For some time, I wanted a family trip to Ireland, and last June, that dream was fulfilled.
Coordinating a trip around the busy schedules of five adults wasn’t easy, but somehow we assembled our baby boomer and millennial “dream team.” Parents came equipped with wristwatches, a hard copy of Rick Steves Ireland and the Collins Ireland Comprehensive Road Atlas. The millennials were armed with tech know how including Ireland-compatible phone cards, adaptors, and Google Maps navigation.
On this trip, we not only experienced this country’s spirit and beauty, but also connected to our Irish ancestry. My Moran great-grandparents emigrated from County Mayo during the Great Famine, and there had been no communication with any Irish relatives since that time. As part of my ancestry research, I became a member of the Mayo Genealogy Group Facebook page. Could my Irish FB friends help me find the home of my Irish ancestors?
In January, we began making on-line reservations including flights, car rentals, and accommodations. Summer is the high tourist season so we booked well in advance. Our itinerary started in Dublin, looped south to Kinsale, and followed the Wild Atlantic Way west to the Dingle Peninsula and County Mayo.
On our tour south, we were fascinated by the ancient structures in Glendalough and the Drumbeg Circle. By starting our day early, we were able to beat the tourist bus crowds. The Rock of Cashel and Kilkenny Castle were also very impressive. A highlight was staying at the Kilcolgan Castle airbnb. Every night, our host would set a peat fire for us in a cozy parlor.
Although sitting by a fireplace in June might seem a bit strange, the weather was mostly in the 60s with partial sun and light rain. From region to region, the weather could be variable. During our two-week stay, we experienced only two days of constant rain. On the Dingle Peninsula, it was so warm and sunny that we got sunburned!
If you’re a fan of traditional Irish music, the Dingle Peninsula is a must visit. Almost every pub offered live music, and there were smaller venues for intimate concerts at the St. James Church and The Dingle Music Shop. Musicians at one concert encouraged audience members to dance, and I even won a CD for dancing an Irish jig!
When we arrived in County Mayo, I was overwhelmed by the majestic views. Who knew there were fjords in Ireland? We loved the rambling Black-faced sheep on the hillsides and along the roads.
The history of that area was also very moving. Doulough Valley had a memorial to a tragic event from the Great Famine. In 1849, six hundred starving people walked 12 miles to ask their landlord for food. They were turned away, and an estimated 200 died along this road on the way back. According to family history, my great-grandfather went out in search of food and was found lying dead in the lane. My great-grandmother walked from the west to the east coast of Ireland to take passage to England.
During our County Mayo visit, my FB friend, Phil, contacted me. Through property record research, she had located the land of my great-great grandfather and sent us directions to meet her north of Ballycroy National Park. This is where we ran (drove) into some confusion. In that Gaeltacht area of County Mayo, all of the signs were in Irish with no English translation, and we got lost!
Fortunately, we were able to phone Phil for some assistance, and we followed her to the Moran property in the small town of Muingnabo. While taking pictures of a house, I noticed an elderly man speaking to our sons. Our older son shouted, “This is Jimmy Moran and he wants to take us out for a pint!” Our caravan of rental cars followed Jimmy to the Broadhaven Bay Hotel in Belmullet for a Guinness. I hadn’t just found the Moran homestead, but met a likely relative as well! It was a grand way to end our trip to Ireland.
We thoroughly enjoyed our tour of Ireland, and on our next visit, we would pick one area to stay for a longer time. The accommodations were very affordable, and the fresh local cheese, bread, and seafood were delicious.
(Travel article published 10/28/17 in our local newspaper.)