Among the romantic preconceptions visitors bring to Ireland, it is their expectations of the landscape that are most likely to be fulfilled. An uncommon geological richness and the warming effect of the Atlantic produce an astonishing diversity of terrain on this small island, which is splashed throughout with lakes and primeval bogland. In the east, the crumpled granite of the Wicklow Hills sits in utter contrast to the horse-grazing plain of the Curragh just a few kilometres away, and in Connemara on the west coast, you can walk from beach to mountain to fen, from seaweed-strewn inlet to lily-covered lough, in a matter of hours. Coupled with the unhurried nature of rural living, this scenic array encourages leisurely investigation, especially on foot or by bicycle.
With the richest store of mythological traditions in northern Europe, Ireland adds further interest to the landscape through the sacred associations of so many of its physical features – few counties do not shelter a pile of stones called “Diarmuid and Gráinne’s Bed”, where the star-crossed lovers are said to have slept together on their flight from the great warrior Fionn Mac Cumhaill. But there’s much more than the resonance of place names to this treasure chest of myths, which still has a life of its own in the tradition of storytelling.
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