The Horse Holiday Farm, near Donegal, will give lessons and also the option to rent a house with a horse. The Killarney Riding Stables offers guided rides through Killarney National Park. The Aille Cross Esquestrian Centre rents horses and offers lessons for all ages in the Galway region.
Even though I don’t golf, I know many who do. On the plane, I met a Los Angeles lawyer who says she’s come to meet friends in Ireland several times for golfing vacations rain or shine. Ireland plays host to some 400 golf courses throughout the country, many set in stunning coastal settings with holes so challenging they test the mental strength and mettle of the most skilled players. The most famous fairway is the K Club in Kildare, where it hosted this year’s prestigious Ryder Cup.
Okay, I’m not good at horseback riding or golfing, but one thing I do well is walk. If you are lucky enough to hire Michael Gibbons, an archeologist and college lecturer, ask him to take you on a guided tour. His company, Michael Gibbons’ Walking Ireland, based in Clifden, takes walkers of all skill levels through the history and archeology of different regions.
Gibbons led us through the western section of Inishbofin Island. This grassy acreage has no name, no real entrance, no marked trails. Getting lost or getting killed is not out of the question. You must have a guide.
For starters, the area is made of bogs-a black swampy material made of dirt, grass, and peat which soaks up water, lots of water.
People not careful are known to have drowned in a bog in a quicksand-like fashion. And because sinking is so dangerous, the locals are warned not to rescue someone drowning in a bog. Gibbons taught us all we needed to know about bog cutting, the farmer’s art of slicing the mud into bricks for fuel and whatnot. Gibbons was so informative about bogs, in my mind I named him the Bog Meister.
And as we walked gingerly on the bogs, and Paul Ross, one of our colleagues, jumped across to avoid a dribbling stream of water. His foot sank in, ruining his new hemp shoe.“Never jump on a bog,” warned Gibbons. A pouting Paul asked Gibbons for advice on how to clean his shoe.
“I’m an archeologist, not a dry cleaner,” he smirked. “Let’s keep walking.” As we moved forward, the jig-saw terrain appeared other worldly.It was so quiet we heard our own steps. Chattering from stragglers several hundred feet away was loud and distinct. Rare lapwing birds dominated the conversation with their cries as they encircled overhead.
Enchanted by all we did in the outdoors, I was now braver than before. I beat the bog and I flew a falcon, and I wasn’t afraid of lapwings flying overhead. Perhaps now I could go back to Room 9 and even hold a chickadee in my hand.
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