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.

Becoming Acquainted

Shingle Beach at Maherabeg, Co. Kerry, Éire

The idea of getting to know a country from scratch only started coming to my notice again as my attentions drifted away from Britain and Ireland to other parts of Europe. Telling someone where to start before beginning to plan the practicalities of a trip to Ireland always has been the purpose of this piece and that remains today. Once you have an idea of what is on offer, you either can go looking at particular areas in more detail or start on sorting places to stay and organising travel. In truth, both may happen in tandem but you to start somewhere. Hopefully, what you find here will allow you to make to initial exploratory toehold before progressing further. After all, we all have to start somewhere.

The first of these official visitor portals belongs to Fáilte Ireland and promotes tourism for Éire, here confusing called Ireland, while the second does exactly what its name suggests. Lastly, a much newer cross-border agency called Tourism Ireland promotes the whole island. All 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. There is nothing that says that official websites have everything so ones like are worth a look and Lonely Planet have their own online destination guide too.

Both of these are prominent brands being used by Fáilte Ireland to promote parts of Éire outside of Dublin. The first to be launched was the Wild Atlantic Way and that has become such a great success that Ireland's Ancient East came after it. The former extends from Kinsale on the south coast as far as Malin Head in the north so there is plenty of dramatic coastal scenery to be savoured however you like. Though you can drive along the whole western coastline, there is so much to see that sampling a small section would make more sense and it allows for slower exploration on land or sea. Hiking, cycling, canoeing or windsurfing are among the activities that you can choose so this is an active person's destination too. Ireland's Ancient East can be as active as you want too but there is a fair sprinkling of historic monuments that you can see with the Rock of Cashel or New Grange easily making their way onto such a list. As if this pairing were not enough, we are starting to hear of Ireland's Hidden Heartlands too though this celebration of the Irish midlands and the upper reaches of the River Shannon appears to be in its early days.

Island Ireland

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.

Stones of Ireland

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.

Historic Ireland

This website is a British one and a sister site to Heritage Britain. Nevertheless, there is plenty of useful material 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. Of course, there are other places to look if you fancy deeper investigations and these can go as deep as the Landed Estates Database maintained by NUI Galway among a variety of other archives.

Mythical Ireland

The telling of tales has been endemic in Ireland since time immemorial. Those stories have managed to reach us through history and so we hear of Finn Mac Cumhail, Cú Chulainn, the Children of Lir and many more. What never ceases to surprise me is those stories more than occasional predilection with sorrow. Surely, happy or funny legends were related but it seems that they haven't made it through to the present day. Weepies weren't a Hollywood innovation but have been related for thousands of years if I am not mistaken and the same may be true of horror stories too. Those old stories travelled with the Gael and so Manannan Mac Lir turns up in the Isle of Man while Fingal (Finn Mac Cumhail) together with Diarmuid and Gráinne find their way to Argyll (derived from "Eastern Gael" in Gaelic) in Scotland.

Characters like those whom I have already mentioned are featured on this website alongside with antiquities and what is known about the Celtic culture from the same time. Make what you will of what you encounter on the site but it is part of Irish and Celtic culture nonetheless.