It started with a book.
As I have recounted within these pages on numerous occasions, it was Leon Uris’ masterwork Trinity that inspired my first solo visit to Ireland. Reading, and repeatedly re-reading the bestselling novel of Irish independence stirred something within me as a teenager, driving me to distraction, and eventually, in 1989, driving me across the Atlantic at the tender age of twenty-two.
I had previously visited Ireland as a child with my family. And while my recollections of that voyage are dim, I do recall a distinct sense of belonging whilst there – likely as both my father and mother have roots on the Emerald Isle. Perhaps, however, it was something more.
I have always been a traveler, like my father, and like his father before him. Though – as with my siblings – I am adopted, the travel bug is nonetheless in my blood. I am blessed (or cursed) with both wanderlust and wonderlust.
Those traits have served me well over time, both personally and professionally; a long love of learning, combined with countless landscapes, makes for a life and career that are rich and rewarding. I am grateful each day for my good fortune.
As good fortune would have it, I have been lucky to visit Eire several times in recent years, exploring Dublin, the Ancient East, the Wild Atlantic Way, and Northern Ireland over the last half-decade. I have my favourite spots; the capital city is wondrous for walking, vital and vibrant with its tremendous heritage, amazing architecture, fine food, and bustling nightlife; Galway is a cornucopia of arts and culture; Donegal is lush and lyrical at once; the coastal route from Derry to Belfast is breathtaking, and the Dingle Peninsula has me dreaming of retiring by the sea.
For travelers, Ireland is ideal; airports are centrally located and easy to navigate for those coming and going; well-kept roads make for quick and easy drives; bus and rail lines link all major destinations; hotel and hostel options are aplenty; the cuisine is wholesome and world-class; there is no shortage of good craic wherever you roam, and the people are warm and witty to a fault.
Of course, no agenda would be complete without attending to the attractions; Dublin Castle, the Blarney Stone, the Burren, the Cliffs of Moher, Derry’s Walls, the Titanic Museum, and many more – each a testament to both the country’s incredible history and its vast natural beauty.
It is the other Ireland, though – the hidden-in-plain-sight Eire – that makes it so intriguing. Getting lost here isn’t a dilemma, it is an opportunity.
As such, there is nothing quite like stumbling upon 9th Century ruins in Waterford, browsing a back-alley bookshop in Temple Bar, experiencing a double-rainbow by the sea in Kenmare, catching a glimpse of wild Connemara ponies in Clifden, sniffing the scent of a turf fire while hiking the hills of Donegal, or walking into a mid-morning music seisiún in a small pub in Westport.
Credit Tourism Ireland, and all of its affiliated arms, for not only knowing a good thing when they’ve got it, but for going the extra mile to see that visitors are able to experience all that the Emerald Isle has to offer, and ensuring that everyday tourists feel like travelers. The organization’s counterparts in the other Celtic nations could learn much from their Irish peers on how to properly make visitors feel not only welcome, but at home.
And home is where the heart is, and my heart is in Ireland. Well, a little piece of it is left behind with every visit anyway. And I make sure to take a piece of the island with me each time I return from my travels there; photographs, souvenirs, mementos, memories, and new found friendships are all part of my mental and emotional landscape both at my house and at the office. I even manage to smuggle a little bit of turf back with me each trip.
However, it is the writing – the journals, the stories on the website, the social media postings, the tiny scraps of note-paper, the bits and pieces of never-completed poems and lyrics, and the full flesh of finished essays and articles – that keep my adventures in Ireland alive.
Perhaps, one day, it shall all end with a book.
Stephen Patrick Clare – Managing Editor