Five Stars for the Emerald Isle

Irish Slang Term of the Day:


Craic

n., fun, good conversation, entertainment, gossip


Visiting Ireland:  undoubtedly the very first item on my bucket list for at least the last five years.  This week, I finally did it.  I’d been planning the trip for a couple of months; I woke up one winter morning and realized I’d been putting this off long enough – I was no way going back to the U.S. without visiting the Ireland, when I’m currently only a 1.5 hour flight away.  So, I packed up my one carry-on bag (nothing like budget travelling to awaken your inner minimalist!) and started out on this long-awaited journey.

Donegal

My first stop was the city of Lifford, Donegal.  Earlier this year, I managed to contact a friend of my grandfather’s from some 20 or 30 years ago.  She’s a local historian who lives in the same area that my Irish ancestors came from.  She picked me up from the bus station (after a country-wide bus strike had me re-doing all my plans at the last moment), introduced me to her neighbors, showed me the farm which might have belonged to my ancestors long ago, and drove me around to see the most beautiful scenery in the north of Ireland.

 

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My host kept a fairy-worthy garden, which is one of a string of gardens open to visitors in County Donegal.  You can view it here.

 

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This was the charming Irish Bed & Breakfast where I stayed.

 

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We then went “ancestor hunting” – searching old, moss-covered graves to try and find some family members of mine from the 18th and 19th centuries.

 

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We finished the day by driving along the Donegal coast to get a feel for the countryside.  Donegal is home to some of the few remaining Gaeltacht areas in Ireland – communities where the Irish language is still spoken as a mother tongue.

And blimey, does Donegal have some beautiful scenery: (you can click on the little circles!)

The last thing I did that day was pretty fun – my host and I made a StoryCorps interview together.  If you haven’t heard of StoryCorps yet, check it out!  And if you’d like a little insider’s perspective into Irish living, you can listen to our recording here.

The Causeway Coast

For the second half of my trip, I visited the one-and-only Giant’s Causeway, an area of spectacular rock formations in the country of Northern Ireland.  The landscape around the causeway is stunning, and the causeway itself seems like something from another planet.

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This is a part of the Giant’s Causeway.  There are two explanations for how these rocks came to be here: either 1) ancient volcanic activity spewed them up from under the earth, or 2) the legendary Irish hero Fionn MacCumhaill built them by hand, in order to cross the ocean to Scotland and battle a giant.

The entire coast of County Antrim, where the causeway is, boasts some stunning cliffs, beaches, and castles.  It was a rare sunny day in Ireland when I arrived, so I set off on a five-mile walk to see Dunluce Castle:

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Dunluce castle has since fallen into ruin, but it was once a magnificent stronghold of Scottish chieftains, who were staking out their land ownings in Ireland.  The only way into the castle is a stone bridge spanning a twenty foot rocky chasm – on all other sides it faces a 100-foot drop into the sea.

The causeway is stunning, but full of tourists even in March.  To get a little of the landscape to myself, I got over to the coast at 6:30 a.m. and watched the sun rise over the cliffs.  Totally worth it!

All in all, Ireland is the most amazing thing I’ve seen this year.  The country itself is beautiful, the history and the culture are fascinating, and the stereotype that Irish people are eternally friendly and hospitable – it’s totally true!  Five stars for the Emerald Isle!

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3 thoughts on “Five Stars for the Emerald Isle

    1. I loved the pictures! Ireland is truly beautiful. I also loved the story corps recording. It is so interesting to hear about our ancestor’s country. Thank you for sharing your trip with us!

      Like

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