If you’re concerned that modernity has caused the Emerald Isle will lose its rural charm, set your compass to County Tipperary for a taste of "the real Ireland."
Tipperary, Ireland's largest inland county, was immortalized in the popular British marching song from World War I, "It's a Long Way to Tipperary." And while that may have seemed true from the fields of Flanders, Ireland is a wee country, so for visitors to Dublin or Shannon, Tipperary is not a such a great distance at all. Moreover, the joys of Tipperary are worth a short detour from the well-worn, U-shaped tourist trail around the southern coast.
Those who do invest the extra time will find it a most rewarding part of any trip to Erin. Among the natural sights you can take in on a one- or two-day excursion to "Tipp" are Lough Derg, a fishing and boating paradise that's part of the River Shannon estuary, and the Golden Vale, which boasts some of Ireland's richest farmland and is increasingly famous as a breeding area for championship race horses. County Tipperary’s heritage as the preserver of the traditional Irish sport of hurling (which is like field hockey – for masochists) can be followed in Thurles, where the Gaelic Athletic Association was born. Semple Stadium in Thurles is the spiritual home of hurling and has hosted many a regional championship triumph for the “Tipp” hurlers.
There are plenty of historic attractions as well. Nenagh is a market town in North Tipperary known for its imposing castle, whose 12-foot-thick walls have weathered many an attack. Cahir Castle (pictured above), from the 12th century, is one of the largest restored fortresses in the country, and the backdrop for many movies set in the Middle Ages. The Rock of Cashel, a fortress-church compound on a starkly beautiful rock formation, was the 11th-century headquarters of heroic high king (and Ronald Reagan ancestor) Brian Boru. And Holy Cross Abbey, also from the 11th century, is one of the few Irish monasteries to have been fully restored to its former grandeur. It is still used as a village church.
Tipperary is made up of many quaint villages, such as Ballyporeen. Proud to be known as the ancestral home of President Reagan (who visited there in 1984), it's less effusive about its connections to another celebrity, George O'Dowd - more famously known as Boy George. After the US presidant’s visit, one local entrepreneur renamed his bar “Reagan’s Pub.” When the notoriety eventually died down, the pub closed in 2008, but its interior was moved to California, and it’s now a room in the Reagan Library
Roscrea, another market town relatively unaffected by modernity, is nestled beneath the Slieve Bloom Mountains, a popular hiking and horseback riding area two hours' drive from Dublin.
Another attraction found throughout Tipperary is traditional Irish music. The county has been an incubator for singers and musicians of "trad" - as traditional Irish music is called - since the time of the Clancy Brothers, who gave voice to the genre in the U.S. through frequent appearances on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in the 1960s. The Clancys emigrated to America from the Tipperary village of Carrick-on-Suir.
Yes, Tipperary really isn't so far away, and taking the detour will give you a view of a way of life in Ireland that's all but disappeared in the cities of Dublin, Cork and Galway.
For more information on visiting Tipperary, contact Tourism Ireland at www.DiscoverIreland.com.
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Admin Comment by Fran Reddy on July 25, 2014 at 2:02pm
We went through some of County Tipperary last year.. wish we could have stayed longer and seen more!
Yes, it takes a few days to do it justice,
Heritage Partner Comment by ISLE magazine on July 27, 2014 at 3:04am
Well we certainly love Tipperary as we are based in Nenagh and it is a great county with lots to offer visitors. You might check out our current issue of our FREE online magazine to read more on Tipperary and the Shannon region.
Thank you for doing your bi to to promote the county!
Thanks for the encouragement. Happy to do my bit for Tipp. As my father, who came from Kileen, outside Nenagh, would say, "And why wouldn't I?" I'll check out ISLE.
Tipperary is charming and loaded with great history and warm people. Yes. We are in Tipperary for my upcoming small group (max 12 - just one spot left!) Spiral Journeys (9/19-9/29/14) we unpack only once and settle into the wonderful Ashley Park House in Nenagh! I am from Ireland (Monaghan and Meath) and very proud of my Quinlan/Power/Russell Clan heritage! So - tip all your hats to Tipperary, gracious people and glorious landscape. http://www.spiraljourneys.com Best to all. Ann V Quinlan, Portland Maine
Delighted to see you are bringing groups to Tipperary, Ann. Too many tour companies settle for "easy" itineraries limited to the two coasts. As an aside, just returned from Portland. Maine was beautiful as always.
Had a very spiritual visit to Cashel, the home town of my father's mother, and was able to make contact with long lost relatives back in the USA. I was also made aware of the fact that Barack Obama can trace part of his lineage back to Tipperary
Great article on Tipperary, Mike! I spent parts of many a summer in Clonmel with my Aunt Delia and Uncle Morris who were the gate keepers to the hospital there. Morris, who was a great character, took us to all of the places you mentioned. It is a beautiful county and there is so much to see there.
Thanks for the post, Dennis. My father, like many in North Tipperary, claimed Moneygall was in Tipp, but the media keeps saying it's in Offaly. Border wars.
Thanks for the kind words, Jim. John Condon, also a great Tipp character, whenever someone said they were from Clonmel, would say, "And when did they let you out?"