Go west to a land of dreams in Ireland
fortifications can be found across the west coast of
by Danny Boyle
I wasn't born in Ireland and have only visited a handful of
times, but there's something about the country that makes me feel
like I'm at home.
With a name like mine and as a descendent of ancient Irish
kings, I suppose I should.
But you don’t need Irish family roots to feel welcome – the
people are as friendly as the scenery dramatic.
I discovered this in the south west of the country, a region of
extremes: from rolling green fields and isolated mountains to wild
seascapes and craggy shorelines.
Of course, you don't visit Ireland for the weather. It rains 260
days a year, but showers never last long and only make the
patchwork of fields even greener.
Driving in Ireland is a dream. With a population of only around
four million, there are very few cars. The only traffic jam we
encountered was caused by sheep moving between fields.
The Cliffs of Moher in
County Clare, Ireland
Getting around by road is particularly good when somebody else
is driving – we sat back, relaxed and enjoyed the view as our
knowledgeable guide told us all we needed to know about
It also meant we could enjoy a pint of Guinness at every
We started our five-day expedition with Rabbie's Small Group
Tours in Dublin.
Leaving the capital, we headed west to the student city of
Its streets brimming with cafes, restaurants and pubs playing
live music, we spent an evening soaking up the lively
Galway is the gateway to the rugged beauty of Connemara, but we
headed further south to spend three nights in Killarney – the
perfect base to explore the south west.
Colourful buildings in
Dingle in County Kerry
A lakeside town nestled in a mountain valley, it is a tourist
haven and packed with pubs popular for traditional Irish music and
But there are just enough locals to keep it real – including
Kitty, who we met celebrating her 91st birthday in Murphy’s Bar –
even jigging to It's A Long Way to Tipperary.
The town is close to Killarney National Park, with 25,000 acres
of mountains, lakes and waterfalls to explore by foot, bike, canoe
It is also a good place to begin the 100-mile Ring of Kerry, one
of Ireland’s most scenic drives passing fishing villages and remote
Climbing rolling hills of every shade of green imaginable, the
mist becomes so low it's as if you are driving into the clouds.
The landscape gains a mystical quality – deserted beaches,
rugged hills and green fields given an ethereal glow.
The west coast of Ireland
offers dramatic coastal scenery
Also close by is the Irish-speaking Dingle peninsula, rich in
5,000 years of Gaelic culture and full of archaeological sites.
From the ancient forts of Slea Head, to the colourful harbour
town of Dingle and wthe chance to spot dolphins on a boat trip, it
makes for a dramatic end to Europe as Ireland's most westerly
Other highlights of the west coast include the limestone
landscape of the Burren and the 700ft Cliffs of Moher in County
On our last day as we headed back to Dublin, we travelled
through the mountains of west Cork to Blarney Castle, where we
kissed the famous Blarney stone – said to bestow the gift of the
I'll certainly be going home for another trip soon. And that's
not the Blarney talking.
The five-day Escape to the West tour of Ireland with
Rabbie’s Small Group Tours departs from Dublin on Sundays (May to
The tour, led by an experienced guide in a minibus with a maximum
of 16 passengers and excluded accommodation, costs about £249 per
For more details on the Escape to the West tour, visit www.rabbies.com or phone 0131 226
Danny stayed at:
Fitzwilliam Hotel, Dublin (www.fitzwilliamhoteldublin.com).
Double rooms, including breakfast, from £149 a night.
Jurys Inn, Galway (www.galwayhotels.jurysinns.com).
Double rooms, including breakfast, from £100 a night.
Kingfisher Lodge, Killarney (www.kingfisherlodgekillarney.com).
Double rooms, including breakfast, from £78 a night.
For more inspiration about trips to Ireland visit www.discoverireland.com.
Danny travelled to Ireland with Ryanair (www.ryanair.com).
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