Ireland: So Scenic, So Historic, So Funny

with Martha Chapman

A smile outside a pub in Dublin.

Now you only need to figure out which is the feller.

Spontaneous music is an Irish tradition.

A stunning room at Abbeyglen Castle Hotel.

Stunning seascapes are endless along the Wild Atlantic Way.

Beautiful, secluded Inishbofin Island.

I doubt you have clients who say “I want to go somewhere funny.” Sunny, maybe. Sporty or foodie or beachy.  But funny? Probably not.

Which is too bad, because if they did you’d have the answer at your fingertips: Ireland.

On a recent trip to Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way I discovered that many of the country’s charms are the unexpected, hilarious ones. A barbershop called A Clip Round the Ear. The coach driver on the difference between male and female sheep: “The males have the look of a feller about them.” Galway, known for its vibrant social scene and nightlife, is described mock-sadly as “The graveyard of ambition.”

The I.T. guy at Abbeyglen Castle Hotel sat by chance at my breakfast table and had me laughing so hard I could hardly eat. Though when I commented on that later to the receptionist, she assured me with a smile, “Aw to be sure he’s not as half as funny as the rest of us.”

Humour is everywhere in Ireland.  As is jaw-dropping scenery.

The Wild Atlantic Way is a “new” attraction for Ireland, essentially a network of existing roads looking out over some of Western Europe’s most spectacular ocean vistas.  Luckily it is also home to some of the most fetching villages and towns in the country, brimming with gardens, historic homes, national parks and museums (and yes, oodles of characters). The entire route is marketed jointly and you can do as much or as little of the Way as you wish.

Bewitching county Donegal, right at the top of Ireland, has been called by no less than National Geographic Traveler as “The coolest place on earth.” And like so much of western Ireland its charms are real and often impromptu. A visit to Glencolmcille Folk Village will take you back in time.  Its handful of thatched-roof cottages have been curated to represent various centuries of life in Ireland, though our genial host David Gillespie, age 41, himself proved to be a bit of living history.  One of eight children, he remembers the excitement when his family got their first fridge – in 1981.

Another highlight for me was a stay on Inishbofin Island, about 10 km off the coast and accessible by frequent ferry service. One of the most westerly islands off the Irish coast, it is home to just 168 people (though many Irish have cottages there), one shop and, in high season, five pubs. Here you’re never far from the sea, and a hike along one of the looped walks provides vistas of beautiful, stark scenery that helps you appreciate the harsh life that so many Irish have lived for generations.

Because along with all the laughter and fun come the countless tales of a country whose history is a sea of sadness. So a must see is the Irish Famine Museum at Strokestown Park House, a moving and heart-wrenching description of this 1840s tragedy which is such a cornerstone of Irish history.

There are a variety of ways clients can experience the Wild Atlantic Way: on a self-driving holiday, on a small-group walking tour, a special interest group (such as family-roots research, fishing or golf), or on an escorted coach tour (here’s a handy tip: not only do clients not have to cope with driving on the “wrong” side of the road, the elevation of the bus will given them better views over the miles of hedges along Irish roads).

As Glencolmcille Folk Village manager Margaret Cunningham told us, “Our natural resources are the sheep and our charm.” I can attest to it: there’s certainly never a shortage of charm in Ireland.

Martha Chapman

Martha Chapman Columnist

An OJ columnist since 2006, Martha is responsible for the Biting Questions features as well as special seasonal series. A travel industry lifer known to all in the biz, she frequently covers industry events for Open Jaw.


Helen Newman - October 12, 2019 @ 13:47
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