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Spielberg.JPGShort answer: Steven Spielberg explored Ireland on a spiritual David Whyte tour, costing a not so spiritual $3,300.

"Zigzagging through the country's natural wonders, Spielberg listened to poetry on jagged cliffs of the Aran Islands, soaked up quiet village life while in the Burren, and toured on a souped-up motorized bike. Along with his wife and teenage son, Spielberg enjoyed the country's natural wonders (not just the rain). They listened to poetry on the jagged cliffs of the Aran Islands, soaked up quiet village life at country homes in the Burren, and did walking and cycling tours. The esteemed director rounded out his trip outside of Dublin before returning to work, mind, soul and body refreshed after the trip."

But read on about the much more interesting David Whyte, a poet who grew up in Yorkshire, England. He studied Marine Zoology in Wales and trained as a naturalist in the Galapagos Islands. He has also worked as a naturalist guide, leading anthropological and natural history expeditions in various parts of the world, including treks among the mountains of Nepal. Whyte's poetry reflects a living spirituality and a deep connection to the natural world. He is one of the few poets to take his perspectives on creativity into the field of organizational development, conducting workshops with many American and international companies. David Whyte currently lives in the Pacific Northwest of the United States.

David's tour to the west of Ireland is pitched as a celebration of Ireland's Celtic culture, both traditional and emerging, set around Galway Bay. "It is a unique and intimate experience of Ireland from the inside out," he writes, "Our days are spent in walking pilgrimages into the mountains of Connemara and the Burren."

There are  poetry sessions with David, and an opportunity to spend time with local Irish poet-philosophers, musicians and storytellers.

Wind and tide permitting at Doolin, they visit the Aran Islands and "bicycle to Dun Aengus at the very edge of the ancient Irish world."

David advises that his guests have "both a strong celebrative experience with other participants and an opportunity to spend time alone and meet the locals." The setting on the edge of the village allows for a cohesive community to form as well as a possibility for disappearing into one of the many pubs, cafes or shops on your own.

With the recession coming to an end its time to sign up. Contact Julie by telephone 360.221.1324 or e-mail.

Cost: $3300 (a bargain)

To apply for the trip,  complete the application and health & fitness questionnaire and mail them, together with the $900 deposit, to Julie Quiring, Many Rivers, PO Box 868, Langley, WA 98260

Health & Fitness form

Read more about David Whyte in Ireland  here

This is what the Financial Times has to say about Whyte:

Twenty years ago, David Whyte, a Yorkshire-born poet, was invited by a consultant into the world of business. Ever since, he has made it his mission, through corporate speaking tours and seminars, to help businesses harness the insights and metaphors that poetry can offer to broaden their language, improve interaction within the workplace and stir imaginations.

He has worked with corporations from Boeing to Microsoft and organisations from Nasa to Kaiser Permanente.

He begins with poetry (his own and that of Rilke, Wordsworth, Yeats and many others), and then broadens out into conversation and reflection. "I do everything from 45 minutes to three days," he explains. He recites the poems slowly, repeating lines until he is clear that his point has hit home. He does not work in soundbites, but through a scrupulous precision over language, listening and talking to a group until he is able to articulate an uncomfortable and unspoken truth.

"All these organisations are like Shakespearean plays writ large, with the nobles telling their truths from the podium while the gravediggers are telling it like it really is in the bathroom. And every epoch ends with a lot of blood on the floor," he says.

With non-Anglophone audiences, different material comes into play. "When I'm working with German audiences, I will call on my Rilke and Goethe in the original. I was just in Spain, so I was using a lot of Machado and Neruda, as a way of saying that not everything is going to be interpreted through the Anglo-Saxon mind."

The differences are not limited to repertoire. "In Germany they have great difficulty with anything that smacks of cultism or messianic leadership. You can't talk about leadership in its charismatic forms."

But one constant is that poetry is a language for talking about the nature of managers' work. "One of the great difficulties as you rise up through an organisation is that your prior competencies are exploded and broken apart by the territory you've been promoted into: the field of human identity."

Poetry, for him, is the appropriate tool with which to analyse the conversations that novice managers desperately avoid. "The idea is to get deeply into experiences where they have different images and metaphors to use out of the poetry. A lot of the images will have to do with being lost, with not having the usual bearings, and therefore looking at the world in a different way."

His new book, The Three Marriages*, explores and rejects the notion of work-life balance. Each of us, he says, undertakes three marriages simultaneously: with our partner, with our work and with our self. Trading off the three is fatal. "It's much more accurate to treat these three commitments as three love affairs, in which all the disappointments and reimaginations you have in an ordinary relationship have to take place."

Of the three, he says the hardest is the relationship with oneself because "it's weighted in the mystery of death and our own mortality". Deepening the conversation with oneself is hard. "[The poet] Wallace Stevens - who was a great [company executive] - said, sometimes the truth depends upon a walk around a lake. It's very interesting to ask yourself what the equivalent of that lake is in your life. For some people it's literally switching off the radio in the car on the morning commute, to get a little perspective on what the hell is going on around them."

 *The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self And Relationship, is published by Riverhead.

Pádraic Connolly becomes a YouTube star

 Filming Pádraic Connolly a tPoll na Peist,  aka the Serpent's Cave or the Worm Hole on Inis Mór, for Tourism Ireland's online film highlighting the 'hidden gems' of County Galway

Galwayman Pádraic Connolly is doing his bit for tourism this year by presenting a short film on the 'hidden gems' of Co Galway on Tourism Ireland's website.  It is one of a series of ten short films or 'webisodes' which have already been viewed by almost 400,000 potential visitors around the world - see here for the video on

Pádraic Connolly takes a trip to the Aran islands

Tourism Ireland recently launched the series of films which feature real local characters from around the island of Ireland introducing their favourite 'hidden gems'.  Galwayman Pádraic Connolly was selected from the 1,000+ people across the island who applied to take part, to tell viewers and potential holidaymakers around the world about some of his favourite places in his home county. 

In the film, Pádraic takes the viewer on a journey around Connemara - highlighting the spectacular scenery and beautiful coastline.  He begins in Roundstone Harbour where he meets some of the local fishermen.  He continues to the beautiful Coral Strand at Carraroe and then it is on to his own birthplace, Rossaveal, and from there to Inis Mór.  Throughout the film, he regales the viewer with his many tales and legends - including a story about the local man who disappeared at the Worm Hole on Inis Mór!  He finishes his journey on Inis Oírr with its cluster of ancient ruins.

"Visitors repeatedly tell us that what distinguishes the island of Ireland from other destinations - what sets us apart from our competitors - is our people and our scenery", said Laughlin Rigby, eMarketing Manager, Tourism Ireland.  "This online movie, presented by Pádraic, provides an added dimension of information on the many attractions on offer in Co Galway, in a novel and entertaining way". 

"Customers are not just searching for the lowest fare any more; they are seeking information and recommendations on the perfect holiday experience - where to go, what to see and do and where to eat.  These movies complement our new global advertising campaign 'Go Where Ireland Takes You'.  The campaign has been designed to capture the spontaneity and fun of holidaying here and to show that some of the most wonderful and memorable experiences you are likely to have here will be stumbled on by chance", Rigby added.

The ten films or 'webisodes', which have been translated into five European languages, feature on Tourism Ireland's suite of 41 websites and are also being promoted in its main overseas markets on Yahoo.  The films will also feature on a new promotional DVD, which will be distributed to potential holidaymakers in the all-important GB market during August.  To see the films, visit

From Toronto the the hidden Ireland

Inis Mór (Inishmore) panoramic
Photo by Jake Bouma
Remote and rugged Aran Islands gives a glimpse of the hidden Ireland
July 23, 2009
Toronto Star

INISHMORE, Ireland-There's just one movie theatre on this windswept, rocky island 50 kilometres off the west coast of Ireland. And it shows only one movie.

The theatre is a more of an afterthought, built on the back of Gearoid Browne's Internet café - also the island's only one - in the tiny port town of Kilronan. The movie is Man of Aran, American filmmaker Robert J. Flaherty's stunning 1934 pseudo-documentary about how time has stood still in this isolated place.

The theatre has 24 genuine cinema seats, complete with cup holders, sent by a fellow in Dublin. And Browne starts each of the several 5-euro (about $8 Cdn) daily screenings with an introduction that explains how Flaherty moved here for two years to film in the early 1930s, hiring three locals who he thought best represented these rugged people to play wife, husband and son. As with his 1922 movie, Nanook of the North, Flaherty wanted to capture a vanishing way of life for the world to see.

It's important to Browne, 47, that visitors to Inishmore, or Inis Mór as it's called in the native Irish that is still the first language here, see the controversial movie, praised as a master work of filmmaking even while it is often decryed as a sham.

The pivotal scene of fishermen going out in a traditional canoe-like, flat-bottomed currach to bring down a massive basking shark for its oil to fuel lamps was completely fictionalized, Browne tells the audience of three for the 5 p.m. screening. Nobody had hunted basking sharks for decades; they had to be taught how to harpoon them and Flaherty demanded multiple takes for dramatic scenes.

But the heart-stopping moment when Maggie Dirrane struggles in the pounding sea, weighed down by long skirts, to retrieve a lost fishing net and is saved from being swept away by a man who grabs her by the hair and hauls her back, "that was real."

"It's based on the life here and it's hard here," says Browne. But he laughs when asked if he's obsessed with Man of Aran. "I have a passion for it, but I'm not obssessed."

The movie always prompts lively discussion among residents, most of whom have lived here all their lives. In a way it mirrors the debate over tourism; crucial to Inishmore and smaller sister islands Inis Oírr and Inis Beag. Without the day trippers from Galway who snap up famous Aran sweaters and rides in wooden traps pulled by stocky ponies, or weekenders cozied up in B&Bs in front of peat fires, life would be very tough here.

But tourists demand things like supermarkets, French wines, ATMs and WiFi, snap photos without asking (I met an elderly woman out walking her dog who was near tears after some lads took pictures) and clog the narrow roads with rented bikes, making Inishmore reflect the world they were supposedly seeking to escape.

I'd come here as part of a hiking tour organized by Dublin-based company called Extreme Ireland and after four days climbing challenging mountains and being awed by the stunning scenery of Connemara National Park, we had come to Aran to hike flat roads past patchwork fields marked with dry stone walls.

Accompanied by guide Emily McCullagh, an experienced mountain climber and trekker who had plenty of stories to share about the place, we explored this historic area that is home to hill forts and tiny stone ruins, some dating back 2,500 years. It was a completely different experience from our four days in green Connemara - this was true isolation and a glimpse of what Ireland looked like in the past.

The dry stone walls running all over the land - made without mortar to let the fierce winds pass through - were constructed because farmers had to put the rocks somewhere when they broke them up to clear places where they wanted to make dirt for their fields. That's right: make dirt.

Using seaweed and sand, mixed with whatever dirt they could find in crevasses in the rock, the farmers made soil to grow potatoes and grow grass to graze stock.

Inis Mor is just 14 kilometres long and about 3 kilometres wide, but our first hike of the western loop of the island would take seven hours, with frequent stops for photos and to scratch the heads of sweet-faced donkeys and friendly white horses that often met us at stone walls.

The rugged natural beauty of the island is stunning and when McCullagh led us off the roadway, we felt like we had it to ourselves. Stone fields were unlikely meadows, filled with tenacious wildflowers.

We carefully picked our way across a boulder-filled landscape to end up underneath a massive cliff. Below us, the sea churned into a natural near-perfect rectangle in the rock, dubbed The Worm Hole.

Our climb to Dún Aonghasa stone fort - a series of four semi-circle stone walls built about the time the Egyptians were thinking of putting up pyramids - was rewarded with a spectacular view down sheer 100-metre cliffs.

McCullagh encouraged us to lie flat on the stone and crawl to the edge, hanging our heads over to watch the crashing surf below.

"Feel how warm the rock seems," she said. It was true.

The next day, a heavy mist settled on Inis Mor and we rented bikes (10 euros a day) from one of several places in Kilronan to explore the eastern end of the island on our own.

The fog created a powerful sense of isolation and the road was deserted, the stone walls looking darker in the wet, the only bit of colour the bright green exterior wall of the Tigh Fitz pub.

I explored the funny little aerodrome where daily flights from the mainland touch down and walked along a deserted crescent of white sandy beach. On the way back to town, my thoughts turning to a plate of fried pollock and chips and a pint of Guinness, I stopped to chat with a farmer named Tom about his cow, who was due to have her calf any day now.

He'd never been on a plane, nor lived anywhere but here.

"I've never been away," he mused, using a term I'd last heard in Newfoundland.

"Somebody has to stay and look after things," he added in a gentle voice as he stared across the stone walls and misty field, his Aran woolen cap pulled low against the chill.

Linda Barnard is the Star's movies editor.

Each of the Aran Islands has its own festival to celebrate its individual Patron Saint. Its an action packed weekend of currach races, swimming, Tug o' war, donkey racing, music and dancing on the pier. The high-light of the day is generally a Hooker Boat race in the bay.

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  • Patrún Inis Mór 2008 27th/28th/29th June
  • Patrún Inis Méain 2008 1st/2nd/3rd August
  • Patrún Inis Oírr 2008 15th/16th/17th August
Got here yesterday and have nearly two weeks to enjoy the peace and quiet. Fantastic dinner in the restaurant last night - fresh-caught crab and delicious skate with hazelnuts - and a good hike along the cliffs while the sun was out this morning. The clifftop along the south-west side is extraordinary - like a stone beach set high above the sea itself, a flat expanse watered by the spray from the breakers below and unsure in itself whether it's part of the land or the sea. Fabulous bird life too - just this morning I saw ringed plover, whimbrel, a pair of shelduck, cuckoo, whitethroat and all the normal ones you would expect. Robins rule the island: on every field wall, a proud bird sings its heart out to mark its territory.

Handpicked Aran Islands

Handpicked tours
Off Ireland's west coast near Galway lie the Aran Islands: rich in the language, culture and heritage of Ireland, unique in its geology and archaeology and in its long tradition of gentle hospitality. Here is a place to sense the spirit of Gaelic Ireland, to touch the past, but with all the comforts and facilities of the present. Aran will take you back to an Ireland of Celts and Early Christians. This is an island of great peace and tranquility, but it is also an island of great fun and activity.
A timeless land in an endless sea, weathered monuments on awesome cliffs, great labyrinths of limestone, meandering walls, patchwork fields, quiet beaches and a welcoming island people, this is Aran in Galway bay on the west coast of Ireland...
Aran Islands
The spirit of Gaelic Ireland
Aran Islands by Rail & Air
Full day Aran Islands from Dublin or multiple-day railtours
of Ireland including the Aran Islands
Click here for Aran Islands by rail & air
Aran Islands by Ferry
Full day Aran Islands from Galway including 2 nights B&B in either Galway and/or Aran Islands
Click here for Aran Islands by Ferry
Browse our small group tours of Ireland that visit the Aran Islands here.
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Sweaters and Stone walls


From Golf International

The US dollar buys more Euros than it has since 2006 -- practically 20% more. Trans-Atlantic airfares are at bargain rates and car rentals, restaurants and most other elements that go into a vacation trip, have all shaved their prices.

Ireland will always be associated with its warm, friendly people and their gift for story telling. Think of Ireland and images of pubs and Guinness, thatched roofed cottages, castles and quaint fishing villages; green, rural landscapes and rugged coastlines, filled with natural beauty, all spring to mind. To any golfer the picture also brings up visions of glorious links courses. Golf is as much a part of Ireland as anything and golfers are being drawn to the Emerald Isle in ever-growing numbers.

The first time visitor will probably be chasing after a few of the more famous names located in the southwest, such as Ballybunion, Lahinch, Doonbeg and Waterville, or Northern Ireland's top ranked links at Royal County Down and Royal Portrush. Excellent as each of these courses are, there are many more golf gems to be found in other parts, most notably in the far west and northwest of the country.

The names may not be as familiar, but their challenge, charm and overall appeal, is every bit the equal of the household names and the genuine welcome waiting for visitors, perhaps even greater. This is the Ireland of an age gone by and a part of the country to be savored to the fullest.

For any who yearn for the good old days and an Ireland the way it used to be, it's still here and can be readily found in these less populated, westernmost reaches. In Counties Mayo, Sligo, Galway and Roscommon, extending north to the very tip of County Donegal, life goes on much the same as it always has. That's the way the folks out west like it, showing little regard for whatever century the rest of the world may be in.

Unspoiled and uncluttered with no hustle and bustle or thronging masses, this is where Mother Nature still reigns supreme. The coastline is spectacularly handsome; the landscapes breathtaking, the air crystal clear and life is easy going. This is the Ireland of yester-year, steeped in tradition with a history reaching back 5,000 years.

Any golfer should relish the opportunity to come to this side of the Emerald Isle; the golf courses remain very much undiscovered, but the quality is outstanding with a number of beauties that will tickle the fancy of even the most jaded golf traveler.

Connemara, Westport, Enniscrone, Carne and Rosses Point are only the beginning of the west coast chain of courses that extend non-stop to the most northerly point of County Donegal. Bundoran, Donegal's Murvagh, Rosapenna, Port Salon and Ballyliffin are layouts that must be played by any serious golfer. Each is a treat and guaranteed to provide an Irish golf experience ranking alongside the very best.

This is the undiscovered side of Ireland containing some of the country's most stunning natural beauty and because it's less known and less visited; the golf courses are never crowded, even in peak season. The people you meet on these courses of the West will be the local Irish and not other visitors from your home club, adding another dimension to your trip.

But don't limit your experience to only the golf - as big a temptation as that will be, there is a lot more to see and do. With more history to tell than most places in Europe, there is every reason to spend a little off-course time discovering some of this rich past for yourself. You don't have to be a history buff to quickly develop a real appreciation and respect for how life was, so long ago.

Pre-historic sites abound and even those with only a passing interest level in such things, can't fail to be impressed by Ceide Fields in North Mayo, a 50 centuries old, complete farm settlement, considered the oldest and best preserved such example in all Europe.

Visit the Aran Islands, a bastion of traditional Irish culture and language. In the 5th century, St. Enda brought Christianity to Ireland, establishing a long monastic tradition in Aran that would be protected for centuries The intriguingly austere landscape of the three islands is crisscrossed by a never-ending maize of dry-stone walls, stunning coastal views and a succession of large, prehistoric stone forts. The islands are famous today for their distinctive knitwear and for the traditional Aran costume, still worn by many of the locals.

The most impressive monastic remains in all Ireland can be found at Kilmacduagh in the South of County Galway. Founded in the early 7th century, the centerpiece is a huge round tower that leans precariously over a roofless, but otherwise, almost perfectly preserved cathedral. Nearby are the remains of several other churches that once depended upon the monastery.

Take time to visit the city of Galway, center of the Irish speaking regions and a lively university town. In Anglo-Norman times Galway was a thriving trading post and a stronghold surrounded by warring Gaelic clans. After the Cromwellian victories of the 1640's, many Irish, stripped of their lands were dispatched here to hell or Connaught as the province is called, to start new lives. Today Galway is a charming, lively town, filled with shops, pubs and restaurants and numerous examples of fine16th and 17th century architecture.

Imposing Kylemore Abbey, a 19th century fantasy of a wealthy English industrialist, is now run as an elite girls boarding school by Benedictine nuns. World famous for its walled Victorian gardens, Kylemore is one of the West's most popular visitor attractions.

Founded in 1750, the lovely town of Westport, nestled on the shores of Clew Bay, may be the prettiest in County Mayo and is well worth visiting. Wide tree lined streets with elegant Georgian buildings bring an unexpected air of charming sophistication to this, one of the few planned towns in Ireland and a tribute to 18th century urban development. Not far from town is Croagh Patrick, the 2,500-foot Holy Mountain where in 441 A.D., St. Patrick is said to have prayed and spent the 40 days of Lent. Among the many reasons to visit Westport is Westport Golf Club, one of the must-play courses of this part of Ireland.

The West is also famed for its festivals that run virtually throughout the year, but with an especially heavy schedule starting in March and running full tilt through October. There's hardly a small town or village that doesn't have at least a couple of festivals during the year and chances are there will be a few going on during your trip. There are festivals for Irish music, dancing, singing and folk drama; there are literary festivals and art festivals, fiddle festivals and classical music festivals. There are festivals for poetry and story telling and so it goes, the list is endless.

So if you are in quest of the Ireland of your dreams, the old traditional Ireland that may be more difficult to find around the major cities, be assured it's still here, alive and thriving in the West of Ireland. Go West and you will not only find the Ireland of an age gone by, but you will also discover some of Ireland's finest and still undiscovered golf.

Why this part of Ireland has remained a secret for so long is no mystery - its isolation from the rest of the country always kept it remote and more challenging to reach. But this is quickly changing as word gets out that any extra driving required is more than rewarded by the very special experiences to be gained, most unique to this part of Ireland. If you want to discover the last of the Emerald Isle's hidden golf gems -- to see and live the Ireland of yester-year, get there before the crowds.

Better go sooner rather than later, taking full advantage of our strong dollar, the bargain airfares and wonderful values that fill the west of Ireland -- and that warm Irish welcome is included, at no charge.

Read more here


TOURISM IRELAND'S new €47 million campaign encouraging visitors to lose themselves in Ireland's mists of time and fantasy is a hoot. I mean hot. It's on the money, writes The Irish Times' Kate Holmquist

A green and hilly island where leprechauns, storytellers, musicians and maidens lie in wait to delay you with their magic is precisely how the Americans, French, Canadians and British perceive us - but how able are we on this island to meet the challenge? If you haven't seen the campaign, I'll fill you in on the gorgeous ad that will be appearing in the best publications abroad.

Imagine a verdant land where people travel about in vintage VW vans from one spectacular vista to the next. Imagine, as they say, all the lonely people - Irish people - just waiting to waylay you and bring you into the pub for a few stories and rounds of Guinness, sprinkling you with magic dust as you head back to your hotel.

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Connemara: the Last Pool of Darkness by Tim Robinson

Connemara.jpgBy Roy Foster
IN SOME WAYS Tim Robinson is a one-off: a polymathic Yorkshireman, trained in mathematics and art, who has written passionately about the appearance, history and atmosphere of the West of Ireland, where he lives. He immerses himself in everything: mythology, legend, holy wells, sea-creatures, bog-plants, the architectural detritus of past conquests, the re-establishment of the corncrake, the ecology of hill-farming, and above all the comings and goings of people. Nor does he shirk the contemporary: bungalow blight, the "gibbering-gables" architecture of cutesy Americana, the destruction of fragile local ecologies by agribusiness. At one point he prospects for a legendary "lake of sand" preserved in local lore, and finds it sunk in the middle of a golf-course.

This is his second volume exploring the idiosyncratic social history as well as the flora, fauna and geology of Connemara, the most westerly region of Connacht. Remnants of a local Catholic gentry culture as well as sea-hardened fishers and farmers, survived waves of incomers, all determined to make a living in one of the purest and loveliest landscapes in the world. We meet commercially-minded English Victorians (including the Twining tea family) and ex-imperial servants, French lobster-fishing entrepreneurs, radical organic farmers; but he also gives much space to the creative spirits drawn to Connemara by that same wish, including - improbably - Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Maybe Wittgenstein's Connemara sojourn is not so surprising, because the very fact of being on the outermost edge of Europe has from time to time projected the region into the crucible of modern thinking: as Robinson shows when he recreates Marconi's revolutionary 1907 wireless transmitting station, and reminds us that Alcock and Brown's record-breaking flight from Nova Scotia touched down nearby fifteen years later. At the same time, the subsistence-level poverty of farming patterns, and the exploitative land system, outlasted recurrent attempts at "improvement", and the bleak evidence of hunger and emigration is all around. Nor did the dark times end with national independence; poverty and disaster haunted the landscape in the 1920s and 1930s, and the terrible story of the exploitation of children condemned to the Christian Brothers' Industrial School in remote Letterfrack continued until much later. Robinson writes of this with passion and judiciousness.

Elsewhere an ironic humour breaks in - as when a farmer, determined to stop his researches on the foreshore (traditionally open to access in Ireland), finally pronounces "I think, just for the principle of the thing, you should fuck off my land." This detachment saves the book from whimsy, and a high style where the sentences sometimes wind on as lengthily and inexorably as a bog-road. But above all he retains a capacious sympathy for all the incomers and outgoers drawn to or expelled from this desolate and cruelly beautiful place. The last chapter nods to a great literary precedent, in delineating a long-postponed visit by boat to a lighthouse: but the author's boat bumps against a lost buoy, bearing the name "Robinson", which he takes as a sign to terminate a work "supersaturated with self-reference". He can be forgiven for it, and the envisaged third volume will complete an edifice as remarkable as any of those surveyed in this book.

Connemara: the Last Pool of Darkness by Tim Robinson
Penguin Ireland, £20

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