May ushers in the fine weather and marks our fifth visit to the Republic of Ireland. One day we plan to visit the North where the scars of the Troubles are more visible and, for the generation that lived through them, still speaking loud from the static mouths of house high wall art, but for now the South still has a great deal to reveal. Here in the rural South Catholicism predominates, clothing the land and its inhabitants with an unhurried sense of surety. Maybe that’s why I am drawn here so often away from the rat race existence of the UK that wears me to a withered stump in that SAD phase just after Christmas. Rural Southern Ireland is a place to wind down, to wander through its rolling wide green spaces, freshly scrubbed and manicured scattered villages and rediscover the important things in life. For anyone who doesn’t live by the dictum that R & R is lying half naked slowly roasting under a far flung foreign sun I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Ireland.
This year we are in the East in County Wexford lapped by the Celtic Sea to the South and the Irish Sea to the East, where every other year we have travelled West coast where the wild Atlantic sweeps inland past the coastline. As usual we travelled from Holyhead on Irish Ferries landing in Dublin some three hours later. The crossing can be choppy, but on this occasion it was relatively calm. Walking in a straight line around the Ferry was not the issue it often is when you can feel more like a ball in a pin ball machine. The food was a tad disappointing if you’re not into chips or fresh made pizza all priced to serve a captive audience.
The ferry had an abundance of facilities to wile away the time including bars, eateries, cinemas, games areas to amuse the kids and a comfy lounge overlooking the shop, but we opted for a cabin to avoid the bustle of the fair weather rush. Our two bed ensuite window cabin was a bit basic, but we could have upgraded to a two bed window plus or suite to get comfy chairs, a TV and tea and coffee making facilities. To be honest a cabin is worth considering, even for a three hour crossing just for the luxury of priority boarding and not having to use the public loo’s, especially if you are blessed by a choppy crossing.
Once docked we waited to disembark, the curse of a priority boarding, and turned left out of the harbour to travel through the Dublin tunnel and join the M50, both of which have tolls. The M50 toll is not an issue, I paid the moderate 3.20 euros online while the hubby negotiated the nearest Ireland gets to traffic. The tunnel however is 10 euros and coins only, which must catch out more than a few freshly disembarked with a purse full of crispy euro notes. From the M50 we switched to the M11 and headed South on pristine smooth tarmac largely untroubled by other road users. God bless the Euro millions pumped into the Irish infrastructure. It will be years before the major M and N roads sees a traffic cone.
County Wexford is bordered to the East by the Blackstairs Mountains and to the North by the Wicklow Mountains which rose unexpectedly, greeting us like a smiling BFG marking our progress as we rumbled South on the M11. Once off the M roads and into the winding roads of true rural Ireland, though much was the same: pristine pastel bungalows fields of cows and petrol stations advertising the soft Italian ice cream the sweet toothed Irish love so much, there is a notable difference between East and West. The West coast is still beautiful but more rugged, the coastline less attuned to sunbathing and the land less farmer friendly until you get down to Kerry, where the butter comes from. The West is definitely more hiking boots and back pack the hedgerows blushing with wild Fuchsia, where the East is more sandals and picnic basket, the hedgerows heavy with the glow of yellow gorse. The pace of life however, that pleasant amble that meanders in the direction of the close of business with thoughts of tea and cold Guiness at around 3.30, stretches from one coast to the other. That is perhaps with the exception of Dublin that sits like a Cosmopolitan, otherwordly visitor from another dimension stubbornly denying, according to a 2011 survey, even the most Irish of traits.