My name is Cynthia Owens and I’m a proud and grateful alumnus of a Wild West Irish Tour.
Proud because I think Wild West Irish Tours are the best tours in Ireland. And grateful because my Signature Tour last May not only healed a very deep wound in my heart, it also offered me so much inspiration, I’ll have story ideas for many a year to come.
In case I didn’t mention it, I’m the author of twelve historical romance novels. My Claddagh Series stories are set in Ireland (with one memorable detour in Book III, Playing For Keeps). My Wild Geese Series is set in New York City just after the American Civil War (again, with a memorable detour, this time to Canada, in Keeper of the Light). All the heroes of that series are Irish, and all fought with Thomas Francis Meagher’s Irish Brigade.
Ireland has called to the deepest heart of me ever since I was a child. Her music, her myths and legends, have always inspired me. And when I travelled there last summer, I knew I would find inspiration on those emerald shores.
I just didn’t realize how much!
From the day I arrived in Ireland, I found stories everywhere: in the lovely, pearlescent light at dusk, the wild seas and quiet fields, the magical mist that hung over Ben Bulben each morning. And, of course, our wonderful guides. A trip to Glencar Falls on our first night evoked thoughts of W.B. Yeats and his wonderful poem, The Stolen Child, followed the next day by a trip to Drumcliffe Church and a cruise – complete with Irish music and Yeats poetry – on the Rose of Innisfree. How better to inspire a writer in love with all things Ireland?
On another day, we visited Lissadell House, and what an amazing inspiration that turned out to be! As I walked through the magnificent house where the Gore-Booth sisters grew up, I thought of Grace Bennington, who appeared in Reluctant Betrayer (Claddagh Series, Book V). This was her house before the fire! I pictured her in the music room, climbing the stairs and pausing to gaze wistfully into the blazing fireplace. I immediately began making notes for her story, The Landlord’s Daughter.
The gardens at Lissadell were just as awe-inspiring. As I strolled through paths, taking in amazing plants and flowers on all sides, catching glimpses of Lissadell Beach with its wild, gray seas, Deirdre O’Brien of the Claddagh Series, daughter of Rory O’Brien of Ballycashel House, stood next to me. A child in Coming Home (Claddagh, Book II) she grew up and became such a wonderful secondary character in Wishes of the Heart (Claddagh, Book VII), I knew she had to have a story of her own. And when I begin writing that story, tentatively titled My Lady, My Love, this summer, I plan to send her for a long stroll about magnificent gardens with her hero, Colin. And who knows? They might just fall in love while they’re there!
Every day of the tour brought new inspiration, new story ideas. Wandering through a magical fairy glen made me think it would be the perfect place for my heroine to visit when she wanted to escape from the world. A walk along Strandhill Beach made me think of fishermen from the Aran Islands, battling a sea storm. Ancient passage tombs brought ideas for a fantasy series I’m planning, and the story of the survivors of the Spanish Armada sent my imagination in a dozen different directions!
But even more than the wonderful research opportunities my Wild West Irish Tour afforded me, was the incredible friendliness and helpfulness of our guides. I had only to ask a question to receive detailed information on the subject. Every place we went, there was a story or a legend attached. Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a mass grave dating from Famine times, Knocknarea, where Queen Maeve is buried. And our guides knew them all. Even a simple plant had a story, especially those on Coney Island. Our guides were extremely knowledgeable about their chosen subjects, and I’m grateful for their generosity in sharing that knowledge.
I personally had some lovely discussions with Geraldine, the owner of Yeats Lodge, about an Gorta Mor, the Great Famine, as we strolled through a village abandoned more than a hundred years ago. My very first night at the Lodge, Geraldine, knowing I’m an avid reader of everything Irish, took the time to find several books she thought I might enjoy, and brought them to my room. You certainly wouldn’t find that kind of personalization on any other tour!
We Wild Westies were treated not like tourists, but as friends. And for a shy writer like me, who’s always been more of a hermit that a social butterfly, it was a wonderful experience.
I highly recommend a Wild West Irish Tour—in fact, I’ve mentioned WWIT to several friends who are considering visiting Ireland. I took the Signature Tour, and I’m hoping to gift myself with the Clare-Connemara Tour before too long.
About Cynthia: I believe I was destined to be interested in history. One of my distant ancestors, Thomas Aubert, reportedly sailed up the St. Lawrence River to discover Canada some 26 years before Jacques Cartier’s 1534 voyage. Another relative was a 17thCentury “King’s Girl,” one of a group of young unmarried girls sent to New France (now the province of Quebec) as brides for the habitants (settlers) there. My passion for reading made me long to write books like the ones I enjoyed, and I tried penning sequels to my favorite Nancy Drew mysteries. Later, fancying myself a female version of Andrew Lloyd Weber, I drafted a musical set in Paris during WWII. A former journalist and lifelong Celtophile, I enjoyed a previous career as a reporter/editor for a small chain of community newspapers before returning to my first love, romantic fiction. My stories usually include an Irish setting, hero or heroine, and sometimes all three. I’m the author of The Claddagh Series, historical romances set in Ireland and beyond, and The Wild Geese Series, in which five Irish heroes return from the American Civil War to find love and adventure. I’m a member of the Romance Writers of America and Hearts Through History Romance Writers. A lifelong resident of Montreal, Canada, I still live there with my own Celtic hero and our two adult children.