I’ve been to Ireland (both Northern Ireland and the Republic), but I’m ready to go back again any time. In part that is because we have friends there (I miss you Andrew and Lesley!) and in part because it is just such a beautiful place. And, of course, there is a lot we have yet to see.
But some of those new things might have to wait while I return to a few favorites:
I went to County Donegal on my first trip to Ireland (2004), following the advice of a colleague who said that it was the one place I simply had to visit. She was right. I loved the wild, lonely land that seems to simply fall away to the sea.
The Burren was high on my must-see list for my second trip to Ireland (2009), largely because I had read that native orchids were likely to be in bloom while we were there. We did indeed find a few orchids and an abundance of other flowers that made this seemingly inhospitable landscape a rich natural garden. It is a truly amazing and entrancing place – an exposed ancient coral reef alive with plant life, but you do need to get out and explore on foot. It’s not a place that shows its full beauty to the drive-through visitor.
Next time I’ll hire a local guide and plan to spend several days exploring – and photographing flowers – here.
Ireland is a land of gardens. While I have yet to visit the famous gardens at Powerscourt, I’ve enjoyed visiting a number of wonderful gardens. Two gardens that I never tire of are the Mediterranean gardens of Garnish Island (in the very south of Ireland, not too far from the Ring of Kerry) and the grand estate gardens at Mount Stewart (located not far from Belfast).
Forgotten Cemeteries and Ancient Ruins
You see the remains of Ireland’s ancient past everywhere. My favorites are those of the early Christian era, from major sites like Clonmacnoise to the small abandoned churches, monasteries and abbeys that dot the countryside.
The book of Kells and the Beatty Library
The first time I was in Ireland I loved Dublin and absolutely couldn’t wait to return. When I did return, I had trouble understanding what made it seem so magical on my first visit. Not that there is anything wrong with Dublin, mind you, but on my list of favorite cities in the world it has gone from near the top to not even on the list. I would never go out of my way to return to Dublin again, except for two things – the Book of Kells and the Chester Beatty Library.
It’s worth returning to Dublin over and over again just to see a few of the gorgeous, glowing illustrations.
Similarly, the Chester Beatty Library dedicated to the art of printing, houses an amazing collection of illustrations from Ireland and around the world. It is a magical place to get lost in the past and, should one somehow tire of ancient manuscripts, one has simply to step outside to be immersed again in Ireland.
Of course, there are also charming small towns galore calling me back, both those I’ve passed through in the past and those I have yet to meet.
There are so many reasons to return.
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!