Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
the Irish West as the repository of the country's
soul (Nash, 1993; Cusack, 2002). It also became
subject to reconstruction and commodifi cation
as a touring-ground - and the focus of intensive
promotion as inviting tourist space (Kneafsey,
2002). This campaign was led by prominent fi g-
ures in the tourist sector, including unionists
who hoped to see Ireland's prosperity advance
within the framework of the Union. In promot-
ing its charms, they made frequent recourse to
comparison. Specifi c Irish sights were portrayed
as parallels of European destinations, to assert
that Ireland's beauty was at least on a par with
that of other countries, and also that her ameni-
ties could be developed along continental lines,
so that her landscapes would merit not only the
attention of the British tourist, but a place along-
side other centres of 'fashion'. In Ireland, there-
fore, tourists could not only admire comparatively
unspoilt scenery, but in beholding it, were pro-
mised glimpses of the majesty and amenities
found in Germany, Norway and Switzerland, too.
political fi gures (Furlong, 2003). Indeed, pro-
moters of Ireland expressed frustration that its
attractions were not as widely appreciated as
sites in other parts of the UK, and hoped that
this could be remedied. The suggestion that
Britain offered 'natural' comparators for Ireland
was implicit in many guidebook discussions,
too. Hardy's Guide assessed Connemara as at
least the peer of the other small countries in the
Connemara will appear black with mountains,
dotted with lakes, and studded with bogs; its
coast will be seen rugged, and indented with
fi ne harbours, while the inland country, though
wild, mountainous, and ill-cultivated, and so
little known and visited, that its name is a
proverb, is yet equal to the fi nest parts of Wales
or of Scotland . . .
(n.d., p. 318)
The triangulation of the Highlands, the English
Lake District and Killarney as the pre-eminent
domestic touring districts of the UK was a fre-
quent feature in tourist guidebooks, with famous
British sites providing an index against which
the beauty of the Irish district was assessed -
and claims to Ireland's parity, and often its
superior status as a touring district, formulated.
The Lakes of Killarney (Ballantyne, 1869,
p. 10), in the Nelson's Hand-Books series,
claimed that Ireland's comparatively 'neglected'
lakes were 'superior, in many points, to those of
England, and to the far-famed Trossachs of
Scotland'. The identifi cation of Ireland as a
'domestic' tourist site within the UK - and as a
prospective holiday ground for the British
tourist - was underpinned by an evaluation of
tourism as a performance of patriotism, linking
a tour of Britain's 'sister isle' with a broader
project of strengthening the commercial, politi-
cal and sentimental bonds of union across the
Irish Sea ( The Times , 23 August 1898). The
audience for such pleas was the British tourist.
The leading trade periodical the Irish Tourist
complained that English tourists ignored their
sister island, 'whose natural beauties and archi-
tectural features compare most favourably' with
European and British sites. 'Why study scenery
in Norway, Switzerland, or even in the Highlands
of Scotland, when they can fi nd as much beauty
in Wicklow, in Wexford, in Connemara or in
Down?' it asked (3 [1896], p. 1). Leading patrons
'Equal to the Finest Parts of Wales or of
Scotland': Ireland as UK Tourist Ground
Trans-national comparisons of the Irish tourist
sector did not always involve continental coun-
tries. Indeed, comparisons with other countries
within the UK lay at the heart of promoters'
efforts to claim resources for infrastructural
development and promote the country to the
'domestic' UK tourist market. Assessments
of the comparable visual qualities of holiday-
grounds in Ireland, Scotland, England and
Wales were often employed by tourism promot-
ers in the Emerald Isle to assert Ireland's rightful
place alongside more popular tourist destina-
tions in the UK - notably the Scottish Highlands,
Snowdonia and the English Lake District. The
images of the landscape presented in this frame-
work were thus both 'constructed and construct-
ing' (Morgan and Pritchard, 1998, p. 17). At a
deeper level of analysis, they were outgrowths of
political strategies in which comparisons of scen-
ery encoded an implicit congruency between
districts in 'sister countries' of the UK. This was
the premise underlying programmes of tourist
development spearheaded by groups such as
the ITA - a body comprising leading unionists,
including many prominent businessmen and
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