Facts about Ireland
Ireland is slightly larger than the State of West Virginia, and has a population of 3.7 million. The climate is temperate, with temperatures seldom going below freezing in Winter, and the 70's in Summer. I was much impressed by the natural beauty of this part of the world.
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The country has a long and rich history. Although humans lived there 6000 years ago, the first documented era began with the arrival of the Celts (pronounced "Kelts") around 400 B.C. Most of today's Irish are descended from these settlers. The Celtic society was dominated by druids--priests who served as educators, physicians, poets, diviners, and keepers of the laws and histories. Today's Irish (Gaelic) language is a heritage of the Celts, and is still taught in the schools. Irish society changed considerably with the introduction of Christianity by Saint Patrick in 432 A.D. Four hundred years later, the country was plundered by Viking raiders, who eventually were absorbed into Irish culture. Little remains of their 150 year history in Ireland except for some place names, such as Dublin and Cork. Then, in 1169, the Normans invaded, but over time, they too were assimilated into Irish society. Ireland eventually came under English control during the reign of King Henry VIII. The country finally gained independence in 1921, as The Republic of Ireland. However, six counties in the northern part of the island chose to remain with The United Kingdom, and are not a part of the republic. This area is commonly called "Northern Ireland." My tour covered only The Republic ("Eire," in Gaelic). From now on, I will refer to this area simply as "Ireland."
The tour group I was with landed at Shannon airport, on the southwestern coast of Ireland. We proceeded to the City of Limerick, a short distance from the airport. Here is a map of the places we visited. Overnight stays are marked by black circles.
(Click on thumbnail above to see full-size map)
Limerick has a population of 52,000, making it one of the country's four largest cities. We stayed the night at Jurys Hotel, taking in dinner at a picturesque local restaurant. After the meal (I had Irish Stew - Yum!), local performers treated us to a show, including "river dancing,' whatever that is. The next morning, after breakfast, we proceeded to the village of Adare, which features thatched cottages. On the topic of breakfast, I never got used to Irish breakfast cuisine. The eggs and bacon were fine, but blood sausage? Baked beans? After our visit to Adare, we were off to Dingle Bay, and a ride around the southwestern tip of Ireland, the 100-mile 'Ring of Kerry.' This is the area where the movie 'Ryan's Daughter' was filmed. We stopped at Killarney for the night.
Here are some pictures of the Limerick dancers, Limerick Castle, the thatched roof homes and a church in Adare, and the landscape in the 'Ring' area. Notice the seascape looking out across Dingle Bay. The last restaurant photo was taken next to the bay. That's where we had lunch, on the way to Killarney.
Ireland has some spectacular scenery. It varies from serene farm land full of sheep and cattle, to rugged mountain areas, and beautiful seascapes. The country, especially in the West, is full of wild Rhododendron, which was in full bloom. The roses were also blooming. The heather was not so impressive, not showing it's purple bloom at the time.
We stopped at a scenic overlook, and were immediately beset by a pair of hungry wild mountain goats expecting treats. The lady the dark-haired goat is checking out went down shortly after I took the picture. It seems he nudged her a bit too hard, knocking her off balance. Fortunately, she wasn't hurt - only bruised a bit.
We spent the night at the Holiday Inn outside Killarney, a small town without much of interest to tourists. The next morning, we traveled to Blarney, the home the famous stone, and a really pretty town. The ladies on the tour went into a shopping frenzy at the local woolen goods stores. The following photos were taken in Blarney and near the woolens store.
In the afternoon, we traveled through Cork, one of Ireland's major cities, and on to Waterford, where we stayed at the Marina Hotel. This city was founded by Danish Vikings in 853. Today, it is famous for a single product - glass. Here are some photos inside the factory. (Another shopping frenzy took place here.)
The next morning, it was on to Ireland's Capital, Dublin, a city of one million inhabitants. (That's almost a third of the entire population.) We stayed at Jurys Custom House Hotel. Sorry, but I don't have many pictures here. I only took photos of the cathedral and the doorway to a Georgian apartment. I don't really care for big cities, unless they have a striking skyline or some other scenic attraction. I didn't see that much in Dublin that I would care to look at again. The final photo was taken from the ferry that carried us across the Irish Sea to Wales. Thus ended my stay in The Emerald Isle.