Returning to Ireland after such a long absence is certainly a wonderful thing, but it’s not without its difficulties. Deciding what to do when life has changed so fundamentally over that time period is no easy task. After 4 previous trips, a few favorite spots have emerged that I would like to visit again, but I would also like to visit some new places as well.
My first step in deciding where to go and what to do was to drag down all the photo albums from trips in the 90’s to figure out exactly where we had been and how many times we had been to some of these places. The fashions and hair were enough to make me cringe, but the scenery was inspiring! I made a list of all the places we had visited and found that the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare was probably our most-visited attraction; we saw that on 3 of the 4 trips we took. Some places like the Ring of Kerry and Glendalough in County Wicklow had only been visited once. Still others we have never been to- Belfast, Waterford, the Hill of Tara, and we’ll likely not get to them this time either. Taking into consideration the limited amount of time we have on the trip (6 days) and the fact that we have a 13 year old in tow, we have to balance the fun with the down time with the genealogy time. (although honestly Sam might be just as happy sitting with me in the National Library using their wifi connection, he is going to get a lesson in Irish history whether he wants it or not!)
Deciding where to stay was one of our easier tasks. We have stayed at the same B&B for a few days on 3 of our 4 trips, and we will return to it for 3 nights on this trip. On the first trip we made to Ireland where we drove ourselves (1997), we found Castletown House in close proximity to where my WALSH and MORTIMER relatives lived in County Laois. Over the years the Phalens (who are likely relatives, as my GGG grandmother was Catherine Phalen, married to Michael Mortimer) have been most helpful in tracking down genealogy leads locally for me. We have kept in touch with them since 1997, sending yearly Christmas cards with updates on what’s going on. I did not want to be packing my suitcase and moving every night, so we decide to find a second place to spend our final 3 nights. We were flying out of Shannon airport in County Clare, so I decided to find a place in West Clare nearby where my PENDERS great great grandfather lived before immigrating to Vermont. In all the times we had been to Ireland, we had been to County Clare on all 4 trips (those Cliffs of Moher, see above), but never to this area along the Shannon River Estuary in West Clare. I found a lovely little cottage for us to rent in the village of Cranny, a place mentioned in baptism records of Patrick Penders siblings. Having it be walking distance to the local pub, Tir Na Nog (Land of Youth) certainly made it all that more appealing.
So the itinerary is still a work in progress, but some places we will not miss are the city of Kilkenny, Blarney Castle (as if Sam needs any encouragement in the “gift of gab” department!), Bunratty Folk Park, and the Burren. We are going to plan for a fair amount of just driving around- we’ve made some of our most interesting discoveries that way.