Ireland has a great many antiquities and splendid sights, many of which require very much walking. It is not their way to build large interpretive centers. However, Ireland’s economy depends heavily on the fundamental prostitution that is tourism (something we in Oregon understand well), and this means the Causewaying of the major attractions.
“To Causeway” a place is Deb’s and my term for doing to said place what has been done to the famous Giant’s Causeway in Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland. It means the building of a large parking lot, convenient to the Visitors’ Centre/souvenir shops/pissers, with lots of reserved room for gaudy emerald green tour buses labeled “PADDYWAGON” depicting a stereotypical laughing ginger leprechaun (I am not making this up). The tour buses’ peristaltic process delivers large numbers of tourists to pay admission at the site, and to tack on a shuttle bus fee if they prefer not to take a little walk to the attraction itself. For those not riding the tour bus, never fear; one can pay for parking at the time of paying admission. I did a little mental math based on rough estimates, and the short version is that any area that had an attraction as well publicized as the Causeway would make a great deal of money, but at the price of ruining the site. Make it that easy for that many people to overrun the place, and they will; they will of course leave with much lighter wallets. If they’ve come this far, are they going to refuse to pay to finish? No; thus one may charge them just about whatever one wishes. And the Irish (in this case, the UK Irish) do just that.
And it does ruin it, because the main attraction in any Visitors’ Centre is not the interpretive part, nor even the attraction, but the gift shop. All the touristic garbage one could want can there be had. There the fundamentally prostitutive impact payload arrives: you’ve had your fun, now a tip would be nice. Don’t you need a supposedly hand-knit sweater or a stuffed leprechaun, maybe a coffee cup with a shamrock?
I think the Irish mostly hate this at heart, even those who make their livings from it. I can’t judge them harshly for the practice. I can only hate it along with them, and for my part, I’m not going to any more Causewayed destinations. If it’s famous, I will check to see if it has tour bus parking and a Visitors’ Centre. If it does, I will assume it has been destroyed for the sake of maximum revenue, and will go somewhere else.
If the Irish liked this, they would have built Visitors’ Centres for many more places. They did not. Left to themselves, our experience suggests that the Irish will create a small parking lot rather a good walk away from the attraction, post an interpretive placard (if they feel they must), post a Fógra (“warning”) advising visitors to respect antiquities and do nothing to harm their preservation, and leave it at that.
The good news about traveling around Ireland on your own is that there are a great many spaces of scenic beauty where one can’t park a tour bus, a great many antiquities on roads a tour bus cannot navigate—but your compact rental car surely can. The Cliffs of Moher are fully Causewayed, but the coastal drive north and east from them is breathtaking. The Burren region is full of un-Causewayed megalithic tombs, dolmens, ancient forts, castles, and what have you. While the cattle of tourism accept their herding from bus to attraction to bus to next stop, you can go see anything you want.
Another Causewayed place, perhaps the first place to be so handled, is Bru na Bóinne. Known in English as Newgrange, this is the home of famous megalithic tombs. It has an interpretive center, plenty of tour bus parking, all that. When the Irish speak of it, I see a bleakness in their eyes, a sense that all its charm and character has been sucked out of it along with the commercial wind that gathers up Euro, pound, and dollar notes and slurps them into the state’s coffers. Thus, I am told, with the whole town of Killarney, and certainly with Blarney Castle. There may be more.
We will strive our best to evade them. There’s too much real Ireland out there to find.