Irish hospitality entices lazy travellers

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 June, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 June, 1993, 12:00am

WHEN the rigours of the far eastern summer become unbearable, there is not an Irish person in the territory whose thoughts do not wander home.

Ireland, for the uninitiated, is that island to the left of England, and, contrary to popular belief in these parts, has nothing whatsoever to do with Iceland.

Apart from both being delightfully unpopulated, they have about as much in common as those other similar areas of confusion - Lisbon and Lisburn.

Arriving wound-up and tired from Hongkong in Ireland is ideal. Only in this state can the weary traveller fully appreciate the first divine pint of draught Guinness and bite of Irish smoked salmon on fresh buttered soda bread.

Having checked into a central hotel, such as the Shelbourne on St Stephen's Green, or Buswell's, opposite the Dail or Irish Houses of Parliament, the first night in Dublin should be spent in a bar.

The fact that the rest of the holiday probably will be too has more to do with Ireland's hospitality than its famous rainfall.

Drinking alcohol in bars - never pubs - is optional, but that is where the fun is, and where nearly everyone else will be, too.

Within an hour of ordering the first pint in Donnelly and Nesbitt's or Toners - both famous Baggot Street watering holes - jet-lag will be a blur and a strange conviction that time has stopped will be setting in.

''When God made time, He made plenty of it,'' is a phrase often heard in Dublin, which accounts for the excessively laid-back pace of Irish life.

This is unkindly described by the islanders to the east as ''manyana without the sense of urgency'' but so long as no one needs a plumber in a hurry, this should not cause any irritation.

This is actually an essential part of the Irish unwinding process.

The delights of Dublin's Abbey Theatre, Bewley's Oriental Cafe, Kilkenny Design Centre and numerous bars having worn off, it is time to hire a car and head ''down the country''.

Navigation in Ireland is confounded by a humorous tendency of the locals to twist sign posts round the wrong way, but that is part of the challenge.

Cars are scarce on Irish roads, unlike cows who make milking-time motoring very slow.

This is just as well, since most country roads are full of ruts and pot holes.

To enjoy Ireland requires the willing suspension of disbelief, just temporarily.

Nothing will be achieved by ranting and raging because things do not happen on cue, and Murphy's Law - the law stating if things can go wrong, they will - is there to frustrate at every turn.

A visitor can put money on getting lost, finding nine out-of-order phone boxes in a downpour, and being told, ''Well I wouldn't start from here if I was you'', when asking directions.

To someone used to efficiency and frantic city life, all this seems strange, but once the visitor has acclimatised, re-entry to reality back home is very difficult.

Driving round is completely relaxing. Stop in Kilkenny and enjoy lunch at the spectacular castle, then carry on a few more hours and stay at the famous Ballymaloe Country House Hotel near Middleton, County Cork.

This lovely Georgian house is run as a hotel by Myrtle Allen, with a cookery school attached.

Ballymaloe is the epitome of traditional Irish cuisine, and the warm welcome enchants every visitor.

Carry on round to West Cork and visit the picturesque village of Kinsale, with its boats and yachts bobbing up and down in the harbour.

The Blue Haven hotel is as well-known as Ballymaloe.

Head north from there to Galway, turning left for Connemara. Miss out the touristy Ring of Kerry to avoid slow coach loads of blue-rinse Americans.

Clifdn, departure point for emigrants leaving Ireland for Boston in the last century, to escape the potato famine, is so pretty no description does it justice.

Backed by the spectacular Twelve Pins mountain range, the colours of the landscape change with every passing cloud.

Leaving Connemara behind and heading still further north to Sligo, the old castle of Markree has been turned into a hotel by Charles and Mary Cooper.

Many people will know the hymn ''All Things Bright and Beautiful'' which was written here, and describes the gardens and surrounding countryside.

Poetry lovers will be captivated by the same backdrop that inspired the Irish poet W. B. Yeats to write some of the most beautiful verse this century.

There is no end to the delights of Ireland, but at least a week is needed to leave the rest of the world behind.

Getting there is easy. Dublin is a 50-minute hop from any airport in Britain.