Why Ireland? It’s a question I hear often, and one I answer on my homepage:
No land is more enchanting than Ireland. Even if you’re beyond the age when you’re “supposed” to believe in faeries, the moment you step foot in Ireland a feeling of possibility washes over you. You just don’t know what could be at the top of those castle towers or at the end of the rainbow.
While many make much of pub tours and guided bus travel, Ireland has much to offer families. From storybook castles to magnificent gardens, wide open spaces to the bustle of international cities, breathtaking natural scenery to man made megalithic structures, Ireland opens her arms and welcomes your family to explore her ancient sites, traverse her green fields and discover her treasures.
Ireland has become my family’s favorite destination; every trip feels like a homecoming. Here at Ireland with Kids I want to share the beauty of Ireland and the family friendliness brochures often miss.
With as often as I am asked “Why Ireland?” I thought I would ask some of the Ireland bloggers I read on a daily basis.
Felicity Hayes-McCoy is a professional writer working in print, broadcast and digital media. Born in Dublin, Ireland, she lives and works in a stone cottage in Corca Dhuibhne, Ireland’s Dingle peninsula, and in a inner-city, former factory building in London.
She blogs about life in both places on her website www.felicityhayesmccoy.co.uk
Her memoir The House on an Irish Hillside will be published by Hodder & Stoughton UK, and Hachette Irl. in June 2012.
More than thirty years ago I left Ireland to study in London. Then, having finished my course there, I married an Englishman and my focus switched from Dublin, where I was born, to London where we lived, and where I built my career. But I kept returning to Ireland. And for the last ten years my husband and I have lived and worked in both places, dividing our time between inner-city London and the stunning Dingle peninsula.
One result of living in two countries is a heightened awareness of each. So when Jody asked me to contribute to her Why Ireland? series it wasn’t hard to say yes. I know what makes Ireland different. I can even pinpoint the central quality that defines it. Ireland’s a country that’s never lost a shared sense of community. Even in towns and cities the pace of life is gentler here; people stop to chat in the streets; they’re happy to give directions to tourists; they’re glad you’ve come and they’re sorry to see you go. Irish people know how to relax. Spending time with family is important to them, and because they value family life themselves they’ll smile at your kids in restaurants, help you with your buggy and pull faces at your baby to make her laugh. The scenery’s gorgeous, the weather’s mild (though changeable!), there’s a rich cultural heritage to discover, and a wealth of music and stories to share. But the real joy of Ireland lies in the friendliness of the people, the warmth of their welcome and the ease with which they make you feel at home.
Dr. Jessie Voigts holds a PhD in International Education, focusing on intercultural adjustment for sojourns abroad and acquired disabilities. She co-authored the book ‘Bringing the World Home: A Resource Guide to Raising Intercultural Kids’, publishes WanderingEducators.com, the online resource for global educators, and recently founded the Family Travel Blogger Association.
There’s a mystique about Ireland, a land of mists and myths. Once you arrive, it continues with the extraordinary scenery, intermittent rain, friendly locals, and a fascinating history. Those things that drew us keep us interested, and coming back. It’s learning about the Liberator, Daniel O’Connell; climbing the winding stairs at Bunratty Castle; cruising to see the Cliffs of Moher; staying with the friendliest person in Ireland; and eating seafood chowder whereever we go. It’s learning the depth of the color green, and feeling it infiltrate into our souls. It’s pure happiness.
Michele Erdvig is a certified Ireland Expert. She publishes the most ‘up to date Ireland travel guide on the planet’, Ireland Dream Trip, as well as hosting the popular Ireland travel forum “Ask Michele” on her website IrelandYes.
Why Ireland? One Hundred Thousand Welcomes and More
Just say the word Ireland and it conjures up pictures of rolling green hills dotted with sheep, waves crashing on rocky cliffs, ancient castles, thatched cottages and fishing villages that time forgot. For some of the 70 million people worldwide who claim Irish descent, these images are genetically imprinted on their psyche and like an ancient siren song lures them home. Will they find the Ireland of their dreams across the sea? Oh, yes…and so much more.
Ireland is an easy place to visit. Since everyone speaks English there is no need to learn another language. The food is familiar and the natives are friendly. Because it is a small island you can enjoy not only Ireland’s rural charms but its big cities too. Granted, if you decide to drive, it will be on the left and you will get lost. But being lost in Ireland is not necessarily a bad thing. Think of the wonderful discoveries you will find off the beaten track. As an Irish statesman said, “Ireland is where strange tales begin and happy endings are possible.” You are certain to find adventures around every bend.
The modern Emerald Isle is home to all a tourist could desire for comfortable touring. It has everything from first-class hotels and fabulous spas to gorgeous castle hotels, historic manor house accommodations and cozy bed-and-breakfasts. Sports abound everywhere and include golf, fishing, hiking, falconry, surfing, horseback riding, cycling and even bog snorkeling. Would you rather watch than participate? Then perhaps you would enjoy horse racing, hurling, soccer, Gaelic football, music festivals, museums or the theater.
History is alive and part of everyday life in Ireland so you might as well revel in it. Explore castles, stroll through beautiful gardens, visit haunted ruins, tour folk parks, marvel at ancient monuments and visit historic homes. No wonder Ireland is called the land of saints and scholars. It seems that every town, village, stream and hill has a song or poem written about it. Ireland’s saints founded the many monasteries that dot the landscape, preserving history during Europe’s Dark Ages. It is a land where poets became patriots and rebels, creating the Ireland you see today. Music and song – both ancient and modern – stitch together the fabric of Irish life culminating in traditional Irish music sessions in pubs.
Don’t believe what you have heard about Irish food. It is not all cabbage and potatoes. Ireland is currently undergoing a food renaissance, relying on fresh, locally sourced fare. Grass-fed beef and lamb, seafood and fish fresh from the ocean and lakes, dairy products from the Golden Vale, free-range chicken and eggs, and the famous brews Guinness and Irish whiskey are just some of the gastronomical delights awaiting your taste buds. Irish chefs have created “Irish fusion” recipes, combining the best of world cuisines into their own unique culinary style.
Ireland has spun together a vibrant tapestry of old and new into a quirky little country that calls out to the hearts of everyone, enticing them home. Even if you don’t have a drop of Irish in you, the Emerald Isle will enchant and mesmerize and capture your heart. How true the old saying, “In Ireland there are no strangers, only friends you’ve yet to meet.”
Corey Taratuta pens much of the content at Irish Fireside as well as co-hosting the Irish Fireside Podcast. In addition to traveling Ireland, he works as a freelance writer and designer and serves as Ireland editor at Wandering Educators.
Back in the mid-1990s I probably looked like the last person you would have expected to find blogging and podcasting about Irish travel. I had no Irish lineage, there were no self-identifying Irish-Americans in my hometown (yes, there are such places), no one I knew had ever been there, and the only reason I chose it as my first overseas destination stemmed from the fact that I had a free place to stay. I guess you could say I landed in Shannon airport with a clean slate – absolutely no expectations. That’s when Eire started working her magic. There was so much history… real history that went back thousands of years. And the Irish had such a funny way of talking about the past. In one breath they’d refer to “just a pile of rocks” and then proceed to tell a beautifully elaborate tale about the place.
Then there was the landscape. Inland was covered with endless waves of rounded hills each in a slightly different shade of green… just like in the postcards. The coastline delivered a show of majestic waves swallowing up giant rocks and then spitting them out. Every few miles the craggy coast gave way to a soft sand beach with oyster shells and seaweed. Add that on any given day I could end up “discovering” a waterfall or forest or garden, and my senses seemed to be able to perceive more than they could anywhere else.
Beyond that, it was the memories of the people that stayed in my head long after my first visit. Having grown up on a dairy farm, I identified with the families living in rural Ireland. Yet having left the farm, I also connected with the modern young people who at that time were about to dance with the Celtic Tiger. I felt at home with everyone I met.
Individually, all of these factors made for a very nice trip; but somehow, together, they created a truly irresistible place. People say it all the time, but it’s true, “Ireland calls you back…” even after your first, expectation-free visit.
My question to you is also “Why Ireland?” If you’ve visited before, what draws you back? If you’ve never been, why do you want to go? I would love to hear your tale. Please leave a note in the comments. Would you like to share your own “Why Ireland?” story? Please send it to my- I would love to publish it!
© 2012, Jody Halsted. All rights reserved.