Guides recount the folklore behind this geological curiosity just before you first set eyes on the causeway, and it certainly builds the suspense. One version alleges that local giant Finn MacCool was aiming to build a bridge over to Scotland to reach his love. You can either walk down the cliff side to the base of the Causeway, which takes 10 to 15 minutes, or catch the tram to the bottom.
A word of warning about walking on the columns: the farther out you go, the causeway becomes more treacherous and wave-battered. It was strung up by salmon fishermen in to connect the mainland to Carrick-a-Rede Island, a grassy chunk of gray tuff consolidated volcanic ash. Crossing the secure, but insubstantial-looking wooden-slatted rope bridge can be an exhilarating — or terrifying — experience, depending on how you look at it. The bridge dangles over a 30 m ft chasm and trembles as you walk, while the foamy waters below occasionally spatter you with droplets of spindrift.
You can opt to watch from a distance, and try to spot the dinosaur prints in the rocks around the bridge entrance. One way to get a feel for the park is to drive for 30 or 40 minutes down the well-marked, coast-hugging Sky Road. I lost count of the number of tractors and snug-looking villages I passed.
I also learned of a local superstition: if a woman sees more than seven white horses in one day, the next unmarried man she meets is destined to be her husband. What I like most about getting behind the wheel in Connemara is the chance to stop off at its many beaches. The beach curves around a sheltered inlet, and the ocean is calm enough for children to swim in. The water is remarkably limpid — again, not something I was expecting.
They throng with crabs and many small fish. I really like Delphi Lodge , with its manicured lawn, long communal dining tables, library and roaring fire. Alternatively, a good family option is the Connemara Coast Hotel. It has a light, sunny design, a pool and a playground, and two dining rooms — one reserved for families and one for fine dining.
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You look out over a limestone karstic plateau gouged with great cracks and clefts. Sometimes, these dents are filled with tufty grass, mosses and the bright sprigs of wildflowers — periwinkle-blue gentians and puce lousewort. At sunset, they stand out in eerie silhouettes. There are many walking trails all over the area, but a less strenuous way of exploring the Burren is to take a tour of its many artisanal workshops and cottage industries.
Ballyvaughan, a small port town, is a good place to lunch on seafood. On a clear day, the grass-topped cliff faces plunge straight down into a spuming dark-blue Atlantic. I once visited when the clifftops were initially obscured by sea fret, but it soon cleared. Not only do you begin to see the colossal strata more clearly, but you notice that the cliff faces are pockmarked with nesting puffins, which are indistinguishable from above.
But, more than ocean separates the Aran Islands from the mainland. Setting foot on them is like stepping into a rural, unspoiled Ireland of yesteryear. The biggest settlement is no more than a village, with thatched cottages and a handful of shops. You hear islanders turn to speak to each other in lilting Irish.
There are few cars and fewer roads: jaunting car horse and carriage and bicycle are the main modes of transport. Due to the limited soil, Aran farmers would use a makeshift alternative of sand and seaweed. The pewter-toned stone is contrasted by wildflowers — wild roses, fuchsia, and bloody cranesbill geraniums with their shocking pink petals. My guide showed me how its seemingly primitive dry-laid stones were actually arranged in an intricate lace-like pattern, enabling strong winds to pass through rather than buffet the walls. Inside its layers of walls, the ground drops away suddenly to the sea.
The last time I was there, I lay down on the grass and peered over the edge to watch the waves crashing below. Located in the south of County Clare, 19th-century Dromoland Castle is set on a sprawling estate. The hotel offers elegant rooms, fine dining and a wide selection of unusual activities to its guests. Visitors can indulge in archery, falconry, horse riding, shooting or fishing, or simply stroll through the grounds, which include parklands, ponds and a historic rose garden.
Despite its proximity to the city, the park feels untouched. The park is home to many birds and animals, including deer, stoats and goosanders. In the Gaeltacht Irish-speaking areas, road signs are written in Irish only. Speed limits are defaults for the road classification only — if a different speed limit is signed, it must be obeyed. Ireland has an extensive motorway network centred on Dublin. Most motorways in the Republic have some tolled sections. Tolls are displayed a few kilometres from the plaza. The only tolled road that accepts credit cards is the M4 between Kilcock and Kinnegad.
All others except the M50 are Euro cash only, so take care if you're arriving from the North via the M1. The M50 is barrier free and accepts no cash. If you have not registered, you must go to a Payzone branded outlet and pay the toll there. There are numerous routes of high quality dual carriageway, which are very near motorway standard; Dublin-Wicklow, Sligo-Collooney Sligo , Mullingar-Athlone, and Cork-Middleton Waterford.
Lesser roads are in many parts poorly signposted, the only indication of what route to take often being a finger-sign at the junction itself. Driving on regional and local roads in Ireland requires etiquette, courtesy and nerves of steel. Roads are generally narrow with little to no shoulder or room for error. Sight lines can be limited or non-existent until you are partway into the road.
Caution should be taken when entering onto the roadway as well as when driving along it, with the understanding that around the next turn may be another motorist partway into the road. This is especially true in rural areas. Parking along the road, farm animals, as well as large lorries or machinery may also appear around the bend and be the cause for quick thinking or braking.
It is not unusual for oncoming cars to navigate to a wide spot in the road to pass each other. On the other hand, when driving slower than following cars, it is common for drivers to allow others to pass or signal if the way is clear. As mentioned above, speed limits in Ireland are in kilometres per hour. Northern Ireland, as well as the rest of the UK has speed limits in miles per hour. Local Councils may apply other limits in specific areas as required. Also, when roads are being maintained or worked upon in some way, the limit may be temporarily changed.
Car hire companies are plentiful, with all major airports and cities well catered for. As elsewhere, the main driver needs a credit card in their own name and a full driver's licence for a minimum of two years without endorsement. Most rental companies apply a minimum age of 25; many require you be 28 to rent a full-size car. Rentals include minimum insurance which covers the car, leaving a deductible owed in the case of an accident. If renting a vehicle registered before , the car may have a speedometer in miles per hour, as kilometres per hour were only introduced in Ireland in Most trains run to and from Dublin.
Enormous expenditure on modernising the state-owned Irish Rail system is ongoing, including the introduction of many new trains. The frequency and speed of services is being considerably increased, especially on the Dublin-Cork line. If you book on-line for Intercity travel, be aware that there may be a cheaper fare option available to you at the office in the station itself. Not all special rates, e. The Irish network is less dense than elsewhere in Europe, and speeds are slower, with few lines being electrified, but where trains do go, they are a good option.
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Advance booking can result in big savings and booking can be made a month in advance, e. Trains nearly always book out for major sporting events in Dublin such as the GAA Semi-finals and Finals and major rugby and football Internationals. Pay notice to this if planning to travel on weekends during August and September. The 1st and 3rd Sunday of September see both All-Ireland finals held and buses and trains see a massive upsurge in travel as well as the main roads to the counties participating. An interchange with main line services and the Luas Red line is available at Dublin Connolly.
Dublin has a tram system known as the Luas the Irish word for 'speed'. There are two main lines with 54 stations between them. The green line runs south-north, via the city centre, from Bride's Glen to Broombridge where it connects with the Maynooth suburban railway line.
Tickets must be purchased from machines before boarding the tram. Tickets are checked in the Luas at random by inspectors but generally ticketing works on a trust system.
Thus free rides are possible, although not advisable, as the fines for fare-dodging can be quite high. The Luas tram provides a very useful link between Dublin's Connolly and Heuston railway stations. Bus is the predominant form of public transport across Ireland. Urban bus networks operate within the five cities and ten of the larger towns, while a comprehensive network of regional, commuter and rural services provide service to most parts of the country.
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Express intercity services connect the main cities and towns with each other, while tour operators run buses from the cities to most large tourist attractions away from the cities. An extensive network of regional bus services operate across Ireland, serving nearly all corners of the island.
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However, the frequency of routes can vary significantly, from high frequency routes between nearby towns, to rural services running only once a week. A good network of intercity routes operates between the main cities and towns in Ireland. Most intercity routes are fast with very few stops, and take advantage of Ireland's extensive motorway network.
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