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Lonely Planet Ireland
by Fionn Davenporte et al
  This guide to Ireland details activities from canoeing and cycling, to walking and water-skiing. It also gives to the lowdown on where to find the best Irish music and the finest pint, and the full range of accommodation options, from mountain-top camp sites to country house hotels.More information and prices from:
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Active Ireland

Map of Ireland

Ireland's more than pubs and green rolling meadows...cruise it, surf it, scale its rocky summits.

By Paul McMenamin. Article courtesy of Tourism Ireland

Its people are friendly, its hills are green, and the land is rich in history. Perhaps enough reason to go Irish, but you can get more exercise on this lovely isle than raising your mug. Here's our preview of Ireland's active adventures.

Biking

If it's the beauty and culture that bring you to Ireland, what better way to see the land than on a bike. You can ride most of the country in a couple of weeks (with a little help from a van). The terrain is varied enough to be interesting, but most routes are relatively gentle. Distances between villages are short, so you're never far from an inn or hotel if the weather turns sour. A string of inexpensive hostels and family B&Bs make it very affordable. Or, if you want to splurge, spend a night in a regal castle serving up history along with world-class cuisine. Bike tours, complete with lodging, local guide, and sag wagon support, are offered by a number of excellent companies. And Ireland is one of Europe's best bets for the independent traveler—the countryside is safe, the roads are well maintained, and a warm bed or friendly pub are always a short ride away.

Canal Cruising

Navigate Ireland's historic heartland via a network of rivers, canals, and loughs that criss-crosses the country. The River Shannon, the longest in Britain and Ireland, is the backbone of this network, and supports the most popular of the cruises, running down the Shannon-Erne Canal from Enniskillen south to Killaloe. The gentle pace of a river trip affords ample time for side visits to castles, horseback riding, or golf (great resorts dot the route). Canal cruises are ideal for families with small children—kids love the constantly changing scenery and enjoy fishing or biking along the waterways. Options range from piloted, luxury barges (such as the Shannon Princess), to cozy self-drive motor launches, perfect for a honeymoon couple. A cruising vacation can run from as little as $100 per day to more than $2,300 per week for the luxury barges, but that will get you all the amenities, including gourmet chefs.

Caving

Caving (or "spelunking") enjoys a strong following in Ireland. This combination of rock climbing, orienteering, even scuba diving, takes nerves of steel, but the thrill of discovery in that pitch-black darkness is the reward. And Ireland's rocky landscape has much to discover. Many major cave systems are within a few hours' drive of the larger cities. The three most popular caving venues are the Fermanagh/Sligo region, Clare (around Burren), and County Cork, with lesser systems in County Kerry (Castle Island) and County Kilkenny (Dunmore Cave). Caving, particularly in uncharted grottos, can be a very hazardous activity, so we recommend you go with a knowledgeable local guide. Both The University in Limerick and University College (Dublin) maintain active caving clubs

Climbing

Ireland may not have Himalayan-class summits, but lesser mountains do hold their own charms. "Hill-walking" - climbing to the top of peaks in the 500-1000 meter range—is a popular pursuit with locals and visitors alike. You'll find such formations throughout Ireland, from Donegal's towering Slieve Snaght (great vistas) to the amusingly named Knockmealdown Hills near Cork. There's even a Mt. St. Patrick pilgrimage walk. Even if you're just planning a short stay in Dublin, you can still enjoy a classic hill-walk. In County Wicklow, south of Dublin, is 1676-foot Knocknacloghoge. Its rocky summit offers great views of Lough Dan and heather-covered hills.

Fishing

It's the classic scene from the hinterlands of western Ireland: a local angler casting into one of many picturesque trout streams. Chances are he's not just there to practice technique—Ireland enjoys some of the most productive trout fishing in Europe. Plus there are plenty of fishing lodges made just to order. Gillaroo Lodge in Sligo Town, situated close to Loughs Melvin, Assaroe, and Erne, is a well-known haven for trout anglers. And if you want to try your hand at salmon fishing, the nearby Duff River and Drowes River are both productive Atlantic salmon fisheries. The Moy River, in County Mayo, attracts anglers from around the world to its annual salmon runs.

Golf

In Ireland, you play golf the way it was invented, on challenging courses of unrivaled natural beauty. Ireland's classic links lure golfers from around the world. Perhaps the most legendary is Old Ballybunion, a seaside course described by Tom Watson as "a true test of golf." Robert Trent Jones designed the New Ballybunion at Cashen to be equally demanding, yet more modern. Elsewhere on the island are a host of world-class venues: Killarney's Killeen course, past home to the Irish Open; Royal Down, up north and beautifully situated between the sea and the Mountains of Mourne; and to the east, Portmarnock, considered one of the world's most challenging courses, given its an amazing diversity of holes and unpredictable winds. There are dozens more great courses, many situated right on the water's edge.

Horseback Riding

It's a scene from another century: galloping across remote beaches, horse-trekking through hill country, following the dogs in a traditional hunt. Renowned for its equestrian centers and wide diversity of riding programs, Ireland delivers on the dream of those classic pictures. Choose a relaxing vacation at a riding center, or join a point-to-point ride, stopping at castles and luxury inns along the way. One of our favorite trips is the Connemara Trail Ride, a multi-day journey along the beaches and through the hills of the scenic Connemara Peninsula. Guides from the noted Aille Cross Equestrian Center in County Galway lead you, arriving at inns each evening. Or trek further north from the Donegal highlands down to the rugged Northwest coast. A castle-to-castle tour through the 60,000-acre Kinnnitty Forest in County Offaly may just make you feel you've landed in that time of old.

Sailing/Yachting

Since its Celtic origins, Ireland has long enjoyed a strong seafaring tradition. Today, you'll find that maritime heritage very much alive in the harbors and marinas of modern-day Eire. While Dublin boasts an active sailing community and many fine yachts, the center of Irish yacht racing is Cork. This harbor city has produced many champion sailors, competing under the burgee of the famed Royal Cork Yacht Club. To the West, in Galway, old sailing traditions live on; classic gaff-rigged, red-sailed "hookers" (from the Gaelic húiceírí) are still sailed for sport and pleasure. Each August, Kinvarra, Galway hosts the "Crinniú na mBád" (Meeting of the Boats) festival. Yacht chartering is popular throughout coastal Ireland, with both crewed and bareboat charters offered from Dublin to Dingle.

Sea Kayaking

With countless coves and inlets along its serpentine coastline, Ireland boasts every imaginable kind of sea condition, from gentle to extreme. Start with Connemara's Killary Harbor, a sheltered fjord, perfect for novices, that extends more than a dozen miles inward from the Atlantic. Each year Ireland invites paddlers from around the world to its Sea Kayaking Symposium (the 2000 gathering convened at Roaringwater Bay, West Cork in late October), featuring workshops on boating skills and navigation, and a gathering of like-minded travelers in a beautiful harbor setting, ideal for paddling.

Surfing

No one will ever mistake Limerick for Lahaina, but yes, people do surf in Ireland. The West Coast, particularly County Mayo, boasts some of the most formidable surf in Europe. The strong winds and storms of the North Atlantic generate powerful swells that hit Ireland's West Coast with all the force of Hawaii's legendary breakers. But because Ireland enjoys a diverse coastal geography (beaches face north, west, and south), you can always find a rideable wave, no matter where the swell is coming from. And despite Ireland's northern latitude, the Gulf Stream keeps water temperatures tolerable—conditions are similar to Northern California. Mayo's western beaches are pollution-free, earning the coveted blue flag for their clean waters

Wild Winds, Rough Going, No Blarney


The Irish: a Photohistory: A Photohistory 1840-1940

The Irish: a Photohistory: A Photohistory 1840-1940
by Sean Sexton, Christine Kinealy
  These photographs, which cover the first century of Ireland in the era of photography, do more than tell the political story. They give a wider insight into a people, a landscape and a lost way of life. They capture the sheer hard labour of rural survival: cutting peat for fuel, gathering seaweed, fishing and tilling the soil - against the often harsh Irish landscape. They also show the grandeur, elegance and complacency of life in the Big House, home and symbol of the doomed Anglo-Irish elite.
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Rough Guide Directions Dublin

Rough Guide Directions Dublin
by Paul Gray and Geoff Wallis
  Make the most of your time with "Rough Guide Directions Dublin". Slim, stylish and pocketable, this is an up-to-date, authoritative and user-friendly companion to Ireland's vibrant capital city. Full-colour and richly illustrated throughout, the guide highlights the best Dublin has on offer from modern art and architecture to spectacular views, churches, theatre and Guiness pubs - giving you inspiration for things to do, 24 hours a day. You'll find accurate information on the capital's top attractions from Georgian squares and to the unexpected oriental beauties of the Chester Beatty Library, plus the best free and child-friendly attractions. The guide features up-to-date listings of all the hottest new places to stay, eat, drink, club and shop to suit all budgets, and comes complete with comprehensive maps to help you find your way around.
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