There’s no way to capture in a picture or in words what you see heading down Irish backroads in County Cork and County Kerry on the way from Blarney Castle to the old tourist town of Killarney. You almost miss it yourself, concentrating on roads so narrow you almost always have to pull up and crawl by oncoming traffic. Especially so, if you are an American driving on the wrong side of the road and shifting with the wrong hand. But you can’t miss it: There’s nothing like it anywhere. Greens of every imaginable shade in patterns of all the shapes you can dream up. And dots of color, wildflowers and even a few gardens. As you come over the hill to the
expanding vista, all you can do is gasp.
You are never going to see any of this on a bus or in the tourist centers or the towns themselves–though some of them do have remarkable gardens, not the least being those around Blarney Castle.
If you go to Ireland between May and September, it is the gardens and the green you should be looking for.
Yes, the country is filled with remarkable sights, including quaint villages and historic buildings, but nothing beats Ireland’s out-of-town outdoors. So, if at all possible, you should drive.
And slowly enough to see the sights. Don’t even bother to take pictures, not all the time. Just look and drink it in. It’s going to become a blur, for certain, a blur of pretty, but it is the memories themselves you’ll be
remembering, not the mementos.
Stay in the towns, sure, but not in the cities, and do make sure you have time to walk around and savor before hitting the road out of town. And don’t hurry. You’ll miss plenty, but you’ll see more if you don’t try to do it all.
And forget about the history. Ireland’s chock full of it–overflowing, for those of us (like me) with Irish roots. But the history will come to you unbidden, for it is not even past. The Great Famine and Easter 1916 shaped the land, and the land does not let you forget it. Just so, don’t worry
about the writers. Read them when you get home–you’ll enjoy them more.
This country has so much beauty and hurt, and has been through so much more, that it quickly stops to shock how generous it is. You may argue who is to back up, when two cars face off on the road, but only because both of you want to give
precedence to the other.
Ireland is like that, and in that blur of pretty, to boot.
My Irish ancestors were Great Famine immigrants to America, probably originally from West Cork, though I don’t know for sure. They probably left Ireland for New York (family stories say that’s where they arrived) from what is now Cobh, the port adjacent to Cork where many of those fleeing the famine took ship. But it doesn’t require Irish ancestry to love a visit to this remarkable Republic.
Here are a few more snapshots of a small number of the things you might see: