Travel Reference
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clear expression: to what extent did efforts to
construct Irish destination images on the
back of 'foreign' places deny the singularity
of the Emerald Isle's landscapes and, by
extension, her distinctive history and culture?
This viewpoint was periodically expressed
in travelogues and other sources, although
the 'Irish Rhine' remained central to tourist
Even if the appropriateness of the label
was disputed, the use of the Rhine as a com-
parator was part of a strategy by Irish tourism
promoters to produce images that tapped its
status as a familiar place in the tourist imagina-
tion. The tourist-development advocate, pub-
lisher and editor of the Irish Tourist , F.W.
Crossley, contrasted Ireland's hidden splen-
dours with attractions of more established con-
tinental destinations: 'we have everything to
tempt the tired who love the beautiful, and who
long to get away from the conventional run up
the Rhine, or the week in Paris, when Paris has
gone to the seaside' ( To-day , in Irish Tourist 2
['New Series', 1895], p. 7). Here, the compari-
son with the famous German river was part of
a wider comparative evaluation of tourist traf-
fi c, in which Ireland was promoted as an under-
visited, yet scenic peer of Germany. Writers
argued that British tourists who declined to
venture abroad, and instead savoured the hid-
den delights of Ireland, would enjoy:
sector's improvement, which also drew heavily
on trans-national comparisons.
'Norway in Ireland': Trans-national
Imagery and the Tourist Imagination
Like discussions of the 'Irish Rhine', compari-
sons of Irish and Norwegian landscapes pointed
to scenery - the mountainous coasts and wild
fjords on Ireland's West coast - but also encoded
broader appraisals of the tourist sector in both
countries. The Great Southern and Western
Railway promoted tours to the 'Lakes and
Fjords of Kerry', promising that 'Except in the
Swiss valleys and parts of Norway, there is no
scenery in Europe to compare with the inland
route from Caragh to Parknasilla' (O'Mahony c.
1902, pp. 180-182). Tourists' attention was
directed to the Killaries in Connemara, which
were said to resemble the fjords of Norway.
Cook's Traveller's Gazette , for instance, asserted
that the district recalled 'the beauty of the fjords
of Sogne and Hardanger' (22 April 1911,
pp. 15-16). This comparison was endorsed by
the travel writer J. Harris Stone (1906, pp. 8-9),
who also wrote that the 'longest and most
characteristically Norwegian fjord is the Great
Killary' - a sea and landscape that 'irresistibly
recalls the Sogne and Hardanger Fjords'.
Such descriptions claimed a degree of
visual symmetry between Irish and continental
sights, but this comparison was embedded
within a wider evaluation of the Irish and Nor-
wegian tourist sectors in which the Nordic coun-
try's more modern amenities were highlighted
and identifi ed as worthy of emulation. In 1893,
the Leitrim estate opened a hotel at Rosapenna,
Co. Donegal that had been designed in Stock-
holm and constructed of Norwegian timber. It
was to serve as the key marker of a new touring
district - 'Norway in Ireland' - in which the Nor-
way label qualifi ed not only the landscape, but
the physical amenities on offer to the tourist.
This was allied to intensive efforts by the Leitrim
estate and Irish railway companies to promote
the 'opening up' of the county by constructing a
narrative of Donegal's development from wild
and inhospitable terrain to inviting sporting-
ground. The construction of the 'Norwegian'
inn conferred the mark of 'improvement' on the
new scenes and new experiences, unalloyed by
désagréments , which too frequently occur in
continental show-place districts. Why not see
our own country fi rst and other lands after-
wards? The 'wide and winding' Rhine, through-
out its course, is but a sodden pool compared
with the noble Atlantic loughs and fjords
sentinelled by the cliffs of Achill, or the cloud-
piercing headlands of Donegal or Antrim, to say
nothing of the panorama presented by the
western and southern coasts of Munster.
(Wakeman, 1884, p. 21)
If the appropriateness of labelling the Black-
water as the 'Irish Rhine' was disputed, it illus-
trates the strategies that aimed to transpose
positive associations with European landscapes
to comparatively unknown Ireland. Irish tour-
ism promoters argued that Ireland was at least
as worthy a vacation-ground to the British
tourist - and an alternative to going 'abroad'.
Allied to these claims was a clarion call for the
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