Why You Should Visit Ireland

Ireland, Why Ireland, Why You Should Visit Ireland, The People

Perhaps you have been told at one time or another that the Irish people are friendly and warm.

You might have also heard that Ireland is sometimes called the Land of A Thousand Welcomes (Cead Mile Failte).

But before I actually went to Ireland, I didn’t understand that this phrase is not just a slogan.  It’s a way of life.

Friends, believe me when I tell you that from my wanderings in Ireland, I will remember the Irish people more fondly than any castle or cliff.

My experience with how warm and welcoming the Irish can be began before I ever set foot on Irish soil.

When we moved this summer to Aberdeen, Scotland, we decided that Taido should come early to find a place to live.  A couple from Ireland, who had only just themselves moved to Aberdeen, welcomed my husband in, gave him a place to sleep and food to eat. They didn’t even know him. They had heard he was coming and needed a place and they were ready and willing.

When I arrived with the kids a week later, Kevin and Claire had lunch laid out for us and Claire said something to me that has now become a familiar phrase.

She said,

You are very welcome.

Just a few days later Kevin and Claire would have us again for dinner and entertain us with histories of Ireland. We were all enraptured with Kevin’s storytelling. Claire would occasionally add in a detail or correct some part of the story. Their rhythm was consistent and mesmerizing.

When they heard that I was to come to Ireland, they called friends in Dublin and told me to cancel my hotel.

At this point, I just assumed that Kevin and Claire were the two kindest people on the planet.  I had no idea that when I went to Ireland, I would encounter an entire country of people like Kevin and Claire.

Let me try to tell you briefly about just a few.

Friendly Folks I Met Along The Way

New friends who let me stay at their flat and invited me to their party on my first night in Dublin, after which, I fell asleep warm with the afterglow of conversations, sincere welcomes and 20 new dear folks in my heart.

A taxi driver who said Good Morning! cheerfully as I paraded down O’Connell street with my luggage and a thrift shop keeper who helped me find a vintage Irish wool sweater and gave me a history lesson all at once.

Josephine, Why Ireland, Failte Ireland

Josephine and Letty, who ran my tour through the Northwest of Ireland and anticipated my every need. Letty noticed when I was fretting over things happening back at home and Josephine made me fall down laughing with her wry wit and knowing looks.

Deirdre McGlone, who gave us the welcome of a lifetime at our hotel in Donegal, said to us that you arrive at Harvey’s Point as guests, but you leave as family.  It sounds like a cliche a hotel might use, but when you meet her, you cannot doubt her sincerity.  Especially after you have heard her tell the story of how she came to the hotel as a young girl, just looking to get a little money together to dance on the weekends, but fell in love.  Now she and her husband, who is also the chef, run Harvey’s Point and consider all the staff to be members of their family.   She is the picture of formality in her black suit and heels, but she only has to speak a word or two before you feel as though you could be fast friends.

Jane and Myles were all smiles and welcomes, even though we arrived late to a meal they prepared for us at Shells Cafe.  Their story of coming to the seaside village of Strandhill to run a cafe and bakery together is one of many similar tales I heard of folks cobbling their dreams together in Ireland to make a life for themselves out of their passions. I love it when people are so clearly doing what they love.  Their eyes shine and they welcome you into their little corner of perfect with the hope that you will see and appreciate it with the same passion. You want to go with them down a country lane to pick blackberries, just so they will keep telling you their stories.

The sincere welcomes of the Irish people are infectious.  When someone smiles at you, you naturally meet their eyes with a smile of your own.  This might explain why I met so many people along the way who had come to Ireland to visit, and then decided to stay and make it their home, such as surfers who came to County Sligo for the waves, and then stayed and set up shop in town, giving lessons.

Why Ireland, Glencolumcille, Margaret, Donegal

I could have listened for hours to Margaret of Glencolumcille, who runs a historical folk village that takes you back in time to see what life was like for those who lived in this small fishing village years ago, perched at what seems to be the very end of the world.  She made me feel as if she could not wait for us to arrive, pouring us tea and giving us bits of homemade cake.  She is holding dearly to the arts of spinning wool, knitting patterns and weaving stories into living things, memories preserved for generations to come. There is not a single object in the entire historical village that she could not touch with a smile and tell you a story about.  People from the area are bringing their own memories and keepsakes for the village, so that Margaret can hold onto their stories for them.  When you meet her, you know you would be happy to trust her with yours.

And lest you think people were only kind to me because I was on a press trip of sorts, an opportunity for everyone along the way to gain some bit of publicity for their local business, let me just mention that on an afternoon in Dublin when I was particularly exhausted from a daunting conference schedule, I wandered into a little bakeshop.  It was late in the day and they were about to close, but I asked for a cup of tea and sat down to soak up a minute of quiet.  I needed to plug in my dying phone and write in my journal.

Even after my tea was long gone, the owner came over to me and touched my shoulder, Take your time.  She said.  No need to hurry.  She was cleaning up and putting things away and she didn’t want me to feel as if I might should leave.  She anticipated that I might feel that way.  There is an amazing sort of grace about having someone meet a need that you have not yet acknowledged to them.  To do that for a stranger requires an open heart, a willingness to love without the promise of its being returned.

I was overwhelmed by her kindness.  I marked it in my journal as one of the tender mercies I am always trying to record.

And then it happened to me again that night.

After I finished at the post-conference happy hour, I caught a taxi home.  I asked the driver a little about his life in Dublin and he asked me about my travels in Ireland.  As we went back and forth, I kept forgetting the names of places I had visited.  Why, you’re like a goldfish! he said, Forgetting everything just after you’ve gone away!

I laughed.  It was true.  Without my notes, I was useless, but anyway, I’d had a wonderful time and I loved Ireland.  And I want to bring my family back here when the kids have a school holiday.  He told me to forget about the holidays, just take them out of school and bring them.  You only get one shot at this life, he said.  You can’t worry about things like school.  Again, I laughed and said that maybe he was right.

When he pulled up to the flat where I was staying, we had been talking so much that I hadn’t dug out my keys or my money.  I was a little bit flustered, digging through all my junk and he told me not to worry.  To take my time.  Then he said he would wait until I was inside the building before he left just to make sure I was alright.  It was dark and there were some people hanging around the outside of the building.  He anticipated that I might need a little extra looking after, again, a need I had not spoken aloud.  I thanked him and said goodbye.

I know that I experienced my share of the 1000 welcomes of Ireland, but I can’t wait to go back.  To see the people again that are now in my heart.  And I know I will encounter new smiling faces and sincere welcomes.

For now, I feel in my own heart some of the welcome that has been extended to me.  I am inspired to be the kind of person who anticipates the need of a stranger or is willing to invite others into my passions, whatever the response.

I have more to tell about Ireland.  I had some unbelievable experiences (I swam in the ocean with dolphins!), but I can tell you for certain that what will draw me back to Ireland is the Irish.  Go for yourself and see if you do not feel the same way! I promise you will come home and find yourself wondering when you can go back to spend more time in a land where every time you walk through a door you are more than welcome.

Have you ever been to Ireland?  Tell me, did you receive your share of a thousand welcomes?

For part of my time in Ireland, I was a guest of Failte Ireland and Tourism Ireland.  They took me around and showed me their favorite things in the Northwest, but all opinions are my own.
 More about Ireland? I also wrote about Adventures In Ireland and about A Happy Misfortune in Dublin.
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  1. What a wonderful trip! The Land of A Thousand Welcomes sounds so inviting that I want to go! And it is good to be reminded of tender mercies – how nice it is to give and receive them.

    1. So true! They are all around us. We just have to look for them. 🙂

      And you should definitely go to Ireland! 🙂

  2. I absolutely adored Ireland. We were there during a particularly rough time (November 2009, nearly the whole country was flooded from the 1000 Year Storm), but almost everyone we encountered went out of our way to help us (with the exception of in Dublin). We were lost in Cork, and the city was closed, and we were having a hard time getting out. A nice man pulled out his map and traced a route out for us and gave us the map. In our b&b in Cobh, our host drove us into town for dinner so that we wouldn’t have to. Then, the next night, she stayed up late to make sure that we got in okay (we had been lost because of road closures). At breakfast she told us all about her family and asked all about ours. Even the animals were welcoming – at a small castle in Tralee where we stayed, the dog, Einstein, took us on a walk around the grounds, stopping to make sure that we were still following him. Later in the day he brought me rocks. 🙂 I’ve been back for work this year, and while the event was in the castle, I had to stay at the b&b in town. The hosts there took excellent care of me, and made sure that I was back each night and that I got over to the castle when I needed to. Everyone was just so darn wonderful. Because our trip was go, go, go, I want to go back and just rent a cottage in a seaside village for a week where we can soak it all in.

    1. I LOVE hearing this! It just totally confirms how consistently wonderful the Irish people are! Thanks so much for sharing these stories!

  3. Such a beautiful post! Makes me want to go NOW!

    1. Girl, come on! I will meet you there!!

  4. We’re going back to County Clare over our half term. I am so excited to go back! We had some similar experiences. We stayed at a B&B and felt like family. We sat and watched tv in the evenings with the family, chatted with them over breakfast. My husband helped them with some computer stuff and then they insisted on charging us less for our stay for the very little help he gave. We also forgot our camera in a restaurant, went back the next day and they still had it! It is a beautiful place but those experiences with the people also stick out in our mind!! Can’t wait to be there in just a couple of weeks!!
    So glad you had such a great experience!!

    1. Love hearing this! Wish we could meet y’all on the break!! I am ready to take my kids back for sure. We’re going to hop on the ferry before too long. 🙂 Y’all have fun!

      1. That would be a blast! Maybe the next break! 🙂

  5. Your words touch me deeply, and you inspire me to do life better. I was so drawn into your story of the Irish people that I didn’t want it to end!

    1. Thank you so much June! I didn’t want my story in Ireland to end either!! But hopefully, there will be another chapter soon. And for you as well!! 🙂 XOXO

  6. Great post Alison! I feel the same. The people are so warm and genuine and I can vouch that you really did swim in the ocean with Dolphins!

    1. DOLPHINS!!!! 🙂

  7. Beautifully said, Alison. Loved our trip and especially the Irish welcome we received at every turn!

    1. Thanks Anita! So true. SUCH a wonderful trip! 🙂

  8. Great post! This is why I moved here 😀

    1. I don’t blame you at all for moving there! I am tempted myself!

  9. Great post and so glad to see beautiful County Donegal mentioned!

    1. Thanks Catherine. I LOVED Donegal and can’t wait to go back and hike all along the cliffs (Slieve Liege). We only had about 15 minutes, but I want to do the whole 4 hour hike and stay in the hostel on the other side!

  10. […] Why You Should Visit Ireland – Chino House […]

  11. I have just read your blog about Ireland. I am an Irish person living in Ireland and I love to think we are still a country of “a hundred thousand welcomes”.

    1. It’s so true! Such a beautiful country with beautiful people! 🙂

  12. Hi Alison
    I found your post via some of my Twitter pals. I’m glad I did. I love reading stuff like this. I’m so happy to hear you had such a nice time in our wonderful little country. Have you seen that video that a Canadian couple made after their trip to Ireland? It’s a rival for your lovely testimonial 🙂 You can see it here

    Best wishes,

    1. Liam, thanks so much! I LOVE this video! So great, thanks for sharing it with me. I can’t wait to come back to Ireland! Thanks for popping by. 🙂

  13. Hi Alison,
    Thank you for your delightful description of your Experience in Ireland. It was certainly our pleasure to welcome you to Harvey’s Point and I hope our paths will cross again sometime.
    Special greetings from the Gysling Family & Team.

    1. Deirdre thank YOU for being such a wonderful host to us!! We LOVED Harvey’s Point and I am already dreaming about coming back! 🙂

  14. […] of Ireland and Donegal, I wrote my first Ireland post this week about how friendly the Irish people […]

  15. You realize if I ever get to go to Ireland, I’m going to be looking for these exact people. But before I look for those folks, I’ll head over to Scotland to look for you folks.

    1. Let’s go together and I’ll introduce you to them, k? Plus we’ll meet all kinds of folks who are drawn to our special version of Arkansas crazy!

  16. Such a dream! Thanks for letting us share in your exciting time. Ireland hasn’t ever been on my {very small} list of places I want to see but seeing it through your posts is making me want to get there asap.

    1. It’s so beautiful Gina! You should go for sure!

  17. […] in.  I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I had the happy circumstance of flagging down the most hysterical cabbie in all of Dublin.  I laughed the whole way […]

  18. […] Why You Should Visit Ireland, Adventures In Ireland, Snapshots of Ireland and A Happy Misfortune In Dublin. […]

  19. Hey Alison,

    Thank you so much for describing our beautiful people and places so well. And for allowing us to use some snippets of this blog in our own, seen here: http://www.visittheirish.ie/travel-bloggers-view-ireland-tbex/

    Hope you come back soon, maybe we can arrange a walk around Dublin City taking in the sites – any time of day or night! (Or you can move over and do it every night! 🙂 )

    Regards and many thanks,

    1. Thanks so much for the mention. I will certainly be watching for the first available opportunity to return to such a wonderful place!

  20. […] Linda! You can follow Linda’s travels on her blog, Island Mama.  I met Linda on my tour of Ireland, and she wrote a beautiful piece about our time there. A […]

  21. […] recommendations for our trip to Killarney! Also, I have already been reminded of how wonderful Irish hospitality is by our house hosts. When they heard how late we will be arriving, they offered to have lamb stew […]

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