My niece and her family from Atlanta just returned after a whirlwind 12-day visit to Ireland. It was a first-ever visit to their ancestral homeland, and, like most first-time visitors, they spent much of their days traveling in a rented motorcar, East to West, South to North, taking in as much as they could of the spectacular sights of the island.
From all reports, they had a ball – they’re all young enough for some arduous travel days, and the twenty-somethings among them reveled especially in the adventures climbing on, over, and around many of the historic sites: the Conor Pass, the Cliffs of Moher, the Giant’s Causeway, the Bushmills plant, et al. – and the family came home with a ton of photos and a passel of memories that will last a lifetime.
While planning for the trip, they had heard about the Forry family’s ancestors’ proximity to the legendary Caves of Keash of Sligo, where generations of our people had lived until my grandfather, Patrick Forry, emigrated to America in the 1890s. When the Atlanta Forrys got to the ancestral homeland in Keash, they discovered that the caves were accessible via pathways up the mountain, so the five of them embarked on the one-hour hike to the top, exploring the caves and looking out over the Sligo countryside at some glorious views.
That’s the way it is when you’re young and facile enough to explore the wonders of the Emerald Isle. I well remember the thrills of my first visit to Conor Pass in Co. Kerry: We were in taxicab hired for the day, careening up the narrow roadway through the mountains of the Kerry peninsula on the way to Dingle. “A twisty one-lane asphalted road leads to the pass,” according to a posting on Wikipedia. “The drive, inadvisable in bad weather, is considered one of the most beautiful of Ireland. The scenic road leading to the pass weaves its way around the sharp cliff faces and past high corrie lakes. Vehicles over two tonnes in weight are prohibited from using the road in order to avoid difficulties in passing.”
From what I’ve been told, my niece and her family enjoyed the experience, as did I and my own brood when we traveled that path those many years ago.
But for me, that was then, and this is now, and as I make plans for my next trip to Ireland later this summer (is it my 10th visit? Wow!), the excitement of exploring such spectacles is replaced by the anticipation of connecting (and re-connecting) with new friends and recently discovered relatives.
For this visit, we’ll overfly Shannon and land in Dublin, and spend a couple of days in this bustling capital city. Since the overnight flight from Boston arrives the next morning, and I don’t sleep much on the flight, I’ve learned to book a hotel room for the day before we arrive, so it’s available that morning, and instead of waiting until mid-afternoon, I can grab some sleep upon arrival.
The plan then is to explore Ireland’s eastern and southern coastal countries, hoping to see the wondrous Glandalough monastery, which was founded in the 6th century by St. Kevin, and visit with family in Wicklow. From there, we will continue southward through New Ross and on to Waterford and Tipperary, hoping to at last meet up in Ballymacarbry with May Guiry and her family, all cousins of mine, descended from the same Crotty family that gave birth to my paternal grandmother.
May recently became owner of Lonergan’s Pub in Clonmel, where a new generation of musically talented cousins regularly join in the trad music sessiuns. That’s a “must visit” for me.
Working west, we’ll pass through Limerick and Co. Clare, and on to the Burren, then on to Galway, where old friends Liam and Pauline Ferrie are due for a visit, and the extended O’Flaherty family beckons for other delightful days.
It is a trip I look forward to; it’s always a joy to return to the island of my grandparents, to explore new sites and meet with old friends.