Dreams do Come True !
I stalked the Wild West IrishTours website and Facebook page for almost ten years dreaming of one day being able to take a tour with them. It seemed perfect for me because I love the outdoors, the off the beaten path sights, the mountains and the ocean and I’m averse to cities and crowds. I love the tag line “What is seldom is wonderful.” I have also always been obsessed with all things Irish. I was adopted as a baby and I found out my birth mom was of “Irish descent.” Ireland has since been on my bucket list of places to visit. After losing my parents and a cancer diagnosis a couple of years ago, I decided not to wait any longer and took the leap. I signed up for the Signature Tour a year in advance. I could never have predicted what was to come as a result.
I was a little nervous as I was going alone, but got clear instructions on what to do when I got to Dublin, and a helpful e-mail on what to pack. I met two of my traveling companions right away at the airport. Eugene, our driver and Senan, our guide, were there right on time. We made two quick stops to pick up our other tour members, and off we went to the Wild West! We stopped for lunch at Carrick-on-Shannon and had our first meal as a group. We ate at a lovely little place near the river and had the most delicious soup and traditional Irish Brown bread. It was a perfect lunch for the misty and cool day, quite a welcome change from the hot humidity of Virginia. We headed toward the statue of the Gaelic Chieftain which commemorates the Battle of the Curlew Pass fought in 1599!! It was an appealing area overlooking Lough Key. Then we headed on to Sligo Town and visited several other spots along the way, among which was Rosses Point. We began to learn some of the history of W.B. Yeats which would continue throughout the week. We saw a beautiful statue called “Waiting On Shore” to honor the courage and survival of the families of the little sea tow.n
We were then on to the charming B & B, where Geraldine tucked us in for the night after a fine dinner at a local tavern. Each day I woke to walk on the lovely lane next to the house, taking in the green, gorgeous countryside with lots of sheep and flowers and all things Irish! The scenery at the B & B was so beautiful, with the magnificent Benbulben just out back, and we watched it change moment by moment as the clouds and weather changed. It was stunning. We were well taken care of by Geraldine and her wonderful hospitality. She served us outstanding home cooked breakfasts which I looked forward to every day. Eppie, the donkey, was there to greet us when we strolled outside and was grateful for the leftover toast after we ate in the mornings and she was pretty vocal about it if we forgot.
Every day was better than the last. Our guides – Senan, Adrian, Eddie, and David were each so knowledgeable in their area, we learned more than I could possibly remember and I took many books home to continue learning. Eugene, our driver, was so funny and kept us entertained each day and had many things to add from his own experiences. We visited churches, graveyards, holy wells, castles, hidden waterfalls, fossil beaches, Abbeys, celtic tombs and cliffs – all rich with history. We took a boat ride on the Rose of Innisfree around Lough Gill enjoying tea and poetry by W.B. Yeats. We then hiked through the woods and explored the shores of the lake while listening to “The Fiddler of Dooney” below Dooney Rock. We were entertained with music of the medieval harp by a talented artist who also taught us about the famine, played his flute for us while visiting the famine houses, and then took us to an old local pub to hear traditional music there.
We followed in the footsteps of Francisco de Cuellar after the shipwreck of the Spanish Armada. We saw Belleek china being made, watched swans in the Garavogue River, rode horses on a private beach, and took seaweed baths in Strandhill. We ate delicious food meal after meal, visited a Druid in Sligo Town, and then we were taught how sheep herding is done by a border collie named Joe and his master Martin. We visited a lovely woman named Kathleen who hand knit beautiful sweaters and served us tea at her cottage by the sea, and finally, when I just couldn’t stand any more wonderfulness – we saw Slieve League! We hiked to Queen Maeve’s cairn on Knocknarea, a fairy glen and on the last night, we enjoyed Laura and her fantastic dancing and wonderful stories. Then sadly it was time to leave, but with many new friends and experiences to remember for a lifetime.
A miraculous side benefit of my trip is that while searching to see if I could find anything out about my Irish Heritage after booking the tour, I took a DNA test. Through that I found not only my birth mother, but my birth father! The records had been sealed tight and I had long since given up trying to find them. I am now learning more and more about my heritage and am very excited to be planning a return trip with Wild West IrishTours in 2020, which will include visiting the area where my mother’s family is from.
Thank you, thank you to WWIT for making my dreams come true,