Nothing beats the look of joy on a happy pup’s face, and this real-life teddy bear dog’s expression is pretty good. Ireland – being an island! – has plenty of coastline and therefore, plenty of sand dunes; perfect places for happy skipping and running if you’re man’s best friend! Pooches aside, Strandhill sand dunes are a wonderful place for a quiet, coastal walk, but for a little more of a challenge – and for stunning views of Strandhill village, the Atlantic Ocean, and the vast, windswept landscapes of Co. Sligo made famous by Irish poet, W.B. Yeats, climb to the top of Knocknarea. The views are worth it! Along the way, you’ll pass a ruined famine village (i.e., a village abandoned during the famine years due to harsh climes). Surrounding tombs date to Megalithic times (2,000-5,000 BC) – and no one knows exactly how the ancient people got the rocks all the way up there! At the summit, you’ll be confronted with legendary Irish warrior Queen Maeve’s massive tomb (called a cairn, it’s essentially a huge pile of rocks). Bring a rock to add to the pile for good luck, but beware – removing any stones brings on the (very) bad luck!
Ireland is green, we all know that. It’s green not because of the leprechauns (sadly), but because of the rain; we know that too. So it only makes sense that Dublin’s biggest city centre park would have the word ‘green’ in the title. Anyone fancy a stroll through Fusiliers’ Arch, past the duck-ponds, through the flowers, among all the statues of famous Irish writers (like James Joyce, WB Yeats, James Clarence Mangan, etc)? It may seem peaceful – but it wasn’t always so. Dublin has – how to put it? – a troubled history. (In fact, for such a small country, Ireland has a bit of troubled history…). There was the the Dublin Lock-out made famous by Yeats’ “September 1913” poem. There was the infamous Bloody Sunday (in 1972; chillingly recent). And of course there was the Easter Rising of 1916. The Rising was an armed conflict between the “Irish Republicans” wanting to set up an independent Irish Republic, and the British nationalists who wanted to continue the Queen’s rule over the island. You may ask how that involves the park. Well, for some reason, the Irish insurgents set up camp in St Stephan’s Green. They barricaded the frontiers, they blocked the exits, and they dug trenches (trenches! In central Dublin! Try to imagine…). They turned the poor park into a war-zone. It wasn’t until they realised the Brits had set up shop in high up the nearby Shelbourne Hotel (guns pointed downwards straight at them), that they abandoned the war-park – and 100 years later, it’s beautiful again. Though interestingly enough, while they were still occupying the park, a cease-fire was briefly called so that the park’s guardian could…wait for it…feed the park’s colony of ducks! (FYI, the ducks are still there, and doing just fine!)