Lonely Planet: Ireland a 'global trailblazer' says new edition of travel guide
LP's looking glass
The times, they are a-changing, according to the 12th edition of Lonely Planet's Ireland guide - published this week.
Cork is the "foodie capital of Ireland", Dublin is "sultry rather than sexy", Leitrim is a "well-kept secret" and Donegal is Ireland's "wild child", according to the latest reboot of the influential publisher's Ireland guide, due in shops Friday.
Of course, this being the title that introduced us to 'Temple Barf' and dubbed Dundalk a "charmless place", not everywhere is showered with superlatives.
Bundoran "has the feel of a tacky beach town", Lonely Planet says, while no attempt is made to gloss over Killarney's "manufactured tweeness".
Kenmare, by contrast, is hailed the "thinking man's Killarney... lacking the coach-tour crowds and "calculated Oirishness" of its neighbour.
Overall, however, the latest Lonely Planet guide to Ireland is notable for its positivity, depth of coverage (702 pages) and spot-on recognition of how far the country has come since the beginning of this eventful new millennium.
"As the nation continues to shed its conservative skin, it is growing increasingly comfortable with its multicultural, more socially liberated identity and its progressive presence on the global stage,” its writers state.
The guide has long recognised Ireland's stunning scenery and warm welcome, with the Wild Atlantic Way and Cavan Burren (along with Tayto Park, Teeling Distillery and Ireland's craft beer scene) among the new entries for 2016.
But it also highlights the "watershed" same-sex marriage referendum last May as the moment Ireland positioned itself as "a global trailblazer".
Lonely Planet has always been something of a looking glass, in which we have viewed ourselves with pride, amusement and, in some cases, downright anger.
In recent years, however, the publisher has skewed less controversial - naming Dublin among its Top 10 cities for 2016, ranking Hook Lighthouse among the world's 'flashiest' and announcing Bray's Harbour Bar as the best on the planet.
“Our new Ireland guide shows just how much the nation has going for it," says Lonely Planet's destination editor, James Smart.
"Ireland is a major player on the global scene and a must-see destination".
What Lonely Planet thinks:
Dublin: "Sultry rather than sexy, Dublin exudes personality as only those who've managed to turn careworn into carefree can..."
Cork: “The foodie capital of Ireland,” where it seems you can’t move “without bumping into a traditional cheese maker, artisan baker or boutique coffee roaster.”
Belfast: Northern Ireland's capital has pulled off "a remarkable transformation from bombs-and-bullets pariah to hip-hotels-and-hedonism party town".
Dundalk: "A surprisingly pleasant town..."
Donegal: "'Up here, it's different', the saying goes, and it's true. County Donegal is the wild child of Ireland."
Bundoran: Has "the feel of a tacky beach town", with a "bleak" off-season, but the guide does note its reliable surf and summertime atmosphere.
Brú na Bóinne: "The vast neolithic necropolis known as Brú na Bóinne (the Boyne Palace) is one of the most extraordinary sites in Europe".
Limerick: "Its medieval and Georgian architecture received a glitzy, glossy makeover during the Celtic tiger era, but the economic downturn hit the city hard. The city is rejuvenating again, however..."
Killarney: "Modern-day killarney is a well-oiled tourism machine set in the middle of sublime scenery. Its manufactured tweeness is renowned... but competition keeps standards high."
Waterford: "Three excellent museums tell the story of Ireland's Middle Ages better than any other city in the country."
Lonely Planet: Ireland is published at £16.99/€22 (approx.).