Ireland with kids

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Some say Irish dogs are different from other dogs: more soulful, wiser, friendlier even. Hmmm, maybe… maybe not… However, let me tell you about one fabulous Irish dog!

Years ago, I was traveling around Ireland with several American friends, one of whom had lived in Dublin as a child for several years. She observed that Irish dogs were quite different to dogs in other countries, they were “purposeful.” Rather than wandering or straying, Irish dogs appeared to do things deliberately, purposefully, with their tails high and a definite goal in mind.

official neighborhood greeterAs we explored small towns and villages, we began to see the local dogs through her eyes. They did indeed seem very busy, and appeared to have goals and direction. They’d trot down the street, stopping to greet people and other dogs, tails wagging, a glint in their eyes, and after a moments’ connection, would resume their course with every appearance of purpose.

Every year, I’m reminded of purposeful dogs because, as my family prepares to spend the summer in Ireland, one of our children will comment, “I wonder if Prince is still there?Read the rest of this entry »

One of the biggest tourist attractions in Ireland is Tayto Park, but it’s one that many overseas visitors skip because they haven’t the faintest idea what it is.

Tayto Park Bus

Tayto Park is Ireland’s answer to Six Flags or Disneyworld. It’s primarily a theme park, but it also involves a small zoo, and was conceived as a marketing stunt for a potato crisp company. (In America, they’re called potato chips, but in Ireland they’re crisps.) Consequently, nobody but Irish residents know what the heck Tayto Park is… After bringing my two kids there this summer, we can all vouch for the fact that Tayto Park is tremendous fun! Read the rest of this entry »

Wicklow is a great corner of Ireland if what you love is rugged scenery and outdoor pursuits. The mountains are picturesque, windswept, and just crying out to be the backdrop for your own romantic adventure. Helen Fairbairn’s Dublin & Wicklow: A Walking Guide will ensure you don’t get lost on your trek, nor (if you follow her advice) will you find yourself hopelessly out of your depth.

Dublin & Wicklow: A Walking Guide by Helen Fairbairn

Dublin & Wicklow: A Walking Guide by Helen Fairbairn

Beginning in Dublin, the routes Fairbairn details take you more-or-less gradually further and further into Wicklow, which is useful if you intend to follow the Wicklow Way for several days, or string a couple of paths together for a longer hiking experience. (Note on jargon: Americans go hiking, the Irish go walking. I use them interchangeably.) Each walk is graded for difficulty, so you can quickly find hikes appropriate for your party’s fitness level. Read the rest of this entry »

The Giro d’Italia came to Ireland this summer, and you can still trace its path through various parts of the country by the way everything was painted pink.

McCollam's Restaurant and Pub went completely pink for the Giro d'Italia, and hung a lot of bicycle wheels on the building for good measure.

McCollam’s Restaurant and Pub went completely pink for the Giro d’Italia, and hung a lot of bicycle wheels on the building for good measure.

The village of Cushendall in Co. Antrim, was every excited about the Giro, and appears to have gone out of their way to get in the appropriate spirit. While other communities made do with a few posters and the odd splash of pink, Cushendall went all out, painting buildings, cars, and bicycles, and hanging pink bunting everywhere. Read the rest of this entry »

Fore Abbey is one of the lesser-known monastic ruins in Ireland, which is a shame, as it’s a great place for a family day out, offering places to climb, a stream to play in, a rag tree to decorate, and hills to explore. 

Fore Abbey Rag Tree

The Rag Tree with Fore Abbey in the background.

Founded about 630 by St. Fechin, Fore Abbey lies near Lough Lene in Co. Westmeath. The original monastic community was largely rebuilt by the Benedictines in the 13th and 15th centuries, and these comprise most of the ruins you can visit today.

In its heyday, there were seven “Wonders of Fore,” but not all are verifiable anymore. These were:

  1. The monastery in a bog
  2. The mill without a stream
  3. Water that flows uphill
  4. The tree that won’t burn
  5. Water that won’t boil
  6. The anchorite in a cell
  7. The lintel-stone raised by St. Fechin’s prayers

Read the rest of this entry »

On an unassuming road between Ballymoney and Ballycastle in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, you’ll come upon the tiny community of Armoy, which contains a slightly unusual round tower.

Armoy Round Tower. (L) the step below the door. (R) view from the inside looking out. (Photos: atriptoIreland.com)

Armoy Round Tower. (L) the step below the door. (R) view from the inside looking out. (Photos: atriptoIreland.com)

At first glance, the only unusual thing about the meticulously kept graveyard of St. Patrick’s Church of Ireland in Armoy is the fish decorating its weather vane, but as you come around the bend in the road that wraps around the church you’ll see the tiny round tower that stands beside the church’s more-modern (1869) bell tower. Read the rest of this entry »

Nobel Prize-winning poet W.B.Yeats is County Sligo’s most-famous son. When you visit the town you can’t miss this visually striking statue of the poet.

The statue of W.B. Yeats in from of the Ulster Bank building, in Sligo town.

The statue of W.B. Yeats in front of the Ulster Bank building in Sligo town.

Created in 1989 by sculptor Ronan Gillespie, this statue was erected outside the Ulster Bank at the corner of Stephen Street and Markievicz Road (across the Garavogue River from the equally striking Glasshouse Hotel) on the 50th anniversary of the poet’s death. Among other reasons for this location was Yeats’ remark on receiving his Noble Prize that the Royal Palace in Stockholm resembled the Ulster Bank in Sligo. The statue also looks across the river at the Yeats Memorial Building, home to The Yeats Society and exhibitions about the poet.  Read the rest of this entry »

Schools are out, the sun is shining, and July is — among other things — the season for arts festivals!

 

CastlebarCastlebar International Walking Festival

Castlebar, Co. Mayo – July 3-6, 2014

The oldest walking festival in Ireland, the Castlebar International Four Days’ Walking Festival bills itself as “the ideal opportunity to walk and talk, to discover and share the bogs, rivers, mountains and unspoiled beauty of the West of Ireland with kindred spirits.”

 

Swift FestivalSwift Satire Festival

Trim, Co. Meath – 4-7 July, 2014

The Swift Satire Festival’s organizers describe their festival in simple terms: “We try to emulate Swift’s achievements by giving satirists a platform to hold a mirror up to society.” It’s really quite a unique date in the summer festival calendar, bringing together historians, comedians, astute observers of contemporary politics, and award-winning writers, for a thought-provoking and hilarious few days in beautiful small town.  Read the rest of this entry »

What’s happening around Ireland in June? As usual, there are lots of great festivals.

There's something for everyone in June.

There’s something for everyone in June.

Here are a few of the best…

Ocean to City190Ocean to City: Cork’s Maritime Festival

Cork Harbour, Co. Cork – May 28-June 1

Cork has a long maritime tradition, which is celebrated in this annual week of special events, races, exhibitions, and fun. There’s plenty for all the family, from guided tours of Irish naval vessels to circumnavigating central Cork City by kayak, with great music, food and drink on hand. The highlight is An Rás Mór, the big race, in which all manner of sea-going craft compete across a variety of distances: restored curraghs, yachts, long racing boats, and tiny kayaks.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bloomsday is the annual celebration of all things James Joyce, but mostly his love-it or loathe-it masterpiece, Ulysses.

James Joyce Bloomsday 2014

James Joyce, author of Ulysses

When I lived in Dublin many years ago, I noticed an annual upsurge of American grad students hanging out in the pubs around Trinity, boasting unpublished manuscripts analyzing Ulysses, and claiming to be in town for some conference or other and hoping to find a publisher. If half of them really had a book completed, it would have taken half the Amazon rain forest to print them. But, I suppose it was a measure of the cultural impact Joyce’s relatively difficult novel has had across the world.

Apparently, there were super-fans and students of the novel quite early, as Joyce mentioned a group celebrating “Bloom’s Day” in a 1924 letter. The novel had been serialized between 1918 and 1920, and the first complete edition was only published in 1922. It’s all the more remarkable that people were already acting it out because copies had to be smuggled into Ireland. Though never actually banned in Joyce’s homeland, that was only because the novel was initially not offered for sale openly.  Read the rest of this entry »

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