“Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”
― Oscar Wilde
Photos and Story by Donna Adinolfi
My dream to visit Ireland goes back many (many) years when I was a young girl growing up in the ‘70s in New Jersey. Majella Keogh, a childhood friend of mine, moved to the U.S. in the late 60s from Derry in Northern Ireland. We lived near one another and would see each other daily and the times we spent together inspired my interest in Ireland and that is when the seed was planted.
Although I have traveled quite a bit during my life and fulfilled many travel dreams, Ireland always seemed to be beyond my grasp.
Fast forward to a 10-week workshop where we would learn more about moving from limited thinking to one of abundance. Our facilitator and friend of mine, Eileen, mentioned her dream of traveling to Ireland. It all clicked – synchronistically too – and that is when the seed began to take root.
Spiritual, mystical, vibrant Ireland could really happen and the dream that the two of us shared would become the realization of many more – 13 of us.
“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
– William Butler Yeats
The Journey Begins
Upon arrival in Dublin, we met our driver for the week, Chris Evans, with Kennedy Coaches. After a quick tour of Dublin, we made it to Trinity College to see the famous Book of Kells and Library. Trinity College is also the Alma Mater of Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift, and Samuel Barclay Beckett.
Tip: Arrive a day prior to beginning any tour so you can rest up and start fresh the next day.
The Old Library’s 200-ft Long Room was built in the early 1700’s and has 200,000 of the library’s oldest books as well as marble busts of writers, including Jonathan Swift.
Christ Church, which stands on high ground in the oldest part of Dublin, was next. The main entrance is stunning and completely unforgettable. This is where you will find the tomb of Richard de Clare (Strongbow), who led the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland and the heart of Dublin’s patron saint, St. Laurence O’Toole, is also in this area.
If you visit, make your way down to the 12th-century crypt where you will find manuscripts and artifacts like a copy of the Magna Carta.
This next day alone would make more dreams a reality. Over the course of our day we would walk where heroes, kings and saints roamed, hear tales of the battles that took place, and be in awe over portal tombs wondering how the Neolithic people lifted these heavy stones.
We began the day at the Hill of Tara, an archaeological complex, national monument, and the seat of the High Kings of Ireland. Continuing through Boyne Valley, we arrived at Bru na Boinne for more Neolithic monuments including Knowth, Dowth, and one that I longed to visit, Newgrange. One day I will get there for the winter solstice.
The spirals on the entry stone always called out to me. My interpretation is that spirals represent the circle of life, but perhaps during Neolithic times they were a form of art representing the three monuments and the River Boyne. A mystical journey inside the tomb revealed triskelion, three connected spirals. By the way, Newgrange (3200BC) is older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramid of Giza.
Monasteries, Castles and Ruins
Arriving at Clonmacnoise, a Christian monastic site founded by St. Ciaran in the mid-6th century, took my breath away. I was drawn to the ruins and crosses as there was something extremely sacred and beautiful within the fallen walls.
Located on the River Shannon, Clonmacnoise includes ruins of a cathedral, seven churches, two round towers, three high crosses, and grave slabs. This site also dates to when Christianity was thriving throughout Ireland.
Further exploring took us along part of the Wild Atlantic Way, a 1553-mile trail along the west coast, to the Burren with its megalithic tombs, monuments, and to Kilfenora and its Celtic Crosses. A fun stop in Doolin and then the spectacular Cliffs of Moher. There really is something special about visiting a place for the first time.
On to Blarney Castle! Exploring the gardens, eating, and shopping were at the top of my list. I did not really know what to expect with the food in Ireland and was pleasantly surprised at how wonderful every meal was during this journey. Fresh, colorful, and healthy options were everywhere including the cafés at the different sites.
As our driver, Chris, continued sharing Ireland folklore and song, we would soon arrive in Cork and get to experience the Jazz Festival, which happened to be all over Cork including our hotel, the Clayton Cork City Hotel.
A night of jazz, pubs, and pints led us into the next day for a journey to the coastal town of Cobh. An area as fascinating as it is heartbreaking as we followed the stories of Irish emigration on convict and coffin ships as well as links to the Titanic and Lusitania. Exploring Cobh further led me up steep hills and what I longed to see, the colorful houses along West View Road, also known as the “Deck of Cards.”
We certainly had a full schedule on this journey and the time arrived for a respite at Creacon Wellness Retreat in New Ross, County Wexford. Creacon has a relaxing and mellow vibe, fifteen rooms, the Well Bean Cafe, beautiful gardens, a labyrinth, yoga, meditation, and unique energy work services.
Tip: There are a number of personal services at Creacon to choose from. I especially enjoyed the Ultimate Massage with Tibetan singing bowls, sound vibration, hot stones, essential oil aromatherapy, acupressure, lomi lomi and deep tissue manipulation. Ahh!
This part of our adventure gave us time to experience our inner journey, walk through the countryside, eat healthy food, and relax. Creacon Wellness Retreat is also close to the John F. Kennedy Homestead and Hook Lighthouse, which offered fantastic views of the sea rolling in over the rocky coast below.
Related: Spirituality Experiences
Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.” – John F. Kennedy
Pubs, Writers, and Guinness
Continuing to Dublin for our last night my initial goal was to visit the pubs of famous Irish writers, but the Guinness Storehouse Tour won out and the tour covered seven floors of interactive experiences. Admission also included a perfectly poured pint at the rooftop Gravity Bar.
This sacred and most enchanting journey to Ireland remains one of my favorite experiences. There was nothing ordinary about traveling through the countryside via the Wild Atlantic Way, visiting ruins and castles, singing along with Chris, and eating some of the best food I have ever had while abroad.
Irish Tourism will always be my go-to for pulling an Ireland journey together. I left Ireland with a dream fulfilled and a knowing that I will return.
Where to Stay:
Dublin: Academy Plaza Hotel
Ennis: Temple Gate Hotel
Cork: Clayton Cork City
New Ross: Creacon Wellness Retreat
Where to Explore:
Trinity College & Book of Kells
Hill of Tara, Newgrange, Bru na Boinne
Cliffs of Moher
Blarney Castle & Gardens (and shopping!)
Cobh Heritage Centre
May your blessings outnumber the Shamrocks that grow.
And may trouble avoid you wherever you go.
– Irish Blessing