Ireland: Southern charms

By Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul rounds up some of the best things to do in Southern Ireland

1. Take a day trip to the village of Adare

When it comes to picture-perfect villages, the French are the masters. But in Adare, about 15km southwest of Limerick, the Irish have a gem. The village is dominated by a ruined Franciscan Abbey, which now has a world-class golf course and hotel next door, Adare Manor. The village also has a heritage centre, several to-die-for, traditional Irish pubs and various other activities, such as horse-riding and fishing, all within easy access.

2. Stay at the Dunraven Arms, Adare

The Irish know how to look after people. Travellers who are used to the cold functionality of corporate hotels will find none of that in Ireland and certainly none of that at the Dunraven Arms Hotel, which oozes old-world charm, genuine warmth and a real sense of Ireland. The rooms are enormous, the finishing exquisite and the service is exemplary.

The Dunraven Arms has formal and relaxed dining and both are excellent, despite the fact it is always busy. It also has an outstanding leisure facility attached. (For toll-free bookings from New Zealand call 0800 441 098).

3. Drive to Tarbert and take a ferry to Killimer

For all its lush, green beauty there is another side to Ireland. The desolate, wild side that was responsible for Ireland's famine and exodus. Driving along the banks of the Shannon is the perfect way to sample this.

The river runs fast and brown. The wind whips along and you feel that you really are on the first significant land mass to halt the flow of the Atlantic. If you can make it to Tarbert and take the vehicle ferry across to Killimer it's worth the trip.

4. Watch Munster play rugby at Thomond Park

Spend any time in Munster and you will see the famous red jersey being worn on the streets. Flags will flutter and the town will be abuzz. Munster rugby is a huge part of Limerick. The team is the beating heart of the region and the newly built Thomond Park is where all the action takes place.

The stadium is a special place on match day with 26,000 people crammed in, and Munster rarely lose when they play at home. They have, famously, beaten the All Blacks and immortalised the day by writing a play about it.

5. Limerick Racecourse

The Irish love a flutter and they love their horses. County Limerick has a long heritage of breeding champion horses and the racecourse, a bit like the rugby club, forms a big part of the community. When the All Blacks toured Ireland last year, many of the players enjoyed a night at the races and you simply can't go to Limerick and not go to the racecourse.

6. Take a day trip to Dingle

There is no denying Dingle is a great name. Even if it were a truly awful place, you would still have to go just to say you had been to Dingle. But this is a beautiful place, rated by many to be Ireland's most beautiful village.

It sits on the Dingle Peninsula which, for any lover of the hit TV series Father Ted, looks surprisingly like the fictitious Craggy Island. There are dramatic coastlines and if you are lucky, Fungi, the bottlenose dolphin will show up in the harbour.

7. Go on the Angela's Ashes walking tour

Film and book tours are becoming popular. Frank McCourt's best-selling Angela's Ashes is set in and around the city of Limerick and guided tours are available to visit the key venues of the narrative.

8. Enjoy a pint of Murphy's

Ireland is famed for its Guinness. However, when you head to the south, the local brew changes in name, if not a great deal in colour or viscosity. In the south, Murphy's is the stout of choice and although it might look similar, it doesn't taste similar. It's very important that you don't suggest to the locals that both drinks taste the same.

9. Visit the Treaty Stone in Limerick

The Treaty Stone is a rough-hewn limestone block raised on a pedestal standing across the river from King John's Castle. On this rock the Treaty of Limerick was signed in 1691, marking the city's surrender to William of Orange. The key term was for the government to respect Catholicism, but the treaty was rejected by the English and Irish Parliaments, leading to Limerick becoming known as The City of the Broken Treaty.

10. Visit King John's Castle, Limerick

The centre of Limerick is dominated by the river and King John's Castle that sits on the banks. Built in the 13th century, it takes a morning to explore the historic exhibition within the castle, which brings to life the various parts of life in the Norman age.

* For more information visit discoverireland.co.nz.

- Herald on Sunday

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