Destinations / Featured

Where is Joel Now?

There’s an Irish proverb that states “An áit a bhfull do chroÍ, is ann a thabharfas dochosa thú” which roughly translates to “Your feet will bring you where your heart is.” If this is true, then my heart must reside somewhere deep within the Irish isles as my feet have returned three separate times in as many months.

Prior to this year, I had visited lush green Ireland and Northern Ireland once, on a whirlwind three-day road trip where we explored ruined castles in the woods, yelping with delight over the incredible coastline and wishing we’d seen much more. Well this summer that wish definitely came true. In a collection of visits made over the past few months, I have grown to love both the landscape and the culture even more and if that’s the case, then my feet will likely return many times over!

The Republic of Ireland reminds me so much of Canada. People are warm and friendly with a bit of sarcastic edge that makes for an entertaining and inviting time out. Earlier this summer, I visited Dublin to see Coldplay with 20,000 or so new Irish friends. Dublin itself is a beautiful city, one that feels quite exciting and electric, but steeped in history. Our first stop was, of course, the Guiness Brewery where we sampled Ireland’s finest and toasted to many more returns to the Emerald Isle.

Later in the month, I returned to visit the south. Cork, while a small coastal hub, is buzzing with people and they pride themselves on being a foodie and coffee paradise. I was surprised to see so many artisan coffee shops and handmade donut shops, delicious offerings around every corner. I was also surprised to come face to face with not just one, but a whole herd of Giraffes as well as zebras, lemurs, lions and penguins at the nearby Fota Island Wildlife Park. It gave me Jurassic Park vibes but in all the best ways.

After Cork, it was up toward the west coast, Limerick being our destination. We ventured out even further because if you’re going to west Ireland, you must visit the Cliffs of Moher. I have heard of the cliffs and of the awe inspiring view from friends. I had seen their photos but it wasn’t until I was standing, almost swept away by the sheer force of the winds, that I really appreciated the towering beauty of the sheer cliffs. Over 200 meters high, the clifftops soar over the Atlantic and we spent time peeking over the edges. I was transfixed.

And now, just today, I have left Ireland after my third visit in three months. A small group of friends arrived to celebrate a wedding and we descended upon The Burren, a national park that feels more like the landscape of the moon than the lush vibrant greens more common to Ireland. Our first morning was exploring local sites including a 6,000 year old Neolithic tomb preserved and standing tall among the limestone and the now ruined Corcomroe Abbey which was also the scene of the beautiful wedding.

After our stay in the Burren was brought to a close, we were off to Northern Ireland in search of giants and ancient castles. On a rather dreary Saturday morning, we ventured toward the north coast and all its mystical and magical offerings. Our first stop was a walk down the country lane now referred to as The Dark Hedges. Game of Thrones fans will recognize this avenue as Kings Road. On our way to the coast, we took a short detour through the town of Bushmills with a stop at the main attraction, the oldest whiskey distillery in the world. After a few glasses of liquid warmth, we ventured into the rain and began our search for the Giant.

Giant’s Causeway that is. The UNESCO World Heritage site is made up of 40,000 interlocking stone columns and its history depends on who you ask. Local folklore will tell you that the stones were made by the giant Fionn mac Cumhaill, who created the causeway after a challenge to fight the Scottish giant Benandonner. Scientists will tell you that the hexagonal pillars were created by cooling of volcanic lava. I prefer the folklore version and enjoyed seeing the many other folk sites in the area like the Giant’s Harp, the Chimney Stacks and the Giant boot. The causeway itself is incredible, even in the whipping wind and rain, it feels very much like another planet, the interlocking pillars connected so perfectly, rising and falling into the crashing waves.

After a quick warm up, we headed along the coastline to 500 year-old Dunluce Castle, one of my favourite places. Perched high above the North Channel, it sits in ruins but still commands a presence. It is a castle connected by a steep bridge and laying deep below, lies Mermaid Cove, which is said to be haunted by the ghosts of two lovers who tried to escape the castle at night. We stayed away from the ghosts but ventured toward the cove to watch the sun dip behind the massive stone towers and into the horizon. Ending another picture perfect visit to this incredible island. It’s no doubt at all that my heart and my feet will be returning in no time at all.


One Comment

  1. Maryanne Leach says:

    Lovely photos of Ireland