Written by travel  |  27. March 2008

If the current prosperity of Ireland's "Celtic Tiger" economy has you concerned that the Emerald Isle will lose its rural charm, set your compass to County Tipperay, for a taste of what I like to call "the real Ireland." Tipperary is Ireland's largest inland county, and was immortalized in the popular World War I British army marching song, "It's a Long Way to Tipperary." And while that may have seemed true from the fields of Flanders, Ireland is a wee country, so for visitors to Dublin or Shannon, Tipperary is not a such a great distance at all. Moreover, the joys of Tipperary are worth a short detour from the well-worn u-shaped "tourist trail" around the southern coast. Those who do invest the extra time will find it a most rewarding part of any trip to Erin. Among the sights you can take in on one- or two-day excursion to "Tipp" are: Loug Derg, a fishing and boating paradise that's part of the River Shannon estuary; Nenagh, a market town in North Tipperary known for its imposing castle, whose 12-foot thick walls have weathered many an attack; The Golden Vale, boasting some of Ireland's richest farmland, and increasingly famous as a breeding area for championship thoroughbred race horses; The Glen of Aherlow, with some of Ireland's most spectacular scenic vistas; Cahir Castle, from the 12th century, one of the largest restored fortresses in the country, and the setting for many medieval-period movies; The Rock of Cashel, a fortress/church compound, on a starkly beautiful rock formation, the 11th century headquarters of heroic high-king (and Ronald Reagan ancestor) Brian Boru; Ballyporeen, a tiny village that's proud to be known as the ancestral home of President Reagan (who visited there in 1984), less effusive about its connections to another celebrity, George O''Dowd, more famously known as Boy George; Holy Cross Abbey, an 11th century monastery that's one of the few in Ireland to have been fully restored to its former grandeur and used as a village church; Thurles, where the Gaelic Athletic Association was founded in 1884, and which is a popular venue for the mayhem-filled Irish sport of hurling, which is kind of like field hockey - for mosochists; Roscrea, another market town relatively unaffected by modernity, and nestled beneath the Slieve Bloom Mountains, a popular hiking and horseback riding area, just two hours' drive from Dublin. Another attraction found throughout Tipperary is traditional Irish music. The county has been an incubator for singers and musicians of "Trad," as traditional Irish music is called there, since the time of the Clancy Brothers, who gave voice to the genre in the U.S. through frequent appearances on "the Ed Sullivan Show" in the 1960s. The Clancy's emigrated to America from the Tipperary village of Carrick-on-Suir. Yes, Tipperary really isn't so far away, and taking the detour will give you a view of way of life in Ireland that's fast disappearing in the booming cities of Dublin, Cork and Galway. For further information on visiting Tipperary, contact Tourism Ireland at (800) 223-6470, or access their web site at www.discoverireland.com, or (800) 223-6470.

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