too many pubs to count. The shopaholics on the bus were happy, as were the history buffs and gastronomes-thankfully there was just enough walking every day to balance out the fine dining from the night before!
After 11 unforgettable days filled with songs, laughter and lasting memories, it was easy to see why Ireland holds a special place in the hearts of so many.
Three of the Best things to do in Ireland:
Visit Ulster American Folk Park. It tells the story of Irish emigration to the USA through the re-creation of 18th-century villages.
See the Irish National Stud. It produces some of the best racehorses in the world, including Melbourne Cup winner Vintage Crop.
Take a Waterford Crystal Factory tour and follow the sparkling stuff from design through to the jaw-dropping shop.