Finding Roots in Ireland,
Land of Enchantment

A rainbow appears after a storm in Ireland.

By Heidi Boyd, Contributor
February / March 2012

Heidi Boyd on her trip to Ireland.

“Do you have Irish ancestors?” This is normally the first thing people ask me upon finding out I went on holiday in Ireland. In most cases, the person asking has Irish roots and is happy to meet a fellow Irishman.  And maybe they’ve found one in me. Maybe.

Prior to my vacation in Ireland, I had no connection to Ireland, or any other ancestry.  At six weeks old, I was adopted by the most delightful, loving parents who helped me grow up without attachment to any particular heritage. In fact, my upbringing shaped me into a person who feels part of anywhere and everywhere all at once. That said, I experienced an intense and life-changing relationship with Irish people and culture that convinced me that in my heart – and perhaps my genetics – Ireland is my home.

I received this trip to Ireland as a surprise gift from my mother. She and a friend, whose Irish roots are in Leitrim, had planned the trip the year before. My mom’s twin and another friend joined the group.

At 34 years of age, I’m fairly well traveled, and Ireland wasn’t on my personal top five vacation choices, but I accepted. After losing my beloved father fairly recently, I looked forward to making new memories with my mother and aunt.

This all coincided with the busiest year I have had in my career and personal life.  I didn’t get too involved in the planning of the trip; I literally just packed my bags and showed up at the airport. I was frazzled, exhausted, and very much in need of a reprieve from my own life.

Then – magic.

The moment I saw Ireland’s lush green landscape from the airplane’s window as we began our descent into Shannon, I sensed I was entering a world that was unlike anything I had experienced before. When I walked outside the airport and the sea breeze hit me; I was enchanted. For the next two weeks, I left everything behind me and let Ireland sink into every pore of my being. I went from stressed to blissed in about a second flat. It was a feeling I will never forget and will cherish for the rest of my life.

We rented a house for two weeks on the Ballina side of the Killaloe/Ballina Bridge on the river Shannon. Five women with two rental cars and no reservations or itinerary, we planned only on doing what inspired us in the moment. We went to the Aran Islands and saw the most beautiful view of the Cliffs of Moher from below instead of on top; we frolicked around County Clare as if we were residents, and made many friends in Killaloe at the local pubs. I met my new friend Missy when we were seated beside each other for lunch and she began chatting away. Missy gave us the phone numbers of her chums who would give us a private boat ride on the Shannon, and to another who gave us a tour of the bell tower at St. Flannan’s church, which is built on the grounds that once held the castle of Brian Boru, the High King. We bet on the races at Listowel and traveled to the Matchmaking Festival in Lisdoonvarna for a kiss. We followed the footsteps of President Obama, and had a pint at Ollie Hayes pub in Moneygall. Following Missy’s instructions to visit Brian Boru’s Fort, I went out for an evening walk and serendipitously, I met her along the pathway.  She and I spent the evening on the fort walk, and she gave me a personal history lesson, intertwined with the local gossip. On our last night,  the town celebrated with us at Flanagan’s, dinner at The Wooden Spoon, followed by pints and craic at our favorite pub, The Anchor.

Ireland engages every one of the human senses unlike no other. The landscapes, the food, the drink, the people, and the mystical energy of Ireland created a festival for all of my senses and kept me enraptured for two weeks straight. This was an adventure that I never could have imagined.

The people were as mesmerizing to me as the perfect landscapes. Coming from Cleveland, where the drivers are very impatient and rude, I was struck by how the people in Ireland stop, and instead of yelling, asked us to pull over so they could help us with directions. The absence of arrogance in the Irish people left me falling in love with everyone I spoke with. The open hearts, the transparency, the pure intentions; at first I thought it foreign and odd. Then it dawned on me that this is the way humans are meant to treat each other. This is how God intends us to love one another.

I was not expecting what I found in Ireland. I have seen with my eyes the most beautiful things on Earth. I could go blind today and have memories to satisfy me for the rest of my life. As our plane took off for home, tears fell down my face. I was already aching for this place that felt like home. I wasn’t expecting such a delicious and intense connection, much like I wasn’t expecting to go through culture shock when I returned home to my own life. It took me a few weeks to readjust, and it was a little rocky. My husband thought maybe I fell in love when I was on vacation in Ireland. He was right. I fell in love with Ireland.

See more of Heidi’s photo’s from her trip to Ireland:

24 Responses to “Finding Roots in Ireland,
Land of Enchantment”

  1. Kathy Mezick says:

    Great story, Heidi…I love Ireland!

  2. What a beautiful post about Ireland. It is like no other place on earth.

    “The landscapes, the food, the drink, the people, and the mystical energy of Ireland created a festival for all of my senses and kept me enraptured for two weeks straight”

    There is a mystical energy about Ireland, and no matter how long I spend living in America, I always know that Ireland is my spiritual home – always has been and always will be.

    Thanks for sharing such a lovely, heart-warming piece, with a deep appreciation for Ireland and her people.

    • Adam Hogan says:

      Hello Heidi. What a great piece you wrote about your time here. Hope you are well. I will say hi to everyone in the Anchor for you.

      • Heidi says:

        Thank you everyone! I am so happy you enjoyed the piece, it was a love letter I had been longing to write. Cheers to all!

    • Heidi says:

      Thank you for your response, I had almost as much fun writing it as I did experiencing Ireland. Almost.

    • Deb Mullen says:

      Have been over 9 times since 2003, always amazed by the place and people, can’t get enough! I’m addicted, going again in October for a month!

      • Alan Kennedy says:

        I think maybe you should just join us for good.It must be costing a fortune toing and froing.If you love us,then chances are we’ll love you too,so pack up and join us…..forever!!

    • Pat Howard says:

      Yes, dear, it is the only place on earth that is like no other place on earth. Isn’t that amazing? America’s just like everywhere else. So is Iran, eh?

  3. Pat MacFadyen says:

    Having been to Ireland twice myself, I so completely understand your feelings. I can’t wait to make the trip again, this last time in April 2011 and two weeks were just not enough. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Liam says:

    Wow – what an amazing tribute to Ireland. I’m glad you connected so well, and enjoyed your time so much in our beautiful little country. Ireland is lucky to have people like you come to visit.
    Thanks for posting such great pictures too. Typical of Ireland, it looks like you experienced all the seasons in your two weeks there.
    Best regards.

  5. Nell says:

    As I sit here with tears running down my cheeks I know exactly the feelings your expressing. While I do have an Irish connection by blood (still haven’t found them but think I’m getting closer) there is a true sense of coming home as you move thru the country. I fought it at first thinking I was “willing” it but then all of a sudden there was no other explination for the feelings that flowed from deep in my soul…I was home. A month of that lovely country wasn’t enough and I do plan to return very soon. I cannot imagin the rest of my life without seeing that beautiful country and her kind, welcoming people again.

  6. Jude Wood says:

    Thank you so much for your post and photos, Heidi. You have put into words the way I felt during my first visit to Ireland in the summer of 2009–a feeling of “coming home.” I, too, cried when we left; and I hope oh-so much to be able to go back. I hope you do, too!

  7. Cindy Williams says:

    Heidi, you put into the most beautiful words exactly how I felt on my first trip to Ireland. I was with my mother and a tour group and we had a fantastic ten days. Last summer I returned by myself for a 16 day of no itinerary and only a few must see agains. Your words capture my love as well for Ireland and the people especially! I visited the Aran Islands and fell in love with them, Tralee, Galway and many, many small towns and pubs, people along the way. I will return soon and may try to make Ireland my new home. Thank you for putting into words so true that I could never seem to express to family and friends back in America

  8. Padraic Donnellan says:

    As an Irish man I was very heartened to read your post about Ireland. I was fearful that the last years of the “Celtic Tiger” and now the deep recession the country finds its self in meant Ireland lost its soul and would never be the same again but from your visit and others comments, I’m delighted to see that’s not the case. The service I offer in my company to produce a video documentary of your ancestral Irish home (http://www.keelacommunications.com/personal-video-documentary-of-ireland) I feel would be a real and meaningful way for those that can’t make it back to the Emerald Isle to see it for themselves.

    Wishing you all the very best for the future,


  9. stephen says:

    Thank you for your kind words and great observations. Sometimes we can take things for granted here. Glad you had a great time. Missy should have told you about my Walks though, Il have to give out to her for that….lol

  10. Suzy Welch says:

    What a beautiful story. I am so touched by your relationship with your mom, and how she raised you to feel at home everywhere — and how she embraced your shared love of Ireland. Keep visiting Ireland, Heidi — and keep writing! You’re a star!

  11. Erik Raftery says:

    Excellent Post! Well done:-)

  12. tom fanning says:

    The best place in the world to come home to. Love the comments about the craic ireland is the place where you can be yourself asl anything and het help aid and assistance at all times. I love it and the people us we love eveybody too and welcome all.

  13. Amelia says:

    You have no idea how your story touched me. I was reading your lines and I recalled my own story, 28 years ago, when i first went to that blessed country. My life have never been the same and, although I had to return to the country I was born (Portugal), from that moment on I have a goal in life – I’m going to die in Ireland! No matter what, I will live there and die in the only country in the world I truly feel like home! Thank you Irish people for making believe in life and its wonders 🙂

  14. Liz says:

    Heidi…what a beautiful story! here is no doubt in my mind that you’ve some Irish blood running through your veins…but, then, I feel almost everyone does. Thanks for sharing your story, which obviously came from your heart and was extremely well written. As so many people say, I feel as though my home is in Ireland…and I know I left bits of my heart and soul there both times I visited. I hope you have the opportunity to return! Ireland is a mother who calls her children back. For me, it was a thrill to walk in the footsteps of some of my ancestors and I will feel forever blessed for the privilege of having done so.

  15. Holly Chandler says:

    really enjoyed your story! so glad it was shared on a favorite page i go to on Facebook. It’s amazing the effect Ireland and its people have on its visitors! i have always been very proud to be of Irish heritage, but since travelling there in the summer of 2010 i have become absolutely smitten and feel as though i, too, “belong” there. i’ve always fondly remembered my grandfather, whose father came to the states from donegal, telling me about ireland, even though he had never been. i always wanted to be able to take my grandfather back to ireland, but sadly he passed before it was something i was able to do for him, but he was with me in spirit when i finally got there. i enjoyed your story and can absolutely relate to it.

  16. Vicki Novak says:

    A wonderful story that completely captured what I experienced in Ireland. Although I live in the United States, Ireland is home. There is something magic about that land and her people. I knew I was Irish but I was not at all prepared for what I saw and how I felt. I stood at the graves of my GGGgrand parents and never before felt such an overwhelming sense of love and peace. I have not been the same since I returned and have longed every day to be back. I lost my mother in December and I am returning her home. This time, I may not return.

  17. Hi from Tipperary, Ireland,

    Thank you Heidi for your wonderful review of Ireland. I’ve had the pleasure of welcoming Americans to my farmhouse via airbnb and I just love the positive attitude the American have. Should any of you want to experience real Irish culture and country you are more than welcome to my house. One day I hope to visit your lovely country.


  18. Excellent piece. Well written and moving. This was precisely my same experience the first time I visited Ireland. Ireland adopts you the moment you set foot on her shores. There’s no place in the world like it. Thanks for sharing your story.

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