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Off the coast of Ireland you will experience a life that has scarcely changed in centuries.

The 300 coastal miles from the historic peninsula of Dingle to Sligo in the north-west is a treasury of love, legend ad dramatic natural beauty. Saints and pirates sailed its wild waters in different penetrations staring with the sixth century monk St. Brendan, who tradition tells us, might have discovered North America long before Columbus.

He would have passed close to the mouth of the River Shannon on which stands the historic port of Limerick with its nearby Bunratty Castle, famed world-wide for its medieval banquets, and adjoining Dirty Nell'y Pub's. Craggaunowen close by features the actual leather craft on which Tim Serverin modern-day Columbus, recreated St. Brendan's voyage.

The nearby area of the Burren inspires imaginings of a continent whose land surfaces were gouged deep by the passage of ice-age glaciers caves that brought with them not only massive boulders of hard rocks but tiny seed of plants from central Europe. Now every Spring these plants produce minute flowers of brilliant hue that bring magic colour to this lunar landscape.

Calling dramatically for attention on the Atlantic edge of the Burren are the Cliffs of Moher, rising sheer above the devouring sea nearly 700 feet, and extending for five miles or so along the coast,. They form one of the grandest stretches of cliff in Europe.

To the north lie the Aran Islands, like sleeping whales waiting to enter Galway of the Tripes, colourful capital of the West and gateway to Connemara. This is the hallowed land of painters who have been drawn to its dark lakes and Twelve Bens Mountains range in a lifetime pursuit of its fleeting colours. There also stands splendid Kylemore Abbey with its Benedictine nuns from Belgium who make a triumph of combining the education of young girls with a distinctive brand of hospitality and rare showing of fine pottery for sale to visitors.

The dark waters of Clew Bay, were ruled with a bloody hand by 16th century pirate queen, Grainne O'Malley, redoubtable foe of Elizabeth 1 of England. They touch on a shore that stretches northwards to mysterious Ceide Fields, oldest agricultural settlement in the world, with its white walls that stood before Egypt's pyramids punctuated the desert. These are the mystic ancient of the Gaeltacht where two generations ago the ancient Irish language was spoken, and where it can still be heard in local conversation.

Eastwards on the edge of Sligo Bay, Sligo town sits snugly amidst its half-tamed rugged landscape, climaxed by dramatic Knocknarea which, in turn, is topped by cairn of stones reputed to contain the remains of Maeve, Queen of Connaught, and bare Ben Bulben under whose head lies W.B. Yeats, greatest lyric poet in English language. For an artistic celebration of this dramatic look only to Yeats who saw in it all a deep mysticism. He lies buried beneath a tombstone that carries his own command "Cast a cold eye on life, on death horseman, pass by!"

Copyright 1995-2000 Europe Today A.S. (Text: W. Pisarnik) - All rights reserved.