|Dublin Travel Guide|
It's possible to add at least a couple of dozen more contemporary names to this heady brew, though it might be argued that the more spectacular highlights are JP Donleavy's The Ginger Man; Brendan Behan's Borstal Boy, Roddy Doyle's 1993 Booker Prize winner Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, Patrick Macabe's brilliantly disturbing The Butcher Boy and anything with the word 'peat' in it written by the poet Seamus Heaney.
As well as being a backdrop for all sorts of Hollywood schlock (Far & Away, Circle of Friends), Ireland has been beautifully portrayed on celluloid. John Huston's superb final film, The Dead, was released in 1987 and based on a story from James Joyce's Dubliners. Noel Pearson and Jim Sheridan's My Left Foot won Oscars for Daniel Day-Lewis and Brenda Fricker with the true story of Dublin writer Christy Brown, who was crippled with cerebral palsy. Lewis also starred in In the Name of the Father, a powerful film telling the story of the wrongful conviction of the Guildford Four for an IRA pub bombing in England. Neil Jordan's The Crying Game is another depiction of the IRA, but with a sexual twist. Roddy Doyle's chuckly books lend themselves well to screen tales: The Commitments, The Snapper and The Van have all been filmed, while his film Michael Collins depicts the life of the man who helped create the IRA.
Jigging an evening away to Irish folk music is one of the joys of a trip to Ireland. Most traditional music is performed on fiddle, tin whistle, goatskin drum and pipes. Almost every village seems to have a pub renowned for its music where you can show up and find a session in progress, even join in if you feel so inclined. Christy Moore is the king of the contemporary singer-songwriter tradition, traversing the whole range of 'folk' music themes and Moore's younger brother, Luka Bloom, is now carving out a jingly whimsical name for himself. Younger artists have their own takes on Irish folk, from the mystical style of Clannad and Enya to the sodden reels of the Pogues. Irish rock is always in amongst it, from Van the Man, Bob Geldof and crabby Elvis Costello to Sinéad O'Connor and The Cranberries.
Although English is the main language of Ireland, it's spoken with a mellifluous lilt and a peculiar way of structuring sentences, to be sure. There remain areas of western and southern Ireland, known as the Gaeltacht, where Irish is the native language - they include parts of Kerry, Galway, Mayo, the Aran Islands and Donegal. If you intend to visit these areas, it would be beneficial to learn at least a few basic phrases. Since Independence in 1921, the Republic of Ireland has declared itself to be bilingual, and many documents and road signs are printed in both Irish and English.
Irish meals are usually based around meat - in particular, beef, lamb and pork chops. Irish breads and scones are also delicious, and other traditional dishes include bacon and cabbage, a cake-like bread called barm brack and a filled pancake called a boxty. The main meal of the day tends to be lunch, although black gold (Guinness) can be a meal in itself. If stout disagrees with you, a wide range of lagers are available. Irish coffee is not traditional, and is only offered in touristy hotels and restaurants, but the Irish drink lots of tea. When ordering whiskey, never ask for a Scotch. Ask for it by brand.