Ennis of County Clare a mixed brew

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ENNIS, Ireland -- A hop and a skip from Shannon Airport 13 miles to the south, this charming yet modern town -- Ireland's official "Information Age" capital -- is a great place to while away extra-long layovers or the last day of an Irish itinerary.

Ennis' picturesque, narrow streets -- once the lifeline of a market town founded in the 11th century -- still bustle with shoppers and students. This lively commerce is evidence of prosperity and modernity in a town where the government has furnished more than 75% of homes with voice-mail systems and Web-enabled PCs.

Strung along those ancient, cobblestone byways are a wide array of handicraft shops, restaurants and cafes -- and more than 60 Irish pubs.

Besides ale, the people of Ennis love music, particularly traditional Irish fare; despite its 21st century infrastructure, the town is a folk music epicenter.

Top spots offering both suds and song include Ciaran's Bar, Cruise's Pub, Paddy Quinn's, and Preacher's Pub at the Temple Gate Hotel (see Room Key).

Visitors also should pop by the hip Glor Irish Music Centre, site of the annual Summer Music Festival, running evenings through Sept. 27; films and performances cost about $17.

On Wednesday evenings through August, Glor presents "Fairies, Dreams and Aislings," an exploration of how Ireland's tales of "the little people" have influenced traditional arts; Glor also boasts a bar, gallery space and -- soon -- a restaurant.

For more on Ennis, its attractions and accommodations, contact Tourism Ireland at (800) 669-9967 or visit www.ennis.ie online.

TEMPLE GATE HOTEL
Address: The Square, Ennis, County Clare, Ireland
Reservations: (800) 885-8471
E-mail:[email protected]
Web:www.templegatehotel.com
Manager: Paul Madden
Rates: From about $71 (with breakfast) to $86 (dinner and breakfast), per person, double, until Oct. 15. Single supplement: $35 per night.
Commission: 10%
Rooms/Suites: 70
Facilities: 3 meetings rooms; restaurant; pub
Review: Housed in a former convent, the atmospheric Temple Gate is smack in the town center and convenient to shopping and sights. Gothic elements retained in public spaces; more modern decor in well-appointed guest rooms. Only drawback was cramped, slow elevator.

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