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Travel & Holidays in later life


Amazon Book - IrelandIreland's holiday industry is still at the charm stage. There is true relaxation for anyone seeking escape from the pace of the 20th century. From a peaceful hour's ride in a jaunting-car, to a week's gipsy tour in a horse-drawn caravan, the keynote is leisure as Reg Butler disocvered.

Car-touring down little byways leading to the sea, it's hard to average more than 20 mph. Small market towns are chaotic in the centre, with streets jammed and bottlenecked. People don't park cars; they abandon them.

Signposting, too, can be very Irish. Once we were looking for a farm guesthouse sign marking our turn-off from the main road. When we reached the sign, it was posted 50 yards past the turning, so that we overshot. 

The farmer's wife said: "But if you're coming the other way, it's perfect."

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The ideal route to the Cork-Kerry  region is by  overnight Swansea-Cork car ferry, arriving at breakfast time, and saving 400 miles'  round trip driving if you use the Dublin ferries.

Without a car, there are excellent services to tourist centres by Bus Eirrean.

Ryanair, the low cost carrier operates a service to Cork airport which is 12km from the city. Flights leave from Glasgow Prestwick, Bristol, East Midlands, Liverp[ool. London Stanstead and London Gatwick.


Tour operators feature sea and air transport with a very wide range of packages that include self-catering or hotel accommodation. 

For a shorter stay, coach holidays are featured by local coach-tour companies, or by the big national operators like WA Shearings and Leger Holidays.

There's a good range of activity holidays based on fishing, cycling, hiking, horse-drawn caravans, river cruising and sailing. Most of the package holidays can be booked through your local travel agency.

If you plan to use public transport, a range of Rambler and Explorer tickets offer virtually unlimited bus or rail travel for periods of 3, 5 or 15 days. 

For excellent free brochures packed with ideas and prices,
contact Tourism Ireland, Nations House, 103 Wigmore Street, London W1U 1QS. .Tel: 0207 518 0800


Travelsphere escorted holidays


Outside the towns and the main trunk roads, traffic is easy-going. It's like turning back the motoring clock forty years, where traffic density is one car  per mile. Sometimes the highway is blocked by the Kerry Gold workforce, out for a stroll. 

Blarney CastleThe back roads have built-in waves that make a bouncy ride. You cannot divide Irish miles by fifty to estimate how many hours for a journey, unless you're sticking to the main inter-city highways. If you're in a hurry, you shouldn't be in Ireland. 

Even people's watches run slow, and holidaymakers soon get the idea. On a coach tour, if we started 15 minutes late, we were on schedule. 

Parts of Ireland seems to have stopped in the 19th century. Toothless old men with gnarled walking-sticks sit beside a river, watching the water float by. Bar and shop signs cling to the curly script from the days when Queen Victoria reigned. 

Tavern keepers have names that seem almost too Irish to be true: Joe Murphy, Tim O'Brien or Michael Finn. They preserve the old-time engraved mirrors that advertise brands of whiskey which no longer exist.

A typical bar in County KerryHowever, in central Cork - which grew when neighbouring Cobh was the last port-of-call for trans-Atlantic sailing ships - the old warehouses that formerly crumbled by the quayside have now been replaced by modern buildings that reflect the new prosperity of the Republic.

The English Market in Cork has been restored to its former glory and is filled with food stalls that display the new Irish enthusiasm for gourmet and ethnic eating. Don't miss it. There are three entrances - Princes Street, Patrick Street and the Grand Parade.

The British are still the mainstay of the Republic's tourism industry, with a friendly reception everywhere. One hotelier advertised: "French is spoken, and dogs are welcome." 

In Ireland they speak the same language as us, give or take a little. If you prefer to get your tongue around a foreign language, you can polish up your Gaelic, becoming fluent in words like Aerphort, Telefon and Euro.

The biggest foreign enemy of Irish tourism is Mediterranean sunshine. Even the Irish talent for fantasy cannot convince you that the Republic is a land of blue skies. But the soft climate is well warmed around the edges by the ever-helpful Gulf Stream, so you can enjoy a swim while your clothes drain out. 

In County Cork we stopped at Glandore - a former centre of the Irish schooner trade, but now a superb anchorage for pleasure craft. Hedges were dripping with fuchsias, drying off in a patch of sun, and brilliant clumps of thrift gave a rock-garden appearance to the harbour area: a fine place for quietly messing about in boats.

Muckross House in Killarney National ParkThe Irish boast so much about their rain that visitors are often surprised to find a glimmer of sunshine instead. Let's quote a former tourist guide to County Kerry: "The weather is an integral part of Kerry's beauty, but the visitor must learn to roll with it. "

"Heavy intermittent rain need not be a deterrent. It often enhances the view in the peninsulas. Heavy, continuous rain can be magnificent in the mountains.To drive through Ballaghbeama on a really bad day is an experience to remember. A calm drizzle gives delightful effects along the Killarney Lakes." 

However, nothing can be guaranteed, and you don't get a refund if the sun shines. 

The jarvies - the cabbies who take you on jaunting car trips at Killarney - take a supremely cheerful view of the weather. If the rain is teeming down they'll assure you "It's a lovely day for a ride." 

They'll blarney you to hell and back in their jaunting cars, but the best possible excursion for exploring the Killarney Lakes is a full-day circuit through the Gap of Dunloe, using three forms of transport. 

Each section is around 7 miles. The first stage goes by jaunting-car from the centre of Killarney, past Dunloe Castle to Kate Kearney's Cottage. That's the entrance-point to the Gap of Dunloe - all change onto horses or into a pony-trap. 

Gap of DunloeBut there's no rush: time enough first to buy souvenirs, or steady one's nerves with Irish coffee. 

Then comes the Irish Wild-West bit, with several dozen mounts trotting through the mountain gap - along a valley trail, and then over the pass, with gorgeous views of stony mountains and charming little lakes. 

Finally you travel by boat through the three lakes of Killarney, disembarking at Ross Castle. Unforgettable! 


Read about these other areas of Ireland

DUBLIN - Pub-crawling for literature

DUBLIN - Take a new look

IRELAND WEST COAST - Coach-touring the west


"Books to read - click on cover pictures" or click on the links below

Round Ireland with a Fridge - Tony Hawks - A totally goofy account of an Irishman who hitch-hiked around the coast of Ireland with a fridge at his side. This entertaining book rapidly became a best-seller.

The Rough Guide to Ireland - by Margaret Greenwood, Mark Connolly, Geoff Wallis - A detailed guide which makes excellent reading.

Lonely Planet Ireland  - A good choice for capturing the atmosphere of Ireland.

The Rough Guide to Irish Folk - various artists - Revive your memories of those evenings spent in Southern Ireland's singing pubs. Listen to online samples of the melodies.

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