Peace and places to park
wE thought we would like to visit Ireland for our annual holiday. Our ideas about it were sketchy, hut large numbers of friends had been more than enthusiastic about their holidays there, so a visit tu the Irish tourist office seemed a good start.
With ourselves and five children air travel is out on account of the high fares, and though many hire cars over therea car is an absolute must, incidentally—it proved cheaper to take our own estate car over on the ferry and thus eliminate all but the boat fares. Even so. this was not exactly a small item at nearly £50, but of course it is a longish trip, seven hours in our case from Liverpool to Dublin.
Having stayed at farms in England and thoroughly enjoyed them we were pleased to find that the tourist office had a very comprehensive, recommended and inspected list with full 'details and prices. This is something we do not have in England----farms can be rather hit or miss affairs and there is no system of inspection or grading. We paid £10 per week for bed, breakfast and evening meal with reductions for the under 10's.
We chose a number and wrote off—we had decided to spend one week in Wicklow to explore the East coast and Dublin, another in Kerry. We understood that Kerry though beautiful has not a very good weather record, so by splitting our stopping points we hoped to minimise the risk of a continuous downpour!
Five a.m. on July 5 saw us on route to Liverpool docks. Fortunately our family enjoy the motorway and its most vital amenities which arrive with such useful regularity!
On to the boat for a long but fine trip and finally into Dublin as the light was fading. The dock area is empty and dreary and we saw little of the city as we hurried into the suburbs (which look like quiet, comfortable Edwardian Wimbledon in its hey-day) and finally out towards the Wicklow Mountains where we were spending our first week.
Here the countryside was not unlike Wales or even parts of southern England. The roads were good, the traffic scanty and shops open all hours of the night—and bars too, as we were to discover!
Our first farm at Ashford, county Wicklow which we had simply chosen from a list with no personal recommendation at all, proved ideal—comfortable, spacious and well kept. with all "mod cons" and really lovely home, farm cooking. Even at 10 pm a delicious cold meal had been kept for
We find this type of accommodation ideal for a family holiday—Mother does not do the work, there is reasonable space for the children to play and the animals and farm life are a never ending source of interest. There are no main roads, no cars and we have the personal attention of the management who are really anxious to please the guests— not always the case when a hotel is dependent on the offices of not over devoted staff.
When all costs are taken into account, the difference in hiring a good holiday house in a central position, doing all ones own cooking and cleaning and shopping, and staying in farm accommodation with two good meals, is not very great but to me the saving in work. wear and tear is enormous.
Ireland has a fascination which grows upon you. Life really is lived at a more leisurely pace than over here. Standards of living and prices seem similar, and it is perfectly possible to buy whatever modern piece of equipment you may require. Foods are much the same and spares for cars, but there is no difficulty in parking in the local country town, no crowds in the shops, people have time to stop for a chat.
Some of the public services seem a little haphazard but none the less work. We hunted in vain for proper post offices and boxes and ended by asking a girl at the grocers cum (inevitably) bar.
"Oh you can leave them with me, post them off for you," she said, simply asking us for the right money to get sta m ps We looked a little nervously at the pile mounting on the hack shelf, but did not like to seem churlish. Certainly our letters did arrive, hut weren't they just a little slow?
We Commented that there seemed to be no regular bus services or stops. "Oh, did you see the minibus along the road?" asked our hostess. That it appeared was the regular bus service, and of course they just stopped wherever anyone wanted them!
The beaches. mountains. woods and lakes were equal to anything we had previously seen anywhere else in the British Isles and much of Europe too. But unbelievably they were completely uncrowded. A scorching day on a wide, perfect and stoneless beach some 50 miles from Dublin saw only a handful of people to share it with us.
Admittedly. there are few amenities in the way of shops, toilets and car parks and this is to some extent a difficulty. All over Ireland there is a complete dearth of public toilet facilities and what there are, are horrifying in their lack or normal cleanliness. One simply has to resort to the nearest bush! Now this may he all very well whilst the population, motorists and tourists form a relatively small group, but if they increase? Horror of Horrors!
In Kerry the countryside has to be seen to be believed. everywhere there are tiny, almost mediaeval looking fields and white washed houses. Each farmer appears to have about four cows, a donkey and cart and enough hay in minute haycocks to support them during the winter. The one concession to modern farming is the central creamery to which all the milk is brought each morning.
During breakfast the tiny hedged roads are filled with minute donkeys pulling carts with anything from one to six churns by an aged, weatherbeaten man — going to the nearest collecting point where the creamery lorry will meet them to collect the precious churns.
The agriculture still seems basically the peasant farming style of life—people are happy, there is enough to live upon, gradually the standard of living has been improved— there is plenty of new building about, particularly School s and churches, an interesting pair, rather than factories, howling allies, bingo halls and vast empty office blocks.
Life is more simple and leisurely, there is time for a chat, a smile. Perhaps everyone in the village does know everyone else's business, but is it really better to know noones? At least somebody must care — not always so in the urbanized hoards in London or other big cities.
In Ireland the total population is about a quarter that of London. there are far more Irishmen in England than their homeland, and it is one of the few places where the population has actually decreased since the mid-nineteenth century. But to the crowded, hurried English this makes a holiday that is peculiarly attractive, we are sick and tired of being pressed upon. In Ireland there is still time (and room) to stand and stare.