The Emerald Isle
In July of 2005 my family and I traveled to Ireland on a whirlwind ten day trip. We were deeply impressed by the people and the spirit of the land.
The small town of Doolin on the west coast of County Clare was by far my favorite spot on a recent family trip to Ireland. Southeast of the Aran Islands, Doolin has long been famed for its local music scene and wild, natural coasts next door to the Cliffs of Mohr. Now more of a tourist spot, Doolin still offers a largely unspoiled view of the sea. Many of the farms extend right up to the edge of the water on rocky outcrops known as the burren. It was impressive to see such pristine coastline occupied by pastures, and not resorts. There's something admirable about a place where the cows have the best view of nature.
And yet Ireland is a country in transition. With one of the strongest economies in Europe, many people want expansion of roads, industry and towns. Others want to keep the old ways intact. Young people who once fled the country to live and work abroad are now returning amidst a technology boom. The population is increasing, the farms are decreasing, and the suburbs are sprouting like wildflowers.
Largely due to the small and windy roads, there is not much infrastructure that would support the cheap—and fast—distribution of products to small towns. As we traveled through the villages on the west coast, we enjoyed knowing the food we were eating came from local farmers.
The people of Ireland will, and are, facing some tough questions about their future. Can there be development with sustainability in mind? Will small businesses and communities lose thier character if we expand beyond our local economies? What will become of religion and traditions? How can small villages fight multi-national corporations who want to build highrises along the coast?
As Ireland makes itself over they will have to address these questions. But for now, Ireland is still a tranquil and beautiful place. The people are genuine, the cows are happy, and the land appears as it has for centuries. Let's hope it stays that way for years to come.
If you would like to see photos from our trip, visit the Ireland Photo Galleries.