Saturday, March 14, 2015

A Pre St Patrick's Day Guide To Ireland's Best Counties

You're visiting Ireland, your time is limited, you only want to go to the best counties. Well, fortunately I'm here to help you out. In reverse order: 

10. Kerry. Kerry has it all. Beautiful coast, beautiful islands, lovely people. You'd be a fool to miss the Ring of Kerry on your Irish visit. But it is far away, and a little bit closer to Dublin airport is: 
9. Cork. Right next door to Kerry is the equally fabulous County Cork. Cork City has its own unique culture, accent and food and drink. The townlands around Cork are diverse and interesting. I first went there during Cork Week - which is a thing. Better than Cork though is: 
8. Galway. Stunning cliffs and strands; bleak wild, stark uplands; stony empty sheep fields; hidden villages off the beaten path; and in Galway Town the craic is always happening. 
7. At number #7 on my personal list is Sligo. Here you'll find WB Yeats buried under Ben Bulben and some of the great poet's favourite landscapes. The Lake Isle of Innisfree (Lough Gill) anyone? You'll also find Ireland's second best surfing beaches and some of the most beautiful watercolour landscapes in the land.
6. Donegal. Where everyone in Northern Ireland went for their holidays from 1950 - 1985 (until the invention of cheap flights to Spain). Almost empty beaches, lots of rain, lots of wind, a 100 shades of green. Amazing place, but you know, bring an umbrella.  
5. Fermanagh. Almost no foreign tourists visit the Fermanagh lakes which is a bit sad because they are the hidden gem of Ireland. Nothing in the British Isles is quite like the secret islands of upper and lower Lough Erne. 
4. County Meath. The mystical capital of the island. The site of the Hill of Tara, Newgrange and the Battle of the Boyne. A strange, dark, fascinating and dangerous place is County Meath. Forget kissing the Blarney Stone, kiss the stone of destiny on Tara Hill (if you are the rightful High King of Ireland the stone will roar in response to your touch.)
3. Mayo. County Galway's wilder, darker, bleaker, wetter more beautiful brother.  
2. Dublin. You could spend your whole trip to Ireland just in County Dublin and I wouldn't fault you. The city is endlessly interesting and the surrounding hills, villages and beaches are worth a visit too. 
1. Antrim. Ireland's best country? Yeah, of course. County Antrim has everything. The Causeway Coast is a UNESCO heritage site and one of the wonders of the world. The A2 coast road up to the Causeway is also one of the wonders of the world. Inland you have forests and mountains, bogs and waterfalls and strange inbred hill folk talking about tractors and the Old Testament. Two of Ireland's great rivers, the Bann and the Lagan flow through the county and its also got the British Isles's biggest fresh water lake, Lough Neagh. The Glens of Antrim, Slemish, the best surfing beaches in Ireland, Carrick Castle etc. etc. You know all that cool shit you see on Game of Thrones? well all of the non sunny stuff is, of course, filmed in Country Antrim. If that wasn't enough the southern part of the county contains Ireland's second city, Belfast, with all its baggage, craziness and culture. 
Go where you like on your visit to Ireland but if your itinerary doesn't include at least some of this top 10 it needs to be fixed.