Malta8th August 1985
China – Tibet11th September 1988
Country number: 29
Territory number: 31
When? A long time ago
How? By car
Who? With Don
“My heart is quite calm now. I will go back.”
James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
- Ireland almost doesn’t happen. It was, in any case a last minute replacement for Tibet, which, was cancelled: too much rain and too many avalanches on the road from Nepal. And it takes far longer to drive to the port of Holyhead on Anglesey than I could possibly have imagined. I fondly imagined that the drive through Wales would be scenic. It probably is, but it’s very busy and winding and I’m too busy panicking to notice. We’re practically doing one of those car chase leaps up the ramp to get onto the ferry.
- Dublin, at the mouth of the Liffey has some quaint houses, a cathedral and lots of pubs. Don feels he has an obligation to try the Guinness in all of them.
- We wander west and round the edge of Northern Ireland to Donegal. Back south to Sligo, the mossy crags of Ben Bulben Rock filling the horizon and W.B. Yeats’ tranquil Lake Isle of Innisfree. The scenery everywhere stunning, the roads peaceful, the breakfasts huge, tweed shops ubiquitous. Its almost obligatory to buy a cloth cap and walking stick.
- Next, County Mayo. Coincidentally, I’m reading Year of the French, which is hugely evocative in terms of scenery and atmosphere. Now, the loden green peak of Croagh Patrick towers above us.
- South, along the west coast through Connemara. For me the best part of the journey – wild and wonderful, even if Don does nothing but sit and fish.
- The coastal route continues to be glorious. County Clare and the towering Cliffs of Moher. Through Limerick and onto County Kerry with the Dingle Peninsula and its wide sandy beaches- Ryan’s Daughter was filmed here. Emerald (naturally), pasture filled with brown and white cattle. (It is where the butter comes from after all). It’s gorgeous in a pretty-pretty kind of way, but others think so too. The roads are throttled by tourists in ‘gypsy’ caravans.
- Cork and Blarney castle. I decide not to kiss the Stone. I might live to regret it passing up on the gift of eloquence, but I shudder to think how many bugs are residing on that bit of rock. And you have to be a contortionist to get your head to the right place anyway.
- Waterford, unsurprisingly jammed with crystal shops.
- And home.
88% of Irish citizens are nominally Roman Catholic. The Republic of Ireland has one of the highest rates of church attendance in the Western World.
The ancestral language of the Irish people is Irish Gaelic.
Many Irish family names start with “Mac” or “O’…”, which means respectively “son of …” and “grandson of …” in Gaelic.
The three most famous symbols of Ireland are the green shamrock, the harp, and the Celtic cross.
Ireland has won the Eurovision Song Contest more often than any other country – seven times.