Ireland is indeed beautiful - but no more so than any other part of the world. The rugged coastline is matched by coastlines elsewhere, the emerald grass is equalled by English grass, and the historical sites are more in number (or, at least, more densely packed) but rather more battered than those elsewhere in the Celtic world.

The independent traveller finds himself constantly frustrated and enraged by the thick-headed stupidity of the Irish Tourist Board and its minions. In civilised countries brown signposts direct the tourist to sights of major interest. In Ireland, a profusion of brown signs with tiny writing point to everything except tourist sights. The best signed facility we encountered was the East Kerry Waste and Recycling Centre, which was brown-signposted from every possible direction (bring the family, four euros admission, extra if you want to put the kids through the shredder, no doubt). More typically, you could enter Cashel from any direction without a single sign to its one great attraction - the Rock of Cashel. Then, when you reach the bottom of the Rock, there are three brown signs, one above the other. I suppose, however, that we must be grateful that all three point in the same direction!

Everywhere is expensive, visitors are made unwelcome by extortionate parking charges in every tin-pot village, and self-conscious Irishness is everywhere, all geared towards persuading as many Americans as possible to spend as many dollars as possible in as short a time as possible.