The Irish are well known around the world for their way with words, sometimes referred to as the Gift of the Gab. In reality, this is much more than being quick witted and having a talent for spinning entertaining yarns over a pint (although it's true we are indeed quick witted and enjoy spinning yarns over pints); the Irish Gift of the Gab has stemmed from a population that has endured much hardship, including famine and recession and, being from a small Island, is prone to emigration. Despite living all over the world, either by choice or necessity, Irish people have retained a tangible identity which is kept alive through stories and songs. This identity is most evident on Saint Patrick's Day when, the 100 million or so, Irish diaspora celebrate their Irish ancestry.
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Ireland has a predominantly Catholic population. The religion is understood to have been brought to Ireland in the early fifth century by the country’s patron saint, St. Patrick. Prior to the introduction of Christianity, the Irish people had a very different belief system of which little is now known. Although Irish people accepted Christianity, they were slow to give up their old beliefs entirely. We can see vestiges of these old beliefs across the Irish landscape in the form of holy wells. These wells were considered sacred places to the pre-Christian Irish and so were amalgamated into the new belief system. There are an estimated 3000 holy wells in Ireland, many of which have had a shrine to the Virgin Mary added to Christianise the site.
Hidden Gems of the Wild Atlantic Way
Ireland’s beaches are considered by many as the most breath-taking in the world.
Whether you want to surf in the wild Atlantic, picnic in the small secluded coves or walk barefoot along the seemingly endless stretches of sand and breathe in the fresh air, Ireland’s beaches can accommodate. Away from the hustle and bustle of the well-trodden seaside hotspots are beaches, described by West Cork locals as the hidden gems of the Wild Atlantic Way. If you’re keen to experience something that’s a little bit off the beaten track and secluded enough to feel truly relaxing then West Cork is what you’re looking for. Having grown up in the area I can boast some insider knowledge and have chosen, what I believe are the best four beaches in the area.
We went on a long cycle through the coastal back roads of west cork at the start of February. We decided to head off as we were finally experiencing one of those beautiful clear crisp sunny days that unfortunately occurs only rarely in this beautiful part of the wild south of Ireland. Our trip began in the beautiful Nature reserve of Lough Hyne where we departed to the market town of Skibbereen for a coffee and scone a Field's coffee shop. We then headed towards the quite and sleepy village of Castletownshed that is situated on a steep hill before you can see the Atlantic ocean. Fitness is certainly needed for the cycle back out of this village. We carried on towards Toe head where we traversed the headland and watched out for sea life as we watched the waves break off the coastal cliffs and rocks. In the distance we could see the Stags and off to the west the Fastnet Rock and lighthouse was clear to see well beyond Cape Clear island.
One of the routes, as you travel to Dublin from the south of Ireland, takes you past the iconic St. James’ Gates of Dublin’s famous Guinness brewery.
Adjoining, is the Guinness Storehouse, a Visitor’s Centre, which graphically details the workings of this world-famous brewery since its inception in 1759. The Storehouse Visitor’s Centre is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Ireland. On this occasion, having already recently visited the centre, we decided to continue driving to allow ourselves time to reach our city-centre accommodation, shower and change clothes in preparation for a very Irish pastime of a pub-crawl.Our first port of call, was the pub known as ‘the Brazen Head’, reputed to be Ireland’s official oldest pub, founded originally in 1198. Irrespective of its antiquity, the quality of its cuisine and beverages were excellent, and we really enjoyed the live music.