Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Continuing from Bushmills to Ballycastle.

May your troubles be as few and far apart as my grandmother's teeth

When you arrive at the Causeway there is a new tourist center at the top of the cliff. From there you can walk the whole way down to the actual causeway or for the less athletic there is a frequent little minibus carrying tourists up and down to the stones. When you arrive be sure to have a seat in the wishing chair and make your wish. (Please let it stop raining!- Can someone carry me back up that path?). By the way, this is NO PLACE for swimming the waters here are extremely dangerous with strong currents - under no circumstances should you even let it cross your mind. Another magnifient site down at the bottom of these cliffs is the "Devil's organ" a huge crystallised rock face resembling organ pipes. Take the path a little further along from the wishing chair and in five minutes you are there. And now it is back up to the visitor's center for a wll-deserved cup of tea before we continue towards our beloved Ballycastle.

Our first day trip along the Antrim coast in Northern Ireland

Many of my postings will be in the form of day trips you can take at your leasure - usually by car. This first choice is also my first choice and an area I know very well as I spent most of my Irish childhood in this area.

The trip can be done comfortably in one day. Starting off of course with a good Irish breakfast before departure. And yes I know you will find it a bit off if you are into health foods, yoghurt and muesli but when in Ireland do as the Irish and rest assured you will not feel hungry until well past lunch time. bacon, sausages, eggs, soda bread, potato bread, mushrooms - all fried. of course you start off with porridge before this and end up with two rounds of bread and marmalade (toasted).

Here is the plan for the day. We are in Northern Ireland and it is our first visit to the Antrim Coast - some of the most spectacular scenery in Ireland all of Europe. We start on the coast on the very left of the map and continue eastwards to Portrush, Carrickareade, Bushmills, the Giant's Causeway and end up in the sleepy little holiday resort of Ballycastle.
In total we are covering less than 70 kilometers but there is so much to see and plenty of tiem to see it.

Portstewart is one of th emost popular retirement towns in the north of Ireland. I has a magnificent beach called Portstweart strand and golfing, fishing, yachting activites. The white strand stretches for several miles and I believe you are still permitted to drive along it though beware I have seen many a struggling driver panicking as the tide comes in and he tries to escape. Portstewart is peaceful and the view from the promenade provoked the Irish ballad "Red Sails in the Sunset". In winter stragely enough students inhabit the town as it is close to the University of Ulster in the adjacent town of Coleraine and offers cheap winter accommodation once the summer tourists have fled. From here you continue round the coast some 3 miles to the little resort of Portrush, a favourite holiday location for local Irish and full of the holiday atmosphere. The harbour you see here is also great for swimming or hiring rowing boats but do not underestimate the currents when you leave the harbour. Portrush also is famous for the Royal Portrush Golf Course and reportedly is one of the bestin Ireland. The town itself is situated on a little promentory with beahes on both sides, packed on summer days. Leaving the town towards Bushmills you will pass the golf coarse and enjoy the drive towards Bushmills, the home of the oldest whiskey distillery in the world. Bushmills actuall is no larger than a village but the distillery is it's major claim to fame and there are guided tours to show the distillation process and a great shop for any whiskey connisseur. I recommend the 400th anniversary malt which came on the market last year (2008). A little pricey at around $70 but it will become a collector's item. Leave youself about oen hour for the tour of the distillery and the shop visit and then you are off to the 8th wonder of the world - The Giant's Causeway - a strange natural phenomenon of how basalt stome crystallised and formed hexagonal shapes when the lava cooled on meeting the chilly waters.

May you live as long as you want and never want as long as you live

Monday, 29 June 2009

The Irish weather - a little unpredictable

Yes, I read this statement on a similar website and can but agree, if you want to have guaranteed wall to wall sunshine for the duration of your holiday then head to the Mediterranean, not to Ireland. There is a saying, and I have experienced it frequently, in Ireland you can have four seasons in one days. Typical Irish joke, "Paddy, that was a great summer we had last year", Yes, Matt I missed it I was at the dentist that afternoon." A slight - very slight exaggeration - but let's be honest Ireland is not renowned for heatwaves and drought! However, one thing I will say, which most people forget. The scenery in any kind of weather on the Emerald Isle is impressive. Take a look at the incredible photo below and you will get an idea of what I mean. It is a keen haven for golfers, though, with summer temperatures around 20C during the day. In any case if things are really bad maybe it is time for a little sustience in something you will find on practically ever street corner of even the most remote Irish village - the pub. In my view the best months to visit Ireland - although there is never a guarantee with the weather is May, June, July, September and early October.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Do I need a visa to visit Ireland

Check this link if you need a visa to visit ireland As you can see with the exception of a small number of African, Middle eastern and East European countries, by and large you do nto require a visa to enter Ireland as a tourist. But take care. We are talking about tourist visas and such a visa does not entitle you to study or take up employment in Ireland. Of course, citiziens of any EU country do have the right to seek employment in Ireland which is also a member of the European Union. Indeed with the now crashing boom in Ireland many workers from Poland, Latvia and Lithuania were in employment particularly in major construction projects around Dublin. If you enter via the Republic of Ireland without a visa you can also visit Northern Ireland - which is part of the United Kingdom - as there are no border controls between the two countries as both are European Community members.

Other cities to fly to when vacationing in Ireland

There are a number of other points of entry by air to the Republic of Ireland other than through the capital, Dublin. The following map shows also three cities, Cork, Galway and Limerick (Shannon Airport) and you can enter by air. To be honest if you asked me which one to pick I would have extreme difficulties as all three cities are very beautiful. If you choose Galway for example you are on the very West coaat of Ireland (Dublin is on the east cost. This is a univeristy city with great old-world charm and charmisma. Using Galway as a base you can easily visit the impressive desolate western coastline and the area of Connemara with its white thatched cottages and fishing villages. it is like living in another world. I shall come back in a later posting about Galway and its history and sites. Another option is to fly to Cork. If you look at the map at the top of this posting you will see that Cork is on the very south coast of Ireland. It is a port and was the point of departures for many Irish who fled the hard life for a new future in the US and Canada centuries ago. Again Cork is a lively university city with a mild climate on account of the gulf stream and even has palm trees. The advantage of arriving in Cork is that you are close to the beautiful Kerry mountains and the lakes are ideal for fishing. It is an ideal base for exploring the southern and some say most beautiful scenery in Ireland. Third option is Limerick, again a bustling university city on the west coast south of the city of Galway. Which ever city you opt for you cannot go wrong - each has its own charm and there are no lack of sites to visit in all of the cities and in the surrounding areas. This may be a good choice for tourists from USA and Canada as the airport (Shannon Airport) has frequent flights from New York, Chicago, etc.

For tourists travelling by air on holiday to Dublin

Equally, if you decide to travel by air on vacation to Ireland, the choice of flights is enormous. This map shows some of the cheaper carriers in Europe and the cost of the flight. As I mentioned in an earlier post the Irish no frills airlines Rynair offers great prices also to Dublin from many international destimations (including the Uk and Europe. Should you be looking for direct flights to Dublin from the UK, the following map shows your nearest UK airport for destination Dublin.

Tourist going to Northern Ireland by air

In the meantime there are so many airlines and cheap no frills airlines serving Northern Ireland, it is difficult to keep up to date. If you are travelling from the UK mainland the map on the left gives you a smaple of your nearest airport which flies to Belfast. Belfast has two airports, George Best City Airport, in the centre of Belfast which has mainly domestic flights and Belfast International Airport, about 30 minutes from Belfast, which has both domestic and international flights.

If you are travelling from the UK mainland your cheapest options are Easyjet or Ryanair as both are low cost airlines and the earlier you book the cheaper the flight. In some cases the flight is free and you only pay airport services and charges, believe it or not.

Let's start from the beginning and get rid of some of the confusion for those going on vacation to Ireland

As you can see from the map above, Ireland is an island situated off the west coast of Britain, i.e. Scotland, England and Wales.

Also you will note that Ireland is a geographical but not a political entity. Indeed many of you will remember the troubled past of the last 30 years which thankfully has ended. Basically, Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom (UK) and the larger part of the island (the south) is an independent country called "The Republic of Ireland" also known in the Irish langauge as "Eire".

The country is served well by international air routes. Dublin, the capital of The Republic of Ireland, has direct air links to most European capitals, and to several US destinations. Belfast, the largest city in Northern Ireland, equally has good air connections to European and UK destinations.

For travellers wishing to travel with their vehicles to Ireland, there are frequent services from Scotland (to Northern Ireland) and from England and Wales to Dublin. The map above gives you a clearer picture of all sea routes and as you can see you can travel by ship directly from France.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

So what do I know about Ireland

Simple, I'm Irish and have spent most of my life on the Emerald Isle. This blog is an insiders view to Ireland, to what is worth seeing. Anyway, even if you never intend to holiday in Ireland, I hope you can appreicate the pictures.