Autumn in Ireland: Why the Emerald Isle is at its best in red and gold
Autumn in Ireland is bliss. Overseas visitors have kissed the Blarney Stone, finished their pint of the black stuff and gone home, leaving the country roads quiet and the cities more laid-back (hello, off-season rates).
The season has plenty of prolonged sunshine and, with the evenings turning a little chilly, you couldnât wish for a better excuse to nurse a whiskey in a cosy local pub.
Across the country, the deep roar of red deer stags can be heard in the early morning, the snowy white coats of grey seal pups can be spotted on sandbanks, and whales seen cruising along the west coast.
This is also the season for twitchers, who flock to nature reserves to record rare species as a host of birds migrate in and out of Ireland. The woods and hedgerows are ripe for foraging, farmersâ markets groan under the weight of harvest produce and Irelandâs oyster season begins.
Who needs New England?
Brilliant red and gold autumnal hues are beginning to peep through in September, and hiking waymarked trails or driving through pastoral landscapes promises stunning panoramas that rival New England. Ireland excels in landscaped gardens, with many of its grand country houses surrounded by parks, perfect for a blustery autumn stroll. And with autumn colours promising to be vivid following a hot, dry summer, 2018 looks set to be a vintage year.
Killarney National Park, Co Kerry (killarneynationalpark.ie), Glendalough, Co Wicklow (glendalough.ie) and Altamont Gardens, Co Carlow (carlowtourism.com).
As youâd expect from a country with the harp as a national emblem, Ireland is big on traditional music. The pub session is the focal point for performances, with informal gatherings (which sometimes donât start until 10pm) usually the best craic. In the autumn, pub sessions are frequently held in Limerick, Cork and Londonderry. Dublin also has a great Irish music scene (we donât mean Temple Bar), and the Musical Pub Crawl (musicalpubcrawl.com) is a gentle introduction.
Darkey Kellyâs, Dublin (darkeykellys.ie), Pepperâs of Feakle, East Clare (peppersoffeakle.com) and De Barra, Clonakilty (debarra.ie).
Farewell , traffic
The kids are back in school and motorhomes and tour coaches are conspicuous only by their absence. Now is the time to explore Irelandâs scenic driving routes, and stop at chocolate-box villages and craggy castles, ticking off Game of Thrones locations along the way. Days driving along short roads are easily filled with kayaking and hiking. The popular 1,600-mile Wild Atlantic Way (wildatlanticway.com) is considerably quieter at this time of year and can easily be broken up into bite-size stages.
Ring of Kerry, Co Kerry (ringofkerrytourism.com), Causeway Coastal Route, Co Antrim (discovernorthernireland.com) and Sky Road, Connemara (loveconnemara.com).
Hello, Northern Lights
As the nights draw in, the ribbons of the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) can be caught dancing across the sky. If Ireland has an abundance of anything, itâs clear and unpolluted dark skies. A view northwards is best, although when geomagnetic act ivity is high, it is possible to spot the neon lights hovering directly overhead. From the end of autumn until spring, the Inishowen Peninsula in Donegal is popular for those chasing the Aurora.
Malin Head, Dunree Head and Kinnagoe Bay, Co Donegal (wildatlanticway.com/plan-your-trip).
End the day with a show (and a pint)
As common sense would dictate, the best place to see the sunset in Ireland is on the west coast, over the Atlantic Ocean. Visit a popular tourist site at dusk to avoid the hordes and, with the sun dropping over the horizon a little earlier in autumn (around 7.30pm in mid-September), thereâs plenty of time left for dinner â" and the pub. If you find yourself settling for a city view, sunset over Dublin Bayâs Dun Laoghaire Pier (dunlaoghaire.ie) is pretty special.
Dunluce Castle, Co Antrim (discovernorthernireland.com), Cliffs of Moher, Co Clare (cliffsofmoher.ie) and Dursey Island, Co Cork (durseyisland.ie).
A whale of a time
Autumn off the west coast is peak whale-watching season. Minke are the first to appear in the summer months; fin whales and humpbacks follow in October and November. Orca sightings are rare but not unknown, with Scotlandâs resident west coast Orca pod also occasional fans of an autumnal break around Ireland. Boat tours such as Whale Watch West Cork (whalewatchwestcork.com) and Cork Whale Watch (corkwhalewatch.com) are excellent, but the giants of the sea can also be spotted from headlands and islands along the west coast.
Cape Clear Island, Co Cork (wildatlanticway.com), Mizen Head, Co Cork (wildatlanticway.com) and Blasket Islands, Co Kerry (greatblasket island.net).
Binoculars at the ready
Ireland is a key hub for migratory birds and, in autumn, thereâs a migrant flux as some birds set off in search of warmer climes, while others, including geese and swans, arrive from the Arctic for their own version of warmer weather. There are plenty of rare breeds in the mix â" of the 450 species on the Irish list, about half are considered rare. If youâre yet to learn your wings, Cape Clear Bird Observatory runs a number of autumn birdwatching courses (birdwatch ireland.ie).
Cape Clear Bird Observatory, Co Cork (capeclearisland.ie) and Wexford Wildfowl Reserve, Co Wexford (wexfordwildfowlreserve.ie).
Find your ow n food
Autumn is traditionally a time of jam making, preserving and pickling, and celebrity chefs such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall have got the public thinking seasonally. All of Ireland â" urban parks and verges included â" is a garden for foraging. Autumn yields blackcurrants, blackberries, raspberries, sloe, apples, hazelnuts, seaweed and mushrooms (though watch out for the latter â" an expert eye can help you to identify the dangerous ones).
Some great foraging walks are organised by Wild Kitchen, Co Clare (wildkitchen.ie), Forage Ireland, across Northern Ireland (forageireland.com) and Wicklow Wild Foods, Co Wicklow (wicklowwildfoods.com).Source: Google News Ireland | Netizen 24 Ireland