We had the experience of a lifetime! My first young adult and I recently returned from my grandfather’s homeland. In addition to seeing the home he grew up in, we found so much to do that my son and I created a list of places to go for our next trip.
Friends on Facebook had great advice about where to go and what to do. I am not sure who told me, but whoever recommended renting an automatic car is a life saver! There is no way I could have driven standard on the wrong side of the car/road.
The best advice about the trip came from the rental car bus driver. He reminded me to orient myself to the car when I first got in. Then, he imparted this bit of wisdom, “Take it slow, enjoy the drive. Remember you are on vacation.” As my son navigated our way around each round about reminding me to stay to the left, I gripped the wheel with white knuckles and put this sweet man’s words on repeat in my head. Go slow. Enjoy. This is vacation. Because of his reminder to pull over and let the native drivers pass, we discovered amazing things in places we least expected.
As we made our way from Dublin, we saw a historic road marker pointing to a distillery. Since Irish Whiskey was one of the reasons we made the trip, we pulled over to see what there was to see. We arrived just in time to join a tour. It was fascinating to see the building where whiskey has been made, off and on, since 1757. Originally powered by a water wheel, they eventually added a steam engine in the 1800’s which still works. You can find out more about Kilebeggan Distillery here and here. Sadly, I never got to try the whiskey because of my driving, but their tea was pretty good.
The Catholic Church has a long and complicated history in Ireland. While my son was drawn to the Emerald Isle for the beer, whiskey, etc. I was drawn for other reasons. In Northwest Ireland, tucked away in the countryside, we visited Balllintuber Abbey. Originally founded in 1216, Mass has been said in this church for 800 years, even in the years when the building had no roof. Can you imagine the dedication to attend Mass while hungry, wet, and cold? Despite many attempts to destroy the church, Mass is still said there today. We were able to attend Mass on the Feast of the Sacred Heart and lifted each of the FMM community up in prayer in this thin place.
Driving south, we stopped in Adare for a quick poke around the high street. The centerpiece of the town is the Trinitarian Abbey. My pictures are lovely, but if you go here you can get a virtual tour. This abbey is the only one the White Friars established in Ireland and it dates back to the mid 1200’s. The Trinitarians, or White Friars, were a Catholic order of priests organized to ransom prisoners during the Crusades. At the conclusion of the Crusades, the priests joined different orders.
We drove and loved the beautiful countryside. My pictures could not do justice to the kilometers and kilometers of stacked stone walls, sheep, and various shades of green. Because of our stops in the middle, we did not make it to the famed cliffs of Moher or the Ring of Kerry.
This was our favorite stop on the trip. While it was not the most scenic (Dingle) or the city with the most to see and do (Dublin), Killorglin was the most unexpected. it is a sleepy, little Irish town tucked in the southwest corner of the island. We loved our hotel, which was actually attached to a pub. There is something so genuinely Irish about getting your room key from the girl who serves the Guinness. The served granola from this bakery and I had to go to the grocery store on our way out of town to buy my own, it was that good.
I went to Mass at St. James Church and was reminded of my Camino Girls. There was a book in the narthex that I read before Mass which shared the history of the parish. Construction of the church was funded, in part, by the Irish who were living in America in the late 1800’s. The priest got the addresses from their mothers and travelled to America to visit men in New York, Chicago and elsewhere. During his visit, he would give family news and receive donations to fund the building of the new church. The stained glass window behind the altar featured Jesus surrounded by the main saints of Ireland including St. Ita. She has a fascinating legacy including educating St. Brendan the Navigator, she is considered the foster mother of all Irish saints.
Our favorite meal of the trip was at Sol y Sambra a Spanish Tapas Bar in a repurposed church. I was able to relive some of my Camino meals and enjoy a glass of Albarino. It was fabulous. Sadly, the meal cost a little more than the ones we enjoyed in Spain, but it was worth it!
One place we went was way off the beaten path, yet worth a look if you are in just north of Dublin and have some time on your hands. The Church of Saints Peter and Paul has the most unusual stained glass windows of any church we visited. Built in 1842, it is a beautiful building and very large compared to the size of the town. One of the windows depicting Mary’s visit with Elizabeth was created by the famous Irish artist Harry Clarke. Another window which caught my attention featured Jesus healing the lepers.
Traveling with just two of us, we were able to be flexible and each got to do what we wanted. We enjoyed listening to talk radio and learning what is capturing the imaginations of the Irish right now.
If you could take a road trip with one of your adult children/nieces/nephews, where would you go and why? Let me know in the comment section below.