The first time I saw Ireland I was amazed at the different shades of green. I was mesmerized by the beauty of the landscape. I was in awe of the roiling sea crashing against craggy, rocky cliffs. I was enchanted by the warm, friendly people. I fell in love.
That love grew over the years with each visit. Having met a wonderful Irish woman while traveling in Spain, I have a friend and my own personal tour guide of the Emerald Isle. I had a reason to visit that first time and then to keep going back. Four times over eight years I’ve traveled to the land of leprechauns and fairies, of James Joyce and W.B. Yeats, of mountains and moor, of Guinness and Jameson. I always yearn to return.
On that first visit, I hiked in the Wicklow Mountains, took the ferry to the Aran Islands, walked to Dun Aengus, drank my first Guinness, listened to traditional Irish music in a pub in Doolin, hiked to the top of Croagh Patrick, walked along a desolate beach in County Mayo, ate fresh fish in Kinsale, drove the Dingle Peninsula loop, photographed bobbing boats in the harbor of Dunmore East – and so much more. I knew I would return even as I boarded the plane to go home to the States. This island nation had captured my heart, my soul and my imagination.
What is it about Ireland that beguiles us?
Hard to say. It’s a combination of things. It’s the 50 million shades of green that you didn’t know existed. It’s the quaint harbor towns where men come in with their fresh catches that will be on your plate that night. It’s the friendly pub with traditional Irish music floating out the door and a warm peat fire glowing in the fireplace. It’s the mountains rising above the soft, bogland below. It’s the majestic castles and the old ruins of fortresses and stone circles. It’s the crashing of waves against craggy cliffs. It’s sheep dotting the landscape. It’s hidden beaches with nary a soul. It’s people who will warm your heart on a misty, Irish day.
Ireland has a history that goes back thousands and thousands of years. Yet, the modern Irish are well, quite modern, being tech savvy and incredibly attuned to the environment. Yet, these modern day Irish still understand and embrace their unique culture and traditions. They keep these traditions alive through songs, stories, festivals, celebrations and quirky superstitions. I think this intrigues those of us from America as we don’t have the same history and traditions. It’s different and it’s interesting, pulling us in.
For me, I love everything about this country. It has beautiful mountains (albeit much smaller than the Rocky Mountains that I once lived in). It has sandy beaches. It has valleys with rivers flowing through them. It has fertile farmland. It has gorgeous lakes. There are large cities and small, quaint villages. There are grand cathedrals and tiny, rural churches. There are pubs galore. There are artisan shops where you’ll meet the person making what you are buying. It has mystical, magical ruins from ancient times. It has songs that can be both melancholy and uplifting all at once. It has legends and stories passed down from generation to generation. But, mostly, it has some of the warmest, friendliest and most generous people on the planet. Maybe that’s what I love most about Ireland…when those Irish eyes are smiling and I know I’ve made a new friend.