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Say hello to the Ireland developed in between double decaf lattes and spa treatments

Source: Irish Times
by ALISON HEALY

A top guidebook says the side of Ireland that is most attractive to tourists is disappearing

IRELAND IS becoming indistinguishable from other European countries and needs to draw more on its unique culture if it is to continue to attract tourists, according to the 9th edition of the Lonely Planet Ireland guidebook, which is published today.

The guide says “traditional Ireland of the large family, closely linked to church and community, is quickly disappearing” and that you have to travel to islands and isolated rural communities to find an older version of society.

It calls the new Ireland “a land of motorways and multiculturalism, planned and developed in between double decaf lattes and time out at the latest spa for a thermal mud treatment”. The economy took “a massive hit”, but Ireland has “a new level of cosmopolitanism and sophistication”. But it is the more traditional personality that “still holds the key to Ireland’s draw as a tourist destination”.

As always, the guide identifies winning and losing locations. It says discerning travellers find the “beauty of the lakes of Roscommon and the villages of Waterford, of rarely visited counties like Westmeath . . . where you can come into contact with a more genuine Ireland”.

Blarney Castle is described as “inexplicably popular” and, while the guide mentions the stunning views, it advises visitors to avoid thinking of the local lore about body fluids on the Blarney Stone.

Navan, Slane and Kells are “blighted with soulless housing estates and the resulting traffic can be hellish”, it says, adding that Meath’s attractions are plentiful.

The guide repeats its praise of Belfast as “a hip hotels-and- hedonism party town”. On the 100th anniversary of the Titanic’s maiden voyage next year, it says: “Get here early and enjoy it before the rest of the world arrives.”

Dublin is depicted as a hip city and a multicultural melting pot. It says the boom may have gone, but Dublin still knows how to have a good time. “Sure, the bling has been toned down and Dubliners aren’t taking quite as many foreign holidays, but it takes more than a global financial crisis and the unparalleled crash of the construction industry to knock this city out of stride.”

The description of Temple Bar as “Temple Barf” in the previous edition is repeated and is bound to annoy traders who have been trying to change the area’s image. It mentions “huge, characterless bars . . . crappy tourist shops . . . bland, overpriced food . . . pools of vomit and urine”.

The guide highlights the area north of Gardiner Street, O’Connell Street and Mountjoy Square as “as not especially salubrious – gangs of disaffected youths and drug addicts on the make are a recipe for trouble and sometimes violence”.

Its analysis of our psyche finds we “wallow in false modesty like a sport”, we like “putting on the poor mouth” and are fond of begrudgery. “It’s kind of amusing, though, to note that someone like Bono is subject to more intense criticism in Ireland than anywhere else in the world,” it adds.

Our “fractious” relationship with alcohol is noted. “While there is an increasing . . . alarm at, the devastation caused by alcohol to Irish society (especially to young people), drinking remains the country’s most popular social pastime, with no sign of letting up,” it says. “Spend a weekend night walking around any town in the country and you’ll get a first- hand feel of the influence and effect of the booze.”


FROM THE TRADITIONAL TO THE TWEE WHAT LONELY PLANET HAS TO SAY ON . . .

CORK
 

Great restaurants fed by a solid foodie scene, a walkable centre surrounded by interesting waterways ... the best of the city is still happily traditional.

GALWAY 

A swirl of enticing old pubs that hum with trad music sessions throughout the year. More importantly, it has an overlaying vibe of fun and frolic that can’t help but amuse. Hop aboard for a thrilling ride.

DERRY 

It comes as a pleasant surprise to many visitors. It may not be the prettiest of cities ... but it has a great riverside setting, several fascinating historical sights and a determined air of can-do optimism that has made it the powerhouse of the North’s cultural revival.

CAVAN AND MONAGHAN 

Much of the attraction here is the outdoors, making it a perfect place for visitors seeking an unspoilt corner of Ireland.

KILLARNEY 

A well-oiled tourism machine in the middle of the sublime scenery of its namesake national park. Its studied twee-ness is renowned.

LIMERICK 

Its streets are rich with tangible links to the past and a gritty, honest vibrancy.

WESTPORT 

The town’s Georgian streets, lime tree-shaded riverside mall and colourful pubs are about as photogenic as Ireland gets.

CLARE 

One of Ireland’s sweetest spots. It combines the stunning natural beauty of its long and meandering coastline with unique windswept landscapes and a year’s worth of dollops of Irish culture.






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