When I quote from a reference book or website, I'll always try to reference the source. Below is the list of books that I turn to myself when trying to learn a bit more about the west. The only endorsement I can give is that I use them all, and have found them useful. I don't claim that these are the best books on a particular subject - just the ones I use. In fact, if you know of a good reference book, particularly on the west of Ireland, I'd be delighted to hear about it. Most of the books can be bought online. You should bear in mind that since some of the books would be considered a minority interest, so you might find that it is easier to find them in an Irish bookshop (such as Kenny's or Charlie Byrne's in Galway) rather than from the more well known online bookstores. Books are listed in no particular order.
This introduction was originally written in 2004 and has been updated in 2013 (I've added a few extra books, too)
I never set off anywhere without this guide. Written by Dr. Peter Harbison, it provides a brief guide, on a county by county basis, to every national monument in the country, and includes a series of guide maps at the back. Published by Gill and Macmillan, ISBN number is 0-7171-3239-0.
Another indispensable guide - it is more broad in scope than Dr. Harbison's book, and the author, Cary Meehan, has included plenty of folklore and more importantly, directions on how to reach the more inaccessible sites. It is also organised on a per-county basis, and includes a number of maps and photographs. It's a compact book, meaning it fits easily into a rucksack pocket.Published by Gothic Image, ISBN number is 0-906362-43-1.
There are a lot of books on Irish walks - this one has a section on West of Ireland walks. If I have one complaint, it is that the book's definition of 'easy' does not tally with my own. The author, Josh Lynam, is the grand old man of Irish walking and climbing. Published by Gill and Macmillan, ISBN number is 0-7171-3065-7.
Given that it is aimed squarely at visitors who will probably only have a few days to visit any particular area, The Rough Guide is a surprisingly useful guide. It's not detailed by any means, but useful nevertheless. Published by Rough Guides, ISBN number is 1-85828-400-7.
Written by Ruth Isabel Ross, this slim volume contains, as the title suggests, a list of Irish wild flowers. Each entry contains a watercolour sketch of the flower, along with it's English, Irish and Latin name. Published by AppleTree, ISBN number is 0-86281-192-9.
A bit more detailed than the previous book, it has the advantage of providing photographs of each plant.Written by W. Lippert & D. Podlech, published by HarperCollins, ISBN number is 0-00-219996-3.
Sean Spellissy was destined to write this book - his mother, living in Ennis, made a point of travelling up to Galway to give birth to him, so that he could be born a Galwayman. This book covers every parish in Galway, and is chock full of yarns, and stories, and not a few photographs. He has also published similar histories of Limerick City and Co. Clare, but I haven't come across them yet [Update:See reference 12]. If only we can get him to tackle Mayo next. Published by The Celtic Bookshop (Limerick City), ISBN number is 0-9534683-4-8.
Mike Brown is a Yorkshireman living in West Cork. He is a professional photographer and his collection of photographs of Irish flora or fauna is absolutely superb. Self-published , ISBN number is 0-9542863-0-8.
Edited by Brian Lalor, but compiled by a cast of thousands, this newly-published reference book is bound to become the first point of reference for all things Irish. I haven't read enough of it to judge on it's completeness. Yet. Published by Gill and Macmillan,ISBN number is 0-7171-3000-2.
Compiled by Mary Mulvihill, this is a potpourri of fascinating facts and figures about Ireland, organised on a county-by-county basis. Published by Town House and Country House,ISBN number is 0-7171-3000-2.
Dr. Carleton Jones lectures in archaeology in National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG) and on the basis of this book, I envy
his students. As the title suggests, this book is as good a guide as one could hope to find on the various ancient sites of the Burren and the islands. It
is also rather beautifully produced, with numerous sketches and colour photographs of the sites described.
Published by The Collins Press,ISBN number is 1-903464-49-8.
Written by Sean Spellissy (who also wrote the excellent History Of Co. Galway - see reference 7), it is not as exhaustive as the Galway
volume, and focuses on the overall history of the county, with a small history of each area.
Published by Gill and Macmillan,ISBN number is 0-7171-3460-1.
Robert Kee wrote a a history of Ireland called The Green Flag, which is also available in three volumes, of which this is the first.
It covers the years from the Norman invasion of Ireland up until the Famine, so there's not too many laughs. As comprehensive and objective as one
could hope to find.
Mine's an old copy, published by Quarter Books,ISBN number is 0-7043-3089-X.
This book was published one hundred years before I was born and is a colourful and affectionate history of the places and stories of the towns and countryside along the shores of Lough Corrib, that expanse of water
that dominates the county of Galway. The author was Sir William Wilde, , described [in a plaque outside his former home in Dublin] as "Aural and opthalmic,
surgeon, archaeologist, ethnologist, antiquarian, biographer, statistician, naturalist, topographer, historian and folklorist".
And his son Oscar made something of a name for himself too. Mayo man Kevin Duffy has done a great service by having it republished.
Published by Betaprint,ISBN number is 0-9540034-1-1.
This book was the original history of Galway (and one of the first historical accounts of any county), written by James Hardiman
and published in 1820. The Connacht Tribune reprinted the book in 1985 to commemorate 500 years of the first appointment of a mayor to the city of Galway.
All subsequent histories of the county rely, to some extent on Hardiman's work, not least because some of his sources have since been lost. If I have
any quibble about the reprint, it is that I wish that a more detailed index had been produced.
Reprint published by The Connacht Tribune, no ISBN number given.
A history of De Valera is a history of Ireland in the twentieth century, and Tim Pat Coogan's meticulously researched biography is
an objective and detailed account of Dev's life, from his part in the 1916 Rising, the War of Independence and the Civil War, his subsequent
time as Taoiseach as well as his involvement with the Irish Press (Coogan was the editor of the Irish Press for a while).
The version I have was published by Arrow Books,ISBN number is 0-09-995860-0.
There are lots of wildlife guides but I have a real affection for this one (I have my copy about ten years).
It's small enough to carry in a large jacket pocket or rucksack, the hardback cover has prevented it from many a battering and the
drawings throughout are both accurate and useful. Compiled by James Ferguson-Lees, Ian Willis and J. T. R. Sharrock.
The version I have was published by Michael Joseph,ISBN number is 0-7181-2220-8.
I doubt if there is anyone in Ireland that has no opinion at all about the Orange Order, and there are probably
as many misconceptions as there are opinions. Kevin Haddick-Flynn's account of the Order is a great read - objective, detailed but coloured with
loads of yarns and asides. The book sets the history of the Order in context, and is as much a history of the last three three hundred and fifty years in
Ireland as it is of the Order and it's offshoots.
Published by Wolfhound Press, ISBN number is 0-86327-659-8.
I wish this book was required reading in every national school in Ireland. Michael Viney writes a weekly column on the
environment every Saturday in the Irish Times and his love and knowledge of the Irish countryside is apparent
in every paragraph. This book traces the natural forces that shaped the Irish countryside, such as the Ice Ages,and devotes separate chapter
to various elements of the Irish countryside, such as the bogs, coastal regions and the Burren. At the end of each chapter is a detailed reference
list of further reading. Highly recommended.
Published by The Blackstaff Press, ISBN number is 0-85640-744-5.
Another old favourite that I have for nearly a decade."Trees of Ireland - Native and Naturalized", as the name suggests, contains a
list of all the trees that can be found in the wild in Ireland. This large format book, by E. Charles Nelson and Wendy F. Walsh, contains, for each tree,
the history, ecology and folklore of each tree and is accompanied by splendidly reproduced colour watercolours of each tree.
Published by The Lilliput Press, ISBN number is 1-874675-25-2.
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