Cahir Castle & the Flooded River Suir, Cahir, County Tipperary
If you are traveling to Ireland, there is one ‘must have’ in that suitcase … an umbrella. If you want to be really savvy; pack a raincoat, too. There are times you can use both. For December 2015, an ark would have been a good addition. If only it would have fit in my carry-on.
Actually, it became kind of comical. There was a common occurrence as I met people this last December. After an introduction and the discovery that I was on vacation/holiday, I started to notice a similar reaction. There would be a pause, a faint look of pity and a slight shake of the head. It would be followed by a sincere apology … I am sorry about the weather or all this rain and you’re on holiday.
If I may, please let me send a quick note to the people of Ireland … there is no need to apologize for the rain. After all …
It is Ireland.
Clearing Fog, Glendasan Valley, County Wicklow
I have learned that you …
- Never trust the forecast; the best forecast is the one that you see when you look out the window or to the horizon.
- Plan on some type of rain every day, which may range from five minutes to a couple of hours. Smile when you have sunlight.
- Use an archway or a doorway of a ruin during a downpour, especially if the ruin no longer has a roof.
- Never leave the umbrella in the car … ever. (Although, I always manage to do it once a trip and get caught in a shower. I’m hopeful.)
- Always take one pair of weather-proofed shoes.
- Plan to get a little wet at least once. If you are really lucky, a good soak will be a great story to tell for years.
- Always carry a cloth in your pocket to wipe off your lens. They even make a rain jacket for cameras.
- Need a little patience. It can go a long way … and is often rewarded by clearing skies.
Even more important, don’t change your plans. It is Ireland and it’s going to rain. In reality, I have been rewarded with more sun on my trips than rain. (I have actually experienced 15 days of ‘no rain’ in a row and an abundance of sunlight … and sunburn).
But, believe it or not … even the Irish can’t control the weather.
So, what do you do when you arrive on the tail of Storm Desmond and depart the day after Storm Frank? You take advantage of those fleeting moments of clouds and sun. You ‘go with the flow.’
Fairy Trail, Wells House & Gardens, County Wexford
Okay, I will admit, December 2015 meant day-long rains and some gale force winds. Even I gave up after ‘slip-sliding’ across a lawn one day. But here is reminder … Ireland isn’t just about what is outside. It also has wonderful activity inside. I would encourage you to slow down on those really rainy days and linger over your lunch at the local pub or cafe. Wander around some great historic buildings that do have a roof. Shop. Find an opportunity to engage people in conversation over a tea, coffee or Guinness. Experience Ireland, instead of just ‘seeing’ it.
December 2015 will go down in history for record flooding in Ireland. And, while I did spend more time ‘in’ than ‘out’, I will also say that my vacation was amazing! Thanks to some brief moments of sun, I was able to get out with the camera. But in reality, I have to credit some amazing people that have become friends along the way. They were kind enough to look out for me and made sure I wasn’t staring out a rain-drenched window the entire time. Thanks to them, I had some truly amazing experiences. If I had been out and about, I would have missed them.
Wicklow Mountains, County Wicklow
Lower Lake, Glendalough, County Wicklow
December Blues, River Suir, County Tipperary
Cahir Castle Grounds, Cahir, County Tipperary
Military Road, County Wicklow
Glen of Imaal, County Wicklow
Durrow High Cross, Durrow, County Offaly
People no longer ask me if I am returning to Ireland, but when. The number of raised eyebrows regarding the frequency of my visits has also slowed. In reality, I am not any different than most people in that if you find something that you really, really love, you figure out how to make it happen. For some, it is a closet full of shoes, for others … that new car. For me, it’s Ireland.
It helps that I am not a natural-born shopper. I find myself staying in more than going out. When I reach for a purchase, I no longer think in terms of want versus need, but how much of a day’s car rental or B&B stay it will cover. I have learned to travel on a budget, yet, have never felt cheated. It can be done and every six-to-eight months, I find myself back in Ireland … happy!
In all honesty, I still struggle to articulate the answer to – Why Ireland? Part of the reason that I return is that I am searching for that answer. When I do, you will be the first to know. In the meantime, if you need a better answer, I have created a list of my current 50 top excuses, I mean, reasons why I return to Ireland. Enjoy!
Glendalough, County Wicklow
- There are 32 counties that need to be explored; I have been to (or through) 26 … but it also doesn’t mean that they have been thoroughly explored.
- Stand in a building that is more than a thousand years old and you find you want to do it again and again. There is something about their tenacity as they have faced weather and wars over centuries and survived … well mostly.
- I have a list of 637 castle/castle ruins; I have only been to 36. It’s a ‘math’ thing.
- I have been to even more abbeys/monasteries/priories, but they number in 3,000-3,500 (plus). Need I say more?
- I return home to a newsfeed of images of that must-see-site-that-was-just-down-the-road-and-around-the-corner-that-I-missed and I find myself thinking … next time.
- There are twelve months and I have only wandered around in four (June, September, December and January.) It isn’t helping that I am repeating some months.
- There are four seasons … okay, I almost have this one covered, since I have been there in winter, autumn and summer. But then, there is late autumn, early summer, etc.
- I still want to experience the Spring Equinox ‘in country’ since I have been present for the Fall Equinox, Summer Solstice and Winter Solstice. It’s a Celtic thing.
- There are mountain ranges I have yet to explore.
- I am told that I am missing out by not spending more time on Ireland’s shores. I have started adding them to the list.
- I am treated as a responsible adult. I can actually be trusted to climb the original stairs in a 15th century castle with only a rope to serve as a handhold.
- I have been told that I need to experience more sunrises and sunsets … when available.
Glenmalure, County Wicklow
The Places … and I anticipate you want to desperately add to this list if you have been to Ireland.
- Cashel, County Tipperary … it will always be my Irish home town and one must always return home.
- Cahir, County Tipperary … it is still my favorite place (to date.)
- Lahinch, County Clare; it was quite unexpected.
- Malihide, County Dublin … I love its harbour.
- Kilkenny, County Kilkenny and its art ‘vibe’.
- Glendalough, County Wicklow. I have been known to spend an entire day there and then return.
- Fethard, County Tipperary … the intact medieval wall.
- Cobh, County Cork … St. Coleman’s Cathedral is worth the trip.
- Clara Vale, County Wicklow and the rose cottage.
- Knockmealdown Mountains, County Waterford in June.
- Newgrange, County Meath … one day I will win the Winter Solstice lottery.
Food & Drink
- Bulmers, specifically the fruit and rhubarb/apple/spice varieties I cannot find locally.
- Mature Irish Cheddar Cheese and Spring Onion crisps by Tayto.
- Bangers and Mash.
- Rhubarb yogurt, scones, muffins, tarts, etc.
- Custard (and preferably poured over the scones, tarts, etc.)
- Petrol station Americano’s … It is where you can find the best coffee.
Bits & Bobs
- I was born to drive on the left side of the road! (Note: It freaks people out when I accidentally do this at home.)
- The sheep; they are quite photogenic. But, then, so are the cattle, the horses, the swans, etc.
- I am still hoping to see a fairy when standing in a fairy fort. If a leprechaun wants to stop by, too, that would be brilliant.
- I never tire of the Irish accent, although sometimes I have to really focus to understand … my apologies in advance.
- Decorated doors and windows.
- The flora growing on stone. It is an obsession of mine.
- The benches … another obsession.
- Stone bridges … okay, I have more than two obsessions.
- The high crosses … add another to the obsession list.
- Heather and gorse.
- I am still trying to find Irish Linen on the bolt.
- Images that I have missed or want to retake.
- The music.
The People … You know who you are!
- The artists.
- The photographers.
- The archeologists.
- The B&B owners that let me move in for a couple weeks (or more).
- The strangers that are kind and helpful.
- The friends that have joined in on the journey.
- The connections that I have yet to make.
And Above All …. The Unexpected experiences!
Swiss Cottage, Cahir, County Tipperary
Lismore Castle, Lismore, County Waterford
Lahinch, County Clare
Clonmacnoise Castle, County Offaly
Little Sugar Loaf, County Wicklow
Behind Kilruddery House, Bray, County Wicklow
Single Sheep, Knockmealdown Mountains, County Tipperary