This is the final article in my A-Z of Things to See in Ireland series. And Z stands for getting your zzzzzzs! When touring Ireland sleep, rest and pacing yourself on tour is absolutely key to maximising your enjoyment of the sights, activities and people you meet. And if you decide to tour the Northwest of Ireland, with the purest air in Western Europe, be prepared for how unpolluted atmosphere work like knock out drops!
So pack your favourite PJs, some ear plugs, an eye shade and your favourite sleepy herbal remedy. Allow yourself a couple days to acclimatise to the new time zone. Allow yourself to see things at a leisurely pace. People watch. Get used to the new currency. Let your stomach curl with pleasure every time you hear an Irish accent and …EVERYONE is talking with an Irish accent! Gently ease yourself into a different culture. Pacing yourself while touring Ireland will pay off in maximising your pleasure over the days and weeks you spend with us.
For many North Americans a tour to Ireland may be a once in a lifetime trip and you want to pack in as much as possible over a fortnight or less. This is a mistake.
If you read this entire series you can see just about every item if your itinerary is planned with care. You don’t have to run rings around yourself trying to tour Ireland. By prioritising what you want to see you will begin to discover in this series that you can see many of things you want to see and do in Ireland are within a circular tour.
X is for the spot to mark on the map where you suddenly turned left and happened upon that hidden gem not in the guide book as one of the things to see in Ireland. So X in my A-Z of things to see in Ireland is that unknown factor, that surprise to quicken your pulse, that place or site that becomes a secret sanctuary or sacred place. In other words, be open to serendipity. Be prepared to be a bit flexible and brave enough to go a bit off itinerary. Ireland is a country where you need to to open to allow her to take her where she wants to take you.
It’s wise when planning your itinerary for a trip to Ireland to allow some ‘give’ so you can be open to that magical moment that may be the making of your tour of Ireland.
There are only a few more letters in the alphabet to go in my A-Z of Things to See in Ireland. We have travelled quite a way, ranging around many parts of the island of Ireland. So it seems fitting to mention the many Walking Paths that you can tread in Ireland. Along these way marked ways there are plenty of things to see and do in Ireland. Because they are often situated in spectacular scenery and national parks, you will experience many of things to see in Ireland mentioned in this series.
In my A-Z of Things to See in Ireland V is indisputably for the Vale of Avoca. This beautiful part of Irish countryside is very close to Dublin. For the time pressed visitor to Ireland with very few days for sight seeing, the Vale of Avoca can offer spectacular scenery along with the opportunity to see some early Christian sites at Glendalough. Personally, I do not feel that you get to know Ireland if you only stick to the cities. If you only have four days for a visit to Ireland you can have a leisurely visit to Dublin and the Vale of Avoca.
Arriving at the letter ‘U’ brings us up in Northern Ireland, where there are, of course, many things to see and do. In the ancient kingdom of Ireland Ulster was the Northern kingdom and included the six counties of Northern Ireland as well as Donegal, Monaghan and Cavan, which are in the Republic of Ireland. Of particular interest to North American visitors is the Ulster American Folk Park, which is about five miles north of Omagh on the Strabane Road, in County Tyrone.
I know, you probably thought that with my fetish for mythic and mystic Ireland that I would pick Tara to represent T in my A-Z of Things to See in Ireland. But I realise that you need to mix things up whether you are on tour or writing a blog about things to see and do in Ireland. Also, I have to confess that earlier in my life I had a serious crush on theatre. Also, for those of you interested in Irish heritage – the theatrical contribution to Irish literature is consistently high calibre. George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, J.M. Synge are part of the historic canon. Writers like Brian Friel are still with us and the younger generation like Sebastian Barry and Gary Owen.
What is so special about Ireland is its vibrant regional theatre circuit. In a country that would fit comfortably in the state of Pennsylvania (if you swivelled it horizontal that is) there is an amazing number of small theatre venues available for touring companies and amateur groups.
As I begin the homestretch towards the end of this series ‘S’ is another multiple choice option. So today, with the letter S, I am going to suggest a number of options to tick off your list. With the letter S in my A-Z of things to see I find that we can cover ancient sites as well as modern creativity with nature and nurture work hand in hand.
We are heading toward the home stretch of the A-Z of things to see in Ireland series. With the letter P I couldn’t resist any of the options, each with their own distinct appeal and constituency. So in my A-Z of things to see in Ireland let’s kick off with pottery, move on to St. Patrick’s Day Parades and then round it up with Poetry Festivals.
Beleek Pottery on the border between Fermanagh and Donegal is world famous. The geology that is widespread within the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark also contributed to the founding of the pottery in Belleek, which had deposits of kaolin necessary for the manufacture of pottery. The Pottery has a a museum, offers guided tours and has a shop and cafe. Don’t worry if you want to travel light. They will ship!
Rock and Roll and lots of soul was going on in Neolithic Ireland. In my A-Z of Things to See in Ireland I want to draw your attention to our very talented ancestors, who not only hauled rocks several tons weight to create tombs, they found spare time for creative artistic pursuits. In this A-Z of Things to See in Ireland, R stands for Rock Art.
The triple symbol or triskele is one of the most famous pieces of rock art at Newgrange in County Meath. However, if you visit any of Ireland’s Ancient Sites and look closely you are likely to see work that is not done by Mother Nature. The Neolithic period in Ireland ranged from 4,500 BCE to 2,500BCE. During that period the human inhabitants moved from a hunter gather lifestyle to one where blow ins from Europe introduced domestic animals and farming. By the end of the period the early Irish were making metal implements. But this burst of creativity may be even early for the megaliths – the court tombs and portal tombs – also known as dolmens were made by Mesolithic Irish. The earliest humans had the impulse not only to bury their dead in a respectful, even reverent way, they already carried the creativity gene to decorate or adorn.
Strolling around the Cavan Burren forests, it continues to amaze how our earliest ancestor urge was to ritualise the end of life and to also create object. This urge to make is one of the markers for being human. The geologists of Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark have visited the Cavan Burren to view the megaliths in the 200 acre site. Over time they have confirmed that many of the indentations on the rocks are not the work of ice sheets or weather but human beings. The rocks are what are known as glacial erratics left behind as ice sheets slid there way across the earth’s crust and left in their wake.
This photo is of a boulder tomb on the Cavan Burren with evidence of rock carvings. Archaelogical investigations have been checking when the sun aligns to light up the chamber box in the tomb. While many tombs are aligned to sunrise at either winter or summer solstice this tomb is aligned to sunrise at Bealtaine, the May Day of prehistoric Ireland.
Here’s another image of some rock art discovered while wandering around the megaliths on the Cavan Burren. What is clear is that careful attention to all aspects of the rocks will reveal how our ancient ancestors, using only flint tools, were evolving towards the Michelangelo moment when artist and art are fused.