The ins and outs of Ireland
The brooding landscapes of Ireland are as moody as a Clannad soundtrack. Phantoms of the past haunt the isolated rocky forts and Stone Age burial grounds around the tempestuous coast. Rolling mists shroud the stone-walls and old towns of the verdant interior. Simply put, Eire is as eerie as any country gets.
According to ancient Celtic legend Leprechauns were the first inhabitants and if the mischievous goblins were ever caught they could lead their captors to a pot of gold. One has yet to be snared.
The true gold perhaps is the humanity and unique Gaelic culture of the Irish themselves whose hospitality belies a nation with a thousand year history of bloodshed and poverty.
Ireland has spawned four Nobel Laureates of literature: Yeats, Shaw, Beckett and Heaney. In a country of just four million people, kissing the Blarney Stone in County Cork must be an Irish birth-rite.
In popular culture there is a veritable role call of Irish names from actors Brannagh, Brosnan, Day-Lewis to singers Sinéad O'Connor, Van Morrison, Bob Geldof and bands like The Cranberries, The Pogues, and of course the inexhaustible U2.
While the main centres of Dublin and Cork thrum with the camaraderie of a people as much famed for their folk music as they are for their pubs and a special 250 year old brew called Guinness, the Emerald Isle spoils for choice those seeking a sense of unspoilt nature on the edge of the world, well, the Atlantic Ocean at least.
There are 3,000 kilometres of long-distance walking paths. The most famous, the Wicklow Way, runs from Dublin's suburbs to County Carlow. At 215 kilometres Kerry Way is the longest circumnavigating the Gaelic speaking Iveragh Peninsula,
The 7th century UNESCO listed monastic complex on the island of Skellig Michael, 12 km off the southwest coast is the best-kept monument of the spartan lives of the first Irish Christians.
Prehistoric ruins ay Boyne Valley include Europe's largest and most important concentration of prehistoric megalithic art.
The Burren in County Clare features over 500 ring forts, the densest concentration of ecclesiastical ruins in the world. With its thousands of kilometres of stone wall and over 80 known Neolithic dolmen tombs not to mention 70% of Ireland's native flora, including 22 native orchid species and the blue gentian.
Horse racing is another Irish ritual; the three big events are the Grand National at Fairyhouse in Meath, Irish Derby at Curragh (Kildare) and the Galway Races. The annual North-West 200 is the island's biggest motorcycle road racing event, at Portstewart, Co. Derry.
Hurling is a rare sporting anomaly combining rugby, Aussie Rules and hockey, involving bats and a ball called a sliotar. A feature of Irish sporting life for 2000 years, the All-Ireland Hurling Final packs out the 85,000 capacity of Croke Park, Dublin.
Train network in Ireland
In Ireland, rail services are provided by Northern Ireland Railways and Iarnród Éireann (in Republic of Ireland).
Major lines served by Intercity trains are; Dublin to Cork, Dublin to Limerick, Dublin to Galway, Dublin to Tralee, Dublin to Waterford, Dublin to Westport, Dublin to Arklow and Limerick to Galway.
In Northern Ireland the main routes are Belfast to Derry, Colerain to Portrush and Belfast to Larne Harbour. There is a cross border route for trains linking Belfast and Dublin.
Tickets that get you around Ireland
- Point to Point Tickets
- Ireland Single-Country Pass
- Eurail Select Pass (2 Countries)
- Choose your 2 adjoining countries out of the 28 participating countries.
- Eurail Select Pass (3 Countries
- Choose your 3 adjoining countries out of the 28 participating countries
- Eurail Select Pass (4 Countries)
- Choose your 4 adjoining countries out of the 28 participating countries.
- Eurail Global Flexi Pass
- 28 countries - 5/7 days in 1 month or 10/15 days in 2 months.
- Eurail Global Continuous Pass
- 28 countries - 15, 22 days or 1, 2 or 3 months.