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Book Review: Crossbill Guides, Ireland

Book Review: Crossbill Guides Ireland nature and wildlife focussed travel guide

For a small island perched on the edge of the north Atlantic, right on the periphery of Europe, Ireland is home to a wonderful array of flora and fauna, and the diverse mosaic of habitats that they call home. As a wildlife and nature enthusiast visiting Ireland, it can all be a bit bewildering. Choosing where to go, what to look for, and when presents visitors with a mind-boggling conundrum.

Of course, one of the best ways to find and see some of Ireland’s most iconic wildlife when you travel is to spend time with a local wildlife specialist, but that’s not always practical, or logistically possible. And besides, there’s a lot to be said for exploring at your own pace, and discovering places to visit for yourself.

Enter the new Crossbill Guide to Ireland, by author Carsten Krieger.

Published by the non-profit Crossbill Guides Foundation, this volume is part of a series of Crossbill Guides to various regions in Europe. It covers the entire island of Ireland (Northern Ireland and The Republic of Ireland) and is packed full of useful advice and tips.

It sets the tone with some key natural highlights you can find in Ireland, and the usual preamble about the guide and how to use it, before getting into the meat of the content. That starts by looking at Ireland’s landscape, its geography, geology, climate and the various habitats you can explore on this island.

Then comes a section on flora and fauna. It outlines some of the key species you can find here across different habitats, but gives them just a cursory mention. That’s fine, as far as it goes: this isn’t meant to be a field guide after all, and there are plenty of excellent identification guides available covering Ireland’s flora and fauna. I did find it a little odd, however, that this is the shortest section of the book and would have liked to see a bit more detail here.

The largest chunk of the book comes next — what the author calls the “Practical Part”. This is essentially a series of curated touring routes, beginning in the midlands, south and south-east, moving on to the south-west, up to the west, and finishing up in Northern Ireland. Looking at the area I know best — the south-west — the author does an admirable job of presenting his selected routes. However, the selection is pretty limited, and sticks to the better-known tourist hotspots.

Curated Touring Routes for Wildlife and Nature enthusiasts in the Crossbill Guide to Ireland.
The largest section of the book presents curated touring routes with step-by-step guidance

In one way, that’s understandable. There are space constraints inherent to any guide book, and readers would perhaps expect to have the main tourist areas covered. However, in a guide specifically for wildife and nature, I can’t help feeling there’s a missed opportunity here to help visitors discover lesser-known hotspots. Leaving out the stretch of the West Cork coast from Kinsale to Mizen Head entirely (with no mention of Galley Head, Toe Head, Sheeps Head or Mizen head), for example, strikes me as a curious decision.

The curated touring routed for the south-west skip most of West Cork, starting at the Beara Peninsula, moving into Kerry via Killarney National Park, Muckross and The Skelligs, then on to the Dingle Peninsula. I can only assume the coverage of other regions is similarly patchy.

The book concludes with Tourist Information and Observation Tips, with advice on travelling to Ireland, travelling in Ireland, when to travel, accommodation and alternative tour suggestions based on specific interests.

Overall this is a well written, well researched and well presented guide, illustrated throughout with some beautiful photographs. It is packed with useful information to help nature-loving visitors with little knowledge of Ireland make the most of their time here. Despite the minor shortcomings and omissions noted above (which I’m certain are down to tough decisions by the author to comply with space constraints), this is a very worthwhile guide — and the only travel guide to Ireland I’ve seen that focusses on the needs of the wildlife and nature enthusiast.

Crossbill Guides Ireland by Carsten Krieger is published by Crossbill Guides Foundation in association with KNNV Publishing in The Netherlands and is available now online and through all good bookshops.

Buy now on Amazon.

Thanks to the publisher for sending a review copy of Crossbill Guides: Ireland to Ireland’s Wildlife for review. NB. We use affiliate links in our content. If you click on a link in this article and complete a purchase on the vendor’s site, we may receive a small commission on that sale that helps us keep Ireland’s Wildlife online (commission is payed by the vendor, there is no additional cost to you).

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