65 Years Of An Englishman In Ireland, Part 2

Here I propose to deal with the leisure pleasures, and the quiet serenity of this beautiful island, North and South.

For those who like walking or scrambling up small mountains, walking for the scenery, not to keep fit, there is such a varied scenery, from the sea shore, bays, inlets, cliffs and sandy beaches throughout the coast, and there are rivers and lakes inland, with access to it all never much more than 60 to 70 miles from the larger towns. One is spoilt for choice. Many of the beaches have few people on them and can stretch for a mile or more, and we do have the Gulf Stream still. There are also beautiful mountain ranges which can be easy or hazardous, whichever you wish, like the ‘One man’s pass’ in Donegal to the Mournes in County Down, and beyond.

The ever-pictured whitened, thatched cottage, the jaunting car and the donkey with panniers are still to be seen, once in a while, in the remote parts of the West, where they still speak Irish naturally and not just to fool the visitor. Obviously, at fairs and special fetes, The Tourist Board, North and South, will bring some out to impress the visitors. We used to have Horse Fairs in the streets of towns and villages, when young gypsies would run, trotting a horse so the customer could assess its gait. Those days are rarer, there are still special fairs like the Old Lammass Fair at Ballycastle, where one can see it while chewing yellow-man, a sticky form of honeycombe. The turf bogs on high ground have not all gone, they can be seen as part of spectacular views, in many counties and many are still worked. Like the Lake District, the better known beauty spots like Killarney, are best left for an off-season visit, as they will be thronging and parking near the better views is difficult.

Accommodation and Food and Drink. There are a few multi star hotels, but the general run is moderate comfort in pleasant surroundings, reducing in price to some very good B and Bs. Both Tourist Boards have grading and web sites which give a wide range of information. Booking, off season is generally unnecessary. While there are nationally renowned restaurants throughout Ireland, they are not thick on the ground, and the best that can be said for most is that it is well cooked, farmhouse fare in generous quantities’ There is the Ulster Fry, served in the North in most cafes and restaurants up until eleven am, consisting of anything you may wish to order at ridiculously low prices. It is even used as a come-on in some shops. Drink in Ireland is an experience. While the police are alleged to enforce the open hours, in some country districts, if you were to ask the barman what time he closes he might say ‘October’ In Dublin in particular, where people come from all over Britain, if not further, for Stag Nights, there is a roaring trade in music played traditionally, and also singing is allowed. In the country pubs, the weekend will bring out the boron, the pipes and the accordion. Just remember, in Ireland, drinking isn’t a social grace, it is serious stuff.. The staples are mainly Irish Whisky and Guinness. The latter, if properly kept at a correct temperature in a traditional pub, (in winter I have seen candles burning near the wooden barrels), is a meal in itself. Irish whisky is vastly different to Scotch and especially the Highland malts.

Public Transport, taken generally, has been a poor joke since they took away our rail network. There is a reasonable service between the cities of Belfast and Dublin and in the vicinity of the cities, and there are fast, long distance buses. If you are not very rich, I suggest you obtain brochures of the areas you would like to see, and spare some time for looking through time tables to plan your holiday to get the best out of it. If you are rich-ish, hire a car or drive here, if you are disgustingly rich, take taxis

I think you would love this country as I do. Touring is still a relaxing and charming experience, off the beaten track. If you get a guide book out of your local library, brochures from the tourist boards, and above all a relief map, and plan it in a general way, with built in time to wander further, I believe you will return While Ireland has always had its ups and downs politically, visitors will not be aware themselves of anything untoward. Even through the Troubles in Ulster, visitors enjoyed holidays here and neither saw any evil or heard any

This is a skim over somewhere with history, folklore, superstition, and above all a welcome.

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