Yes I am going to Ireland in 2018.
It will be my sixth trip to this beautiful country.
And my second visit in 2 years.
Why do I continue to return to a country that I’ve been to?
I have a love affair with this magical, mystical, gorgeous country filled with the nicest people on the planet.
But what makes Ireland so damn special?
The ancient sites
I’m going to delve into this topic more in a future post but for now let me offer a few high points.
If you love ancient sites — think Stonehenge, Egyptian Pyramids — then Ireland is a country to check out.
I personally love visiting ancient places.
And I’ve raved about Newgrange in the eastern part of Ireland which I’ve experienced twice.
I’ve stumbled upon stone circles and made planned stops to other ancient sites such as Beltany Stone Circle, Creevykeel Court Tomb and the Céide Fields.
There are so many ancient sites in Ireland.
Some are well-documented and some you may just happen upon.
But I plan to see some more on this trip.
It’s become a bit of an obsession with me.
Gorgeous mountains and valleys
As a gal who spent 15 years living in Colorado and who has been to the Swiss Alps, I’ll admit that the mountains are NOT as impressive.
But I think what makes the mountains so appealing in Ireland is the landscape they are set in.
Typically you’ll find the mountains rising out of these desolate valleys of peaty bogland.
There’s something bleak and lonely yet hauntingly beautiful to many of the mountains and their surrounding valleys.
When the heather is in bloom there will be loads of pinkish-purple color.
And when the heather is not blooming the colors take on a pretty golden-brown hue.
Sometimes there’s a lake nestled nearby.
Or perhaps a fresh stream with some folks fishing along its banks.
So while not as grand as some other mountains, the mountains in Ireland are just as magnificent.
And on this trip, I plan to hike up some of them.
I have to admit that some of the beaches I’ve seen in Ireland have been the most stunning beaches I’ve ever seen — ever!
Not even the dazzling beaches of Florida or the Caribbean can match these beaches.
I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped on more than one occasion.
I remember the first time I saw a long sandy beach in Ireland.
It was that first trip when I was traveling with my friend, Aedín, who lives in Dublin.
She drove us down some wee roads in southern County Mayo and we ended up on this beach that was simply stunning.
I couldn’t believe such a beach existed in Ireland.
So on the following trips I continued to discover more beautiful beaches.
And I cannot wait to see more Irish beaches this year.
Where the mountains meet the sea
So taking the 2 above and combining them into something new I love about Ireland — and what makes it so damn special — is that there are so many gorgeous places where the mountains are right next to to the sea — or at least very close by.
I love the mountains as you know.
But I also really love the ocean — the smell of the salty air, the sound of the waves — I really dig it and enjoy being near it.
So to have both the sea — with some stunning beaches to walk on — and the soaring mountains nearby is pure bliss to me.
Ireland is filled with many such places.
With all the fabulous scenery driving in Ireland is a treat.
There are loads of scenic drives that take you through mountain valleys and rolling fields, along craggy coastline and through colorful towns.
While some folks are reluctant to drive in Ireland — the whole driving on the other side of the road thing — I find it a pleasant country to drive around.
I think this is because there are so many rural-type roads where you’re not driving so fast.
It’s a great way to slow down a bit and really see Ireland.
You can make a turn off the road if you see a sign for something that interests you.
Or you can stop and take photos and drink in the scene before you when there’s a pull out.
Want to stop for a bite or something to warm you up?
There’s always a small town or village with a pub or 2 (or 5 or 6) or even a pub seemingly in the middle of nowhere.
I’m looking forward to more scenic drives — ones I’ve made before and a few new ones.
There are so many charming towns and villages in Ireland.
You can’t go wrong with most of them.
This trip will be no different in that I’ll spend some time in a few little towns taking in the culture and meeting the friendly locals.
I haven’t made any decisions just yet, but it’s possible I’ll spend some time in at least one or 2 of these again.
But I’m also eager to experience some new towns.
And become part of the local scene — if only for a few days.
What’s not to love about an Irish pub?
This is one of my favorite aspects to travel in Ireland — hanging out in a pub.
Now it’s not all about the adult beverage.
It’s more about socializing and getting to know the locals.
You may very well be entertained with some music — traditional Irish music or some other form of music.
And you’ll definitely experience the craic — the fun times with the locals. Chatting, telling stories, exchanging ideas and opinions.
The pub is often the center of life to the town.
And for me, as a solo traveler, this is when I get to mingle with and meet new people — locals and other travelers alike.
The people of Ireland
There is no doubt about it that what I love most about Ireland is the Irish.
They are the nicest, kindest, warmest people on the planet.
Their beautiful accent, their gift of making you feel welcome and their big hearts make them incredibly endearing.
And I think they are particularly welcoming to Americans.
I always feel like I’m hanging out with my long lost cousin.
There’s a kinship, I think, between the Americans and the Irish.
Maybe because we were both under British rule.
Of course it took the Irish a bit longer to tell the Brits to fuck off.
But I think there’s a sense of camaraderie between us.
I don’t know for certain why all this is.
But I do know I love these people.
And I’m so excited to be among them again.
Magical and Mystical
And lastly I love Ireland — and think it’s special — because there’s a sense of magic and mysticism about it.
I always have a hard time putting my finger on this exactly.
I know the Irish can be a superstitious people — although many won’t admit it.
But this is the land of faeries and leprechauns.
And the land of passage tombs and stone circles.
It’s a bit magical and mystical — and mysterious.
Now I know you are thinking I’m a bit crazy.
Or maybe even a lot crazy.
But there is something in Ireland.
You can feel it — a bit of magic in the air.
And there are places that are near and dear to those who hold certain beliefs.
And I’m certain that this time I will see a faery or a leprechaun.
At the least, I’ll feel that magical energy in the air.