Another St. Patrick’s Day has passed and the green beer is put away for another year, but this special day brings back fond memories of a tiny land of emerald green, jolly Irish folklore and cherished legends.
Below us, as far as the eye could see, a patchwork quilt in many shades of green appeared, as our aircraft made its descent into Dublin. Its hard not to fall in love with a place that welcomes you with such a stunning sight before the wheels of our aircraft even touch the ground.
This diverse and enchanting little country has so much to offer, not the least of which are its friendly, hospitable people. One of Ireland’s best ambassadors is Willie Cusker, our driver/guide throughout our journey. He welcomed us warmly at the airport, greeting us with “Cead Mile Failte”….a hundred thousand welcomes! Willie is so loved by all of the group members that Craig Travel sends to Ireland, that they insist on his services on all of their tours.
From Belfast in the north, we circled the country till arriving back in Dublin, exploring some of earth’s most fascinating and mysterious sites. One such example was the Giants Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which geologists suggest was the result of a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago that created the 40,000 interlocking basalt columns that have intrigued visitors for centuries. Of course, folklore has it that these remarkable stones were the work of an Irish giant, Finn McCool, who built the causeway to keep his feet dry as he walked to Scotland.
We explored the haunting beauty and drama of the wild coastline along the west coast to Belleek, home of the world famous porcelain and Westport, a picturesque, flower-filled heritage town and overall 3-time winner of the National Tidy Towns competition. Picturesque towns and villages are plentiful and none more so than Adare, one of Ireland’s most photographed, with its thatched cottages and pretty gardens. The Cliffs of Moher, another much photographed site, stands 230 metres above the ground, truly awe-inspiring as they climb straight up from the mighty Atlantic which crashes below.
Much of the charm of our itinerary was in the diversity of the cities, towns and villages, continually interspersed with magnificent landscapes and historic sites. For example, following a three-night stay in the delightful resort town of Killarney, we travelled the Ring of Kerry taking in spectacular scenery…mountains, peat bogs, lakes and stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean. From the wild to the wacky, we made a stop at Blarney for an opportunity to kiss the blarney stone. Legend has it anyone who kisses the stone will be given the “gift of eloquence.”
We spent a delightful day at the National Stud, home of some of the world’s most magnificent horses. Our guided tour took us through beautiful green pastures and into pristine barns where horses are treated like royalty. The farm also houses an interesting Horse Museum and a wonderful Japanese Garden.
Our journey concluded in “Dublin’s Fair City,” a lively, cosmopolitan city managing to retain very well the charms of its heritage and lore. Its most popular attraction is Trinity College and the 18th century “Old Library” which houses the world famous “Book of Kells,” a 9th century gospel manuscript. We visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a magnificent building dating to 1220, constructed in honour of Ireland’s patron saint. On the church property sits a famous well where it is said St. Patrick baptized converts. I wonder what he would think if he saw the revelry that takes place in his honour today. Which brings to mind the many wonderful old pubs we found on every corner in Dublin and throughout every town and village in this delightful country. The sound of the fiddle, the infectious toe-tapping beat and the lilt of the Irish drew us in, charmed us and had us singing along to sweet Molly Malone!
So much history, tons of beauty and adventure and always that special Irish hospitality. I’ll visit again with another group this June. Come along and experience this delightful country for yourself.
The Best of Ireland upcoming departure dates