SO MUCH TO DO AND SEE
E. Mary J. Dowling : makes a tour of t the attractions
ONE has come to accept thc convenience and comfort of modern transport with
astonishing casualness. and only occasionally a particular instance arouses surprise. Such an occasion was seeing off a young nephew at London Airport.
s* Driving back from the airport (needless to say before the petrol crisis) one remembered that the Aer Lingus Viscount would touch down at Dublin Airport in less than an hour and a half — not much longer than the car journey from London Airport to Hampstead.
This air travel to Ireland. which has become synonymous with Aer Lingus, has made a holiday in Ireland almost a holiday on your own doorstep—but with a surprising difference. For Aer Lingus brings its prices within the reach of every prospective traveller and has established reduced 17 day return fares as well as the cheaper star and dawn flight services, CERTA1NLY there can be little doubt of the convenience and speed of air travel, but planes often have to fly over cloud, and apart from the thrill of the flight itself, air travel Sometimes does not provide some of the pleasures of travel. There are those holidaymakers who would not miss the fun a long journey can provide : they like dining cars on trains, bars on the boat; they delight in eating on board ship.
Ireland is indeed well served for transport. There are the excellent air services of Aer Lingus whose popularity increases from year to year and which now runs regular services from London, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, the Isle of Man, Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh to both Dublin and Shannon. From April 14 B.E.A. will also run regular services.
In addition, a number of shipping lines, including British Railways and the Coast Lines, provide daily sailings from a number of ports to a variety of destinations, both in Eire and Northern Ireland.
D.E.A. also fly to Belfast.
IF criticism may be levelled in
an article intended to invite visitors to Ireland, it would be the present inadequacy of transport for cars to Ireland.
It is true that a great number o* car-hire firms offer a selection of all modern vehicles for rental, and this is probably a more economical proposal, particularly for a fortnight's holiday. But there are sonic people who would miss the intimacy of their own ear, and the confidence it gives them. For such people transport facilities do not coinpare with those to the mainland of Europe, where both air and sea car ferries are available, and both excellent and cheap.
It is regrettable that only those who have visited Ireland previously or been forewarned by friends are likely to know that the first car on the boat at Liverpool is the last off at Dublin, making the crossing for that particular car a matter not far short of 24 hours.
wHILE we are talking of cars,
it is of great interest to note that a car which in London averaged 20 miles to the gallon and elsewhere in England 25 miles to the gallon, managed
nearly 30 miles in Ireland. It was not a car assembled in Ireland and patriotically inclined, nor was the petrol there better as well as cheaper. This is merely to emphasise the joys of tn 'wring in Ireland.
-slthough the number of cars per head of the population in Ireland would appear to be high tone would even hazard a guess that it was higher than in the United Kingdom), the actual number of cars in relation to the size of the country is far less, and makes for carefree motoring.
DURING the present petrol crisis a special petrol allocation can be obtained at the port of entry from the A.A. or R.A.C. authorities. There are also arrangements for hiring cars either chauffeur-driven or selfdriven. Information may be obtained from the Irish 'Ioutist Board Office at 71, Regent Street, London, W. I.
'ale roads in Ireland, too, have of recent years been greatly improved, particularly main roads, although in remote districts one might still question the remarkable twisting of certain country lanes. For Irishmen, of course, have an excellent explanation for this one: the roadmakers liked working with their backs to the wind I For those who do not drive and who, rather than enjoy the independence and possible hazards and inconveniences of the private motorist, prefer to rely on the arrangements of experts, the Coras lompair Eireann provide excellently. Both train and coach tours as well as the most attractive Shannon River and Lake cruises — these must be amongst the loveliest.
Kilaloe is but one of the attractive old towns by which these boats travel.
In a country where canals are still an active waterway, in constant use, it would be a most unusual experience to make a private tour in a boat. Although no information is at present available on this, no doubt the Irish Tourist Board at either its London or Dublin office would provide further details and suggestions.
In fact, Bord Failte (Gaelic for Irish Tourist Board) is an extremely efficient organisation, helpful in every way. On a recent visit to its Mr. Nialt Sheridan, he even supplied two winning horses on The Curragh racecourse ! This feature, of course, is not included in their normal services, and certainly no guarantee was attached.
Racing is of course one of the great attractions of Ireland, and certainly one could not find a more attractive course. than The Curragh.
THE history of Ireland is evident not only from the history books but from travelling about the country. Glendaloch and Clonmacnois, Co. Offaly, arc but two examples of these historic associations.
Glendaloch, as well as being a well-known beauty spot, is one of the early monastic settlements (about the 5th century) and its ruins are still in an excellent state of preservation.
The drive to Glendaloch is quite enchanting and the Wicklow Hills are unimaginably beautiful. And leaving Dublin, a magnificent view of the city and Dublin Bay can be had from the Featherbed.
It is of course best to plan a full day at Glendaloch because once one has arrived there is so much to see and such fascinating historical discoveries to be made that one cannot tear oneself away.
There are three groups of monastic settlements. The lower group consists of St. Saviour's Priory, Trinity Church; the middle group of the Gateway, the Round Tower, the Cathedral, St. Kevin's Cross, Priest's House, St. Kevin's Church, St. Kierin's Church, St. Mary's Church; and the upper group, which includes the Cahir, St. Kevin's Cell, Righfeart Church, Teamput Na Shkellig, and St. Kevin's Bed.
All these places may easily bc visited, but in the case of St. Kevin's Bed, the visitor may be advised beforehand that not only do you have to go by boat across the lake but also climb up a not inconsiderable rock surface. This, with the help of a guide, is done in two stages.
The first stage is up to St. Kevin's Chair. This not too bad, but to reach the final stage of St. Kevin's Bed, about 30ft. above the water, means a good rock climb, whatever the guidebook may say. and it has been known for certain visitors' curiosity to melt away on reaching St. Kevin's Chair, with a mere shrug of the shoulders, thinking it most unreasonable of St. Kevin to have chosen such inaccessible sleeping quarters.
NEAR this magnificent settlement is Powerscourt Demesne. This has been in the posession of the Wingfield family for three centuries, having been granted to Sir Richard Wingfield by James I in 1609, The house itself was designed by Sir Richard Casson about 1720. The original castle was a far smaller building, with walls 8 ft. thick which are incorporated in the present building.
The present house has more than 100 rooms.
The hills near the magnificent gardens of Powerscourt Demesne may seem somewhat familiar: many of the battle scenes for the film "Henry V" were shot there.
But Ireland is full of surprises. Travelling in the west, Co. Clare and Co. Galway, one comes to a nice old town. Ennistyrnon, where stands a church conceived in the most modern terms and extremely beautiful, the more so because of its old world surroundings. I N the past four years Ireland has organised a festival of its own, An "fostal, From May 12 to 26 this year the fifth annual springtime Festival of Ireland takes place.
There is no doubt that this is an excellent occasion for a holiday, for an elaborate programme is ;;pecially devised to please many tastes, cultural. sporting and social. Cities, towns and villages of all parts of Ireland arrange a wide variety of events. Dublin will have an international Drama Festival, and Cork a choral festival.
Dublin, too, of course has great attractions, such as the famous Dublin Horse Show. Georgian Dublin is well worth seeing.
It may he debatable that O'Connell Street is the widest street in Europe, especially with the competition of the ChampsElys6es in Paris and the Ringstrasse in Vienna, but there is less doubt that O'Connell Bridge is the only bridge as wide as it is long. But Dublin alone is not all Ireland, for whatever the famous sights, the historical associations and the very considerable religious affinity may be, the important aspect of Ireland and of a holiday there is the people. It is the people's hospitality, the people's humour, the people's kindliness that makes it so enjoyable.
Moreover, the further West one goes, the less likely is one to encounter any tourist atmosphere (not that there is much of it prevalent in any part of Ireland). Rather will one exchange stimulating conversation. one's nostrils filled with the sweet smell of turf, one's heart warmed by the kindness of the Irish men and women and quite ' possibly one's inside warmed with a drop of " the Irish ".