Unlike Cape Town, Ireland has a shortage of women. As a result, there are thousands of tall, charming and capable Irishmen (with gorgeous accents!) left wanting throughout the Emerald Isle. Matchmaking fairs are arranged annually in an attempt to help out the local lads and luckily for them, bonnie women from all over the world flock there in their droves. This I learnt from Michael Doughty, our tour director during an 8-day trip of Ireland with Insight Vacations, the global leader in luxury escorted touring. Michael assured us that women may return their chosen partners to the next years’ fair should they be dissatisfied with their picks. As an Irishman himself, Michael was not only a fount of insider knowledge, but something akin to a Swiss travelling knife offering solutions to almost any problem and answers to every question. He took care of all restaurant reservations, hotel check-inns, baggage transfers and excursions. All we had to do was sit back, take in the panoramic views from our spacious coach and enjoy Michael’s many tales.
Our journey started in Dublin, a city characterized by cozy pubs, Georgian architecture and youthful energy. We were guided through Trinity College’s 400-year-old library by a professor of philosophy and shown to the well-preserved Book of Kells, Ireland’s most visited attraction. From Dublin, we headed southwest to the town of Killarney. Known as a mecca for traditional Irish music, Killarney is a favourite destination for bachelor and bachelorette parties. “Now girls, be careful, these Irish men are out in force tonight,” warned Michael as we readied ourselves for a night on the town. In a whirl of Guinness, Irish dancing and folk music, we were swept through the lively streets of Killarney.
The rest of our journey saw us hiking to a waterfall in Killarney National Park, gazing over the exquisite Cliffs of Moher, dining at restaurants specializing in farm-to-fork food and staying in the lap of luxury at the 800-year-old Ashford Castle, rated the best hotel in the world! By the end of our trip we’d met our fair share of eligible Irishmen. There was the musician who played the flute on a lonely lookout point; the chef who showed us how to prepare the perfect salmon fillet; Tommy the falconer who taught us about the ancient art of falconry at the Ashford Castle and an 80-year-old man aboard the deck of a ship who played the concertina and brought us to tears with his rendition of Danny Boy. We’d fallen head over heels in love with the Irish and by the end of our journey we were planning our return to coincide with a matchmaking fair.