MESSAGE: Rural Ireland *Video*
The Irish are the nicest people –I’m sure you’ve heard that before. And it’s true! Within minutes, my friends’ friends became my friends. And I’m sure this had nothing to do with my name being “Erin” (which means Ireland in Irish).
These genuinely warm and loving people made my trip to the Emerald Isle extra special and a place I consider pretty close to home. Here’re my 7 recommendations to hit when visiting the Irish countryside:
MEET (Cool Meet Ups) – Trad Music. Traditional, or “trad,” music is playing everywhere you go. Well, in most every pub anyway. My friend Joe is a musician and his lovely wife Miriam took my friend Brid and I to hear him play in their local one night.
And now I’m spoiled. Joe on the guitar, and his equally excellent friends playing the fiddle and squeeze box, have ruined me for all other trad musicians – the music was that good!
EAT (Tasty Eats) – Irish Stew. Irish Stew is mainly lamb with potatoes and carrots and a thick brown gravy. Pretty hearty meal when it’s rainy outside (which is all the time!). A big bowl warms you up all over! Wanna make some? Here’s a recipe: Irish Stew
SEE (Must-see Sights) – Ring of Kerry. When I asked my Irish friends where should I go in the country, they all unanimously recommended the Ring of Kerry. The Ring is a 179 kilometer circular drive around the southwestern coast. You can also walk the Ring as well. The hike is called the Kerry Way and basically follows the same route.
It takes about 6 hours to drive the Ring, stopping off for lunch and photo ops. As it turns out, I was so lucky to have such a lovely day! Really beautiful scenery along the coastline and green green hills!
The one bit of Ireland I didn’t get to see where the Skellig Islands, that you can actually seeing while driving the Ring. The Skelligs were home to a famous honeycombed-shaped monasteries founded by St. Michael. Due to weather and an abbreviated boat schedule, it’s not easy to get there. Next time, I’m going for sure!
SHOP (Gotta Have) – Aran Sweaters. The Aran Islands are famous for their thick wool fishermen sweaters. Each sweater sports a distinctive woven pattern. Historically, the wives would stitch the families’ fortunes into the sweater’s pattern. For instance, each pattern symbolized a desirous outcome:
- Cables = good luck for fishing
- Basket weave = abundant catches
- Honeycomb = work like a bee
I resisted the urge to buy a beautifully hand-woven chunky cable knit pullover…but it was a close call.
ACTIVITY (Gotta Do) – Biking the Aran Islands. The Aran Islands are three small islands off the northwest coast of Ireland. I visited Inis Oirr, which is home to an Irish-speaking community of 250. It’s a 1 hour bus ride, followed by a 2-hour ferry ride to visit the islands for the day.
I had 6 hours so I rented a bike and explored this idyllic Irish paradise, that was literally a step back in time. I rode about 5 kilometers (about half the island), stopping for a picnic lunch at a 15th century castle and stone fort.
I also passed by An Plassy, a shipwreck off the island’s southwestern coast, the community lighthouse, and An Tra, the beach area. The sun was out that day, so I got to enjoy both the ferry ride and the bike ride. Perfect outing!
GIVE (Greatest Need) – Preserving Irish Culture. The Irish take great pride in their culture, so luckily there’s a resurgence in people speaking Ireland’s indigenous Celtic language. Schools that teach in Irish comprise about 5% of all the schools and are part of a larger Irish-language renaissance.
In 2010, the government embarked on an ambitious 20-year strategy to increase the number of Irish speakers in the country. Specifically, the plan calls to increase the number of:
- people with a knowledge of Irish from the current 1.66 million to 2 million; and
- daily speakers of Irish from the current level of approximately 83,000 to 250,000.
So all together now: “Grá don Gaeilge!” ["I Heart Irish!"]
ENJOY (Extra Fun) – Irish Sheep Dogs. This Irish shepherd and his highly trained sheep dogs were amazing to watch. Their executive of the commands were flawless and he whistled to maneuver the dogs into position and thereby control the movement of the sheep. Each dog responds to its own whistle tone and commands, and they can hear up to a ¼ mile away.
Just check out his masterful display:
Cant’ see the video? Click on this link: Irish Sheep Dogs