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.

Special Places to Explore

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

Springfield Cemetary, Broadford, Co. Limerick, Éire

There was a time when I had separate articles for Irish visitor attractions and areas to be explored. When it began to feel muddled, I merged in what was in another piece during a period of consolidation. Hopefully, this growing compilation does justice to what is there to be seen and I often chide myself for not exploring the country of my birth more than I do. Other things so often get in the way yet I fancy combining these with leisure pursuits like spending a weekend in Killarney.

In fairness, I still have seen a fair bit of the place on various excursions over the years. Travels with my late parents took me around various haunts in counties Limerick, Cork, Kerry, Clare, Tipperary and Waterford. School trips added in Dublin, Galway and Wexford and a more recent flying visit added Wicklow to the list. It is the omissions for which I have been critical of myself and the list includes the Burren, Connemara, Sligo and Donegal. All of these look enticing, especially for walking and cycling types like myself and partaking those activities is a motivation for revisiting other corners rather than more sedentary enjoyment of their many charms. Slow travel always allows you to learn more about somewhere.

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

Achill Island

There may be a road connection to the island these days but that does little to change its geographical classification. It also makes much of what it offers for outdoor activities. Surfing increasingly comes up as one of these but there also are opportunities for walking and cycling. An article in the sadly defunct Walking World Ireland highlighted something that is troubled elsewhere in Ireland: access to the countryside. The commonage on Achill can be freely rambled and the setting on Ireland's dramatic west coast has to be a bonus.

Aran Islands

They remain outposts of Irish language and culture and this is the place on the web that celebrates the delights that await visitors to these islands. Their compact nature should not fool because a certain Tim Robinson extricated enough raw material for two books from these outliers from the Burren on the mainland.

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.

Connemara's hill country always has taken my fancy but a visit has yet to happen. I have an introductory excursion in mind so it's a matter of putting it into action. Speaking of introductions, these websites should allow you to get feel for the rocky charms of this part of the world.

Clare Island

Mayo has its peopled islands and this is one of them. It has a history involving monastic life and the "pirate queen" Grace O' Malley. Having a situation at the mouth of Clew Bay makes it easy to reach for a spot of exploration.

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.

Inishbofin

The Aran Islands aren't the only inhabited examples of such things off the coast of Galway as Inishbofin proves. With the right weather, it looks an interesting and views of the mainland should be promising.

Inishturk

It may be a small place but that doesn't stop it staking out its place on the web. It has its passenger ferry connections too and you'll find it between Inishbofin and Clare islands.

Roscommon

For whatever reason, the oddly named Suck River came to mind and I decided to find out where it was with a view to uncovering the origins of the name. That was what brought me to Roscommon where a long distance walking route around the river valley is shared with nearby County Galway. It is not the only river around here for the River Shannon marks out the county's eastern boundary and offers a lot since it is the longest river in Ireland (and even Britain has nothing to match it for length). That should give plenty of reasons to visit this overlooked part of Ireland and there are other walking possibilities there too.

Leinster

Dublin

It is Ireland's capital city and many visit without much further than its outskirts. Saying that, you do have Howth if you fancy a coastal walk and a visit to Marlay Park will get you near the Dublin Mountains. Personally, I reckon that is overreach for a lot of visitors given the attractions of the Guinness Storehouse and the Temple Bar. Still, there are historic sights like the GPO and Kilmainham Jail alongside the delights of the massive Phoenix Park such as the People's Park and Dublin Zoo. The list already has started to build and it only scratches the surface.

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.

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

It may be that my only encounter with Baltimore was on a primary school day trip to nearby Sherkin Island. This was the first of a few of these with others going to Cobh, Dublin and Clare. The West Cork trip included a return boat trip, a trot around an island and a stop in Macroom on the way home. There were donkey or pony rides too but I gave that a skip for whatever; maybe it was because it was a first time. If there ever is a return, the other nearby islands of Heir and Clear could be destinations should I decide to use the village as a hub for spot of additional exploration.

Bere Island

You'll find this one not far from the shores of Castletown Berehaven at the mouth of Bantry Bay. Like anywhere else, it's the prospect of wonderful walking or cycling that arouses the interest an, with the Beara Peninsula nearby, there should be plenty on which to feast the eyes on a good day.

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.

Cork

Here, we are talking not just about a city but an entire county as well. It also happens to be the largest one in Ireland so there is plenty here. Many could be turning their attentions to West Cork, especially with its hosting the southern end of the Wild Atlantic Way, but other parts of their allure too. Much of it is known to me from my upbringing in West Limerick and university education in the second largest city in Éire. My mother came from North Cork so there were plenty of reasons to get to know the place apart from visiting the likes of Doneraile Park or the Ballyhoura Mountains. Other spots like Gougane Barra and the Beara peninsula were favoured by my parents so they are well known to me. My own explorations have been limited to Cork city, Cobh and Kinsale but there is a multitude of excuses to extend this around West Cork alone and I never have got as far as East Cork.

The Dingle peninsula is so worth visiting that it's gratifying to see a website helping you to do the same. From the names on some of these information resources, you'd think that the western end is where you need to be but there's something to be savoured on the northern and eastern ends too.

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.

Kinsale

These days, it is famed for being one of Ireland's gourmet centres and is the southern end of the Wild Atlantic Way but it has its share of history too. All that means that there is plenty to see and guarantees a high level of culinary quality too so it worth making your way here from Cork city by bus or car. My own acquaintance is limted to a very fleeting visit but it needs more.

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.

Ring of Kerry

If you were to ask my late father where the Ring of Kerry is and he would have struggle to tell you since there are many scenic driving tour possibilities 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.

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.

Spike Island

Its history may be a penal and military one but this is now a visitor attraction as a result. The star shaped Fort Mitchel once housed military and convicted occupants and is the main draw for folk to cross to the island from nearby Cobh. My own family has its associations with the place too for my late mother's father was incarcerated here for membership of the IRA during the struggle for Irish independence. From that time, we have an heirloom in the form of a Tara broach made from a half crown coin which was made in the prison; handily, there was a jeweler imprisoned too so the knowledge was there to be passed along to others.

Valentia Island

There may be a seasonal ferry operating between April and October that serves the mainland near Cahersiveen but this island is linked to the mainland all year round by road though it is something of a round trip, hence the car ferry. When my late parents went touring around these parts, they were in no hurry so I doubted that they used the ferry. While I have yet to venture around it, the location does look stunning so I get to wonder what walking possibilities there are so it is useful that this website lists a few.

West Cork

When I got to setting up a West Cork album in my online photo gallery, I wanted to add a map and it then struck me quite how large West Cork is. In fact, you could say that it starts just outside Cork city and extends west and north from there. There is a lengthy coastline so it is not hard to see how this forms the southern part of the Wild Atlantic Way. You can be as active or as inactive as you want and my inclination towards the former means that hill and coastal walking is an interest so it is just as well that there is a growing network of trails. Gougane Barra is one place to go and was one of my father's favourite spots but there was more of West Cork to see with the Beara Peninsula being another amonge several of their haunts. There is much more than even this and I wonder if repeat visits keep some busy for a lifetime while encouraging others to make a new life for themselves in the place of their affections.

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.

Donegal

Parts of the county already get a mention on here so it probably was before time that the whole place got its own entry, especially given that Donegal is one of those parts of Ireland that I would like to visit sometime. The mix of stunning coastal scenery and alluring hill country is what attracts me and there are islands to explore too. The northernmost tip of the island of Ireland is found here too and the next patch of land directly north of Malin Head is South Uist, part of Scotland's Western Islands, so that gives you a sense of the geography here as much as North America making the next landfall to the west. This is a corner of Ireland that is on the edge of Europe so that must mean that getaways from everyday stresses are inevitable.

Cavan

Cavan, like neighbouring Fermanagh across the border in Northern Ireland, has its share of lakes. Like nearby Connaught there are hills to be found and there's a sense of Leinster to be found too, apparently. That makes it sound like a crossroads between three Irish provinces and one that seems to be overlooked too. for a time, it garnered a reputation for having the worst and roughest roads on the island though I now wonder if the Celtic Tiger years dispatched that side of Cavan's reputation. From a feature in a recent issue of Ireland of the Welcomes, there seems to be a good deal to see in the county and this website tells you more.

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.