Nine days next to Heaven!
I had been to Ireland before, twice actually, but I wanted my children and grandchildren to experience it too. My dear husband said, “Plan it!”, and off I went to the Internet to explore my options to visit Ireland once again, this time with 10 other people tagging along.
When I came across Wild West Irish Tours, I knew I had found exactly what I needed for my active family! After reading reviews and talking to Trish I was comfortable booking the trip and airline tickets for the family, almost a year in advance. It did not take much convincing, but I am certain that some in the family thought it could be a trial to have so much togetherness.
Excitement built, and I worried about everything since this was my BIG idea. I worried for nothing! From take off to landing and the drive from Dublin to our first stop at a castle in Nenagh, the excitement continued. Considering we were all a little bleary eyed after our overnight flight, the beauty of the countryside and the lilt of Irish accents, of our driver and our guide, captured everyone’s interest and kept us awake.
Our hosts at Clareville House, where we would stay for three nights, made us feel comfortable and very welcomed. Our guide introduced us to the historical gems of Clare. Bunratty Castle’s great big Irish Wolf Hounds were a favorite of our animal loving kids. On our trip to the Aran Island, our guide introduced us to the very slim “door to Heaven” that I am proud to say my family made it through!
Our days were full of tours, activities and new friends human and animal! Our ears became accustomed to our driver strong Donegal accent. Driving the 14 passenger bus on the challenging roads were no problem for him and we relaxed between stops along our Wild West of Ireland Way. On one of the overlooks, my granddaughter Kelly found a four leaf clover! Certainly a good luck omen.
On our way to Sligo, our next stop for three nights, we detoured for splendid tea and a visit with relatives on Achill Island. Their home overlooks the Dugort Stand, a pristine stretch of beach that our grandchildren immediately ran off to. A quick tour, in our bus was accompanied by an aunt who works in the Achill Tourist Office. She took us to high cliffs and overlooks. A taste of Achill that will call us back, just beautiful!
Arriving at Yeats Lodge in Sligo, we were welcomed by Eppy a very friendly donkey.
Once again our animal lovers were charmed. Geraldine took us into her beautiful home where we would be for three nights. Two of the nights she arranged for entertainment after dinner that introduced our family to Irish dancing, harp and whistle. The third night she had a cake with candles for my birthday! The very best place on earth to have a birthday party. We visited a sheep dog demonstration, petting the dogs and holding small lambs put smiles on all our faces. Tours about the poet Yeats, and the stories of the Spanish Armada, a golf outing for guys and seaweed baths for the girls all part of our perfect time in Sligo.
Onward to Donegal and Trean Farmhouse where we were met by Finn the handsome Irish Setter. Just out of the bus he was an instant friend that we were told would lead us to the beach. He did just that after our hosts settled us on our rooms. The next morning we decided to spend the morning on the beach. The kids had a grand time jumping the waves with Finn. Cara, our lover of all things of the sea, was especially delighted. James her brother was buried in sand by his cousins Luc and Quaid.
In the afternoon we boarded the bus for a coastal drive and lunch. After a second night and a great breakfast we had an early departure for the ferry heading off to the most Northern Point of Ireland and then on to the Giants Causeway. Rain shortened our time climbing the strange and impressive rock formations. After lunch at a nearby pub we boarded the bus for the longest ride yet, back to Dublin and The Skylon Hotel for two nights.
Once settled with our rooms, our guide took us to Clondalkin, the birthplace and early home of my grandfather Patrick Brady. It was a sentimental journey for me. I had visited twice, once at age 18 and again 20 years ago with my husband. This is what the trip was about. It was important to me to show them the Irish Tower just down the road from the house where he was born. There is a new museum and garden where his home once was and we spent time with a guide there learning about the Tower, which is the best preserved in all of Ireland. This is my gift to the next generation, an understanding of who came before them.
We had a farewell dinner with our guide on our arrival back at the hotel. He was a good sport and we enjoyed our time with him and especially his safe delivery at every stop no matter how challenging the drive. We had one full day in Dublin, taking in everything we could and turned in early for our early morning flight home!
Each and everyone has told me “It was a trip of a lifetime”. It surely was!