Demystifying the misty isles of Ireland

Published: Sunday, Jun 19, 2011, 3:23 IST
By Sheila Kumar | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

Ireland makes for the prettiest montage ever, that much
is certain. Imagine peaty boglands, still lakes, fields
of golden  gorse, the enigmatic Round Towers.
Cottages with thatched roofs, pubs with parquet floors, wainscoting and old ladies in tweed devouring scones with clotted  cream, complete this picture.

However, not everything you may have heard
 about the Emerald Isle is true.

Let’s parse the points.

It rains on everyone’s parade, all the time
Well, it doesn’t rain heavily throughout the year. Statistics reveal that on an average, Ireland receives more than 1mm rainfall for 150 days in a year along  its east and south-east coast, and for 225 days in parts of the blustery west. The trick is to wait out
to the drizzle, then go do one’s own thing.

Ireland is greener than green
This statement deserves an emphatic yes. The moisture-laden winds that come in off the Atlantic coat the isle with a thin mist that makes everything look richer and greener. Mint, henna, army/olive, kelly green, jungle, moss, pond, and, of course, emerald — you’ll find every imaginable shade of  green here, and then some more.

The Giant’s Causeway is well, gigantic
Not really. While the formation of the 40,000 basalt column-like rocks is striking, the sense of height one gets from photographs is just an illusion. Ireland’s only world heritage site becomes a stunning site when the turbulent ocean comes crashing against this honeycomb of six-sided rocks...which is almost all the time. And, of course, the legend — that it was built by the giant Fionn MacCumhail to facilitate a battle with his arch-enemy Fingal —adds to the charm of the place.

The best thing about Ireland is the Irish
Oyez. We aren’t talking about the greats like Shaw, Yeats, Wilde, Joyce, celebrity hunks like Daniel Day- Lewis, Gabriel Byrne or even members ofIreland’s most well-known band, the U2. It’s the man and woman on the streets who are virtual founts of kindness. The Irish happily go out on a limb to see the visitor is made comfortable. None of Europe’s stand-offish  nature on this island, thanks be.

Dublin is simply amazing
Oh, totally. The list is long and impressive — the vibrant River Liffey, the Phoenix Park, the Writers Museum, Trinity College with its 64-metre long library, the Long Room (which inspired the Jedi library in a Star Wars film), rock concerts, art exhibitions... this city really rocks.

Guinness is black velvet ambrosia
Oh, I don’t know. Since it’s mandatory to pull a pint of the country’s legendary malted
stout, everyone drinks some of the stuff. It’s heavy and creamy; it looks delicious but is
unbelievably bitter. An acquired taste, is my verdict.

The Irish Stew is the ultimate one pot meal
Yes, indeed. The dish comprises Irish potatoes, carrots, lamb and onions in a broth.
The veggie version is just as delicious, and the one that uses Guinness for the brown
 sauce is divine.

It is easy to ‘get’ Ireland
Not in the least. Ireland is an island shrouded in mystery. The Hill of Tara, the symbolic
seat of the High Kings of Ireland, the passage graves of Knowth, Dowth and Newgrange;
the intricate High Crosses dating back to the ninth and tenth centuries — all silent sentinels of Celtic secrets. Much information has been lost in the mists of time but the monuments stand, as proof of a people who hewed their hearth and homes, their lives and living, against  monumental odds.

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