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.
For me, planning a trip away falls into a certain routine: seeing what there is to see, finding somewhere to stay and figuring out how to get there and get about my destination. The order in which they are sorted out may change a bit and one element may influence another but these three considerations always make their appearance at the planning and I am never truly at ease until I feel that they are addressed.
The role fulfilled by this entry in the miscellany is that of getting to know what there is to be seen. In a way, it's the place to start if you either want to introduce yourself to the country at one sitting or you want to find somewhere else to go without having anywhere particular in mind. For those of having having a location or two in mind, there are other articles for you. In a way, I suppose that the sites found below are the places to start when beginning to ponder a visit. Accommodation booking does creep into the scope of the occasional one but travel planning is done elsewhere.
There was a time when such a listing would reveal a myriad of websites based in North America, no doubt a reflection on the affinity and the sense of connectedness that the Irish-American community feel for the homeland of their ancestors. Much has been made of the Irish-American diaspora though that may have waned in the "Celtic Tiger" years. Now that less favourable economic conditions that have hit Éire, Irish eyes might be looking towards the U.S.A. yet again. That may explain the organisation of a series of events during 2013 as part of The Gathering and it's trying to woo anyone from overseas to come and savour the delights of the place. This seemingly is a grassroots movement as far as I can ascertain it, in contrast to what might have inspired the organisers to do this: Homecoming Scotland. It will be interesting to see if the year proves successful.
For now though, it doesn't look as if those American visitors are going to be so plentiful so the tourism business has to make the best of Irish, British and European custom. Hopefully, the list below will be helpful regardless of from where you are coming. With the state of the Irish economy, I'd find it hard for anyone from overseas to be made to feel unwelcome. In fact, Ireland may even start to feel more Irish to outsiders with Irish people taking up jobs that used to be done by incomers from places such as Eastern Europe. Now, that would be no bad thing either because it is not only the Irish countryside and heritage that draws visitors but also its culture and people.
Here's a good way to confuse people: have two different websites with the same name operated by different organisations. The first of these belongs to Fáilte Ireland, am agency that has been using the Discover Ireland slogan for longer than I care to remember. Tourism Ireland, a much newer cross-border agency that was one of the results of the Good Friday (some call it Belfast) Agreement, is the operator of the former's more international counterpart. All of the island is promoted in the latter while both provide the sorts of things that you'd expect of visitor websites: ideas on where to go, what to see, what to do and where to stay. Yes, there is such a thing as a Discover Northern Ireland website since you asked and it unsurprisingly is operated by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board too. It just goes to show that good slogans find many uses.
Just as there is always an unofficial guide to anything, here are these collected offerings. They each have their own personalities but I'll leave it for you to explore.
A brief introduction to the place by the famous publisher of guide books. Needless to say, they have a book that fits the bill and you can buy both paper and electronic versions of the same too. The latter might be handy if you don't fancy the idea of a cluttered bookcase.
More than a visitor site: a useful collection of content rich websites covering a wide variety of subjects. My impressions are that it is trying to leave Irish-Americans in on the country from which their ancestors came but that's not a bad idea at all.
It's a vague memory that an earlier sighting of this website revealed a concentration on pictures of and information about several ancient Irish monuments. Looking at it again, I have come to realise that other countries have pages on the Stone Pages website. At the time of writing, these also include England, Italy, France, Scotland and Wales. Though the Irish entries cause the sight to appear here, the others make you realise that megalithic monuments have been left in all sorts of places by mankind. It does seem that what you find here is the result of various trips to archaeological sites made by the people behind the website. It is eerily reminiscent of what my explorations of countryside does for my web offering.
This website is a British one and a sister site to Heritage Britain. Nevertheless, there is plenty of usefulness to be found on it and a different approach never is a bad thing. In addition, there is an accompanying annual publication for sale to those who'd rather hold something more physical in their hands.