Not long ago, a cousin kindly invited my husband and I to accompany him on a trip to Ireland, a place none of us had ever visited. Although our trip was short (just 4 full days), we packed in an amazing amount of activity and I came home fairly bursting with inspiration.
Irish hospitality is legendary and one of the best parts of the trip were the Irish themselves, certainly some of the warmest, friendliest people in the world. Every person we interacted with made us feel welcome.
A popular nickname for this land is the "Emerald Isle." With miles upon miles of brilliant green vegetation that label is apt, but Ireland also delights the eye in many other ways with rugged vistas, ancient ruins, peacefully grazing livestock (especially sheep), sparkling coastlines, quaint villages and beautiful cities.
We flew into Shannon airport and rented a car (a left-hand stick shift for driving on the left side of the road - yikes!!). My cousin, whom we affectionately refer to as "Colonel M" since he is a retired military officer, handled the driving.
After loading up the car we headed north to Galway, on the coast, our first place to explore and a base from which to venture out on day trips.
Galway is a fun, colorful city full of shops selling sweaters, blankets, hand and mill spun yarn, and other wool goods, as well as plenty of other things to inspire the imagination.
Each day we chose a different direction and final destination, stopping along the way to inspect anything we found interesting. Unfortunately, narrow, rock wall-lined roads and few parking places made it difficult to easily stop for photographs, so some beautiful views will have to remain only in my memory. However, I did manage to insist on stopping for scenic photos now and then.
And in case you are wondering, yes, the grass really is that green and the sky really was that blue (we had four days of warm sunshine, apparently unheard of in Ireland)!
And for photos at a few historic sites as well...
Boyle Abbey, where amazing restoration is ongoing.
Bunratty Castle, a well-restored site.
Foxford Woollen Mills, begun by Catholic nuns to provide work during the famines of the 19th century, and where incredible blankets and scarves are still woven for sale.
Kylemore Abbey, with a fantastic Victorian, walled garden.
Roundstone, a charming seaside town
Clonfert Cathedral, an early 12th century church filled with elaborate sandstone carvings.
And there were of course, lots of sheep!
Since my cousin planned the trip, visits to knitting sites were not a top priority, however, we couldn't help but be surrounded by wonderful things of interest to knitters and non-knitters alike.
If Ireland sounds like a place you'd like to visit, you might want to consider joining my friend Amy Detjen's Knitting Tour of Ireland coming up next month which will be packed with things both knitting and Irish. Amy is a superb knitting teacher, experienced in Irish travel, and a super fun person to hang out with, so you are sure to have a great time!
If you can't go this time around, you can follow her via her website, or join her Ravelry knitting travel group and keep up on plans for future trips.
I'm still absorbing everything we saw on our visit to this inspiring island nation, I think I feel a bout of cable knitting coming on...