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The flourishing landscape of Ireland - Curt Yeomans

If you ever visit the Poulnabrone dolmen, in the Burren region of County Clare, in western Ireland, you will notice several cracks in the limestone on which you are walking.

Look inside these cracks and you will see -- what else -- green flora flourishing in the rock. While much of that greenery is in the form of ivy, or thistle plants, every once in awhile, you find that well-known Irish symbol -- the shamrock.

As I mentioned last week, it rains a lot in Ireland, and that's a good thing for plant life. It's enough rainfall to let the plant life grow and stay healthy, without getting flooded and messed up.

There is no arguing that the greenery dominates the landscape almost everywhere you go in the country.

You see, it's green in most of Ireland. That is why it is called the "Emerald Isle." That green landscape gives the island nation a sort of rural feel that those of us who grew up in the suburbs of Atlanta don't get to see that much.

While I was over there, there was green to be seen everywhere in all but the major cities, like Limerick and Dublin.

The country, by and large, is what nature looks like when mankind doesn't mess it all up. It's the kind of scenery you can't spend enough money to recreate. You can try, but I am inclined to believe you will fail, on account of the simple fact that you lack Mother Nature's touch.

In fact, I was so struck by Ireland's natural beauty, I had to pull off to the side of the road a few times going north through the southeastern tip of County Limerick, into County Tipperary, to take a picture. That is because, as I looked through the windshield of the rental car I was driving, I saw N8 (National Road 8) going straight in front of me, through sprawling green landscapes and toward the misty blue Galtee Mountains in the distance.

And, that was under a baby blue sky that was emerging above, as the gray rain clouds broke up. Honestly, it is, hands down, the prettiest landscape I have ever seen in my life. The best part was that there were hardly any man-made structures to be seen. In fact, I don't recall seeing any structures where I pulled off the road. I also saw only the occasional car pass by.

Looking at the lush landscape before me, it was as if the Earth was flaunting itself, throwing off its clothes and saying "Here I am, mankind. Get a load of what I can do without your help."

Climbing to the top of Bunratty and Blarney castles also gave me some incredible views of the landscape. As I stood on top of Bunratty Castle, after climbing some of the narrowest, spiral staircases I have ever seen, I was struck by the vastness of the landscape before me. It was enough to forget that below me was the nearly 400-year-old Durty Nelly's pub (great Irish Stew to be had there, by the way).

Another great place to get a great view of the landscape is from the Rock of Cashel, the ruins of an old church that sits on a hill overlooking the small village of Cashel. From the top of that hill, though, you can see the green fields, and misty blue mountains for as far as your eyes will allow.

With the exception of places like Dublin (which I will talk about next week), viewing the rural landscape of Ireland is like taking a step back in time, a few hundred years, to a time when urbanization had not yet choked the land.

I highly recommend that you get out that way -- if you ever get a chance.

Curt Yeomans covers education for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753, ext. 247, or via e-mail at cyeomans@news-daily.com.