Doolin

Doolin gets plenty of press and chatter as a centre of Irish traditional music, owing to a couple of pubs that have sessions through the year. It's also known for its setting -6km north of the Cliffs of Moher, the land is windblown, with huge rocks exposed by the long-vanished top soil. It's a place to get boats to the Aran Islands offshore. Given all its attributes, you might be surprised when you realise that Doolin as it's known barely exists. Rather, when you arrive you might be forgiven...

Transport

Brittany Ferries Office 94 E4 Cork Bus Station 95 E2 Rothar Cycles 96 C4 out for ugly scenes around central pubs and clubs late at night. Faint-hearted souls may find Cork City Gaol ( 430 5022 www.corkcitygaol.com Convent Ave adult child 7 3.50 S 9.30am-6pm Mar-Oct, 10am-5pm Nov-Feb, last admission Ihr before closing) a little grim, but it's certainly a highly unusual and worthwhile attraction. An audio-tour guides you around the restored cells, which feature models of suffering prisoners and...

Wildlife

Ireland's flora and fauna is, by and large, shy and subtie, but as in any island environment, travellers who set out on foot will discover an Ireland that is resplendent with interesting species. Apart from the fox and badger, which tend to shy away from humans and are rarely seen, the wild mammals of Ireland are mostly of the ankle-high 'critter' category, such a rabbits, hedgehogs and shrews. Hikers often spot the Irish hare, or at least glimpse the blazing-fast blur of one running away. Red...

Murals Today

In recent years there has been a lot of debate about what to do with Belfast's murals. Some see them as an ugly and unpleasant reminder of a violent past, others claim they are a vital part of Northern Ireland's history. There's no doubt they have become an important tourist attraction, but there is now a move to replace the more aggressive and militaristic images with murals dedicated to local heroes and famous figures such as footballer George Best and Narnia novelist CS Lewis. There are also...

EATING

Seafood is Galway's specialty, whether fish and chips, ocean-fresh chowder or sea bass cooked to perfection. Galway Bay oysters can also be found locally and at nearby Clarinbridge. The city's bohemian bent means vegetarians are spoilt for choice from caf s through to high-end restaurants. t'llU'lIM flrd Bia ( 539 897 www.ardbia.com 2 Quay St caf dishes 6-12, lunch mains 10-14, dinner mains 16-26 S caf 10am-5pm, lunch served noon-3pm, restaurant 6.30-10.30pm Tue-Sat) In Irish, Ard Bia means...

Maps

Many publishers produce some good-quality maps of Ireland. Michelin's 1 400,000-scale Ireland map (No 923) is a decent single sheet map, with clear cartography and most of the island's scenic roads marked. The four maps -North, South, East and West - that make up the Ordnance Survey Holiday map series at 1 250,000-scale are useful if you want more detail. Collins also publishes a range of maps covering Ireland. For greater detail, map aficionados and walkers should look out for the Ordnance...

Monasterboice

Crowing ravens lend just the right atmosphere to Monasterboice (Mainistir Bhuithe admission free S sunrise-sunset ), an intriguing monastic site containing a cemetery, two ancient church ruins, one of the finest and tallest round towers in Ireland, and two of the best high crosses. The site can be reached directly from Mellifont via a winding route along narrow country lanes. Down a leafy lane and set in sweeping farmland, Monasterboice has a special atmosphere, particularly at quiet times. The...

Aran Islands

Just a 40 minute boat ride from the mainland, the desolate beauty of the Aran Islands feels far removed from contemporary life. An extension of the limestone escarpment that forms the Burren, the island has shallow topsoil scattered with yellow buttercups, white-petalled daisies and spring gentian, and jagged cliffs that are pounded by surf. On the cliff tops, ancient forts such as Dun Aengus on Inishmor and Dun Chonchuir on Inishmaan are some of the oldest archaeological remains in Ireland. A...

Cruising Holidays On Lough Erne

If you fancy exploring Lough Erne as captain of your own motor cruiser, well, you can - and without any previous experience or qualification. Several companies in Fermanagh hire out self-drive, live-aboard cabin cruisers by the week, offering a crash course (not literally, you hope) in boat-handling and navigation at the start of your holiday. Weekly rates in high season (July and August) range from about 600 for a two-berth to 1000 for a four-berth and 1600 for an eight-berth boat. Low- and...

Extreme Copyright

We might take plagiarism seriously these days, but we ain't got nothing on the early Irish church. What might incur a hefty fine and slap on the wrist in the modern day cost the lives of 3000 men in battle in the year AD 561. The aptly named 'Battle of the Book' took place in Cooldrum-man, near Drumcliff, after St Colmcille (or Columba) provoked rage by copying rare religious manuscripts. The matter initially went to the local king to settle, who famously declared 'to every cow its calf, to...

Tralee To Dingle Via Annascaul

For drivers, the N86 has little to recommend it other than being faster than the Connor Pass route. By bike it's less demanding. On foot, the Dingle Way (p699) runs near the road for the first three days. The main reason to pause in Annascaul (Abhainn an Scail), also spelled Anascaul, is to visit the South Pole Inn ( 066-915 7388 Main St bar meals 8-20 S noon-8pm). Antarctic explorer Tom Crean (p286) ran the pub in his retirement. Now it's a regular Crean museum and giftshop, as well as a...

Around Ennis

North of Ennis is the early Christian site of Dysert O'Dea to the southeast are several fine castles. Note that much of the county can be enjoyed as a day trip from Ennis. Local and express buses cover most areas around Ennis, but their frequency varies many buses run only May to September (some only July and August) and on certain days. Before making plans confirm times and destinations with Ennis bus station ( 065-682 4177 www.buseireann.ie). You can feel the past as you navigate the narrow...

Slieve Bloom Mountains

One of the best reasons for visiting Laois is to explore the Slieve (shlee-ve) Bloom Mountains. Although not as spectacular as some Irish ranges, their sudden rise from a great plain, and the absence of visitors, make them highly attractive. You'll get a real sense of being away from it all as you tread the deserted mountaintop blanket bogs, moorland, pine forests and isolated valleys. The highest point is Mt Arderin (528m), south of the Glendine Gap on the Offaly border, from where, on a clear...

Ennistymon

Ennistymon (Inis Diom in) is a timeless country village just 4km inland from Lahinch, but worlds away in terms of atmosphere. People go about their business (which involves a lot of cheerful chatting) barely noticing the characterful buildings lining Main St. And behind this fa ade there's a surprise the roaring Cascades, the stepped falls of the River Inagh. After heavy rain the falls surge, beer-brown and foaming, and you risk getting drenched on windy days in the flying drizzle. You'll find...

Abbey Tavern wwwabbeytavernie

Abbey St mains 22-26,3-course dinner 38) This atmospheric 16th-century tavern serves better-than-average pub grub, with an emphasis on seafood and meat. There's a bar menu all day. King Sitric ( 832 5235 www.kingsitric.ie East Pier mains 35-48,5-course dinner 55 S lunch& dinner Mon-Fri, dinner onlySat) Howth's most famous restaurant, praised for its superb seafood and prize-winning wine list, has added eight marvellous rooms ( 145 to 205) to its premises right on the port. Each is named...

Grant Ancestral Homestead

Ulysses Simpson Grant (1822-85) led Union forces to victory in the American Civil War and later served as the USA's 18th president for two terms from 1869 to 1877. His maternal grandfather, John Simpson, emigrated from County Tyrone to Pennsylvania in 1760, but the farm he left behind at Dergenah has now been restored in the style of a typical Ulster smallholding, as it would have been during the time of Grant's presidency. The furnishings in the Grant Ancestral Homestead (Dergina, Ballygawley...

Killorglin

Travelling anticlockwise from Killarney, the first town on the Ring is Killorglin (Cill Or-glan). The town is quieter than the waters of the River Laune that lap against the eight-arched bridge, built in 1885. In August, there's an explosion of time-honoured ceremonies and libations at the famous pagan festival, the Puck Fair. A handsome statue of King Puck (yes, he's a goat) can be seen on the Killarney side of the river. Author Blake Morrison documents his mother's childhood here in Things My...

Carlow Town

The winding streets and lanes of Carlow give it just a bit of a 'Kilkenny Lite' feel. Or maybe it's just Kilkenny cheap. There's enough heritage to keep you wandering for an afternoon, and a ripple of trendy caf s and solid nightiife may keep you in town past dusk. But you're unlikely to feel besieged by the tour bus hordes. Dublin St is the city's principal north-south axis, with Tullow St, the main shopping street, running off it at a right angle. Post office (cnr Kennedy Ave & Dublin St)...

Walk The Brandy

The Brandy Pad is an ancient smugglers' trail across the Mourne Mountains that was used in the 18th century to carry brandy, wine, tobacco and coffee to Hilltown, avoiding the excise officer at Newcastle. The trail begins at Bloody Bridge, 5km south of Newcastle. The first part of the path follows the route up Slieve Donard from Bloody Bridge (see boxed text, p628) as far as the Mourne Wall (3.5km). On the far side of the wall a wide path contours north (to your right) across the lower slopes...

Inisheer

Although Inisheer (Inis Oirr) is only 8km off the coast from Doolin in County Clare, the absence of tourist amenities nevertheless keeps visitor numbers down. The smallest of the Aran Islands has a palpable sense of enchantment, enhanced by the island's deep-rooted mythology and ethereal landscapes. The wheels of change turn very slowly here. Electricity didn't come to the island until the 1970s and even then only by generator. It was connected to the mainland's electricity via an underwater...

Scuba Diving

Ireland has some of the best scuba diving in Europe, almost entirely off the western coast among its offshore islands and rocks. The best period for diving is roughly March to October. Visibility averages more than 12m but can increase to 30m on good days. For more details about scuba diving in Ireland, contact Comhairle Fo-Thuinn (CFT), the Irish Underwater Council 01-284 4601 www.scubaireland .com), Ireland's diving regulatory body, which publishes the dive magazine SubSea (also available...

Walk Facts

Start The diamond Finish The diamond Distance 2km Duration 30 to 40 minutes The Bogside Artists - brothers Will and Tom Kelly, and friend Kevin Hasson - are famous as the creators of the murals that make up the People's Gallery. Tom and Kevin were 10 and 11 years old when the Troubles broke out in 1969, Will in his early 20s. What was it like growing up in Derry during the Troubles Kevin 'One minute nobody knows about us or Derry or even Northern Ireland the next thing, we are all over the...

Belfast For Children

W5 (p586) is the city's biggest draw for kids -it's hard to drag them away once they get started on the hands-on exhibits - and the Odyssey Complex houses other attractions including a video-games arcade, a ten-pin bowling rink and an IMAX cinema. Belfast Zoo (p590) is a perennial favourite, and the Ulster Museum (p587) also has plenty of exhibits and special events designed for children of all ages. For outdoor fun, head for the Botanic Gardens (p587), or the adventure playground in Cave Hill...

Strandhill Surfcam

Established in 1894, County Sligo Golf Course ( 917 7134 www.countysligogolfdub.ie) is one of Ireland's most challenging and renowned links courses, attracting golfers from all over Europe. Its position on the peninsula is simply stunning. Green fees cost from 70 Monday to Thursday, and 85 Friday to Sunday fees are less in the winter. Greenlands Caravan & Camping Park ( 917 7113 noelineha eircom.net camp sites per person 11 S Easter-mid-Sep) Peering over the Adantic from the point's extreme,...

Tullynally Castle Gardens

The seat of the Pakenham family is the imposing Gothic revival Tullynally Castle ( 044-61159 www.tullynallycastle.com Castlepollard gardens adult child family 6 3 16 S 2-6pm Jun-Aug). The castle itself is closed to visitors, but you can roam its 12 hectares of gardens and parkland containing ornamental lakes, a Chinese and a Tibetan garden and a wonderful stretch of 200-year-old yews. To get here, take the N4 from Mullingar, then the R394 at Edgeworthstown to Castlepollard, from where the...

TOURS

Arrangements Unlimited ( s 429 3873 www .arrangements.le) Organises walking tours on request. Bus Eireann ( 450 8188 www.buseireann.ie adult child 9.90 6.30 S departs 10.30am daily Easter-Sep) Three-houropen-top bus tour of Cork and Blarney Castle, from the bus station. Cork City Tour ( 430 9090 adult child 13 5 S 9.30am-5pm Apr-Oct) Hop-on-hop-off open-top bus linking the city's main areas of interest. Cork Historic Walking Tours ( 085-100 7300 www.walkcork.le adult child 10 5 S Mon-Fri...

Kinnitty

Kinnitty is a quaint little village that makes a good base for the Slieve Bloom Mountains (p356). Driving out of Kinnitty, the roads across the mountains to Mountrath and Mountmellick, both in County Laois, are particularly scenic. Look out for the bizarre lOm-high stone pyramid in the village graveyard behind the Church of Ireland. In the 1830s, Richard Bernard commissioned this scale replica of the Cheops pyramid in Egypt for the family crypt. The shaft of the 9th-century Kinnitty High Cross...

Walk Causeway Coast

The official Causeway Coast Way (www.walkni.com) stretches for 53km from Portstewart to Ballycastle, but the most scenic section - the 16.5km between Carrick-a-Rede and the Giant's Causeway - can be done in a day and offers one of the finest coastal walks in Ireland. There are caf s and public toilets at Larrybane, Ballintoy Harbour and the Giant's Causeway, and bus stops at Larrybane, Ballintoy village, Whitepark Bay Youth Hostel, Dunseverick Castle and the Giant's Causeway. Note that parts of...

Our Best Irish Albums

Loveless (My Bloody Valentine) - utterly intoxicating indie classic that just piles on the layers of sound and melody. Boy (U2) - best debut album of all time We think so. The End of History (Fionn Regan) - too early to say if it's a classic, but it's bloody good. Live & Dangerous (Thin Lizzy) - released in 1978, it remains one of the greatest live albums ever recorded. I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got (Sinead O'Connor) - try listening to the Prince-penned 'Nothing Compares to U' and not...

The Bungalow Blitz

Although Donegal is Ireland's most remote corner, it hasn't been spared the real estate boom, and in spots its coastline has fallen prey to an insidious invasion - a bungalow blight. As rows of kit housing have gone up, the natural beauty of some parts of the county have clearly diminished over the past 15 years. Areas such as the Bloody Foreland, long celebrated for its stunning sunset views, are now known as 'Legoland'. Around two-thirds of construction undertaken in Donegal today is aimed at...

Climbing The Ages

An exhilarating outing is the climb up Black Head to the Iron Age ring fort of Cathair Dhun lorais. There's no path, so it's essential to take a map (Ordnance Survey Discovery Series No 51) and compass. The ground is very rocky in places, so strong footwear is essential. Be prepared for wet, windy and potentially cold conditions, even in summer. It's a steep 1.5km to the fort. Start from just above the lighthouse on the northern tip of Black Head. There's limited parking on the inland side of...

Walk Cuilcagh Mountain Via The Legnabrocky Trail

Rising above Marble Arch and Florence Court like a miniature Mount Roraima, Cuilcagh (pronounced cull-kay) Mountain (666m) is the highest point in Counties Fermanagh and Cavan, its summit right on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. The mountain is a geological layer cake, with a cave-riddled limestone base, shale and sandstone flanks draped with a shaggy tweed skirt of blanket bog, and a high gritstone plateau ringed by steep, craggy slopes, all part of the Marble Arch Caves...

Sleeping Eating

Lakeside Caravan & Camping ( 985 2822 lakesidecentre eircom.net Belleek Rd amp sites from 17 S Mar-Sep) Nestling on the shore of Assaroe Lake, this four-star camping ground is worth the trip. It's especially well equipped for kids. From Ballyshannon, take the N3 for 1km towards Belleek. Breesy Centre ( 982 2925 www.breesycentre.com Cashelard dm d 20 40, breakfast 5 (P) ) This remote country hostel has sparkly and cheerful dorms with private bathrooms, and a tranquil village setting 6km...

Kilkee To Ennistymon

North of Kilkee, the land flattens and you enjoy vistas that sweep across pastures and dunes. The N67 runs inland for some 32km until it reaches Quilty. Take the occasional lane to the west and search out unfrequented places such as White Strand, north of Doon-beg. Ballard Bay is 8km west of Doonbeg, where an old telegraph tower looks over some fine cliffs. Donegal Point has the remains of a promontory fort. There's good fishing all along the coast, and safe beaches at Seafield, Lough Donnell...

Duncannon Around

Driving from Hook Head towards Duncannon, you'll come across the ruins of a fortified medieval church opposite the Templar's Inn. In 1172, Henry II granted land hereabouts to the Knights Templar they made nearby Temple-town their HQ and built various churches. The 13th-century structure they built here was later added to by the Knights Hospitaller and the Loftus estate. On the ground to the left of the church, a stone slab bears a Templar seal a lamb and crucifix. There's something...

Skellig Ring

This 18km detour from the Ring of Kerry links Portmagee and Waterville via a Gaeltacht (Gaeilge-speaking) area centred on Ballinskelligs (Baile an Sceilg). Ballinskelligs' name translates as 'town of the crag', which may elicit sniggers from fans of Father Ted and his Craggy Island pals. The area is as wild and beautiful as anything on Ted's fictional isle, with the ragged outline of Skellig Michael never far from view. Tourist information is available at Caf Coistr (see right). This...

Around New Ross

About 7km south of New Ross, the Kennedy Homestead ( 388 264 www.kennedyhomestead.com Dunganstown adult child family 5 2.50 14 S 10am-5pm Jul & Aug, 11.30am-4.30pm Mon-Fri May, Jun & Sep, by appointment rest of the year) was the birthplace of Patrick Kennedy, great grandfather of John F Kennedy, who left Ireland for the USA in 1848. When JFK visited the farm in 1963 and hugged the current owner's grandmother, it was his first public display of affection according to his sister Jean. Jean...

Youghal

The ancient walled seaport of Youghal Eo-chaill pronounced yawl , at the mouth of the River Blackwater, has history coming out of its ears and really makes the most of it. The town was a hotbed of rebellion against the English in the 16th century, and Oliver Cromwell wintered here in 1649 as he sought to drum up support for his war in England and quell insurgence from the pesky Irish. Youghal was granted to Sir Walter Raleigh during the Elizabethan Plantation of Mun-ster, and he spent brief...

Saltee Islands

Once the haunt of privateers, smugglers and 'dyvars pyrates', the Saltees now have a peaceful existence as one of Europe's most important bird sanctuaries. Over 375 recorded species make their home here, 4km offshore from Kilmore Quay, principally the gannet, guillemot, cormorant, kittiwake, puffin, aux, and the Manx shearwater. The best time to visit is the spring and early-summer nesting season. The birds leave once the chicks can fly, and by early August it's eerily quiet. The two islands,...

Rundstne

Clustered around a boat-filled harbour, Roundstone Cloch na Ron is one of Con-nemara's gems. Colourful terrace houses and inviting pubs overlook the dark recess of Bertraghboy Bay, which is home to lobster trawlers and traditional currachs with tarred canvas bottoms stretched over wicker frames. The idyllic surroundings continue to lure film makers, artists and musicians. Just south of the village in an old Franciscan monastery is Malachy Kearns' Round-stone Musical Instruments 35808...

Midrange

Most B amp Bs are in or around Laragh, a village 3km east of Glendalough, or on the way there from Glendalough. WALK THE WICKLOW WAY - GLENDALOUGH TO AUGHRIM The Wicklow Way is one of Ireland's most popular long-distance walks because of its remarkable scenery and its relatively fluid and accessible starting and finishing points - there are plenty of half- and full-day options along the way. This section is40km long and takes you through some of the more remote parts of the Wicklow Mountains...

Mermaid Dreams

Sinking into a sea-water bath and slathering yourself with seaweed may sound like madness, but in Ireland it's considered to be good for the health. Seaweed baths have been part of Irish homeopathy for centuries and are considered a cure for rheumatism and arthritis, even hangovers. Although some claims are unproven, one thing's for sure - a single session wallowing in the soupy waters will leave your skin feeling baby-soft. Seaweed's silky oils contain a massive concentration of iodine, a key...

Sleeping Q

Bay View House Clonakilty Townhouse Emmet Hotel Strand House Tudor Lodge An Sugan Betty Brosnan Courtyard Bar amp Bistro Desert House Caravan amp Camping Park 33331 deseithouse eircom.net Coast Rd camp site 10, r per person 35 S Easter amp May-Sep This attractive park, 1.5km southeast of town on the road to Ring, is on a dairy farm overlooking the bay. B amp B rooms inside are an orgy of patterned carpets and floral wallpaper. Tudor Lodge 33046 www.tudorlodgecork.com McCurtain Hill s 40-45, d...

Killaloe To Mountshannon

The journey north to Mountshannon along Lough Derg is scenic there are good viewpoints and picnic spots. To get to Mount-shannon from Killaloe take the R463 to Tuamgraney, then turn east on the R352. About 2km north of Killaloe, Beal Boru is an earthen mound or fort said to have been Kincora, the fabled palace of the famous Irish king Brian Boru, who, besides lending his name to bad Irish bars the world over, took on the Vikings at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. Traces of Bronze Age settlement...

Sleeping

Cushendun Caravan Park 21761254 14 Glendun Rd camp caravan sites from 8 16 S Easter-Sep The local council-run camping ground enjoys a pleasant woodland setting just north of the village and a mere five-minute walk from the beach. aoneymore House 21761443 ann.doneymore btinternet.com 103 Knocknacarry Rd s d 35 45 g A traditional family B amp B on the B92 road 500m southwest of Cushendun, Cloneymore has four spacious and spodess rooms named after Irish and Scottish islands - Aran is the biggest....

The Page Of Kells

More than half a million visitors stop in each year to see Trinity's top show-stopper, the world-famous Book of Kelts. This illuminated manuscript, dating from around AD 800 and thus one of the oldest books in the world, was probably produced by monks at St Colmcille's Monastery on the remote island of lona, off the western coast of Scotland. Repeated looting by marauding Vikings forced the monks to flee to the temporary safety of Kells, county Meath, in AD 806, along with their masterpiece....

Lough Inagh Valley

The journey north along the Lough Inagh Valley, just north of the N59, is one of the most scenic in Ireland a big call, we know . There are two fine approaches up valleys from the south, starting on either side of Recess, and the sweep of Derryclare and Inagh Loughs accompanies you most of the way. On the western side is the brooding Twelve Bens mountain range, while just beyond the valley on the northern side is a picturesque drive beside Kylemore Lake. Towards the northern end of the valley,...

BUS

The office of Dublin Bus Map pp82-3 872 0000 www.dublinbus.ie 59 Upper O'Connell St S 9am-5.30pm Mon-Fri, 9am-2pm Sat has free single-route timetables of all its services. Buses run from around 6am some start at 5.30am to 11.30pm. Fares are calculated according to stages one to three stages costs 1, four to seven stages 1.40, eight to 13 stages 1.60, and 14 to 23 stages 1.90. You must tender exact change for tickets when boarding buses anything more and you will be given a receipt for...

TOP END

Vintage Restaurant 477 2502 www.vintagerestaurant .ie 50 Main St mains 18-24 S 6-10pm Tue-Sun, closed Jan The d cor may be a litde fusty these days but the Vintage is one of the reasons that Kinsale deserves its gourmet label, with prices that are truly justifiable. Unbeatable dishes range from oyster starters to mains of lobster in brandy or sea bass in white port cr me fish that demand a magic touch - and get it. toby's 477 2200 5 Main St mains 18-25 S 6-10.30pm More excellent Irish-European...

Culdaff Around

This is a lovely spot, where sheep vasdy outnumber the people. The sleepy, secluded, resort village of Culdaff Cuil Dabhcha is surrounded by several ancient sites, but the main draw is a country inn with an impressive live-music venue. The village is on the main Moville-Carndonagh road R238 . Sheep now wander the remains of the Clonca church and cross. Inside, an intricately carved tombstone sporting a sword and hurling-stick motif was erected by one Magnus MacOrris-tin. The carved lintel over...

Westport

It's perhaps the ultimate twee 'tidy town,' and its gentility is sometimes disturbed by hens and stags flying in for a weekend of partying - yet Westport Cathair na Mairt has an undeniable appeal. Its broad Georgian streets and shaded lime-flanked riverside mall are about as photogenic as Ireland gets, and spirited pubs line Bridge St. One pub in particular, Matt Malloy's, is rather conducive to having rare auld time. A short distance west is the town's pretty harbour, Westport Quay, on the...

Ferns

This sleepy village was once the powerhouse of the kings of Leinster, in particular Dermot MacMurrough 1110-71 , whose name is forever associated with bringing the Normans to Ireland see p34 . The Normans left behind a cathedral and a doughty castie, later smashed to pieces by Cromwell. Ferns Castle 66411 Sl0am-6pm mid-Jun-mid-Sep, last admission 45 min before closing was built around 1220. A couple of walls and part of the moat survive you can climb to the top of the one complete tower....

Abbeyleix

Abbeyleix abbey-ieefo , 15km south of Portlaoise, is a pretty tree-lined heritage town with neat houses and a lot of traffic. The original settlement, which grew up around a 12th-century Cistercian monastery, wasn't here at all local 18th-century landowner Viscount de Vesci levelled the village and moved it to its present location owing to frequent floods in the old location. During the Famine, de Vesci proved a kinder landlord than many, and the fountain obelisk in the square was erected as a...

Graiguenamanagh

Graiguenamanagh pronounced 'greg-na-mana' is a pretty litde riverside town on the Barrow, 23km southeast of Kilkenny. The town's best feature is its six-arch stone bridge that is illuminated at night. Along the river there's a serene wooded walk, of about l' i hours, to St Mullins, just a few kilometres downstream from town, and another up Brandon Hill 516m , about 6km away. Dating back to 1204, Duiske Abbey 24238 S 8am-6pm was once Ireland's largest Cistercian abbey. What you see today is the...

Curradoe Beach

Over 11km long, Curracloe is one of a string of deserted beaches that line the coast north of Wexford town. The high-octane opening scenes of the Normandy landing in Saving Private Ryan 1997 were filmed here. Many of the birds found at the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve can also be seen here in the Raven Nature Reserve. It's 13km northeast of Wexford off the Dublin road. If you're discreet you can pitch a tent in the sheltered dunes. Hotel Curradoe 37308 www.hotelcurradoe.com s d 45 80 is a small...

Activities

You can fish for trout and salmon in the Rivers Flesk per day 10 and Laune per day 25 a state salmon licence per 21 days 48 is needed. Or you can fish for brown trout for free in Killarney National Park's lakes. Information, permits, licences and hire equipment can be obtained at O'Neill's 31970 6 Plunkett St , which looks like a gift shop, but is a long-established fishing centre. Killarney Riding Stables 31686 Bally-downey 1- 2- 3-hr rides 30 50 70 is 1.5km west of the centre on the N72. The...

Kilkee To Loop Head

The land from Kilkee south to Loop Head has subde undulations that suddenly end in dramatic cliffs falling off into the Atlantic. It's a windswept place with timeless striations of old stone walls. You can literally see for miles and there is a rewarding sense of escape from the mainstream. It's good cycling country and there are coastal walks which is just as well as there's no public transport. On 15 September 1588, seven tattered ships of the Spanish Armada took shelter off Carrigaholt...

SIGHTS

Housed in a restored warehouse on the riverfront, the Donegal Ancestry Family Research Centre amp Heritage Centre 915 1266 www.donegalancestry .com the Quay adult child 4 2 S 9am-4.30pm Mon-Thu, 9am-4pm Fri has an exhibition on the history of Ramelton, and also does genealogical research. It costs 15 for an initial consultation. The ruined Tullyaughnish Church, on the hill, is also worth a visit because of the Romanesque carvings in the eastern wall, which were taken from a far older church on...

National Museum Of Ireland Archaeology History

Designed by Sir Thomas Newenham Deane and completed in 1890, the star attraction of this branch of the National Museum of Ireland Map p86 677 7444 www.museum.ie Kildare St admission by donation S 10am-5pm Tue-Sat, 2-5pm Sun is the Treasury, home to the finest collection of Bronze Age and Iron Age gold artefacts in the world, and the world's most complete collection of medieval Celtic metalwork. The centrepieces of the Treasury's unique collection are Ireland's most famous crafted artefacts, the...

Inishbofin

By day sleepy Inishbofin is a haven of tranquillity. You can walk or bike its narrow, deserted lanes, green pastures and sandy beaches, with farm animals and seals for company. But with no garda on the island to enforce closing times at the pub, by night -you guessed it - Inishbofin has mighty fine craic. Inishbofin's small post office has a grocery shop and a currency-exchange facility. Pubs and hotels will usually change travellers cheques. Situated 9km offshore, Inishbofin is compact -6km...

Inishmaan

The least-visited of the islands, with the smallest population, Inishmaan Inis Meain is, perhaps not surprisingly, the most tranquil. Early Christian monks seeking solitude were drawn to Inishmaan, as was the author JM Synge, who spent five summers here over a century ago. The island they knew largely survives today docile farm animals, impressive old forts, and warm-hearted locals who may tell you with a glint in their eye that they had a hard night on the whiskey the previous evening there...

Pubs

Drogheda has dozens of bars and pubs. Check the tourism website www.drogheda . e for a full schedule of live music around town. There's usually at least one trad session every night. HBJCNiCairbre Carberry's 984 7569 North Strand This pub is a national treasure. Owned by the same family since 1880, C Ni Cairbre has brown walls that look every decade of their age, and old newspaper clips and long-faded artwork covering most surfaces. But the real joy here is the music. This is the centre for...

Coastal Drive Galway City To Mace Head

The slow coastal route between Galway and Connemara takes you past picturesque seascapes and villages. Opposite the popular Blue Flag beach Silver Strand, 4.8km west of Galway, are the Barna Woods, a dense, deep green forest perfect for rambling and picnicking. Conserved by the Galway County Council, the woods contain the last natural growing oaks in Ireland's west. The once unspoilt village of Barna, a further 3km west, has been inundated by recent development to the chagrin of locals, who...

Caherciveen

Caherciveen's population, which was over 30,000 in 1841, was desecrated by the Great Famine and emigration to the New World. A sleepy outpost remains, overshadowed by the 688m peak of Knocknadobar. It looks rather dour compared with the peninsula's other settlements, but has a handful of sights and some good accommodation. Caherciveen has a post office and two banks, both with ATMs. The Allied Irish Bank AIB has a bureau de change. Internet Caf 9481885 12 Main St per30min 1hr 3 5 S 9am-9pm...

Walk The Cliffs Of Magho

The Cliffs of Magho - a 250m-high and 9km-long limestone escarpment - dominate the western end of Lough Erne, rising above a fringe of native woodland on the south shore. The view from the cliff top is one of the finest in Ireland, especially towards sunset, looking out over the shimmering expanse of lough and river to the Blue Stack Mountains, the sparkling waters of Donegal Bay and the sea cliffs of Slieve League. The hike to the top is strenuous, but not too long 2.5km round trip allow one...

The National Psyche

The Irish are justifiably renowned for their easy-going, affable nature. They're famous for being warm and friendly, which is just another way of saying that the Irish love a bit of a chat, whether it be with friends or strangers. They will entertain with their humour, alarm you with their willingness to get stuck in to a good debate and will cut you down with their razor-sharp wit. Slagging - the Irish version of teasing - is an art form, which may seem caustic to unfamiliar ears but is...

Glenarm

Since 1750 Glenarm Gleann Arma , the oldest village in the glens, has been the family seat of the MacDonnell family the present 14th earl of Antrim lives in Glenarm Castle 2884 1203 www.glenarmcastle.com , on a private estate hidden behind the impressive wall that runs along the main road north of the bridge. The castle itself is closed to the public, except for two days in July when a Highland Games competition is held, but you can visit the lovely Walled Garden adult child 4 2 S 11am-5pm...

The Blasket Weaver

The deserted village on Great Blasket might not look like the most inviting place to live, but for some 20 years Welsh immigrant Sue Redican has occupied one of the cottages between April and October. Europe's most western resident has no electricity or phone line, but has candles for light, gas for cooking, and a mobile phone and VHF radio for communication. She stays there for as much of the year as she can, and once stayed for 10 months, although bad weather can cut her off from the...

Torr Head Scenic Road

A few kilometres east of Ballycasde, a minor road signposted Scenic Route branches north off the A2. This alternative route to Cush-endun is not for the faint-hearted driver nor for caravans , as it clings, precarious and narrow, to steep slopes high above the sea. Side roads lead off to the main points of interest -Fair Head, Murlough Bay and Torr Head. On a clear day, there are superb views across the sea to Scodand, from the Mull of Kintyre to the peaks of Arran. The first turn-off ends at...

Cahir

Every bit as worth a stop as Cashel, Cahir An Cathair pronounced care is a compact and attractive town that encircles its namesake castle. Replete with towers, a moat and various batdements, it's everything a casde fanatic could ask for. There's a town square lined with pubs and caf s, and good walking paths along the banks of the River Suir. Extending a distance of 55km from a place called The Vee in the south to Cashel in the north, the Tipperary Heritage Trail takes in some beautiful river...

Birr Castle Demesne

It's easy to spend half a day exploring the attractions and gardens of Birr Castle Demesne 932 0336 www.birrcastle.com adult child 9 5.50 S 9am-6pm . The 'castle' all those windows mean 'mansion' itself, however, is a private home and cannot be visited. Most of the present building dates from around 1620, with additional alterations made in the early 19 th century. The 50-hectare castle surroundings are famous for their magnificent gardens set around a large artificial lake. They hold over 1000...

Staigue Fort

This ring fort is an imposing sight at the head of a valley, and a powerful evocation of late-Iron Age Ireland. Its circular stone wall, up to 6m high and 4m thick, is surrounded by a protective bank and ditch. Steps criss-cross the interior of the wall, which contains two small rooms and a narrow entrance tunnel. Staigue probably dates from the 3rd or 4th century, and the building's sophistication suggests it belonged to a powerful chieftain. Despite having sweeping views down to the coast, it...

Rockfield Ecological Estate

This ecological estate 043-76025 imeldadaly eir com.net Rathowen tour 10, mains 20-25 S by appointment gives you an inspiring insight into sustainable living as well as traditional Irish culture and crafts. In addition to two-hour tours of the working farm, you can dine on nutritious homemade food utilising organic produce from the rambling gardens while sitting on a chair fashioned from fallen tree branches or take part in full-day courses per person incl lunch 100 such as spinning, weaving,...

Eating Drinking

Caf Krem 3026 6233 14 Hill St mains 2-3 S 8.30am-6pm Mon-Sat A friendly, community atmosphere and the best coffee in town make Caf Krem stand out from the crowd. There's also wicked hot chocolate, tasty panini a type of Italian sandwich and a couple of big, soft sofas to sink into. Brass Monkey 30263176 1-4SandySt mains 7-12 S food 12.30-2.30pm amp 5-8pm Newry's most popular pub, with Victorian brass, brick and timber d cor, serves good bar meals ranging from lasagne and burgers to seafood and...

Around Westport

If you re heading by car or bicycle from Westport to Connemara, in County Galway, or to Cong, in the Eastern part of Mayo, take the Quay Hill route past the harbour and fol low the coast highway to Louisburgh. Then turn onto the R335 through the Doolough Valley. It s stunningly beautiful. St Patrick couldn t have picked a better spot for a pilgrimage than this conical mountain also known as the Reek just 8km southwest of Westport. On a clear day the tough two-hour climb rewards with a stunning...