With St. Patrick’s Day just days away, I thought it might finally be time to share some tips for family travel to Ireland. I took a six day trip to the Emerald Isle with my mother and two of my children, Payne and Daly, my oldest and youngest. This was a couple of years ago and the memories are still vivid.
We went because my mother always dreamed of going and I wanted to be the person to show her this magical place. I had been once, many years before, and loved the island (I love pretty much all islands). Sharing this special place with my mom and my children was truly a once in a lifetime experience.
I’m the kind of traveler who likes to hang with the locals, so I booked bed and breakfasts the entire trip. We rented a car and pulled out a map, expecting to make stops along the way whenever we saw something neat. Two very important things I should share here. First, in Ireland you will be driving on the “opposite” side of the street than you are accustomed to in the states. That takes some getting used to, especially in all the round-abouts (which pretty much replace all stop signs in Ireland). Second, you need to make sure your traveling companions can read a map. My mom had issues with this. My children were too young. It wasn’t really smart for me to try reading a map while driving on the wrong side of the road at speeds much faster than I was comfortable with in a car I had just rented. It made for some serious drama. We sometimes ended up driving a lot more than we needed to because of this and when you have a two year old in the back seat who is DONE being in a car seat, it adds to more drama. You get my drift. Because of this, I would recommend a tour guide. Just sayin’.
I did like the flexibility of being able to make our own plans and change them when necessary (or just when desired). We could stay as long as we wanted or just pick up and leave if we weren’t impressed with our latest stop. We saw amazing things, met really interesting people, and made memories that still leave me smiling inside (you haven’t lived until you’ve seen your mother hanging upside down at the top of an old castle so that she can kiss the Blarney Stone!).
We saw the Cliffs of Moher and crossed a rope bridge suspended through the air (at what felt like half a mile high) above the ocean. We were able to stand on the shore of Northern Ireland and see Scotland in the distance. We walked along the Giant’s Causeway and through St. Patrick’s Cathedral. We got lost over and over and over. And found out all kinds of things. Like the fact that Eugene Daly (who very well could have been one of my relatives) was heard playing his bagpipes on the Titanic as it left its last port before it’s final journey. And the fact that the Landers of Ireland (who also could be my relatives) have two players on the Ireland National Hurling Team (and no, it’s not that kind of hurling–it’s a sport that’s sort of like baseball, lacrosse and soccer that is ALL the rage in Ireland). And the fact that there is nothing as special as a journey to a new place that’s really very old, making new memories with people I love dearly.