Fringed by the Shannon and the Irish Sea, by the borderlands and the Atlantic coast, Ireland’s Ancient East is all the things that the country of Ireland has ever been.
It is ancient – very ancient, and very civilised – and very modern. It is agricultural land in great richness, and slick metropolitan living. It is the Copper Coast and the Carlingford Peninsula, the sweetness of Wexford fruits and the succour of County Cavan country cooking. Several lifetimes would scarcely be enough to give you the time to explore the places, the people, the foods.
What astonishes visitors to Ireland is a simple truth: how can so much diversity exist on a tiny island, marooned out there in the North Atlantic ocean. But to understand the diversity, you have to understand that the history of the place reaches back into the richnesses of the past, and you need to know that everyone owns the present and, probably, the future as well.
Ireland’s Ancient East doesn’t make any sort of sense. It is too vivid to be sensible, too spiritual to be logical. Ancient and stubborn sensibilities haven’t vanished here: they still have a hold on the present, so give yourself up to them.