The Burren, Co. Clare
The title isn’t meant to refer to the anthem which the Irish rugby team sing before each international match. Personally, I can take it or leave it. Mostly leave it. No, what the title is meant to evoke is that indefineable something which keeps visitors returning to these shores. In my mind it’s a synthesis of the scenery, the places, the people, the atmosphere, whether it be on the street, in a cafe or the pub – all of those mixed together into one potent brew.
When we talk about why people visit Ireland we usually laugh when we mention the weather in a, “It’s definitely not for the weather”, kind of way. But, if you have sat watching the ever changing weather patterns which are so common in these latitudes, especially where there are mountains and sea; then you will know that even the weather can confer a kind of magic on the landscape. That combination of four seasons not just in one day, but frequently in one hour, which can mesmerise with its subtle changes of light.
Ireland is a small country, still a relatively underdeveloped country, something still slightly unusual for our European neighbours. We have a connection with the land which has not always been healthy, but it has evolved into a love of place and it has fostered a deep and real connection between the people and their landscape. The Irish language, long since lost to the majority of the population, still remains ingrained in the landscape through the Gaelic placenames which live on in their anglicised form for all.
Perhaps there is something of this heritage and history which visitors sense when they come here. Perhaps our visitors envy us that continuation of the connection to the land which yet survives. Whatever the reason, any visitor who spends time in Ireland cannot but be aware of the living culture which transcends all outward manifestations and survives as steadfast and immutable as the landscape itself.