Europe | Republic of Ireland
August 2, 2009
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Find your perfect holiday

2009, Thursday 25 June: Beara Peninsula, Ireland.

Inshore fishing - Garinish Quay.
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Thursday, and by prior negotiation I have 12 hours leave of absence from our family bucket-and-spade holiday - and the day to do with what I will. What I will is to drive west for an hour or two along the rattletrap backroads of West Cork's interior to the Beara peninsula, one of the inner tines on the great questing fork of Ireland's south-west Atlantic coast. There's time only for a whistlestop circuit - fishing harbour - moor - pub - moor - Atlantic chill - moor - drizzle - moor - the soaring Healey Pass. But that's an enough for an affirmation. It's been a decade or more since I've last been to Ireland's far west, but neither I nor the land have changed beyond recall - the magic holds; this remains a best-loved place.

It's a bit of a mystery to me really, why I find Ireland so alluring. The weather's rotten, prices ruinous, and many of the most-hyped attractions prove as rewarding as a leprechaun's crock of .... . Even its wildness is measured - look elsewhere within the British Isles for the highest mountain, tallest cliff, most savage sea coast or emptiest expanse (granted Ireland does hold one superlative: the great Bog of Allen, Europe’s premier peat bog - don't all come at once); at the world scale, the wilderness-meter's needle barely flicks. But I think that's it. Measure, harmony, balance. Ireland is phenomenally 'centred', a place to find yourself and regain an inner calm. It is wild and rough, for sure - especially in its westernmost reaches, but only up to a point. It's human in scale and – and here’s the crux - softened by a people who are legendary in their easy conviviality and lack of pretension. Draw up a chair, unfold your arms and meet the eye, and you'll be welcomed without reservation, maybe taken for a reel round the floor, and probably fed a tall tale or two as well.

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