Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

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Shannon Airport on Ireland's west coast (photo © ShutterUpIreland / dreamstime.com).
Magazine article

End of Shannon stopover

It was never really efficient that wide-bodied jets would take to the sky in Dublin, and then make a brief stop at Shannon Airport near Ireland’s west coast, where Aer Lingus aircraft would share space on the tarmac with planes in Aeroflot or ...
River Slaney upstream from Bunclody at Altamont (photo © Colin Park licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)
Letter from Europe

The Slaney Valley

  • 12 May 2021
There can be few finer spots to be, on these bright spring days, than exploring the land around the River Slaney in south-east Ireland. The lower reaches of the Slaney, from Enniscorthy down to Wexford, is a gorgeous sweep of river. But we reserve ...
Sagliains station in Switzerland (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

Changing trains

  • 18 Sep 2020
Railway stations where passengers were able to change trains, but which could not be used to start or end a journey, were common in the past. They were often called exchange platforms or exchange stations. Few exist today, but we track down working ...
Remains of a former monastic church on Inishmurray, Ireland (photo © Andreas F Borchert licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 DE).
Letter from Europe


  • 2 Aug 2020
Inishmurray lies squat and low half a dozen kilometers off Streedagh Point in County Sligo. No one sleeps on Inishmurray these days. The island’s entire population, then numbering just a few dozen, left in 1948. Since then the buildings have ...
The railway station in Portbou, Spain (photo © Marcopachiega / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

A Four-Hour Train Journey for one Euro

  • 23 Jun 2020
Over the years we’ve tracked down many great-value international rail fares. We once wrote about the City Star tariff which offered extraordinarily cheap fares from Slovakia to Russia. But there is one cross-border fare in western Europe that even ...
Connemara landscape (photo © Nofarrell / dreamstime.com).
hidden europe note

A Tribute to Tim Robinson

  • 5 Apr 2020
A tribute to writer and cartographer Tim Robinson who passed away on 3 April. Amongst his best known publications is his Connemara Trilogy - a profoundly ambitious, yet touchingly intimate, study of a region that stands as a place apart in Ireland. ...
The ceremonial banners of Galway’s leading mercantile families (the ‘tribes’) are displayed in Eyre Square (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

The Tribes of Galway

We take the pulse of early evening ceol and craic on the streets of the Irish city of Galway - where a dozen families dominated the mercantile and social life of the city for centuries. These families are often known as the tribes of ...
A fine black-and-white shot of the town of Clifden with the Twelve Bens in the background. Few writers capture the spirit of these Connemara landscapes as well as Tim Robinson (photo © Michael Walsh / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

Unfolding Connemara

  • 16 May 2019
Clifden is an interesting example of a purposefully planned community in the outback. The town was founded just over 200 years ago in what was then one of the remotest corners of Ireland. Recently, we travelled to Clifden by ...
The lock at Kurzyniec marks the border between Belarus (left) and Poland (right). Only waterborne traffic may cross the border here (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article


Canals which breach great drainage divides are always interesting. There's one, opened in 1992, which links the River Danube with the River Main, the latter a tributary of the Rhine. So today it's possible to travel on a ship through the very heart ...
A Boeing 787 Dreamliner operated by Chilean carrier LATAM (photo © Andrew Periam / dreamstime.com).
Magazine article

Fifth-freedom Flights

You could opt for Ryanair when flying from Edinburgh to Dublin, but - if you must fly for such a short hop - why not choose a more interesting option and book with the Chinese carrier Hainan Airlines? We explore the range of fifth-freedom flights ...
Magazine article

Plain Sailing

With new routes from Toulon to Menorca and Sicily, there's much ado in the Mediterranean ferry scene this summer. Further north, there are new year-round services between Germany and a Danish island in the Baltic and good news for foot passengers ...
The rain goose or red-throated diver is often spotted in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland (photo © Mikelane45 / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

A time for birds

  • 26 Dec 2017
We have had still days over Christmas - even halcyon days for those who know their Greek mythology. It suited the rain geese. The birds are more commonly known as the red-throated diver. Elegant in water, but ungainly on land, the rain goose is ...
Explore the Scottish islands and the Clyde coast with Caledonian MacBrayne. A CalMac ferry at Largs in the Firth of Clyde (photo © Robert Flynn / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

Ferry links: Britain and Ireland

  • 19 Feb 2016
There is much ado in British and Irish waters these days, with so many very appealing ferry routes, but also a few services slipping from the schedules. In this Letter from Europe, we give an overview of some interesting new ...
Letter from Europe

Romantic Ireland is not dead and gone

  • 28 Sep 2013
It was one hundred years ago this month that WB Yeats' poem September 1913 was published in a Dublin newspaper. The poem is more than merely a lament for Irish separatist and bold Fenian John O'Leary. It is a sharp critique of the trend in Ireland ...
Letter from Europe

Noli timere

  • 20 Sep 2013
It is again that time of year when I find my hands peppered by thorn pricks. Blackberries mark the month. Wondrous little taste bombs protected by thorns, treasure for scavengers. There's nothing common about the common blackberry: rubus ...
Letter from Europe

The North begins inside

  • 17 Jun 2013
"There is not much to be said for Reykjavik." That, at least, was the opinion of WH Auden when he arrived in Iceland in June 1936. A few weeks later, Irish poet Louis MacNeice joined Auden and the two men took to the hills of Iceland's wild ...
Letter from Europe

A season of grace

  • 29 Mar 2013
It is Good Friday again, a day that jolts much of Europe out of its regular routine. It is a day for pilgrimages - some avowedly secular, others more religious in character. Large crowds from the Saarland region of Germany will flock over the ...
Letter from Europe

A time for blessings

  • 1 Feb 2013
Today is Candlemas Eve, definitively marking the end of the Christmas season in western Europe. Modern custom in secular Europe is often to dismantle Christmas decorations well before the Epiphany, but in many churches across the continent cribs ...
Letter from Europe

Look west

  • 31 Oct 2012
The West is inscribed on our imagination. It is where we watch the sunset, and thus the cardinal point that ushers in the evening, bringing promise of rest and sleep. And yet the West means other things too. For generations of Americans, the West ...
Letter from Europe

Flying can still be fun

  • 11 May 2012
Flying has generally ceased to be fun. The only certainty about much modern air travel is that it will be boring. Gone are the days when Dakotas battled against headwinds and made unscheduled landings at rough airstrips in offbeat parts of Europe. ...
Letter from Europe

A tale of two Eltons

  • 29 May 2011
You could easily miss Elton. The train from Dublin to Cork speeds past Elton. You hardly catch a glimpse of the cluster of houses that make up this little Irish village. When the grandly titled Great Southern and Western Railway built a line ...
The fortress at Medzhybizh in Ukraine was a classic bordermarker, presiding over the river that delimited the boundary between Polish and Turkish spheres of influence in central Europe (photo © Alexander Solentsov / dreamstime.com).
Magazine article

Border assets: travels on the frontier

Borders have become something of a rarity in modern Europe. We can now travel by car from northern Norway to the Mediterranean without ever once having to show a passport. Political frontiers have faded, yet cultural frontiers remain. We reflect on ...
Magazine article

Scotland: fast ferries

Kintyre Express, the shipping offshoot of Scottish bus company West Coast Motors, has an ambitious plan to create a new fast ferry link between the Mull of Kintyre and the Antrim coast of Northern Ireland. We take a closer ...
Letter from Europe

Just a state of mind (Ireland)

  • 21 Nov 2010
The Giant's Causeway is squeezed in between Gay Byrne and God. The latter are of course by far the two most important men in Ireland - at least that's the view of literary critic Terry Eagleton who is one of the more thoughtful commentators on all ...
Magazine article

Shipping news

Ferries in European waters are usually ultra-reliable, but from time to time there is the odd mishap. Cruise ships and cargo ships are more prone to misadventure than regular ferries but no ship is immune. We take a look at a few journeys by ship ...
hidden europe note

False starts and flying starts

  • 1 Mar 2010
Today's the day. 1st March. St David's Day. And the day on which three start-up companies were due to launch new transport links in or around the British ...
hidden europe note

Cheap fares with twitter

  • 17 Feb 2010
The Irish long distance bus company Bus Eireann is offering special fares to users of Twitter. But we are happy to reveal the details here so that readers of the hidden europe notes can benefit from this splendid ...
Letter from Europe

Ferry updates

  • 27 Sep 2009
September will not be remembered as an easy month for ferry operators in the waters around the British Isles. With the end of the peak summer season, many ferry operators look to their books and ponder how (or even whether) they can survive the ...
Magazine article

That half a rood of sand

The delineation of international borders within shared waters is never easy. In Lough Foyle, where Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland both have territorial interests, the two parties have left the border undefined. hidden europe reader ...
Magazine article

Public alley 438

Fergal is of Europe yet not in Europe. He cannot recall with any certainty exactly why he spends each winter in Public Alley 438. But he does! hidden europe encounters a hint of Donegal in Boston's Back Bay ...
Magazine article

An icon of identity: the Faroese flag

Fámjin is all the better for being difficult to reach. It is a tiny place, a mere pinprick on the map of the Faroes. But Fámjin has something of the Faroese soul about it, for it here that the national flag was first flown. We look at some places ...
Magazine article

Leitrim landscapes

In County Leitrim, Ireland's blind bard found inspiration. Turlough O'Carolan was a composer, poet and harpist. And O'Carolan's work and life fired Paul Hadfield to weave some words about Lough Scur in ...
Magazine article

Focus on fish

Many a coastal community, and even one or two inland spots, have realised that there's no better way to promote trade and tourism than through a colourful display of freshly landed fish and other ...
Letter from Europe

The edge of Europe

  • 1 Dec 2008
To drive out to Malin Head in Donegal on a wild December day is real travel. Or, in Ireland's southwest corner, to be alone at the ancient fort at Dún Beag, feel the fierce wind sweep in over Slea Head and then dive for cover in one of Dingle's ...
Letter from Europe

Immrama festival of travel writing

  • 12 Jun 2008
Lismore is not much changed - a township that nestles gently at the foot of the Knockmealdown Mountains. Lismore carries the imprint of Ireland's ecclesiastical history. The church upon which Thackeray remarked is dedicated to St Cartagh. It is set ...
Letter from Europe

The Iza valley (Romania)

  • 23 Sep 2007
This is a stunning time of year to be in the Maramures area of Romania. And especially in the Iza valley, where russet-gold apples hang heavy in the orchards that cluster round every village, and the fields are full of distinctive haystacks - ...
Letter from Europe


  • 24 Jun 2007
Europe is full of fine estuaries, oftentimes ethereal spots where the waters of silty rivers mingle with the sea. Estuaries are liminal zones, places that do not quite belong to the ocean. Some of our favourite European estuaries are those ...
Letter from Europe

Heritage centres in Ireland - the Danube delta in Romania

  • 23 Apr 2006
The capacity of Ireland to create 'heritage centres' is unbounded. In a month that marks the ninetieth anniversary of the Easter Rising in Dublin, it seemed good to check out the memorial to Eamon de Valera in the village of Brú Rí (Bruree in ...