It was the luck of the Irish when my daughter, who I was visiting in Richmond, and I happened by your booth and Ireland brochures at the St Patrick’s Day Festival and met Beatriz. Although visiting Ireland was a long-time wish, I wasn’t then actively considering such a trip.

Still, I explained what I was looking for in a two-generation family trip to Ireland:  A comprehensive but not overwhelming 7-10 day tour, a look at our Irish roots in four different counties, flexibility, affordability and no driving.  Not hesitating, Beatriz recommended your Wild West Atlantic Way tour. With a large enough group, and with a similar cost, we could sign up for a private tour with our own driver, allocate time for stops in ancestral areas, and even request limited genealogy assistance. It sounded just right and possible.  We needed some time for us all to work out schedules, budget, details and dates, but it all came together, and the six of us – my husband Larry and I, daughter Lauren and son-in-law Kevin, son Stephen and his girlfriend Ashten – were on.

This was my family’s first visit to Ireland/Northern Ireland and it unfolded into a wonderful, magical time.  Ireland’s unusually lush, green, rocky landscape is stunning.  We were treated to so much beauty while there – along with kindness, consideration, friendliness and knowledge.

Our 10-day whirlwind included castles and cliffs, hills and holy wells, waterfalls and mist, churches and graveyards, sheep and sheepdogs, caves and shipwrecks, and stones, steppingstones and stone walls EVERYWHERE.  Dermot and Senan, always on time and in good humor, set the tone for each day’s events, answered many questions, and drove us safely to our numerous destinations.  Pius, our County Clare walking guide and a national treasure, introduced us to the Burren and its beautifully rocky landscape.  A natural and assured teacher, he generously shared history and legends of Ireland, as well as its Celtic spirit and spirituality. A counterpart in Sligo, Captain George, aboard the Rose of Innisfree, steered us across Lough Gill to another time and place, and reintroduced us to WB Yeats while narrating Yeats poems.

We also touched base with our family roots, working in two afternoon stops at several ancestral town lands in both Ireland and Northern Ireland. We found churches where my great-great-great grandparents married, their children were baptized and married, my great-grandmother’s home, and a graveyard where relatives lie buried. I deeply thank Geraldine for confirming and adding her expertise to my research, and for mapping out these locations.  She and Senan also took us into the hills to see the ruins of a small neighborhood of abandoned stone “famine” homes, providing a clearer picture of what our ancestors in counties Clare and Sligo likely faced in the 1840s. Sharing with my children these visible links to our Irish heritage was a wonderful and powerful experience.

High points also included meeting Joe the sheepdog, and Martin, his smart, funny, equally entertaining owner.  Laura charmed us with her good nature and humor, along with her dancing, singing and story-telling skills.  Mary, Kathleen and Audrey welcomed us warmly at each of our three inns, greeting us every morning with pots of coffee and tea and breakfast cooked-to-order. Even the weather cooperated, running the gamut from balmy to blustery, and misty and chilly – a treat for those of us escaping  Florida’s heat. The late sunsets were glorious.

You all make a great team – professional, personable and welcoming. You worked well with each other and with us to tailor what turned into a top-notch tour. Making this decision to travel was, in words Senan might say, “Sound. Sound!”  I feel as if Dermot, Senan, Geraldine, Mary and Pius now are old friends. Thank you all for helping to make this an amazing, spiritual, educational, and “brilliant” experience for our family. To borrow from Yeats, we human children indeed got away to the waters and the wild – to a world full of delight.

And finally, as it turns out, we actually traveled as a party of seven.  Our first evening in Ireland, our daughter and son-in-law told us she was expecting their first child – our first grandchild.  Truth be told, this was the greatest highlight of our visit. In this land of our ancestors, it felt as if we were coming full circle.

Thanks again for everything ~

Patricia O. and family

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