A perspective from a first time visitor
The first time I saw Ireland was from the plane coming into Cork Airport and looking below me I could see a patchwork quilt of many amazing different greens, yellows and browns and later the white daisy dots of grazing sheep. I saw so many wonderful things and visited many lovely places with odd-sounding names - how can I tell you why you should visit Ireland? You can go to other countries with lovely places, equally odd-sounding names.....and yet - there is something here that is hard to describe.
The minute one sets foot on the ground there is an unfamiliar quality about everything - the sky was so very blue, the air was so sweet and tranquil. Whether you are travelling north, south, east or west this remains with you, as does the hustle and bustle of every airport.
As we travelled out from Cork we passed gaily coloured houses, the colours seemed to vary from place to place, all with a variety of flowering plants creeping down to and over the walls giving all the colours of every flower and some of which were very unusual and quite distinctive.
I remember small things, the expression of awe on a child's face on first seeing the blue of the sea, watching the waves coming and going in and out, laughing as his feet made patterns on the wet sand and picking up sea shells. The same child finding he could walk on the grass with no sign in sight to say that he could not do so. These things I shall not forget.
We had a visitor who said she found it hard to get used to the "overwhelming sense of space" - we took her for a walk on a strand of about two miles long one evening and there were perhaps two or three other people there; we walked along listening to the sound of the sea, feeling the breeze on our faces, the cries of the sea-birds, the changing colours of both sea and sky as the sun set, spreading out on the rim of the sea in a startling blaze.
Each visitor has special places that remain with them, my best memories are of Killarney, a bustling, busy town with much night life, or go a little further out to Kate Kearney's Cottage and on to the Gap of Dunloe where you can hire a jarvey, or ride a horse, along a quiet path; the Cliffs of Moher - breathtaking with the great sound of huge waves crashing against the boulders way below; and Glendalough - a magical place, a fairy-tale of woods and plains which no words can describe.
Wherever you go, try to get off the beaten track and find off-the-beat walks; perhaps along a road that is tree-high with rhododendrons, all growing wild in different shades of mauve, or a wood to wander in where bluebells grow in great profusion; or sit beside a quiet lake, just to think and let your mind do the wandering, as it will in the peace and quiet that is Ireland.
Again, whatever your final destination, one of the most entertaining places to visit, especially at night, is a pub that plays music; this will vary from the traditional Irish to up-to-date well known songs. In another pub it would seem that a group of musicians will suddenly and surprisingly get together and play, and in both instances the people will be asked to join in. If there is room a dance or 'set' will start, and before you know it the evening has ended, you will have enjoyed it immensely and find that the time had passed very quickly indeed, and you will sleep beautifully tired and happy.
Where will you travel - what will you see? So many, many things in this small island of ours, but one thing for sure, you won't want to leave - and you will come back.