By Judy Enright
Special to the BIR
Ireland in the autumn could be just the right prescription for those who relish tranquility and eschew the frenzy of summer tourism. Most tourist attractions are still open in September and there is much to do around the country to suit nearly every age and interest.
MICHAEL CUSACK CENTRE
No doubt Irish sports fans are well aware of Michael Cusack, the man who founded the largest amateur sporting organization in the world, the Gaelic Athletic Association, better known as the GAA.
Cusack was born in 1847 in Carron, a small Co. Clare town in the Burren. His life, career, travels, and passion for preserving traditional Irish sports are all captured at the Michael Cusack Centre, which is located at the family’s original homestead. Explore his cottage as it was in the 1850s, discover the game of hurling, which he saved, or take a guided tour. The Centre, which is about 15 minutes from Ballyvaughan, is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through October.
There is ample parking, a tea room and gift shop at the site. For more information, see michaelcusack.ie
CAHERCONNELL STONE FORT
While you’re in Carron, do check out the Caherconnell Stone Fort, the best preserved example of dry stone walling in the Burren. Caherconnell is a circular, walled, and defended farmstead from the early Christian era and is said to have been home to a substantial farmer and his extended family of perhaps up to 25 people. The main focus of farming in that era would have been sheep and cattle. The fort also contained a small village that made the farmer self-sufficient. The main dwelling and kitchen were within the fort and there would also have been areas set aside for storing grain and grinding corn.
The Caherconnell Visitor Centre has Ireland’s first stone fort “virtual tour” as well as audio-visual and graphic displays.
Caherconnel is about half a mile from Poulnabrone dolmen, a Megalithic burial tomb where the remains of 33 people were discovered dating back to 3,800 BC. Poulnabrone is the Burren’s most famous archaeological monument. It is located on the Ennis-Ballyvaughan road.
There are also other attractions nearby, including: Aillwee Cave; the hilltop Poulawack Cairn, where remains were discovered of four people, buried around 3,400 BC, as well as nine others buried over the next 1,000 years; Cahercommaun ringfort; Cahermacnaughten and Cahermore with its reconstructed doorway, which is a good example of a ring fort doorway.
For more information, see burrenforts.ie
While you’re in the Burren, be sure to stop by the Burren Centre in Kilfenora to see the beautiful film by the world-renowned environmentalist and producer Éamon de Buitléar. The film follows the formation of the Burren 320 million years ago, explains how the limestone pavement was formed and why Alpine, Arctic, and Mediterranean plants, which require different climatic conditions, grow side by side in such abundance on this fertile rock plateau.
The Burren Centre also offers a tea room, gift shop, and an extensive display that shows and describes the Burren’s many attributes and characteristics.
For more information, see theburrencentre.ie
In an island country, water and beaches are never too far from anyone’s focus and it’s often warm enough in the autumn to enjoy surfing, sailing, and many other water sports.
September is also a nice time to just walk the beaches and enjoy the ocean and the quiet.
One popular place to walk - or just sit and enjoy the view - is Keem Bay at the end of Achill Island in Co. Mayo. Keem Bay was recently named by Big 7 Travel as the 11th best beach in the world for 2019.
What beach was listed as the best in the world, you ask? It was Golden Horn Beach, in Brac, Croatia, with Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Islands, Australia, coming in second.
The list was created using Big 7 Travel readers’ votes, scores from previous media results, official Blue Flag beach locations, and contributions from the Big 7 Travel editorial team. See bigseventravel.com for more.
Are you a fan of that popular after-dinner drink, Irish Coffee? Learn how and where the world-famous drink was invented and find out about Ireland’s “flying boats” (fixed-wing seaplanes) at the fascinating Foyne’s Flying Boat and Maritime Museum in Co. Limerick.
You’ll learn that from 1939 to 1945, Foynes, on the Shannon River, was the center of the aviation world between the US and Europe. See how courageous pilots navigated the Atlantic and hear about the diverse range of people, from celebrities to refugees, who traveled with them. And, learn about Chef Joe Sheridan who added whiskey to coffee (the first Irish Coffee) to warm up damp, chilled passengers in 1942. For details see Flyingboatmuseum.com
While you’re in the Limerick area, you might plan a visit to the imposing King John’s Castle where 800 years of history is brought to life with animation and interactive effects. It’s fascinating to learn about the archaeological excavations under the visitor center building that show evidence of earliest settled life in the city. See kingjohnscastle.com for more.
Another Limerick treasure is the Hunt Museum in the 18th Century Custom House. The museum has one of Ireland’s greatest private collections of art and antiques donated to the people of Ireland by John and Gertrude Hunt. Included among some 2,000 pieces are works by Yeats, da Vinci and Renoir. See huntmuseum.com for more information.
Thanks to Shane Lowry’s Open Championship victory, Adare Manor in Co. Limerick has been chosen as the host venue for the 2026 Ryder Cup.
Since reopening in April 2018, after completion of a two-year reconstruction, The Golf Course at Adare Manor has rocketed to global recognition.
The property has been a hit with industry figureheads and top players alike, each praising the Tom Fazio Design and, in particular, its pristine condition.
So, get your reservations in for 2026 at Adare Manor to enjoy the world’s best golfers in the Ryder Cup.
Lots of activities are slated for September around the country. Stop by the local Failte Ireland office while you’re there to learn what’s on tap in the area you’re visiting.
Some interesting activities on this month’s calendar include:
• Kinsale’s Good Food Circle’s 43rd Gourmet Festival, Oct. 11 to Oct. 13 in the Co. Cork town. Kinsale has long been known as the culinarycCapital of Ireland and this is a fun event with something for everyone. For more information, see kinsalerestaurants.com
• The 42nd Clifden Community Arts Festival, the longest running community arts festival in Ireland, will be held in the Co. Galway town from Sept. 18 to Sept. 29. There will be plays, concerts, films and many other events. See clifdenartsfestival.ie for details.
• Are you a fan of oysters and fresh-from-the-ocean seafood? You won’t find better anywhere than at the Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival Sept. 27-29. See galwayoysterfestival.com for more.
• Dingle Food Festival will be held from Oct. 4 to Oct. 6. Highlights of the festival include cooking demonstrations, street vendors, workshops, entertainment, children’s events, wine and whiskey tastings and more. See dinglefood.com for more.
• Irish Times Theatre Award winner Swan Lake/Loch na hEala makes its Cork debut from Sept. 10 to Sept. 12 at Cork Opera House as part of Sounds from a Safe Harbour festival 2019. Starring Mikel Murfi and new cast member Rosaleen Linehan. Book your tickets now at bit.ly/TeacdamsaCOH.
Enjoy Ireland whenever and wherever you travel. There’s much to see and do there.