Music fans should time their visit to coincide with the park’s annual Appalachian and Bluegrass Festival (September), which has become one of the largest bluegrass events outside of North America.
Many Americans choose to take grand overnights in the presidential suites of Irish castles and top hotels while tracing the Irish influence on their commanders-in chief and lapping up the top sights and experiences of the Emerald Isle. The presidential suite at the Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt, County Wicklow, near to Dublin, for instance, is one of the most prestigious in the country, while close to Shannon Airport, Dromoland Castle in County Clare is one of the finest castle accommodations anywhere. Period. Ask Richard Harris, Robin Williams, Angelica Huston, John Travolta and one President George W Bush, just a few of the recent visitor book signatories at this castle.
Away from the lavish golf facilities, or the world-class dining, equestrian pursuits, fishing, shopping and Irish heritage sightseeing, from either luxurious destination in no time you can be at Obama’s patch in County Offaly; in Reagan’s town, Ballyporeen, County Tipperary; or treading Kennedy’s hallowed ground in County Wexford.
You’d also be close to the medieval city of Kilkenny, which like Moneygall is claiming Obama. Magical Kilkenny, the centre of craft in Ireland, is a treasure trove of historical buildings and landmarks, exemplified by the magnificent Kilkenny Castle. A tomb recently discovered at the city’s thirteenth-century St Canice's Cathedral is now the only burial place in Ireland of one of the president’s direct relatives.
Kilkenny is also the birthplace of James Hoban and well worth a visit is an impressive memorial arbour to him, naturally in white, erected by architecture students from the Catholic University of Washington DC and local craftsmen.
Others combine finding out about Irish-American presidents with their own root-searching family history or genealogy trips. Complementing the growing online resources, there are ever-increasing numbers of services in Ireland assisting visitors with their genealogical research. Dublin's Shelbourne Hotel even provides a genealogy butler for guests.
There is also a genealogy centre for those wishing to trace their ancestry at the Queenstown Story Heritage Centre in Cobh (pronounced ‘cove’) in County Cork. Over 2.5 million people departed from Cobh as a result of the Great Famine, making it the single most important place to understand the Irish emigration to America.
Many check out the US presidential history on scenic driving tours, staying in the famous Irish guest houses and B&Bs where they are welcomed like the president and first lady anyway. A really unique trip would be to follow Ulysses S Grant’s five-day tour through Ireland in 1879. It led him from Dublin northwards to Drogheda and Dundalk, and then to a circuit of what is now Northern Ireland, with overnights in both Londonderry and Belfast.
Grant visited the historic Walls of Derry and in Belfast he went to the famous Harland & Wolff Shipyard, which within 20-odd years would build and launch the RMS Titanic. Belfast is organising massive celebrations for the centenary of the most iconic ship in the world for 2012. No US president is at this stage is linked to the great liner. But this is Ireland, give it while.
****Courtesy of Discover Ireland