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Presenter : Ian Wright

Ireland

Traveller Ian Wright journeys through a land which, though ripped apart by political conflict, is renowned for its hospitality. The spirit of good time is known only in Ireland as the craic.

Ian begins his trip on the spectacular Antrim coast in Northern Ireland, boasting a geological wonder known as Giant’s Causeway. The origins and name of this rocky landmark areIan downs a pint of the black stuffenshrouded in myth and speculation, though Ian has his own theories.

Belfast is the city where Northern Ireland’s political troubles have been most intense. Ian takes a cab ride through the city and learns about the perils of Belfast life, and the terrifying events his driver has witnessed. That evening Ian tours the lively bars and clubs of the city on a mission to discover for himself the true meaning of craic.

From Belfast Ian heads south towards Dublin. His journey takes him through the county of Armagh– known as bandit country due to the troubles – where he joins a game of road bowls. He also takes a detour to Boa Island in Fermanagh in order to visit a statue called Janus – a 2000 year old fertility symbol which was one of the first Christian burial sites.

When he finally reaches Dublin Ian spends the evening at the Dublin Music Centre, hotbed of burgeoning Irish talent following in the footsteps of the internationally successful band U2. Also on the entertainment agenda is the semi-final hurling match between Kilkenny and Cork. It’s the world’s oldest surviving stick and ball game, faster than hockey and even more violent then rugby.

Ian travels by train to Cobh in County Cork, a seaside town which was once a major shipping port and final resting place of victims of the Lusitania, sunk by a German submarine in the first World War. While he’s in the vicinity of Cork Ian visits Blarney Castle, Ireland’s most popular tourist spot where each year thousands come to kiss the Blarney stone, reputed to give you the gift of the gab. Not that Ian needs it!

From Cork Ian gets on his bike and heads for the border with Kerry, where Gaelic is the first language and where the scenery, dotted with Celtic ruins, is regarded as the most beautiful inLounging around the beach in CorkIreland. Thirty miles off the coast of Galway lies Inishmor, the largest of the three Aran Islands and the location of bronze-age archaeological site Dun Aengus. Every year there’s a festival in Inishmor to celebrate traditional island life. Ian takes part in a boat race in flimsy vessels which were used for hunting whales until the beginning of the 20th century. After the festival everyone joins in the caille, a traditional celtic knees up.

Back on the mainland Ian hikes through the wilderness of Connemara and Donegal. The farmers of Connemara eke out a living cutting fuel from the century old peat bogs. Ian hears amazing local legends and reports of centuries-old articles being preserved intact in the peat. Next day he enlists a local fisherman to take him out in his boat to fish for mackerel near Slieve League Cliffs, before attempting a gruelling hike up Croagh Patrick, where Ireland’s patron saint Patrick spent 40 days fighting serpents and demons in 441. At the end of July thousands of barefoot pilgrims hike to the top to pay homage to the saint.

The final leg of Ian’s journey takes him across the sea again to inaccessible Tory Island. The tiny island is famous because it has it’s own king, a convivial fellow who makes it his duty to welcome visitors off the boat. The 125 strong community is thriving and has a school of artists. Local artist Anton Meaghnan gets his inspiration from the rich culture of mythology. He takes Ian to the wishing stone, where Ian ends his Irish adventure perched on the edge of a dangerous cliff, throwing stones at a wishing stone in gale force winds.

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