It’s almost summertime! Have you made any plans for the upcoming months of sunshine, serenity, and sightseeing? If you’re having trouble nailing down plans, consider going on an adventure in Ireland. The perfect tour for you all depends on what sort of adventurer you are and what you’d like to check off your bucket list.

Heart

If you’re indecisive and reading this because you need some clarity, consider the Heart of the Wild West, a phenomenal combination of “the best of the West”. Michael and Trish have handpicked areas of interest such as archaeological sites, beautiful beaches lined with fossils, a magnificent forest full of mythical history, and quaint towns teeming with life. Get ready for the most epic adventure you could possibly imagine. Embrace the spirit of Wild West Irish Tours and this signature tour, and you’ll be swept away to the highest sea cliffs in all of Europe; down to valleys and villages frozen in time. This trip encompasses everything you could ask for in Ireland.  The music, the magic, the magnificent sights – you name it, and the Heart of the Wild West absolutely has it.

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Open your heart of discovery during the Heart of the Wild West Tour

Iconic

If you’re looking for something truly iconic, try the Wild West Atlantic Way Tour! These are the areas you’ve seen on National Geographic or Lonely Planet. Where the untamed Irish coastline meets the ferocious beauty of her mountains. This is a tour that’s all about “the waters and the wild”; from Yeats to the greats – places such as the Aran Islands, Killary Fjord, Lough Gill, and many others mentioned in folklore and Irish history. You’ll find picturesque places; historic, heartfelt, and hands-down awe-inspiring. These are some of our absolute favorite places in Ireland – including County Mayo – where you’ll recognize backdrops from Game of Thrones, Vikings, and even Star Wars! And if you’re a real movie buff, you’ll also notice a place or two that’s a bit of a throwback to Irish film. You might want to make a trivia game as we go along the Wild West Atlantic Way.

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Rainbows appear for the luckiest travelers during the Wild West Atlantic Way Tour

Regal

Does the thought of music, folklore, and visiting enchanting islands stir your wanderlust? The Clare-Galway-Connemara Tour satisfies your thirst. You’ll feel like a king or queen in your castle. We visit a privately-owned castle. You’ll experience the heights and dazzling sights of the historic Burren and Craggaunowen Pre-Historic Park. And explore the town of Ennis, a world-renowned Irish gem. Take in iconic scenes such as Galway Bay and the Cliffs of Moher. Feel the adrenaline rush of the sea pounding against the coast and let the sweeping landscape of Ireland carry you away.

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Rolling hills of Clare and the mountains of Connemara frame the many castles in the wild west of Ireland

Home

Feel more at home on a farm than the wilderness? Our delightful Wild Atlantic Causeway Coast Adventure features a rustic array of opportunities based around County Donegal and the Inishowen Peninsula. Enjoy the quiet scenery of the farmhouse; and set forth on adventures from the magnificent Giant’s Causeway to sites that only our local storytellers and historians know about. The variety of possibilities on this tour will fulfill the most indecisive of hearts. If you’re a gardener, we know of a place filled with floral jewels as far as the eye can see. Enjoy a good hike? Explore the fantastic coastline with a romp on the beach! Historians will be right at home as you explore the cities and ancient megalithic sites. There truly is something here for everyone.

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Let your imagination guide you through each step and stone of the infamous Giant’s Causeway

Spirit

If you’re a spiritual person who’s really focusing on  “serenity”, you may want to book yourself for our upcoming autumn adventure, the Wild West Irish Pilgrimage. This tour closes out our year by celebrating the Celtic New Year; Samhain. Come for the music, poetry, meditation, yoga, healthy food, creative expression, contemplative walks, hiking, or exploring the sacred sites of Celtic Ireland with focus on traditional Celtic rituals. Get back in touch with your roots, celebrate the beauty of Irish life, and experience the tranquility of the Irish autumn. Settle in to listen to the wisdom of local guides and colleagues who have practiced in the art of Irish traditions for decades.

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Let rushing waters serenade you during your journey through the magical fairy glen

We understand. It’s hard to choose just one – don’t worry; a couple of these might just have the overlap you need to check everything off your list. You never know where the winds might next carry you. If we go off-book, you’ll find side adventures that are both seldom and wonderful. Rest assured, the Wild West of Ireland is everything you think it is and so much more.

Until next time, be well!

Sam Fishkind

Wild West Irish Tours

Social Media Manager and Scribe

Monsters, The Sidhe, tragic lovers, secret caves, mystical landscapes!! Oh my!

Oh yes, our Wild West of Ireland is home to a great many myths and fairytales. So much so that we reckon you’re going to wish you had a magical bag like Mary Poppins when it comes to this next batch of colorful characters – a wee bit different from our historical cast from last time! We arise and go now into legendary territory – where even the smallest of stories can cast the most incredible shadows. Some are silhouettes of lovers cast against landscapes of raw beauty. Others are amorphous monsters who lurk out of sight just beyond the mists…

Here are six mystical beings you could take home from the Wild West of Ireland.

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Top right – the lovers’ safehaven…
  1. Diarmuid and Gráinne

In the Heart of the Wild West, there is a magnificent valley in which houses from another era rest; allowing the earth to reclaim them. We encourage travelers to raise their gaze to the magnificent cave above the valley; however – where a pair of lovers fled the wrath of a cheated Irish chieftain until the day of their reckoning came in the form of a great black boar summoned over the side of the mountains. Some say you can still see the shadow of said boar today, etched into the cliffs, waiting to return…

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Facing her enemies atop the mountain…
  1. The Queen on the Mountain

You’ve heard a lot about her majesty up on the mountain [Knocknarea], but here’s a few things you might not know until you’re standing in a megalithic site, gazing over the horizon; listening to an Irish anthropologist explain the details of a life both deified and turned to myth. Some speculate this feisty queen to have been a goddess of the Celts; while others consider her a strategist and warlord of the former ages. Regardless as to what is true and what is story, she cuts an impressive figure of indomitable strength and independence that sets a precedent for the viewing or hiking of her mighty mountain.

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Lough Gill – with a bonus figure [the Sleeping Warrior]!
  1. The Lovers and the Lough

The shining surface of Lough Gill seems to mask a great many secrets. History lies beneath its lolling, lapping waters, as do fish, and mysteries – including that of a story of another set of lovers with dozens of interpretations. As you glide over the Lough, listening to Captain George regale you with local legends, you might reflect on the one about the man who sank in the darkness; wrestling with unseen monsters in the water – whose lover gave him a sword of light to cut through the shadows. Whether or not you believe; it’s easy to imagine the sun piercing through the glossy black surface of the Lough to illuminate its enigmas below.

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Púca’s Leap(s)!
  1. The Púca

This isn’t a character you might want to take home with you – but it’s difficult to leave behind the eerie stories of the creatures who come out when the “veil” is thin. The veil, separating our world from those of the fairies in Celtic legend, is thinnest during the changing of the seasons – and perhaps felt most prominently in the Wild West of Ireland, especially in places such as Sligo [where all seems wild and free] and Connemara [with natural landmarks our guides can lead you such as the Púca’s Leap(s)]. These shapeshifting troublemakers are most definitely noted to emerge around Samhain; the end of the Celtic Calendar year – tricking unwary travelers and claiming leftovers in harvest fields. But much like the duality of the Irish lifestyle in general, some myths say this creature can be malevolent or benign. It might just depend on where you are, or how you greet it…

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Our famous Faerie Glen…
  1. Faeries

Almost everyone across the globe has stories of these beings. In Ireland these varied and fascinating individuals are known as the Sìdhe; or faeries, and much like the Púca [who some argue is also a Sìdhe] can be benevolent or malicious. Remnants of their existence erupt from the lush countryside in the form of “faery forts”, the likes of which are unlike anything you’ve ever seen. More than mere ruins, these structures are superstitiously left to the land and not to be disturbed for fear of insulting the fey – resulting in catastrophic consequences…lore of these people can be found on many of our tours, from references in Yeats’ poetry in the Heart of the Wild West all the way to the Wild West Atlantic Way…

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The fingerprints of faith…
  1. Legendary Figures of Faith

From a woman whose cloak could cover the entire countryside in order to sway a king, to a man whose existence began with the birth of a freshwater spring now renowned for healing properties; Ireland interweaves legend with faith in the form of several different saints. Imbibed stories; their wells and places of worship are some of our most special and sacred places found in the Wild West of Ireland. With spiritual guides who carefully balance the mystical with the soulful, you’ll have to discover for yourself just who walked the same roads you did, the marks they left, and what sort of pilgrimages they might’ve made for themselves and others…

If your bags still feel light after these dual adventures, be sure to stick around for another blog in the near future. And if you’d like, share with us who you’d like to meet in the Wild West of Ireland!

Until next time, be well!

Sam Fishkind

Wild West Irish Tours

Social Media Manager and Scribe

When it comes to the Wild West of Ireland, there is plenty to be surprised about.

But according to our alumni “Wild Westies”; or people who travel with us on a Wild West Irish Tour, nothing is more surprising than these top three [technically four] things:

  1. The Fairy Glen

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Nestled against the bosom of Knocknarea, accessible to locals and those who know the area well, this niche of fantasy sparks the imagination with possibilities. It is one part enchanting hiking trail, another part unexpected mystery. Enormous trees older than time itself part to allow visitors safe passage through winding paths and sunlight-drenched thickets. Golden hues find their way amidst the greens, and the grand finale is an open cleave through the mountain itself that looks as though some great machine shaped a tunnel through the wilds.

A few swings and signs of life likewise exist there, a soft wind blowing the prior in gentle sways. All are welcome to partake of the swings, as well as take a moment in reflective silence to listen to the songs of nature. Perhaps you’ll encounter one of the “good neighbors” here – or simply achieve the tranquility that comes from a trip outdoors to the rare and wonderful landscape of Western Ireland. Take a peek here in the “Outdoors” segment of our virtual Heart of the Wild West!

  1. The Horsehoe Walk *

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Perhaps one of our most iconic stops along the Heart of the Wild West Tour is that of the Gleniff Horseshoe. This particular area is a perfect balance of history and Celtic legend – expressing the duality of the Irish people in that it holds a great amount of tragedy and a great deal of hope for the future, all at the same time. The cavernous mountains incite stories of two lovers on the run; who hid in the grandest of caves overlooking this sweeping valley until the end – and the valley itself, filled with the skeletal remnants of buildings from days past; famine houses, and roaming sheep, evokes a sense of the forlornly breathtaking.

Words almost fall short of describing the epic quest that is a stroll through this area – walk in contemplation to a heart-shaped waterfall, stop to examine what history left behind, and learn from local guides the different aspects of the Horseshoe as you go along. You can catch a glimpse of it here in our “Outdoors” segment as well if you have a sharp eye!

  1. A Secret Island *

461551_455585314461520_731874806_o.jpgUnparalleled in many ways, tying in second with the Horseshoe [according to our Wild Westie alumni poll] is our incredible hidden gem of Inishmurray…or not so much a gem; singular, but a veritable treasure chest of various gems, from the amethyst flowers in the springtime; to golden blossoms later in the year, to the silvery-gray stone and the greenness perpetual.

Beautifully-preserved archaeological sites such as a monastery and family homes from the 6th century dot the landscape like stony Easter eggs. Exploring the island at your own pace is a wonderful way to absorb the history all around you – Wild Westies skim cerulean waters by boat to roam the paths after chatting with local and informative guides [such as our friend Auriel Robinson of Seatrails] about what they’ll be seeing. Wild Westies are given free range to roam the island until it’s time to return to their B & B – though many would probably want to stay in such a peaceful, open place…for now, though, you can visit Inishmurray virtually right here.

  1. And finally: the food!

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It may surprise you to learn that Irish food is nothing like the “dreaded” things some might have come to expect of the U.K. [which may also not be the case]! That being said, you probably arrive in Ireland expecting corned beef and cabbage. Potatoes. All sorts of stereotypical things.

In reality, I can happily report I myself have personally had dishes such as butternut squash and bleu cheese soup [pictured above]; a Southwestern chicken panini [no joke!], full; hearty Irish breakfasts [thanks especially; B & B keeper and friend Geraldine!], honeycomb ice cream on the side of a magnificent mountain, the best “chips” [re: French fries in America]; arguably, and so much more. Ireland is not limited to the flavorless concepts of old. On the contrary, the food I’ve had in Ireland has been some of the best and most luscious I’ve had in my life – many I’m sure would agree, and DO agree, judging by the results of our poll!  Here’s a look at the local cuisine aspect of the Heart of the Wild West…

Have you been to the Wild West of Ireland? What surprised YOU the most? Feel free to share this with a friend as you embark on your own Wild West Irish Tours adventure –

We can’t wait to show you even more surprising things.

All you can really expect is great things in simple places.

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

Day five on a Wild Westie live blogging adventure – a day about town, and so much more.

The Wild West Irish Tours group set out to the nearby town of Sligo; settled in the heart of various mountains flowing to the coast in its county of the same name – Sligeach, “the shelly place” is its name in Gaelic. The town itself is a colorful; quaint little central point of interest for those who invest time and energy in Yeats country. And who wouldn’t? Between the attraction of a poetic nature, the town hosts a bright and bustling art and music scene, as well as a great many historical sites that make much more sense when you did what we did: get a local guide!

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Adrian was our guide for the beginning of the day – a young man local to the area who not only knew it well, but was full of incredible little facts that showed just how passionate he was about it. Places we would’ve normally passed without a second thought [or picture] were put into new light – we got to stand and experience the history of the village as it grew (and burned down, and grew, and burned down – an official burn down number of about seven, Adrian said) whilst observing the details of the area. IMG_6635A keen example is the hand that is etched onto the bank the Yeats statue stands in front of. It’s got an interesting legend tied to it – any guesses why a hand would be used here? I certainly wasn’t prepared for the story Adrian told – and it was a grand one, too. The point is though that one might wander by the bank, admire the statue, and move on without even noticing the hand or even wonder about its origin.

Adrian’s enthusiasm for the area really resonated with our walking tour – I learned so much in about two hours time that I’m still [pleasantly] processing it – anything from the town’s history with brewing to what stones came from where to build which buildings, to other famous figures that emerged influenced from the Wild West of Ireland – particularly, Sligo town.

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And you can’t visit the area without seeing a local craftsman of great renown – Michael Quirke is known and beloved, and we were fortunate enough to get some time with him today. An expert woodcarver, Michael brought out of beech the beauty of local myths and legends – happily lecturing on them as he whittled away; drawing life from within the wood. He’d also chat with his visitors; asking favorite animals, names, all sorts of things to uniquely design something off the cuff if inspired. If he wasn’t telling a myth or legend relating to whatever he was doing, he was sharing stories of his own life – how he’s been carving since the 1960’s, things he’s heard from his neighbors, or things relating to family names. And it’s worth noting he never slowed down or paused in what he was doing – no, Mr. Quirke kept up the pace in quick wit and quick hands alike, dazzling all who came to see him.

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Then it was a lovely day to ourselves out on the town – at free range, I swung into a café and had a nice soup, then strolled around looking for little things to bring home, a few small things for myself, but most of all, new experiences [and of course, photo opportunities]. There wasn’t a place I felt unwelcome and at every corner, something new and interesting would catch my eye. Musicians kept to the street corners and overhangs – I caught a fiddle and a guitar on my way around town, but I’m sure there were even more in different parts. I spent time in a shop chatting with a local artist who makes wonderful jewelry – and instead of just leaving it at that, she wanted to know what I was up to. When she heard I was into photography and art, she delightedly showed me upstairs to a gallery with an amazing exhibit! What I liked best about the whole experience is that Sligo is a constantly moving little town that teems with energy, but never feels overly busy or crowded. A really nice visit, with beautiful weather to enjoy it in, no less.

 

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It was history and nature after that – we stopped by a historical site of sobering importance that deserves its own moment in time and silent reflection. It felt rather like paying respect to the country’s history; acknowledging that the Ireland we know today was not the Ireland of yesterday – of occupation and destitution. There’s a real sense of thankfulness upon exiting this particular area – walking back out into nature on a hike Senan guided us on. Just up to a fairy circle in the sunshine; more grateful and humbler than before, I’d wager.

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It was not my only hike of the night, however – no, we got to experience something my good friend Geraldine had been suggesting the Wild Westies experience for a good while now: the Fairy Glen.IMG_6749

Another one of those “blink and you’ll miss it” sites; this particular glen takes a bit of a walk out to – along a narrow path through the woods whose trees twine and twist in the most impish of ways. Tunnels of emerald and lime spiral around whoever dares travel up to the glen, and golden light filters through the dense leaves above to shower the ground with sparkling rays.

Entering a perfectly-even chasm of stone cloaked in ivy; looking up at stacked ferns surrounding a fresh, open space of damp and cool twinkling in the fading afternoon sun was…unlike anything I had ever experienced before. It was the utterly peaceful moment of silence that comes before diving into a swimming pool meets the adrenaline of the start of a race…and yet, it was tranquil. There was nothing but the wind to breathe life into the limbs of trees and sunlight to shift the shadows on the ground. It’s easy to imagine being watched by elfin faces between the boughs – the burbling of streams is silvery laughter and the rustling of leaves is an ethereal being passing by on a wisp of mist. A surreal renaissance painting come to life – or rococo, considering…

g2There was a swing there, too – you might be familiar with Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s “The Swing” painting? The one with the girl in the fancy dress whose shoe is flying off as she swings back and forth? It was a bit like that, albeit I was less fancy, my shoe did not fly off, and I looked a bit less graceful, no doubt. But it felt incredible to simply sway and become a part of the swaying of the forest.

For Geraldine to go out of her way to take us somewhere she said we simply had to see (she was right, of course) is something I’ll always be grateful for. To simply sit, be, and chat when we felt like it was enough – the glen in all its glistening beauty was the perfect end to an extraordinary day of learning, feeling, thinking, and reflecting. Most of all, simply allowing oneself to be – in a busy day and age like ours, time to just exist is now considered a valuable luxury.

Also, I continue to be amazed by the way the entire country seems to open its arms and show people around – the towns local people love and take pride in, history lovingly preserved, and nature respected & accepted as a part of life worth knowing. Today was a day worth experiencing fully – and I am so very happy I did so as a Wild Westie.

Until next time, see you on the other side of the rainbow.

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Sam Fishkind

Wild West Irish Tours

Social Media Manager & Scribe

Today’s adventure takes place in yesteryear, now, and the future – for what we experienced today will come with us tomorrow…in the best possible way!

The groups of Wild Westies set out today to visit the one and only Michael Roberts; a local anthropologist whose insight into the Wild West of Ireland is without end. We were fortunate enough to steal him away for the day to guide us around his areas of expertise – and he did so with enthusiasm; narrating our adventures with a voice of quiet passion & deep resonance.

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When it comes to making anthropological connections, Michael is the person to listen to – gathering with him around the sites of megalithic tombs in the area [an area he grew up in, knows well, and loves] was a mesmerizing experience. No one else in the world; I feel, could bring the dead back to life with the poignancy and courtesy Michael Roberts has. He has, as one Wild Westie put it, “a story for everything” – but it never feels like he’s even thinking about what he’s saying. He’s thoughtful, it just happens to be that his words flow like water, a delightful and refreshing stream of concise consciousness made myth, then made word.

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We got to walk around this incredible old-world site while Michael drew connections between Ireland’s ancient past with that of Egypt’s and Native American culture – things people might seldom connect came together with absolute clarity. He focused majorly on old Irish legends, however – there were so many Celtic myths in particular that explained the natural formations of the Irish countryside; such as how the “Mother” figure of Ireland presented itself in various forms; why there was a shadow on a nearby mountain, and the origin story of the megalithic site itself [a ‘hag’ happened to drop a bunch of stones in a fit of surprise, but that’s really a legend I leave up to Michael to tell – you’ve got to hear him speak at least once in your life].

Everyone was enraptured by Michael – hanging onto every word he had to say; from his wider anthropological take on the folklore in the area to his stories of boyhood. He spent his youth exploring everything this green corner of the world had to offer – his heart thrives here, and it shows in the way he encourages people to ask questions, embrace the region’s heritage, and earnestly shares whatever information he has [it’s a lot; for those keeping score] with anyone he feels might be interested.

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Michael is all about the human connection to the earth and to each other. After a lunch with further discussion [plus delicious food], he took us to a nearby holy well; one of beautiful statues, stations of the cross, and a magnificent rag tree. Water flowed throughout the site, filling the air with the music of movement that cascaded toward the sea. Rustling leaves and hushed voices were all that filled the glen of emerald and Kelly hues. Before entering, Michael told us about the spiritual properties of one aspect of the well with an interesting illumination: that sometimes just the act of doing something to counteract a predicament [an ailment; mental, physical, spiritual, etc.] could be enough to help it. It helps a person feel less stagnant, at any rate. Like a placebo, to place oneself in an area of healing with intention to help oneself is sometimes a kick-start toward recovery – just because you’re finally able to do something to help yourself.

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After that, it was off to one of Michael’s favorite places growing up – a magnificent forest sanctuary around the lough we’d traveled on earlier in the week. Apparently he used to swim the length of it – something mad like nine miles across. He and his friends also caught their own game and cooked it out there; climbed the mighty stone in the heart of the woods, and got up to all sorts of mischief. This, he said, was his playground in his youth. And one could see why, with plenty of places to run and so much to see. He told us to take time to soak it in, and it was a beautiful contemplative walk in the shimmering woods; hearing the lapping of the lake waters against the shore, scanning the silvery surface for signs of life, and breathing deeply the scent of earth and pine…

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It was a reminder for man to reconnect with nature.

We had to split from Michael then; my group of Wild Westies and I, for it was off to the sea for a seaweed bath at a local spa.

21740290_10155468475761885_1266647936976892748_n.jpg It was a bit surreal to go from the rambling woods and sloshing lough to the steam rooms and tiled floors of the spa – but it was also somehow so inadvertently right, to lay down and submerge in nature as caught by man, rising to hear the sound of the ocean just outside the window. To sit in quiet meditation again and allow nature to soak into one’s skin was appropriate with the themes of the day. A ritual, if nothing else, to center oneself and perform an act of healing.

It’s as important for one to be an individual as one is a part of a community, and vice-versa – talking with one another today and sharing the experience of reflective silence in the forest was a really harmonious balance. With Michael spinning his stories and weaving us in, the threads of the day came together with simple magnificence.

Community, conversation, connection, and celebrating a history of nature and man culminated in David entertaining us back at one of the B & Bs with wonderful music – on three separate instruments, no less. Irish traditionals centuries old filled the air on tin whistle, harp, and guitar – David was even kind enough to sing for us [quite nicely, I might add], and the whole experience of an admiring group of colleagues communicating on several levels felt so genuine. That belonging feeling returned; giving us a sense of ‘home’. Residual memory, perhaps, from ancestral times.

Altogether, today felt like something out of a dream – I was walking among ancient tombs, then a well that’s been visited for thousands of years, then treated myself to a wonderful spa followed by private music and more stories. I simply want to curl up with Michael Roberts’ book, and relive the stories I heard today – to keep the history of Ireland; her legends and lore, and all the nature I can carry with me alive in my heart.

Until next time folks, be well!

Sam Fishkind

Wild West Irish Tours

Social Media Manager & Scribe

Back at it again with day two of a Wild West Irish Tour’s brief coverage for you all!

Today began with plenty of food, laughter, and caffeine – everything at the B & B is provided; you’re never left wanting for anything. Geraldine made sure we had fuel in our tanks before we set out on our adventures for the day: learning a bit about the man who made the Land of Heart’s Desire more visible, a roam around an old-world castle, a sweeping adventure across a silvery lake, a trip to a cozy tea room, and a great fanfare of local pub music that outdid anything I’d heard before…

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We began by visiting the grave of the one and only W.B. Yeats in a beautiful cemetery under the watchful eye of a familiar mountain. As you can see, Yeats himself seems to emulate the ‘great things in simple places’ motif – his desire to be memorialized without grandeur is evident here.

It was a strange joy; finding out a bit about his life from David; one of our capable driver-guides. I learned much from him about Yeats that I hadn’t been able to pick up from my studies, and everyone was enraptured with the way he told a story. Some of us broke off after a brief chat about the poet in question with the simple headstone to explore the church grounds – looking at said church’s interior, admiring the tall crosses, or simply breathing in the fresh air before we moved on to our next big adventure…

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Which happened to be the magnificent castle.

It was constructed; originally, in the 17th century – some of the old stone work from a structure prior is still visible to the eye, along with many fascinating details of varying eras. Rolling up to it is impressive enough as-is, considering its significant size and the way the castle drops off into a grand overview of the enormous lake beside it. The guides IMG_6074inside were friendly; funny, attentive, and eager for questions as the Wild Westies explored the places prestigious families would’ve made their dwellings in, admired woodwork remastered by means of its original craftsmanship, and found out the real use for a moat in this particular Irish abode…

An interesting highlight here is that during one of our presentations David decided to go test out the acoustics upstairs in the former banquet hall of the castle on a whim. It was something so authentically miraculous to hear beautiful music whilst waiting for the next presentation to start downstairs – a haunting lilt that filled the halls with something of another time. It was as if the castle had come briefly back to life; though it still thrives with the care and attentiveness of its guides and teachers; as well as consistent efforts in historically-accurate restoration. Altogether it was yet again a fabulous emphasis on people vs. area – not against one another, but feeding into one another in terms of culture, preservation, and enthusiastic willingness to share their history [and selves] with others.

We followed our “pied piper” and Senan [our other capable, informative driver] then out toward the lake to board a ship manned by a one umistakably famous Captain George – as blustery in words as the gusts on the lough today; but much warmer and more welcoming. Tina; first mate [and captain’s wife!] kindly served us tea upon entry to the wonderful little vessel – a nice surprise to enjoy while we set sail on the most majestic mirror of freshwater that shone under a briefly-platinum sky.

The sun did come out to play, however – dancing across the glistening waves that lapped the edges of the boat, guiding us on toward places that held homes in the heart of Yeats’ stories & poems as well as local legend and history. Captain George got us all reciting poetry with him;  narrating our adventure with lively music and conversation, which made the journey seem timeless and grand. Towering trees – “forty shades of green,” the good Captain pointed out to all of us – lined the hills that dropped and rolled toward the lough’s surface. Standing on the deck to survey all that could be seen, breathing in that dewy air – I could not possibly recommend a more refreshing thing to experience fully.

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We swung into a tea room for lunch after disembarking; cozily snuggled into a historical local tavern – their tea menu was varied, and let me just say, you can never have too much tea…especially in Ireland. For those keeping score; I had a delightful Turkish apple-pineapple tea that required nothing but itself to be enjoyed. It was a perfect pick-me-up for the walk to follow –

 

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A walk that followed a roaring river and emerald woods up to a magnificent abbey that overlooked the land from its seat in the sun. Windows long vacant became frames for the puffy white clouds and cerulean sky; while Senan took the time to explain a few details of the abbey – from carvings of St. Francis to the grave of a priest people went to for blessings; their ailments allegedly abated by spoonfuls of said priest’s grave dirt – there’s a whole method to it, but you’ll have to come here and have a local tell you the details. I’d hate to get it wrong and lead you all astray….

 

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Which brings me back to the “pied piper” motif, actually – albeit this time, we were led to a most marvelous little pub in town that held jam sessions every so often. We were fortunate enough to squeeze in before the crowds, gathering around to hear fiddles, concertinas, guitars, and of course, another tin whistle – met with cheers, whoops, hollers, claps, and the thumping of feet against the floor. Everyone came alive when the music came out – several Wild Westies enjoyed fresh beer on tap from a friendly barkeeper. It seemed only a matter of time before a few of us were to jump up and dance – luckily, we spared the locals…for now.

Though I’ve no doubt they would’ve joined in with the dancing, actually – the energy was up and spirits high. Music, one of a few universal languages, was spoken loudly and joyously tonight. And we; the Wild Westies, were eager to listen.

 

All in all, it was a lovely action-packed day of melodies in every form that drew us together – a thread tugging many threads as one, stitching into creation a magnificent tapestry of wonderful sound and a thoroughly genuine experience.

Tomorrow we’re back at it again with more surprises in store for you yet – stay tuned for the next installment of our exciting times in the Wild West of Ireland!

Until then,

Sam Fishkind

Wild West Irish Tours

Social Media Manager & Scribe

Welcome to the daily updates of a Wild Westie on the Move!

Day one closes on a beautiful beginning to a Wild West Irish Tour.

What an experience it’s been – now that I’ve caught up on a little sleep and a lot of food, I can effectively [and drowsily] inform you of some of what’s transpired thus far.

First and foremost, it’s wonderful to feel as safe and surrounded by love as I do here in the Wild West of Ireland. From our drivers to Geraldine; one of our beloved B & B keepers, there’s not a moment wherein I am uneasy. Everyone is helpful as they are informative and warm. There’s not a meal that isn’t good – every bite; from full breakfasts to lunch paninis and dinner entrees (tonight I had chicken goujons – and chips!) is scrumptious. The air is fresh and smells of the wet earth and sea; and everything is without restraint – the world thrums with energy.

Secondly, our adventures today were but a taste of what’s in store for all of us on this particular grand adventure: emphasizing a particular point Wild West Irish Tours tends to focus on.

Expecting great things in simple places: breaking this down, the countryside itself in the Wild West of Ireland is teeming with stuff to do: not big bus tours; mind, but rather, finding local musicians who might be playing in a pub nearby, encountering poets in unexpected areas, or, in our case, being welcomed into the home of Kathleen Meehan, one of the most talented knitters I think I’ve ever met.

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Kathleen welcomed us into her home as if we were her own kin – tea was on, the stove was warm, and her rainbow of wares was laid out for the world to see. Crimsons, lavenders, cobalts, black wool and all were on display – some sweaters long enough to serve as dresses, others snug cardigans with perfect buttons all lined up in rows. I, having had the pleasure of greeting the wind with my baseball hat in a handshake that sent my cap flying [shout out to fellow Wild Westie Tom who retrieved my wayward hat], opted for one of Kathleen’s lovely hats – something she noted tended to go quick. I counted myself fortunate, especially when we hiked later: the cap I’d brought would’ve never kept my ears warm on the way up the mountains.

What struck me about the experience was that Kathleen was just so genuine – a woman of sharp mind, enormous talent, and big heart altogether made for feeling like family who happened to knit (albeit super-humanly well). She went out of her way for everyone, grabbing mirrors so her guests could see themselves; telling us about her trade, and even demonstrating how fast she knits at the behest of a few Wild Westies. In the heart of her cozy cottage by the sea, I felt as if I’d come home.

                It’s how I feel with Geraldine; actually, too [and did from the get-go the first time we met] – the ability to simply talk to people here is remarkable. Folks seem to want to talk; and are happy to chat about any old thing. For someone like me who communicates primarily through the written word, it’s definitely helped me come out of my shell – it’s good for the soul to have human connection no matter where you go. And important to remember in the age of digital communication and urban settlement. The country is much more open in oh, so many ways.

There’s a Gaelic saying that goes something along the lines of “,” or, “there’s no hearth like your own hearth”. I would disagree if only to amend and say that these hearths of the Wild West of Ireland do in fact feel like one’s own hearth. Rather than being a visitor; this immersive, heartfelt experience allows for one to fully embrace the sentiment of “home”. Between multiple cups of tea, laughter and conversations, it’s easy to settle in –

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Until of course, you find yourself at the top of a great height looking down into a cerulean sea; transported into another world of clashing swords on bobbing waves, the foam of which thunders against the craggy stones below. You can see the waterfalls rushing down the slick sides of great cliffs; the boom of the surf muffled only by the towering height you have between yourself and the water.

There’s the surreal addition of scaling ever higher, watching the whitecaps become white commas on the crests of the waves. The mists descend to meet you; foggy hands hauling you up slippery slopes towards the heavens. Everywhere is silver and light; and the wind nips at one’s heels to urge faster travel.

“Coming back down,” noted Virginia, another one of my Wild Westie companions, “was much faster.” She said this with the comedic timing of a trained acrobat as the mountain; with a truly Irish sense of humor, refused her foot a little on her next step (she’s perfectly fine and we laughed about it later, not to worry). The rain chased us on the way back, but that didn’t bother me – there was a little cart at the bottom of the winding road that was calling my name; and my insatiable curiosity (plus rumbly stomach) brought me to the window to ask for (not a hot chocolate as the man behind the counter sort of expected) honeycomb ice cream. It was the divine nectar of old and unnamed gods; that – enjoyed thoroughly as I hastened back to the car, refusing to be late for the next leg of the adventure.

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What’s beautiful about this next part is how people and land came together: in a cove by the sea sat a village frozen lovingly in time: preserved to its fullest, with cultural significance and historical fascination. Thatched roofs and beautiful accents of color made each little cottage unique – artifacts as old as the land itself; just about, existed within – along with everything that’d piled up in the decades to follow. A note from an Irishwoman found by Newfoundland sailors in one little house was the most recent thing I could find – a letter from a bottle from the sea back in 2004, retrieved and brought back whence it came. An endless cycle of communication exists even in houses silent save for their guests. There was also something so wholesome about how the founder of that village had striven to make something good there, and how his good lived on preserved in the land and what was built upon it.

 

On a similar subject, I must add that the minute we stepped out of the van, we saw a beautiful plaque of stonework depicting each county in Ireland (with stone from the respective counties!) – another exemplary balance of people and place. What’s taken from the land always seems to be given back in some way, shape, or form.

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The closing for today was a lovely visit back at the B & B from the even lovelier Laura Ganley of the Ganley Sisters– an enthusiastic, brilliant young lady who tells stories almost as fast (and concisely) as she dances. Between her incredible footwork and her practiced methods in movement, Laura is a free-spirited person who feels the music resonate through her very soul: someone who takes the Sean-Nós traditional dancing and gives it her own twist! She’s traveled to America with Wild West Irish Tours before – something she delights in, as dancing anywhere, she says, is her deepest passion. She’s constantly trying new things, allowing the artistry of dance to become a living language that bursts out of her so fiercely it scarcely seemed impossible to glimpse sparks beneath her heels. She was met with well-deserved thunderous applause and cheering all night long; her poise and pluck unrivaled – from reel to jig and barrel dance, she made everything seem effortless and lively.

Her presence sparked more conversations – she told us of her love of Wal-Mart when she was over in America, how her dad embarrasses her from time to time with his silly antics, and all of a sudden, it was back to Earth for all of us in the best possible way, I feel. The ethereal quality of landscape, music, dance, is grounded beautifully by the people of Ireland. These are people of the earth who live and breathe their world; especially those who live by the land and the trades they can perform. They embrace passion and meet life with zeal; with spirit. To merely sit and talk overlooking the mountains and ocean; to fully experience the moment with others, was literally great & simple. Leisure time, after all, has become quite the luxury.

Today was, in conclusion, as my friends and family back home put it, “just enough” for day one.

That being said, I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!

                                                                                                Until then,

                                                                                                Sam Fishkind

                                                                                                Wild West Irish Tours

                                                                                                Social Media Manager & Scribe

 

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Good morning, good afternoon, good evening! Wherever you’re tuning in from, we hope you’re having a lovely time.

The post this week is a little personal as this writer is headed back across the Atlantic to the Wild West of Ireland again for a second round with Wild West Irish Tours. It’s a big deal! I’m very excited. Almost everything is ready to go…the packing situation, however, could always do with some fine-tuning.

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The blogger. Photograph by Wild Westie Debbie Walker-Spies

 

 

The first time I went to Ireland on a Wild West Irish Tour, I had no idea what to bring with me – other than the suggested layered clothes, adapter, and passport. Oh, and a loofah. Those seemed to be the essentials – but I also grievously over-packed and was left with a suitcase larger than myself and an enormous backpack to haul around. Too much junk that wasn’t needed – being a worrier, typically, I doubled up on just about everything. For someone who typically tries to take up as little space as possible, this wasn’t ideal.

So this time I’m packing with one of our mottos in mind: expect great things in simple places. Recently I’ve been learning to roll my clothes for more economic options spacing. I found my long-lost windbreaker, and doubled up only on the socks I typically pack. But I also turned to the Wild Westies for some assistance in case I missed anything this time – and to avoid the sin of over-packing.

 

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Geraldine – to the far right in the blue vest!

The consensus from many people was the same: good shoes for hiking/walking, layered clothing, a waterproof jacket, wool socks (or at least thick ones)…Geraldine Gibbons, our friend and keeper of a splendid Irish B&B, had the additional suggestion of packing a fleece: the ideal layer, especially during the evenings. Plus you might be able to get up close and personal with a sheep or two! An “Irish uniform”, as Geraldine puts it, seems to be warm clothes that deflect the mists and gusts.

 

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Wild Westie Mary Ellen Powrie!

A couple of important outliers are a camera – and for those using their phones as cameras, Mary Ellen Powrie had the great suggestion of using a portable battery pack that could be recharged and used on the go. In her words, this meant absolutely “no worry about missing that perfect photo.” You’ll find there’s quite a few opportunities for beautiful photos in the Wild West of Ireland – and inspiration for all the arts, actually.

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Wild Westie Cynthia on an adventure!

Talented author Cynthia Owens also had the brilliant suggestion of “a notebook to record every fascinating detail of the trip.” If that isn’t just the most writerly thing you’ve ever heard…she’s right, though. It’s also nice at the end of the day to jot down your thoughts and feelings on what you’ve done so far. There’s details that come to you later, and are wonderful to share with others.

 

Some things aren’t as easy to pack as a toothbrush or sleep mask, though – the incorporeal concepts are the ones most difficult to grasp; and some have to be unseen carry-ons….or visible ones, if you feel like, as a couple Wild Westies suggested, bringing a smile with you.

And it’d be hard not to, considering where you’re going.

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Wild Westie Lynda in blue to the right!

An open mind and willingness to try are two outliers that manifest unseen – adventures are about embracing the unexpected and feeling it fully. “Willingness to try”, a thought courtesy of Wild Westie Lynda Clifford, suggests emboldening oneself and experiencing new things – whether it’s exploring an unknown glen in which fairies are rumored to dwell, horseback riding via scenic route, or simply treading where ancient Celts built monuments of sacred stone.

 

What do YOU recommend bringing with you on a trip to the Wild West of Ireland? If you have tips for travelers; please share this with some of your insight! We’d love to hear your thoughts. As they say in Gaelic, “giorraíonn beirt bóthar”, or, “two shorten the road”.

Please stay tuned for more of the upcoming journey – you’ll be seeing some exclusive insider stuff from this next adventure. I can’t wait to show you around the Wild West of Ireland from a new perspective…

                                                                                Until next time,

                                                                Sam Fishkind

                Wild West Irish Tours

                Social Media Manager & Scribe

Good morning, good afternoon, good evening! Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, perhaps you’d like to join us for another trip around the world…

Recently, a few folks have come forward to express how much Ireland reminds them of certain places close to home – how the craggy edges of the Wild West Atlantic Way emulate that of Cape Town; or how the thatched houses in the rolling emerald hills are a mirror’s image to those in Tennessee. Regardless of division of geographical areas, it’s sometimes nice to recall just how small the world can be – a pleasant echo of a home away from home exists especially in the Irish West.

On a personal level, Ireland is only my second venture out of my country of origin – and said venture echoed my earlier journey to Nova Scotia, whose varied terrain and monumental hills were paralleled by the Wild West of Ireland’s own. The miles of coastline were a constant companion in either realm – and moreover, it was comforting to know the same ocean spanned around either island as well as littoral Massachusetts, which is my actual home. Nova Scotia might’ve meant “New Scotland”; but people often link Ireland to Scotland regardless – they are, in my mind, sister regions.

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Photograph by Wild Westie Claudia Pellegrini Queiroz

Globally, Ireland is linked to many different land-forms – comparisons could also be drawn to Iceland [albeit temperately; Ireland is just a bit warmer] or even to parts of Louisiana [shout-out to the bogs!]. Typically, places with a rugged, drastic coastline, deciduous zones, and mountains or hills make the comparison to Ireland very easy –

That being said, a place you might not have considered comparing to Ireland but is worth the note?

Brazil!

                Claudia Pellegrini Queiroz, an exceptional photographer from Brazil (or, more accurately, Brasil), says she felt at home when traveling with Wild West Irish Tours in Ireland.

“Arriving in Ireland feels like a welcome home. I am Brazilian. The Irish spirit is just as musical and happy [as in Brazil].” She adds that Brazilians are friendly and welcoming – just like the Irish. Claudia herself brought that spirit with her as she embraced the scenery and people – bringing to life the many colors and emotions in the Irish landscape.

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Photograph by Wild Westie Claudia Pellegrini Queiroz – featuring Claudia herself!

“I loved the historical, anthropological, musical [aspects] and the times we were free to experience nature,” says Claudia of her time with Wild West Irish Tours. “I keep coming back. Ireland soothes me. Going to Ireland felt like a calling, and once I heard it, I felt it will be eternal.”

Brazil, being more Southern than Ireland and on the opposite side of the world, wouldn’t be someone’s first choice in comparative geography [then again, is comparative geography on anyone’s mind, usually?]. That being said, you can find a camaraderie in the way certain Irish houses emulate the vibrant colors of some Brazilian homes. The lush green landscape and coastal drama of land and sea is a heartbeat that pulses in time to Ireland’s own, especially its Wild West.

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Photograph by Wild Westie Claudia Pellegrini Queiroz

The Rainforest and places such as the Burren in Ireland, while two very different ecosystems, are home to a considerable amount of life forms [some you might not even expect]. Each are home to famous rivers – the Shannon and the Amazon, respectively. In fact, both areas are known for their plentiful rivers! There are even trees that look similar – the Irish “palm” [Cordyline Australis, an arbor visitor from New Zealand] and the Brazilian palm [what you’d expect to see on a beautiful sandy beach]. The Gulf Stream seems to connect them, as Claudia connects with Ireland herself: warmly and with boundless enthusiasm.

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Photograph by Wild Westie Claudia Pellegrini Queiroz

“I have been 6 times and I am looking forward to being there in September,” says Claudia. “Funny thing, the first place we went, I just laid in the ground like I belonged and had missed the land…the day before I was returning home, after 3 weeks in Ireland, I caught myself in tears. Somehow I heard a voice saying, it is ok now, you will always come back. As I have and will.”

Being connected in so many ways to each other in this world is an arguable blessing.

Ireland has, by itself, an individual brilliance about it that can make anyone feel at home – there is something for everyone here, be it the culture, the music, the people, the folklore, the history, or simply a little farm in a valley that feels like the heart of wherever you’re from –

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Photograph by Wild Westie Claudia Pellegrini Queiroz

So no matter where that is, you have a piece of home waiting for you in the Wild West of Ireland. It is a unique experience unto itself, and there is nowhere like it in the world exactly – just places within itself that feel like coming home.

                                                                                                                Until next time,

                                                                                                                Sam Fishkind

                                                                                                                Wild West Irish Tours

                                                                                                            Social Media Manager & Scribe

(All photographs in this post are taken by Claudia Pellegrini Queiroz, with our sincere gratitude!)