Hawthorn's Ramblings

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

More Irish Info !

A little bit more about the Emerald Isle. We don’t actually call it that, I think it earned that name from abroad, or even Hollywood movies. Perhaps this time I’ll talk a little about holidays in Ireland.

The tourism industry is very big here. So what is there for the thousands of people who holiday here every year? The main attractions are the scenery, the food, the laid back way of life (though not so much in the cities), the drink (for some people!), and the friendliness of the people. You can choose to stay in hotels all over the country, or cheaper but excellent guest houses, B & B’s, caravan sites, hostels, country manors, townhouses, apartments, and of course castles. There should be little difficulty finding any recommendations for these online or in brochures.

Activities are probably the same as in most destinations; golf, horse-riding, boating on the river Shannon, hill-walking, fishing or just driving around the country. You can explore the many wonderful sights in pretty much every county. There are so many to mention I would sound like a holiday brochure if I started, so I’ll just mention a few in my own county, Offaly, and neighbouring county Tipperary.

Situated in the midlands, Offaly has the Sliabh Bloom mountains to explore. Also the “bog”, which is not what some of you may think but in fact the place where turf, or peat, is found. This is burned in many homes in the stoves or fireplaces. The main bog land in the midland now has a tour by train and it’s very interesting as you can see how turf was “cut” or dug out of the ground, in the old days.

Also in Offaly there are a number of Castles; the most commercial is Kinnitty Castle which is restored as a castle/hotel. It is hugely popular for weddings and has appx 3-4 weddings every week of the year. It has also hosted the weddings of Ozzy Osbourne’s son (can’t remember his name!) and one of the band member’s of Def Leppard.

Near Kinnitty is Leap Castle, reputedly one of the most haunted castles in Western Europe. It has featured on many TV documentaries in Discovery channel, and also on Most Haunted. Leap is owned by a good friend of mine tin whistle virtuoso Sean Ryan, and his partner Anne, and daughter Ciara. I’ve often visited and indeed stayed there a couple of nights. I have to admit I didn’t see a ghost but it is a wonderfully atmospheric place to be in. It’s a small castle but is open to the public, and usually when you take a tour, Sean plays some music and Ciara dances and plays harp. You may also find various types of liquid refreshment placed in front of you…!

Offaly also has Birr Castle just a few miles away, with its magnificent gardens and walks and of course it's world-famous telescope. It’s open every day of the year. Other main attractions include Clonmacnoise ancient monastic settlement, which is well worth a visit. We locals tend to take these wonderful places for granted I admit! There are lots of places to stay in Offaly and lots of entertainment, shows, night clubs etc especially at the weekends. Several pubs have live music (not necessarily traditional though) at weekends.

More info on the Midlands here http://www.kinnitty.com/

And here for Leap Castle: http://www.explore.ie/ireland/article.php?ID=34

I will take my leave of you for now, if anyone wants to hear about ay particular aspect of Ireland, or any of its attractions, just let me know and I’ll do my best. Slan!