Whatever about the movie’s drawn-out storyline, the cameras brilliantly showed up the rugged grandeur of the west coast. Tourism Ireland could do worse than to get permission to use some clips for advertising the Wild Atlantic Way.
Not only did Lean launch the Dingle Peninsula as a tourist destination, he also put a spotlight on the natural beauty of the west coast better than most and flagged the Wild Atlantic Way well ahead of his time. Scenery is still the number one reason that tourists come here.
A few weeks ago on a sunny, cloudless day, we again stood in awe viewing the Blaskets and Slea Head and, from a high vantage point at the delightfully-located Ceann Sibeal golf links, took in the Three Sisters, Mount Brandon and the Tearaght rock, which still has a lighthouse (now automated).
With similar spectacles to be seen along the coast from Cork to Donegal, the potential of the Wild Atlantic Way can only be imagined. It could help restore the tourist balance nationally and lure more visitors out of Dublin. But, it would be a mistake to divert frazzled tourists down every twisting boreen.
European and Asian visitors, especially, are drawn to our wild places. We had record numbers of German tourists last year and there’s an intense focus by Tourism Ireland on marketing the Wild Atlantic Way globally.
The legendary botanist Robert Lloyd Praeger was more than a century ahead of these visitors and he captured the scene in his book, The Way That I Went, which has been republished. He described West Cork as a ‘’little known and tourist-free region of much charm’’ — that was a long time ago, but it still has the charm.
He wrote: “You stay on Sherkin Island, or Cape Clear Island, at Schull or far out at Crookhaven: and you walk and boat and fish and lounge and bathe, and enjoy the glorious air and sea; towns and trams and telephones seem like bad dreams, or like fugitive glimpses of an earlier and inferior existence. A meandering railway penetrates to Schull, and the roads are as good as you could expect them to be in so lonely a country.
‘’All is furzy heath and rocky knolls, little fields and white cottages and illimitable sea, foam-rimmed where it meets the land, its horizon broken only by the fantastic fragments of rock crowned by a tall lighthouse which is the famous Fastnet.’’ Tourism Ireland could hardly script it better.