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On the Road with Reid: 'Round Ireland on Four Wheels

The first in a series of road reports from our Intrepid reporter in Ireland. Today: spend a week in Eire from $399, including airfare, countryside B&Bs, and a rental car
By Reid Bramblett 

The author stands above the green fields of Ireland's Ring of Kerry

(Originally published May 27, 2003 on Reprinted with permission. Photograph by Frances C. Sayers. This article won a Lowell Thomas award for travel journalism.)

There's a famous travelogue by Eric Newby called "Round Ireland in Low Gear " about biking the countryside, and indeed I'm sitting in a Cyber Cafe in Donegal right now where the streets are blocked off (and some local rock band is playing on a platform in the rain), waiting for the international competitors in the Milkrás bike race round Ireland bike to zip through in, oh, about 15 minutes or so. But it's too wet and I'm too out of shape to tackle the Emerald Isle on two wheels this trip, so I've gone the budget route instead, driving a rental car.

The cool thing is that the car, plus my transatlantic plane flight and vouchers for countryside B&Bs, are all available as a package that costs as little as $399 for six days.

It's great to be back in Ireland again, testing my driving skills by slaloming along a coastal road strung halfway between a drop dead cliff plunging hundreds of feet into the crashing Atlantic and a drop-dead vista of bright green fields embroidered with endless stone walls and dotted with sheep. After a hearty Irish breakfast featuring multiple pork products and enough cholesterol to kill a mountain goat, there's nothing better than spending the morning wandering the ruins of a 12th century abbey before picking out a thick, wooly sweater from the shop—to wear while sloughing across a bog and up a hillside to crawl around a 5,000-year-old passage tomb.

Actually, there is something better than all that. It comes after you get back from the wind-swept top of that hill, knock the mud off your shoes, and drive into the nearest village. That's where you can duck into a pub where cozy tables snuggle around a turf fire filling the room with the sweet perfume of peat, sidle past the craggy locals planted at the bar jawing in Gaelic and gulping their Guinness, give a nod to the local musicians jamming Celtic-style in a corner, and ask the teenage publican to pull you a perfect pint.

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