review) as to cost but up slightly from, say, Let's Go for the hostels. Maps are decent, inserts on food/drink and festivities appeal, and coverage gets the cities and small towns in, and the familiar attractions and scenic and/or fabled villages.
being said, I did a spot-check on a few places I know better, to see if
the depth was there, for places a bit off-beat. Drogheda has good maps
and historical data, and while certain eateries I'd frequent are absent,
it's sufficient information for a market town's advantages. For a
smaller town, Downpatrick, as a test case, had the basics, and a smaller
one still, Waterfoot in the Glens of Antrim, the bare bones for a
Further west, Oughterard and Galway city,
Roundstone and Spiddal as checked had the usual sights, pubs, craft
shops, bars, hotels and b+b's. No real surprises. Glencolmkille in
Donegal was missing some "practicalities" but still a note for detail
was welcome: in the rain or wet weather, an alternate if longer path to
the recommended hostel was suggested. But, a newer place I was wondering
about pro-con was not included from there, and this makes me wonder how
often the editor or his team visits the hinterlands to update the
Dublin, Derry, Belfast, Limerick, Cork, Waterford, the
Aran Islands, the Ring of Kerry, the Boyne Valley and the like gain the
expected prominence. Bigger charts as to historical districts are a
plus. Everyone needs up-to-date phones, locations, URLs, and hours, and
these seem present. But the nitty-gritty of the times buses (or more
rarely if ever trains depending on where you are) come and go is not
included within the facts for each place (unlike some other guides) for
smaller burgs. It's relegated to a summary list at the end of each
region, and how often a day a bus or train comes and goes. While this
saves the trouble of looking at each locale's entry, it may or may not
help the visitor as to a precise timing of when journeys can be
arranged. For a lower-budget visitor not having a car in the middle of
the country outside the large centers, this is a lack that is telling.
Not every visitor may have a smartphone to check web data, and the
arrival and departure can be key. Still, you can always wait it out in a
pub, more likely, or heritage center, perhaps, for the day, or find a
place to stay for the night!
I'd use this, however, to plan a
journey. The contact information can set you up via the phone or more
likely if abroad the web. Reservations and itineraries can be
coordinated with a judicious use of this guide, to see what's worth it
and when. It does not have the all-island or regional tour suggestions
of other guides, but it's good for accommodation details.
Irish language section is unlikely to be consulted by many readers, but I
found its lists not very useful for absolute beginners, with no
transliterations save elements common in some place names. Despite
dialectal differences by region, some raw equivalences beyond vowel
sounds and consonant charts might have encouraged the brave visitor to
try out the "cúpla focail" or couple words in Gaeilge, to break the ice.
Otherwise, the cultural material, enriched by fine if of course
idiosyncratic musical and literary recommendations, is fine as a
refresher, stimulant, or conversation starter. I'd argue half the night
in a pub over certain inclusions.
(Amazon US 8-17-12)