Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Old Country

We are staying at Trinity College.

When I was a little girl, we lived next door to my grandparents. It's a funny thing but they often spoke of a place called "The Old Country".  As a young child, I thought that this was the name of a real place. Small children can be very literal! My great-grandmother was also from "The Old Country".
In her case, there were foods associated with the aforementioned country: scones and small tea pancakes served with real butter and jam. Sometimes, children were allowed tea with milk served in
pretty china cups.

My maternal grandparents, who lived next to us, were from Shetland and from Northern Ireland. My
grandmother came from Bushmills before Ireland was divided and my grandfather from Shetland after World War One. Only one of my grandmother's uncles stayed in Bushmills but most of my grandfather's siblings stayed in Shetland so I have many cousins to visit in the Islands.


Since early times, island people have gone to sea to trade for life's necessities.

The trip that I am planning will involve exploring, with two other women friends, our personal
"Old Country" Ireland.  We will be spending 2.5 weeks in Ireland together and then my friend Janet and I will fly to Shetland and then to London where we will meet my daughter.

We will be starting our travels in Dublin where we will be sharing a 3-bedroom apartment at Trinity
College. The location is central and economical. We will be able to prepare some light meals and to move independently according to our own clocks and interests.

Travelling with friends is very different from travelling with a partner or travelling solo. I am an early riser and enjoy quiet evening reading with a glass of wine and a light snack. I tend to research my destinations and enjoy savouring the streets of a city.  Each of my friends has her own rhythms and interests so we need to build in together time and alone time.

We have chosen to tour by Bus Eírean as none of us wish to drive. The distances between cities and towns is not great so none of our bus rides will be more than 5 hours. We have limited the number of stops so that we have time to enjoy our destinations.

After Dublin, we will be heading to the Wild Atlantic Way (the West Coast) of Ireland via Cork.We will travel to Ennis where we can visit The Burren and The Cliffs of Moher. My friend, Madeline, has visited Ireland before and says that these are must-sees. Rick Steves recommends Ennis as a good base from which to explore the middle section of the coast. We are booking two rooms (a twin and a
single/double) so we need to stay in mid-size towns. Proximity to bus and rail stations is also a consideration.


The West Coast

My friend, Madeline's family roots are in county Mayo. We will travel from Ennis north to Mayo to visit the towns of her parents' families. Mayo seems to be a land of seacoast and lakes.

Our next destination will involve our longest travel day as we will go from Mayo to Belfast, Northern Ireland. While the distance is not great, the journey involves either going back through Dublin or travelling Bus Eírean to Enniskillen and transferring to Bus Ulster.

We are lucky again to have an apartment (with a washing machine) in Belfast. I want to visit Cozies (an area of Bushmills) where my grandmother lived her early childhood years.  I actually found her in the 1911 Irish census.  I really like looking at census information but most countries don't release
their personal information until after 100 years.

Bushmills is near The Giant's Causeway so we will have a chance to experience the East Coast of Northern Ireland as well as the West Coast of Eire. At Belfast, we part ways with Madeline and Janet and I will travel to Shetland.

My friends and I each have the desire to visit those places of the family stories. As we get older, it seems that we are more interested in visiting "The Old Country"  wherever it may be.  If you have travelled in Ireland or live there, I would be happy to hear any suggestions of sites in Counties Clare and Mayo.

10 comments:

  1. Oh this sounds wonderful. My maternal great-grandfather came from Ireland and emigrated to Australia with his seven children. I know the Australian history but need to discover more of my Irish roots. My paternal grand-father came from England.

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    1. One of my mum's Shetland cousins emigrated to New Zealand. I think that the climate and the dairy and sheep farming in the more temperate areas of Australia and New Zealand would have lured people. Take a look at the Irish census records to discover more about the Irish roots.

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  2. I smiled to myself as I read of your childhood interpretation of 'The Old Country' as I had the same experience, exactly. Your trip sounds wonderful!

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    1. Isn't it funny how literal we are as children? But those stories and the tastes of great-grandma's scones stay with me 60 years on.

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  3. What a wonderful trip you're embarking upon. Going with friends is a great idea, as is building in some solitude and separation. I'll look forward to reading more about it.

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    1. Getting a balance is so important with travelling companions, I think. I'm looking forward...

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  4. Your travel plans sound wonderful and I hope that you will "take all of us with you" by sharing your experiences. I was in Ireland in 1994 and in 1997 and fell in love with County Clare as we explored by bus, car and on foot and in 1997 as we took part in a bicycle tour. My family members were originally from Belfast area in the 1880's but Clare really spoke to me. I would recommend the small town of Corofin and a B-and B nestled along side the river there-seems that it might be called "River House" but I could be wrong. Also, the Burren had a perfumery at one time and that tour(if still in existence) is great. I remember feeling that my DNA recognized Ireland the minute I landed at the Shannon airport-maybe you will experience this as well. OH! Make sure you visit the Aran Islands too :) Envious beyond words, J.

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    1. I'm looking forward to the Burren. I looked up Corofin and it is not far from Ennis. I do hope to visit the Aran Islands if the weather is good. It's funny about the DNA. I am from seafaring island stock and I live on an island and volunteer in a shipyard museum. Thanks for the information.

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  5. I have been to Ireland (Republic) twice and travelled extensively there. I found driving very easy -- roads were not crowded at all and distances short -- and in my opinion you would have much more freedom to explore by car, especially less touristy, scenic rural areas such as the Reeks and the wild western coast.

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  6. Your trip sounds wonderful...how lovely that you are travelling with friends.
    I will look forward to living vicariously through your travel posts!

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