Originally published: 12 October 2013
As long as sunbathing isn’t on your ‘must-do’ list for your next holiday, there’s a lot to be said for a tour of the west of Ireland. With beautiful landscapes, an impressive wealth of cultural tradition and a friendly, welcoming attitude, Ireland is a very popular tourist destination with people from all parts of the world, many of whose ancestors will have set sail from her shores in the mid-nineteenth century.
It’s with good reason that Ireland has been dubbed ‘the Emerald isle’, as the moderate but often wet climate helps to produce lush foliage and to promote the growth of the diverse crops that fuel the country’s agricultural industry. Much of the west coast can boast of its striking landscapes, from the country’s northernmost county of Donegal, where the rocky outcrops are popular with walkers and climbers, down to the far south-eastern corner where the beautiful Ring of Kerry offers sweeping mountains, sparkling Atlantic coastal waters and a host of winding, picturesque roads that cut a swathe through sleepy villages.
Sights and Sounds
If you start in the south and travel north, the first county is Kerry, which features many natural attractions such as the breath-taking cliffs and beaches of the Dingle Peninsula and the Lakes of Killarney. But it also has a working windmill and a busy and exciting water park called The Aqua Dome, both in Tralee. Further up the coast, as you pass through Limerick and on into Clare, you can drive alongside the River Shannon, the longest in the British Isles. If you fancy getting a little closer, you can hire a boat for a few hours and enjoy the peace of being on the water, unless you have the children with you, in which case you can enjoy the river but not the peace. From Galway up to Donegal you’ll encounter a lot more
Gaelic speakers as there are Gaeltachts in these areas, where English is a second language. Wherever you go along the west coast, you should stop off at some of the many pubs you’ll inevitably come across, where you may be lucky enough to hear local people playing traditional Irish music and singing along.
When you reach County Galway, you should make a point of visiting the famous market, which is open at weekends and has stalls of locally-made craft items and fresh food. From the middle to the end of October, there’s a treat in store for families at the Baboró International Arts Festival for Children and Families, with performances, workshops and exhibitions of theatre, puppetry, music and singing, making it a very creative occasion for those lucky enough to attend. Many festivals take place on the west coast, including the Kerry Féile na Casa, the Kilkenny Arts Festival and the Willie Clancy Festival in Clare. Whether you manage to time your visit with an organised event or simply happen upon some friends gathered together, you can be sure that the craic will be good.
Taking It Easy
There can be few countries as laid back as Ireland, so you might as well soak up some of that atmosphere and enjoy a less hurried way of life for a while. The only thing you really need to be strict about is getting a suitable car, which you can organise ahead of time by researching online for car hire from Dublin Airport. Once you know you have a reliable car that’s big enough for you and your possessions, you can be like the Shannon and ‘go with the flow’.
If this post does not convince you to go and fall in love with the country, check out Julika’s unique Instagram photos of Ireland and we are sure you will changed your mind immediately!