Returning Home to Ireland. For the Very First Time.

Poul Na Brone

From the moment I saw Ireland out the window of the Aer Lingus plane, as it descended into Shannon Airport, I knew I’d come home.

No, I don’t have a drop of Irish blood in my body, but the west of Ireland speaks to my soul.

All you past-life skeptics take note: we’re going into airy-fairy land. Ireland is like that. After all, it’s a land of fairies, leprechauns and the Tuatha Dé Danann (a race of gods from Irish mythology who some believe now live below the ground).

Suspend disbelief when you go through immigration.

Leaving the airport, my friends and I headed to Oughterard (Uachtar Ard in Gaelic), County Galway. The biggest surprise as we passed through quaint pastel-colored villages was the “palm-trees” growing along the road. Arriving at the outskirts of Oughterard, we turned down a narrow country lane. Our late 20th century cottage, surrounded by green fields and stone walls, was right out of a storybook.

I fell in love.


Photo credit: Flickr / loic80l

But it was day three when things started to get a bit strange. And they pretty much stayed that way until I got back on the plane to go home.

On that day we went on a short trip to the Ceardlann an Spideil (Spiddal Craft Village), northwest of Galway City. While my friends went shopping, I sat on the shore of Galway Bay and looked across to the opposite side.

I felt like I’d sat at this spot a long time ago, waiting for a boat to bring me home.

Galway Bay

Photo credit: Flickr / Abi Skipp

I found out subsequently it was a place called “The Burren.”

And so, two days later we were off to visit The Burren. This unique place in northwest County Clare, made up of limestone hills, is a mini-ecosystem. Plants ranging from Arctic-alpine varieties to Mediterranean species grow here and often right next to each other. It’s a natural anomaly. The rugged, rocky landscape stands in stark contrast to the soft, green rolling land usually found in Ireland. For me, it’s just a part of the magic.

But the first odd occurrence was at Corcomroe Abbey, just east of the village of Ballyvaughan. We parked the car and walked up to the 13th century ruin.

And then it happened. I began to cry.

Corcomroe Abbey

Photo credit: Flickr / xmascarol

No reason. I just wept. Looking up at the sky, through where the roof once was, I was bereft. It was so clear to me that I’d been there before, and that I was home.

But my day wasn’t over yet.

Our next stop was Poul Na Brone, the famous dolman stone. Again, I felt that unexplained sadness, but this time mixed with rage. This dolman, dating to somewhere around 5,000 years ago, is called a “portal tomb.” During excavations in 1986, the remains of 16 adults and six children were found buried under the portal. But for me, this place was more. I had odd images of sacrifices held here millennia ago. It was powerful.

Poul Na Brone

Photo credit: Flickr / Tom Fahy / Phahie

Two days later, a member of our group took us to Inchagoill Island, on his boat, in the middle of Lough Carribe. We pulled up to a small beach where we seemed to have the island to ourselves. We found the ruins of Teampaill Padraigh, a church said to have been built by St. Patrick and believed to be the burial place of his nephew and navigator, Lugna (or Lugnaed).

Inchagoill Island

Photo credit: Flickr / FasterDix

There is also an odd stone building built by the Guinness family (yes, those Guinnesses) who once owned this particular island. It was all verdant forest and, so quiet, the silence reverberated in my ears. When I returned to the path, but alone this time, I found that the island had left a gift for me: the most wonderful stone covered with quartz.

Of course, all five or so pounds came home in my suitcase.

It was a gift from the earth telling me to return to this place I had seemingly been before. And It was an invitation that I would heed.

Photo credit: bbusschots

Billie Frank

Billie Frank

Billie Frank is a freelance travel, food and feature writer based in Santa Fe New Mexico. A former print journalist, she now writes for digital magazines and blogs. Her blog, Santa Fe Travelers, is a treasure trove of information on the oldest capital city in the USA. Billie is also co-owner of The Santa Fe Traveler, a trip-planning and tour business.
Billie Frank

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4 Responses to Returning Home to Ireland. For the Very First Time.

  1. Lauren Rains September 18, 2013 at 2:39 am #

    Hi Billie,

    Wow what a great piece. What really pulled me to your story here was just that, your story is why I travel. It’s amazing that you can feel more at home at a place that has never truly been your home your entire life. I feel this all the time when I travel. I’ve spent a long time trying to make the US my phone, but it’s rare I feel there is where my soul belongs.

    – Lauren :)

    • santafetraveler September 27, 2013 at 12:41 am #

      Thanks, Lauren. Luckily, I live in the other place that feels like home. I have only felt this in two places though I am drawn to others.

  2. Green Global Travel October 4, 2013 at 3:20 am #

    Regardless of whether one believes in past lives or not, it sounds as though you were destined to visit Ireland – and likely to return! Thank you for sharing your powerful experiences and if you don’t mind me saying so, ou do a look a bit Irish in your photo :)

    • santafetraveler January 26, 2014 at 12:24 pm #

      I certainly was and did and will. I don’t have a drop of Irish blood- though my husband does. People stop us on the street in Ireland and ask us for directions. Locals ask us how long we’re home for. And it is home.

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