Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel

The stunning scenery along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way is so forcefully etched on my memory that I can close my eyes and see it still. Unshorn sheep, fat like giant cotton balls, meander across green-carpeted bluffs. Waves smash at the feet of precipitous cliffs, while thousands of seabirds whirl and screech above. I can almost smell fresh salt air wafting up from remote coves where turquoise seas lap on alabaster beaches. History adds another dimension. Ancient religious buildings, burial mounds, beehive huts built of unmortared stone, and cottages that tell heart-wrenching tales of the potato famine combine with the natural beauty to make the Wild Atlantic Way Ireland’s most remarkable self-guiding tour.

Wildflowers decorate Mullaghmore peninsula in County Sligo, Ireland

Wildflowers decorate Mullaghmore peninsula in County Sligo, Ireland

Stretching more than 1,500 miles along the west coast of Ireland, this longest defined coastal route in the world has been inspiration for more than the likes of me. John Lennon was so inspired by it that he bought the island of Dorninish, located just 15 minutes off the coast. Nobel laureate William Butler Yeats drew inspiration for his lyrical poems from the landscapes of Western Ireland. Read More

The Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, Ireland, are home to an estimated 30,000 nesting birds

Click on title to view photo in large format: The Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, Ireland, are home to an estimated 30,000 nesting birds, including the elusive Puffin, with its bright orange beak. The 702-foot high cliffs are the most visited tourist site in Ireland, attracting more than a million visitors each year. The cliffs are best viewed from above at the Cliffs of Moher Visitor’s Center. For a closer look, Read More

Gallarus Oratory, an early Christian Church on the Dingle Peninsula of Ireland

Click on title to view photo in large format: Gallarus Oratory, an early Christian Church on the Dingle Peninsula of Ireland, is believed to have been built between the 6th and 9th century AD. The site was constructed using a technique known as corbel vaulting, wherein each successive layer of sandstone is angled inward, until the narrow opening that remains at the top can be sealed with a row of capstones. In addition, each course is laid at a slight angle, with the exterior Read More

Typical street scene in the town of Dingle, Ireland

Click on title to view photo in large format: The town of Dingle, Ireland, is the ultimate destination for those who drive around the Dingle Peninsula. The peninsula’s high, craggy sea cliffs and expansive sweeps of beach are backed by the Slieve Mish mountain range, creating what many consider to be the most stunning scenery in all of Ireland. Aside from offering a multitude of hiking opportunities, a rich tradition of music that lives on in the town’s many Read More

I lay on my back and reached behind me for the iron rails attached to the parapet at Blarney Castle. Slowly, I squirmed backward over a gaping hole in the floor. “Now lean down into the hole,” said the guide who gripped me around the waist. With my head and shoulders hanging precariously over four stories of open space, I planted a kiss on the Blarney Stone. All that remained was to come back up. My arms began to shake and I scrabbled at the rubber mat with the heels of my sneakers, but I couldn’t gain purchase. For one long moment I was certain that my body was about to plummet to the ground. And then the guide yanked me back up by my waist.

Kissing the Blarney Stone required lying on my back, grabbing the iron rails behind my head, and leaning through a hole in the floor

Kissing the Blarney Stone required lying on my back, grabbing the iron rails behind my head, and leaning through a hole in the floor

With my back arched and my neck stretched below the parapet, I did the deed!

With my back arched and my neck stretched below the parapet, I did the deed!

Actually, I had it easy. For more than 200 years, visitors to Ireland‘s most famous castle have been kissing the Blarney Stone, hoping to receive the gift of eloquence. Before grab bars were installed, pilgrims were held by their ankles and dangled over the parapet to accomplish the task. Sherlock Holmes fans will recall that one of his murder mysteries involved a man who plunged to his death while being lowered in this fashion. Holmes later discovered that the victim’s boots had been greased. Read More

Fossilized dinosaur eggs at the Celtic Prehistoric Museum on the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland

Click on title to view photo in large format: A nest of fossilized dinosaur eggs at the Celtic Prehistoric Museum on the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland. This eight-egg clutch, fossilized in red sandstone, was laid by a member of the Hadrosaur family of duck-billed dinosaurs. The nest was discovered in China and is now one of the premier exhibits on display at the museum, along with the world’s largest intact Woolly Mammoth skull (with its tusks still attached), the only complete skeleton of a baby dinosaur, and a Read More