I was just reminiscing about my first trip to Ireland and being so amazed at how green it was. I have always know it as the Emerald Isle and had seen many pictures but I was still not prepared for the abundance and varied colors of green. I have since learned that it is impossible to try and explain this to someone who has not experienced it, since after all “green is green” right? Even though I grew up in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, I had not yet experienced Irish green.
My mother and I rented a cottage for a week while we did ancestral research of her grandmother Mary Mahoney. We had a bit of a problem finding the cottage as it was more remote than I first thought. I stopped as a house to ask for directions and was greeted by a tiny little elderly woman who was busy baking bread. Although it was a brisk day, all of the windows were open and the wind was swirling flour all around her while her hair swirled round her head. When I asked her for directions she said “Oh, you must be the tourists” as indeed we were. She pointed us up the road just a short ways(in Ireland, a short ways can mean anything from 1 -5 miles).
After settling in, I went up to the little shop for a few groceries and found out that the woman baked bread for this little shop. It was at that time that I also discovered Irish Butter. Again, I am sure that you can say that “butter is butter”. But this would be said only by someone who has never experienced Irish butter! And the bread was to die for. We decided the we could live the whole week off of homemade bread, Irish butter and jam. This began my love affair with Ireland. Since then I have been to Ireland more times than I can count. Although I have no family left in Ireland, I have been adopted by a few families.
Ireland for me is all about the people, green hills, sparkling locks and a history that goes back thousands of years. I am awed by the historic sites that you can visit and find yourself immersed in an ancient world that was only in my dreams before. One of my favorites is the Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery outside of Sligo in the northwest of Ireland. Carrowmore is the second largest cemetery of megalithic tombs in Europe and is among Ireland’s oldest. Archaeologists have found over 65 tombs, stone circles, passage graves and standing stones. The site is thought to date back to 4000BC. Another favorite site is Newgrange burial tomb. Newgrange is older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids of Egypt, having survived over five thousand years. Almost 300 feet in diameter and 30 feet in height and covering an area of almost one acre, the main burial mound of Newgrange is surrounded by the remains of three smaller passage graves. It is situated on a low hill and commands breathtaking views of the Boyne Valley in the east of Ireland and just a short distance from the Hill of Tara. Tara was once the ancient seat of power in Ireland with 142 kings reigning here in historic times. Saint Patrick is said to have come to Tara to confront the ancient religion of the pagans at its most powerful site.
Ireland is also well know for its pub culture and Irish music nights. My favorite areas for these are in Sligo, Galway and Ennis where the music culture is still thriving. Ireland is also well know for its coastline and amazing cliffs including the Cliffs of Moher and Slieve League which is the highest cliff base in Europe. Equally stunning is the Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland offers some of the most spectacular coastal drives to be found anywhere on the Island.
Please join us for a spectacular journey to the home of my ancestors. A journey you will never forget.
Shannon McDonald Tate