Just a simple country road! Beara Pass
Going to Ireland has always been a dream of mine. My dad loved to listen to Irish music in his car. I vividly remember him singing along to “I’ll Take you Home Again Kathleen” and listening to him talk about taking my mother to Ireland. I found it terribly romantic – never mind that my mother, although named Kathleen was not even remotely Irish (she was 100% German).
My non-Irish mom did get to Ireland, but my sweet Dad never had the chance and I promised myself that I would go. Researching the Irish side of the my family only fueled my desire to make the trip. It was a long time in coming and after almost 2 years of seriously talking about it, planning and saving – it finally became a reality! Our group consisted of myself, my sister Eileen, my niece Katy, our 2 very good friends Karen and Patti.
We flew from Rochester to JFK and then on to Shannon. It was a long and cramped flight but as we got closer, we got more excited. I was a little disappointed to see heavy cloud cover that seemed to go on forever. As we finally broke through the clouds and got our first glimpse of Ireland – I was hooked. It was all at once familiar and completely new. It was also GREEN, brilliant, vibrant, gorgeous green.
We met our tour guide, Martin and headed out to start our adventure. We spent the next six days seeing some of the most incredible sights that I have ever seen. Every time it couldn’t get more beautiful, it did. Really, the words and pictures aren’t enough, it was just beautiful.
The Cliffs of Moher
We saw the big sights, the Ring of Kerry, the Cliffs of Moher, Kylemore Abbey as well as some of the more out of the way spots. One of my favorites was a small perfumery located in the Burren – appropriately called The Burren Perfumery. They make their own perfumes as well as soaps, lotions, candles and teas. The garden is so peaceful and lovely, it was one of my favorite stops on the trip.
Martin bravely drove us up the Wild Atlantic Way, regaling us with stories and songs – I included a link to his family run tour company. If you are looking for a chauffeur driven small tour – this is the way to go. We spent a couple of nights in his hometown of Ennis, County Clare and met his lovely wife. We even went to his favorite pub for some Guinness. It is true that Guinness does taste better in Ireland!
One of the most interesting parts of traveling to almost anywhere in Europe is how people have adapted and modernized while still honoring the history of a place. I used to work at a living history museum where our oldest building was from 1798. In Ireland – that is fairly modern! The Pub that we went to in Ennis was called Cruises and featured local music nightly. The musicians played traditional instruments against a backdrop that made easy to believe that it we could have stepped back in time.
We were able to spend a day in Donegal, the county where the McGee’s came from. So far, I haven’t been able to find their town but just to even make it to Donegal was great. We visited a famine memorial and graveyard which was really just a grassy area that served as a burial site during the famine. There were no grave markers and no way to know who rested there. I did bring home some pebbles from Donegal and plan to take them to the graves of my McGee’s so they have a little bit of Donegal with them.
We left the safety of our tour guide after Donegal and took a train across the country to Dublin. The next several days were spent exploring the city. We stayed in Temple Bar – there was alway something going on!! My niece and I took a day trip to Northern Ireland and saw the Giant’s Causeway and braved the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. I could probably write for days about how incredible that was!
While in Dublin I had the opportunity to meet with a genealogist. This was truly a highlight for me. He was lovely and very generous with his time. I didn’t find any earth shattering new information – but at least know that I am not missing anything either. It may be as far back as I am going to get with the McGee’s. It is ok with me – because I have plenty more to research and discover!! The Genealogist did give me a couple of ideas to try – they are long and pretty complicated but I am definitely going to work on them.
Some of the other highlights along the way included Killarney, Adare, Muckross House, Dingle Peninsula, Connor Pass, Connemara, Galway, and Sligo
Ireland exceeded every expectation that I had. It is a stunning place and hopefully this was just the first of several visits for me.