My Ireland Trip

by Tom Lally

I just returned from a week-long trip to Ireland.  It was a group trip, which was a first for me.  There were about 25 people total – not too many, but enough to make renting a coach bus worthwhile.  I wasn’t sure how I would like being in a group with a set itinerary, but ended up enjoying it because there was a nice mix of free time and planned trips.  So although I sometimes wished we could have spent longer in a particular location, I never completely missed something I wanted to do.  The group was organized by a man named Christopher, who lives in the Boston area now but is from Ireland.  His firsthand expertise and knowledge were invaluable and really added to the experience.  He runs a trip like this every year, which one of my uncles did last year, and this year he invited my father and me to join him.

We stayed in 3 cities – Galway, Derry, and Dublin – which form a semi-circle along the coast of the northern half of the island.  We spent a little time in each, but mostly used them as jumping off points for short excursions to surrounding areas and sites.  Galway and Dublin are in Ireland, but Derry (or Londonderry) is in the six counties which form Northern Ireland, a part of the UK.  Part Irish, part British, Northern Ireland is unique, but I’ll get to that soon enough.

Galway was very nice, if a bit small.  It’s a young and vibrant city, with lots of street musicians along the major street.  It’s in the Gaeltacht, which is the region where the Irish language is actually spoken by locals (don’t worry, they know English too!).  Fortunately, I decided I could postpone my first Guinness in favor of some local beers, because Galway Gold was probably the best one I had all week.

Derry was full of history, and a little bit of tension.  The city saw much of the worst violence known as the Troubles, including Bloody Sunday.  Visiting that memorial was an unforgettably somber experience.  Our stay coincided with Orangemen’s Day, a holiday celebrated by unionists on July 12th to commemorate the victory of Protestant King William over the deposed Catholic King James in 1690.  And yes, they do still celebrate it, all these years later.  Although Derry is a safe city, and I never felt uncomfortable, I definitely sensed some tension or unease in the city.  One evening while walking around the old city walls, we saw off in the distance a big pile of wood set up for a future bonfire by British unionists, with a large Irish flag hanging from the side.

The unexpected highlight of the trip was the Grianan of Aileach.  It’s an old stone ring fort that was originally built over a thousand years ago on top of a mountain.  To be honest, the fort did not seem that impressive before we went, but it was much nicer in person than I had anticipated.  But what really put it over the top were the views.  We were very fortunate to go on a clear, sunny day, so all around us we had panoramic views of nearby mountains and lochs.  No picture could do justice to how beautiful it was from up there, in the fresh air, with so much unspoiled natural beauty spreading out below us in every direction.

The author of this article is Tom Lally, Wealth Manager Assistant at US Wealth Management.