Travel Jottings

Celebrating the best bits and bobs to be found while exploring Britain, Ireland and beyond. Much is inspired by real outings, whether they were walking, cycling or photographic in nature, while virtual blundering in the name of planning them has turned up some gems too. Regardless of how they were found, I hope that they keep coming so I can continue to share new things with you.

Finding Special Places to Explore

King John's Castle, Limerick, Co. Limerick, Éire

People don't go visiting Ireland for nothing; it has the attractions to match. Personally, I tend to avoid the more planned ones in favour of those gifted to us by nature and there are plenty of those. Many of these may not be as well known as they deserve to be and the locals are as guilty of this as any. For one thing, I always chide myself for not getting to the likes of Connemara or Donegal. After having it in mind for a few years, I did make a short foray into Wicklow but the southwest of the Ireland is my main stamping ground and I am nowhere near to exhausting all that it has to offer. The dunes around Castlegregory on the Dingle Peninsula and the cliff tops around Kilkee are lesser known spots that have satisfied. The hill country about Killarney is hard to fault and the peace of Gougane Barra is a balm for the soul. Then, there's Lough Gur in County Limerick together with the Ballyhoura Mountains along the Limerick-Cork county boundary and Doneraile Park south of that delineation. In the same vicinity as the latter, the Galtee Mountains and the Vee have their draw too. These are but a selection of the sorts of places enjoyed by my parents when they head off on a day out. Beaches, not my bag, such as Ballybunion often fulfill many of my mother's desires for the sea air.

To go with that lot, I am beginning to collect websites that open up the countryside for Irish visitors and this is the start. It's a small one but I aim for evolution over time so as to have the list possess something of integrity. A big bang approach is all very fine but it lose a certain sense of authenticity. The cottage industry sort of approach has a certain something about so that is the way that I am going to go.

Around Ireland

Coillte Outdoors

Coillte is the Irish counterpart of the U.K.'s Forestry Commission and this is their website devoted to active folks wanting to visit their woodlands. A quick look confirms that there is a good deal of variety on offer and another visit to the site looks to be in order.

Heritage Ireland

Sometimes, it is very nice to get an overview and that's the role that this website from the Office of Public Works performs. Various possibilities for a visit are collected by region with their descriptions included as well. Anything that can start the generation of ideas can only be a good thing because ideas often beget other ideas.

National Parks & Wildlife Service

This government is the organisation that not only operates all of the national parks in the Republic but has a wider wildlife conservation role too. Some of the more complete National Park websites find their way into this listing but they and the others link into this hub too.

Connaught

Ballycroy National Park

North Mayo might not strike you as a visitor destination but there's hill country and bogland to be explored here though the latter may not make the best terrain for walking (there's the Bangor Trail for that). To my knowledge, this is not the best known of the Irish National Parks but that might be because it is so new. That might make it be a good place to escape the stresses and strains of modern life, then.

Cong

It may be famous for being where The Quiet Man movie got made but there seems to be more to this place than that. It situated next to two lakes, Lough Mask and Lough Corrib, in County Galway and there's religious antiquities to be explored along with water-based activities. Walking features too as does visiting a cave. To introduce all of these and help you plan a visit, this website looks a very good place to start.

Leinster

Glendalough

This Wicklow valley remains on my walking wishlist and it got on there thanks to routes featured in Walking World Ireland. Aside from the scenery, there is historical interest too with monastic buildings from the time of St. Kevin still with us. With this spot being in the heart of hills, not all services are to hand so it's good to see the website listing the ones that are there. Accommodation and dining details are there as you'd expect too so it makes a good place to look when planning an excursion.

Howth

It may be on Dublin's doorstep and folk do live there but that doesn't mean that Howth peninsula doesn't have it's attractions. In fact, there's fine cliff walk around with views of Ireland's Eye and Lambay Island along with the Dublin and Wicklow Mountains. Add in a trot over the hill that gives the place its Irish name, Binn Eadair, and there's bound to be something anyone keen on exploring the place on foot, especially with a few National Loop Walks having been set up and waymarked. However, that isn't all and the local association has set up this website under the banner of "Howth is Magic". To that end, it does a good job though the site navigation could do with a small bit of attention.

Powerscourt House and Gardens

A recent visit to the county of Wicklow had me considering a visit to the village of Enniskerry to explore its hilly surroundings. Nestling in among these and not that far from there is Powerscourt with its landscaping and its waterfall among many other attractions. Prime hillwalking country is not far away either so that really makes it a destination for lovers of fine countryside. Having chosen Kilmacanogue and Great Sugarloaf hill, I have yet to pay the place a visit but the photography on the website does it no disfavours.

Wicklow Mountains National Park

Being near Dublin, this area should be well frequented but I found that there remain quieter corners on my first visit and that took in the Great Sugarloaf near Kilmacanogue (not convince if that is in the national park, though). Of course, every first visit needs following up with another though that has eluded me so far. It's something that I need to set to rights.

Munster

Blarney Castle

Its antiquity would be enough justification for a visit but some rogue needed to invent a ruse that kissing a stone in castle's battlements would grant you eloquence too. That needs a good head for heights even with folk hanging onto you while doing the feat. My only visit took to the castle's top and that needed enough of a head for heights, let alone the other caper. That was on a grey day so I'd like to see the place and its gardens when the sun is out; that would make for the pleasing photographic results that I like to savour.

Cliffs of Moher

Being an island, Ireland has plenty of dramatic coastline with some of it gaining more fame that other parts. Among the former are the 8 km long line of cliffs in northwest Clare and the section around O' Brien's Tower has featured in many a calendar. Apparently, a visit on a clear day will grant you views of the Aran Islands, Galway Bay and Connemara. This being Ireland, you definitely ride your luck there with the weather.

Clogheen

This is not a town that immediately would come to mind as a destination during a trip to Ireland but this well presented website does its utmost to promote the place. The town is in the south of Co. Tipperary and scenic parts such as The Vee and Knockmealdown Mountains are not too far away either. If you are after somewhere attractive that is away from the madding crowds, then it looks as this could be somewhere worth considering.

Foynes Flying Boat & Maritime Museum


Before Shannon Airport came into being at Rineanna on the County Clare shore of the River Shannon, Foynes in County Limerick was a major stopover for transatlantic air travellers. the advent of jet aircraft put paid to the propeller-engined flying boats so Foynes has been left a quieter place that still operates as a port. All that is left now is the history of what must have been a glamorous era in air travel and the museum is housed in what once was the airport's terminal building, which apparently also is where "Irish Coffee" was invented. As if that were not enough, there is even a replica Boeing B314 flying boat on display and that is unique when none of the originals remain in existence. There is a maritime museum showing a flavour of the port's history too so it looks like an interesting place to spend some time in a part of Ireland that may not come to mind immediately as somewhere to visit.

Glen Inchaquin

It's a vague memory now but I think that I may have visited this spot once upon a time. Others value it too since a certain Andreas Byrne created a photographic feature in Outdoor Photography from photos that he made there and very appealing did they look too. Clearly, the people who own the place have realised the potential of somewhere with the sort of hilly terrain that attracts folk like me and there are views across Kenmare Bay towards the Iveragh Peninsula and Macgillycuddy's Reeks too. For the longer walks, they like to be told beforehand but everything else is as per your whims. The website does the place no disfavours though I do find myself asking how you'd make a living from a venture like this; that may make me more appreciative with cash contributions should I ever get to visit again.

Killarney National Park

This very probably is Kerry's scenic jewel in the crown and its nucleus is the Bourne Vincent Memorial Park that was gifted to the Irish nation. Many of the attractions surrounding Killarney that you care to mention are part of the government property and it draws 1.5 million visitors annually. For all that, there still are quiet places away from the madding crowd for those seeking them. Saying that, I do feel that the website seems a little rough around the edges and could do with a bit more in the way of TLC. Nevertheless, it remains a useful introduction to a fascinating part of the world.

Lough Derg

This is the largest lake on the River Shannon and you'll find it not too far to the northeast of Limerick City. In addition to the watersports activities that you'd expect of such a large body of water, there's also the Lough Derg Way, the long distance trail that took me onto the website in the first place.

Muckross House, Gardens and Traditional Farms

It's a strange visitor attraction website that directs you to prices before telling you of what is on offer. For that reason, I have directed you away from the default home page to where you should start. Apart from braving warnings about the gates closing exactly at the appointed time (most important when you bring in a car), you can enjoy the grounds of Muckross House without charge or impediment. It's when you want to explore the inside of the restored country pile that you need to pay but it was worth it when I was last in there.

Shannon Heritage

Perhaps surprisingly, you'll find the word "company" used on this organisation's website. Speaking for myself, I am more accustomed to seeing more neutral descriptions being used but it is state owned so there's a certain civic mindedness to the enterprise. It manages a number of heritage attractions in counties Clare, Limerick and Galway. These are mainly castles like Bunratty or Knappogue but more ancient spots like Lough Gur come within their sway too.

Ring of Kerry

Ask my father where the Ring of Kerry is and he'd struggle to tell you since there are many scenic driving tours possible in County Kerry. The renowned one though is that on the Iveragh Peninsula and it is that which this tourism association website serves. It has all that anyone needs for arranging a trip to the area and not just motorised tourers either. In fact, the Kerry Way long distance walking trail gets a mention and it's hardly a surprise that many would want to immerse themselves among the highest hills in Ireland. For those seeking more urban surroundings, there are links to websites for towns and villages too.

Ulster

Adara
Glencolmcille

Both of these hug the Donegal coastline and two long distance trails pass by them and for good reasons; the coastline is of the dramatic variety. Also, Slieve League is found to the south of Glencolmcille and that is Europe's highest sea cliff. Handily, bus services operated by McGeehan Coaches and Bus Éireann get you to both places so long as you plan things with a degree of care. Ardara (pronounced ard-rah) also has its walking festival so there are plenty of reasons to visit this part of Donegal.

Glenveagh National Park

Some photos of Donegal hills remind me of the time that I went exploring Harris in the Western Isles of Scotland. While I cannot be sure if that remark applies to what is found on the Glenveagh estate, this is another of those places that have gotten onto my to do list. This website should help the planning of a visit to the area.