As a new year dawns, humans tend to discuss thresholds, change, and resolutions – as well as lingering on the memories of the year passing; summoning celebratory nostalgia by candlelight and fireworks.

As a part of Wild West Irish Tours, from our perspective, we also focus on transformation – as we say, “you will be transformed” journeying with us, and stepping over the threshold to explore the Wild West of Ireland – from perspectives new and old.

Whether you’ve been to Ireland or are planning a visit with us in 2018, we have a lot of good recommendations. Our sample itineraries are chock full of wonderful surprises – and off the record, there’s a lot of spontaneous delights to consider. You might encounter a lively street band or pub session; perhaps listen to the stories of a Celtic wise-woman, or even submerge yourself in a crafts market nestled between the mountains and a quaint café. The road through Ireland’s Wild West is broader than you could possibly imagine – but I encourage you to try, as we recap 2017 with a couple of highlights, and prepare for 2018’s season with hopes to come!

Here’s some of what our Wild Westies reflected on regarding 2017:

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Wild Westie John Farrell; photo by Wild Westie Ron Byers
  • “The landscape scenery in both Co. Sligo and Co. Clare were my favorites. Each had their special beauty but both Counties were spectacular.” – John Farrell
  • “Serpents Rock- it was the solitude and the beauty of being in a place, not having to speak or rush… just being.” – Stacey Kinsey
  • “I’d say going out into the Burren with our tour guide, Pius. He makes it an experience, not just a place to see. And the time we spent with the Irish women who conveyed Irish folklore and some of the ancient connections among people/land/spirit.” – Saoirse Charis-Graves
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Finn himself!
  • “I loved walking down to the beach every morning and evening with Finn from our B & B in Donegal. I felt like I was in the real Ireland and just loved it!” – Mary Ellen Powrie
  • “Visiting the graves of my great-grandparents.” – Rita Byrne Tull
  • “The beautiful scenery was the best, but my favorite was the jam session withauthentic Irish Music and songs!” – Robin Winn Moore
  • “I would have to say it was a toss up between exploring the Burren with Pius and walking the cliffs of Loop Head.” – Colleen Marikje Barker
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Irish jam session – photo by Wild Westie Robin Winn Moore!

And here’s what our sojourners are looking forward to in 2018!:

  • “I hope to hear great music, see spirited dancing, taste hearty food, smell the sea, and feel the presence of something magical.” – Judy Peterson
  • “Just being there – I can’t wait!” – Claudia Pellegrini Quieroz
  • “Going back!!!!” – Terry White

From this past year, I think making new friends [I know, I know – I’m corny] and exploring new areas like Donegal were but a couple of highlights I can mention! The faerie glen as well, which was unforgettable.

As for the future, it’s definitely the possibility of new experiences – but also seeing said friends again; getting in touch with the land and its history [as well as the myths and legends], and finding new stories to hear & tell.

There are boundless opportunities for personal, mental, and spiritual growth in the Wild West of Ireland – and as one of my New Year’s resolutions, I’m trying to leave myself more open to the possibilities of said growth. I’m ready to let 2018 be a year of healing and hope! Especially when it comes to visiting Ireland.

Owner Michael Waugh threw in his two cents about the year past and year upcoming as well:

474546_3764846434164_132975841_o“Getting a chance to be shown the areas like the Burren and the Holy Wells this past year; finding new areas that no one knows about this past year – that’s just one aspect, though,” says Michael. “It’s hard to choose just one.” When it comes to the upcoming year, he’s delighted to be bringing people fresh experiences close to home: “We’re looking forward to the new Wild West Atlantic Way in particular – bringing people to what we consider the ‘best’ places of the four tours.”

“We love developing new tours and showing people these places dear to our hearts,” adds Michael. “Seeing everything from Clare out to the Antrim Coast; Connemara, Sligo – what we’d say is the best of Ireland.”

And, if you’re like a few of our Wild Westies who said “I wish” or “it’s not in the cards this year” [shout-out to Wild Westies Ann DesRoches and Cynthia Owens], there is always a time in the future you can take a journey with Wild West Irish Tours.

Please stay tuned with us as we enter 2018 with light hearts and enthusiastic adventures; eyes on the horizon of the Wild West of Ireland.

You might not know what to expect from the rest of the world, but we can promise you as always, you can expect great things in simple places with us.

Until next time, be well!

Sam Fishkind

Wild West Irish Tours

Social Media Manager & Scribe

Good morning, good afternoon, good evening! Wherever you are, whenever you are, I invite you to take a little time out of your day to experience a Wild West Irish Tour.

Wild Westie Sue Kavanagh wrote us the most incredible love letter to the Wild West of Ireland today – a fantastic retelling of her experience on a Wild West Irish Tour that is deserving of its own highlight! These reviews mean the world to us, and Sue dedicated so much time and thought to reflect on hers that we simply had to share it outright with all of you…

“My husband and I signed up to take the Wild West Signature Tour, the Heart of the Wild West, several months before it was scheduled to leave. I eagerly read every post and blog on Facebook I could about the tour, which whetted my appetite for our trip. But nothing could have prepared me for how truly wonderful and amazing it was. Our experience in Ireland on the Wild West tour was above and beyond what we had wished for. It is difficult to capture the essence of our time in words, but I will try!

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First, we saw places that were magnificent in beauty. We traveled to see gigantic cliffs that rose majestically from the sea.22831122_10210760095813775_517764704_o.jpg

Our wonderful guide took us to a local castle where we took an interesting tour. Our tour guide there shared stories and trivia that brought the former occupants of the castle back to life. We followed the tour with a boat ride on a beautiful lough. Our captain quoted Yeats’ poetry and told us of his life in this region of Ireland. It was fascinating and loads of fun!

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“More magic – A white horse appeared suddenly at the ruins of a castle!”
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Auriel and the Wild Westies!

The most memorable and incredible place we went to was an uninhabited island. We sailed in a fishing boat in the open sea, passing a seal colony in our way there. Daryl, our captain shared stories with us of the sights we passed along our voyage of almost an hour! We were accompanied by Auriel, an archaeologist who led us ashore once we reached the island. I cannot capture what that experience was like. What I can say is that several of our group was moved to tears once we reached the upper part of the island.

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We were able to explore a monastery built in the 6th century. We entered structures where the monks slept and served mass 15 centuries ago. We saw ruins built by pagan people with Celtic crosses carve over the original symbols. It was incredible. Auriel taught us the significance of symbols and linked them to the history of both the island and of Ireland.

Alongside the monastery were the remains of a self-sufficient village of ten families who lived in the island until the 1940s! What stoic, hard-working people they must have been to live in such a harsh but surreally beautiful place.

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“The Spanish Armada Play – So Fun!”

One fun day we were led on the trail of a survivor of the shipwrecked Spanish Armada by guide Eddie O’Gorman. It was remarkable to know that someone made the trek on foot to the places we saw, including a beautiful waterfall. We had such fun reading poetry from Yeats and acting out a play about the events of so long ago.

 

There are so many hidden, precious gems we were taken to on our tour. Our wonderful B & B host and guide took us to a holy well which had once been a site of worship for pagans and now houses a shrine to St Patrick. Nearby we saw caves in which Catholic priest served mass in hiding for fear of punishment from the English.

Our amazing guides would pull off the road in various spots and before we knew it we would be standing before an ancient site full of history and intrigue. Our guides and B & B host and shared their passion and love for Ireland with us in such a way that we fell in love with it too.

22878987_10210769592451185_2028209384_oOur B & B was perfect. We had spectacular views of Benbulben from our room. Breakfast was amazing! Our host even arranged for a birthday cake for my husband on his birthday! And several nights we spent together watching an Irish dancer or hearing our guide and musician play a traditional Irish harp and tin whistle. Out last night we had a visit from a Celtic woman who taught us about ancient Irish traditions and rituals. It was fascinating!

We were brought to wonderful restaurants, quaint tearooms and pubs for lunch. You must try a seafood pie and, of course, fish and chips – and bangers and mash! Simply delicious! A pint of Guinness goes down so nicely in the Wild West, too!

I would say that anyone who wants to really feel immersed in Irish history and culture should go on A Wild West tour. They will experience Irish music and lore from people of Ireland who truly love their country. Our guides love and pride for their heritage was palpable in their every word and action. Their knowledge of their country’s history was impressive. And their warmth and friendliness made it all the more wonderful.

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It is impossible to describe every place we saw in the scope of a trip review. Just know that, if you join a Wild West tour, you will see places that will forever change you. That sounds dramatic, I know, but to go to these sights is a deeply moving experience.”

Sue, we cannot thank you enough for traveling with us – you’re a true Wild Westie! Your photo essay feels full of heart and home.

For more about the Heart of the Wild West, our Signature Tour, you can click here

Until next time, be well!

Sam Fishkind

Wild West Irish Tours

Social Media Manager & Scribe.

 

It occurred to me that in describing my elaborate adventures in the Wild West of Ireland this time around, some people might want the Reader’s Digest version of events that transpired.

How does one summarize a fantastical journey? The Heart of Ireland’s Wild West is enormous in its hospitality; tremendous in its nature, and resounding in its residual echoes. Even now, in rainy Massachusetts, I can almost hear the crash of the Wild West Atlantic Way on the wind and catch the sound of sheep and donkeys in the air. There’s the hope that, somehow, I’ll wake to find sunlight filtering through a skylight of a cozy B&B, in a comfortable room lovingly prepared.

But I arise and go now to my keyboard, to tell you instead of what I’ve seen – editing a cairn of photos piled high on my drive, and wrapping my fleece ever tighter around myself against the bite in the late September air.IMG_6702.JPG

From mountains to oceans, forests primeval and boglands, there are countless different places each meant for a certain type of person – and to all.

I’ll try to sum up as much as I can – bear with me, as no words can fully put to mind the experiences shared in the Wild West of Ireland.

IMG_6735.JPG     Arriving in September, when hours of light are long and the evenings speckled with rain, was a wonderful decision. The weather was still nice, with a rainbow just about every day – what a blessing it was to look skywards and see the many colors arcing across the sky. Before you ask, no, no pots of gold, but instead, a journey that was priceless.

And much like the rainbow, there was a shade of something in Ireland for everyone – whether it was a walk through the wilderness in some of the places off the beaten path, horseback-riding along the sea, getting a spa treatment in a seaweed bath after a day of hiking, participating in history with local guides, or enjoying rollicking music & performances, Ireland had it all.

When you consider what the Heart of Ireland’s Wild West might mean, it’s always going to be a personal adventure.

For me, there was a little bit of myself in everything I did [which sounds obvious, but bear with me].

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As a writer, I love poetry and thrive off the written word – it was surreal to stand before the grave of Yeats and walk the same beloved places he did; including majestic waterfalls and islands in a lough that seemed like a silvery sea.

As an equestrian of six or so years back in the day, trotting along the shoreline surveying castles and abbeys across the water was one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life – far surpassing the days of dressage and rings.

IMG_6789.JPGFor someone who never ever wanted to leave school; ever, I got to learn heaps about an area I genuinely care about – local insight overshadowing all outside research I could’ve done. I learned new and fascinating things about places such as Knocknarea, the Spanish Armada, and more – told by the loveliest voices and in such an intimate setting among but a few friends and fellow travelers.

IMG_6899.JPGThere were irreplaceable, timeless places [and people!] I got to meet – the photojournalist in me reveled in submerging myself in all things new; old, and splendid. I didn’t even mention yet the tour of a beautiful artisan factory where Irish crafstsmen still make incredible things the same way as they have for years – offset by a woodcarver who’s performed his remarkable trade for decades in town. Nor did I get to the incredible sheepdog displays or visiting one of the oldest bars in Ireland. I could spend my whole life trying to write it all down for someone and it wouldn’t be the same – for them or for me! And I mean that in the best possible way.

From the first day in Ireland to the reluctant last, you can feel that this trip is tailored to your interests. There is focus on local areas as given by local people [such as our guides like the fantastic storyteller Eddie O’Gorman of the Spanish Armada for you history buffs, and brilliant anthropologist Michael Roberts whose insight into the Sligo area is irreplaceable to name but two], Celtic traditions & Irish culture [brought to life by the irreplaceable Laura Ganley and the intuitive, intelligent Regina Fahey], and the full immersive experience of the Wild West of Ireland [from unique homestyle B&BS run by folk who genuinely care about their guests to music sessions wherein anyone and everyone is welcome to join in].IMG_6163.JPG

The Heart of Ireland’s Wild West still beats inside of me, even as I’m back across the pond – it’s in everything I took with me that I collected on the journey in terms of photos, stories, and souvenirs, but more importantly, stored in the mind’s eye and the well of my spirit as an entirely engaging experience unlike any other.

I’ll elaborate on a few of these points in the future, so be sure to check back in – for stories on the people and places of the Wild West of Ireland, here’s where you want to be until you can be there – again, or for the first time.

                Until next time,

                Sam Fishkind

                Wild West Irish Tours

                Social Media Manager & Scribe