After my granny died nearly a year ago, I longed to return to Ireland, or more specifically, Clonmel. I had my fondest memories in Clonmel and it felt like the perfect way to commemorate her memory. My mum, who was born and raised in Ireland, agreed it’d be nice to revisit Ireland and we planned our trip according to where we’d both like to go.
At long last, it was time to go on our two week holiday around Ireland. Our route was to arrive in Cork and go to Clonmel to Dublin to Galway to Clifden and back to Dublin again where we flew home. It was a jam packed two weeks and the most amount I’ve travelled in that space of time, but it was also one of the best holidays I’ve ever been on. I learnt more about my heritage, about my mum and her childhood and I got to spend time with my family. All in all, a successful trip.
I’ll separate each place into sections and give you the personal highlights of each place.
My mum was born in Cork and raised there until she moved to Dublin. Cork was a nostalgic stop for her, revisiting all the sites she’d frequented as a child. I enjoyed going to places that were obviously nostalgic for mum and learning more about her and her childhood.
1st location: Fitzgerald Park
A short visit to the local park near our hotel. This park is a key part of mum’s childhood and she reminisced about what the park used to be like. I had been to the park about 5 years ago or so and I looked in awe at the upgrades to the place. I could see a few differences, such as a playground and a few statues, but it had mostly remained the same.
2nd location: Cobh
We hopped on the train to the Cobh island and headed for the Queenstown Heritage Centre. The heritage centre told us about various ships and where they ended up going to as well as giving us tickets with real passengers names to see if we’d survive the experience. Spoiler alert: I did but only after swapping tickets with my mum. We then had a bit of time to kill so we went to this local park and inside a shop. It was an educational day for sure. I always enjoy learning more about my heritage and this enhanced that knowledge.
A highlight of the day was figuring out the anagram. If you wanted to participate, you had to fill in the sheet of paper and fill in the answers to the questions and write down each letter. The letters then rearranged into a word. Anyway, I told the man the word and I thought the other man told me I’d have to go through the exhibit again with the sheet of paper, but the original man said I was correct. He gave me the sheet of paper and said I could fill in the answers, then out the blue, offered me a lollipop. I thanked him and happily ate it. Sure, it made me look like a child but you know what? I don’t care. I got a free lollipop.
3rd location: Crosshaven
Mum loved visiting Crosshaven as a child. She lamented over the funfair being empty and spoke fondly of how she’d go down there constantly as a child. We climbed up a hill to reach this stunning view, then debated whether to go down to the beach. Considering how windy it was, we decided against it and instead enjoyed the fantastic view of the sea. Mum pointed out the church where her father’s ashes were scattered. We’d gone to that church before the last time we’d been in Cork so we didn’t need to go back.
4th location: Kinsale
Kinsale had cute little shops and cafés to pop into which was a god’s send against the rainy day. We found two photographers who had taken some spectacular photos and I fell in love with a reading café (a place where you could exchange books and read peacefully inside… if it wasn’t so noisy). We also saw another funfair except this one actually had children inside. Again, Kinsale was another place mum had been to years ago and wanted to revisit. The visit was worthwhile. I enjoyed myself at any rate.
I’d like to add, on this particular day, we decided to pop into Eason’s before setting off for Kinsale and I fell in love with the stationery. In fact, thanks to that visit, I kept posting pictures of pretty notebooks on my Twitter and lamenting the fact I couldn’t buy them.
Clonmel has always had a special significance to me, as did it for my family. Many generations have had great memories of this place, myself included. Since this was the only place I desperately wanted to come to on this visit, I think it’s only fair I talk about the significance for me instead of my family.
For 15 years of my life, Clonmel was the place I visited at least three times a year because my granny was located there. I remember whenever I went on the airplane to Clonmel, I’d always say I was coming home. Although, the main issue with that is there are no direct airplanes to Clonmel so…
Revisiting after spending 6 years away was weird. It shocked me how alike it still was, but also how much had changed. They’ve now blocked off the pathway to the river due to flooding and put big brick walls around the river so you can’t see over it easily. I understand why they had to put that precaution in place but it saddened me I couldn’t see it like I could as a child. You used to have this metal poled gate surrounding the river which was, understandably, terrible to prevent flooding. Moreover, the park we visited had changed too. There were now wooden benches, slopes in place of stairs, and a playground. With hobbit holes! Where was that when I was a child?! Literally, all that used to be there was the occasional metal bench. That’s it. Literally just grass. We had to entertain ourselves.
Some shops closed down or were replaced. Dunnes were replaced by River Island, although in fairness, there is a giant Dunnes just outside the town centre. Penney’s is no longer dead which is thanks to Penney’s becoming Primark and the brand that comes with it. The toy shop, music shop and I presume video rental shop were all closed and SuperQuinn was replaced by SuperValu. Sorry but unless SuperValu sell the exact same mini muffins, I refuse to acknowledge their rebrand. Those muffins were delicious.
We only stayed in Clonmel overnight but it was enough. I was able to say a proper goodbye to my granny now because I’d been back to the place I’d known her in. She deteriorated by the time she moved and while I never truly saw her at her best, I did see her in a better state and that was in Clonmel. It was a chance to remember the healthier granny while also reminiscing over my childhood and teenage years here.
Mum insisted we went up to this place her family used to own but had to sell and is now a caravan park. Thankfully, she didn’t force me to go outside and look at this caravan site. To her and her sister (my aunt), they could see all the good times they’d had at this house. To me, it was a field with a few buildings. Although, as we drove along to other places nearby, my aunt told me the significance of this building. Once again, I learnt more about my heritage, except this was personal heritage not general heritage. We revisited the church we’d been to years before and managed to find a dead end place that had gorgeous views. A successful trip for my mum and my aunt.
I almost forgot about Kilsheelan! To anyone else, it would be just a stone staircase and a silly mound. To me and my brother, that was hours of entertainment. We had a personal challenge to run up the stone banister beside the staircase without stopping. I struggled after a certain point but I always made it to the top. Running up and down the staircase was so much fun. Then there was this mound my brother adored running up and down, multiple times. I tried a few times but often didn’t wear the right shoes nor had the stamina to do so.
Can you tell I love Clonmel?
Dublin – Part I
We were only back in Dublin for one full day and two half days and our main priority was to see my two cousin’s children. We briefly saw my cousin’s baby girl but her toddler son was asleep. The next day, we briefly saw my other cousin’s toddler daughter and baby son. God, they’re all adorable! I need to ensure I see them semi-regularly, otherwise I never will.
On the full day we had in Dublin, mum chose to go to a Vermeer exhibition. I am all for art exhibitions normally, but on this particular day I wasn’t feeling great. I did enjoy the exhibit despite feeling under the weather. I enjoyed looking at Vermeer’s works and seeing how he influenced other Dutch artists and vice versa. Plus, some of the pieces were fantastic. They told a story or captured a moment brilliantly.
When we were planning our Irish holiday, I suggested Galway for two reasons. 1. My cousin had been the summer before and they loved it. 2. I’ve never been to the midlands, west or north of the Republic of Ireland* and I longed to go over there. Mum agreed and that’s how we ended up in Galway for two full days and two half days.
*Northern Ireland is a place to visit on my bucket list. However, it is a separate place from the Republic of Ireland and we were never intending going up there. We had limited time and going across the border wasn’t on the agenda.
As luck would have it, some of my family happened to book a holiday to Ireland too and since they were staying nearby, they agreed to meet up with us in Galway. Considering this was the first full day, it was a great chance for all of us to explore round. We visited the Claddagh exhibition which told the detailed origin story of the Claddagh ring. I’ll admit, I did buy a Claddagh ring the night before we were due to leave. We went to the museum where I learnt about the origins of Galway and read the Irish perspective of the Civil War. I’d only heard the British perspective. Finally, we went for a walk by the sea which was nice, albeit quite windy. It was lovely spending time with them.
On the only other full day we had, we ventured out to the Cliffs of Moher. Ooh boy was that a mistake! We chose to go on a rainy day which translates to the windiest weather imaginable. Some say that’s the best time to go, but fighting the brutal winds and trying to see through the sporadic mist, it was hard to believe. I literally wore five layers and two pairs of socks, of which I had to buy one layer and a pair of socks. Still, it’s an iconic sight and to go to Ireland without seeing it felt like a crime. I will definitely go back on a nice day, but give me 10 years or so. That was a wild experience and I need time to recover.
When we originally planned this holiday, I presumed Clifden is where the Cliffs of Moher are. I was wrong. Originally, we had intended meeting my family there but they left the day we arrived so we rearranged for them to come to Galway. However, as luck would have it, my mum’s friend grew up in the area nearby and offered to drive us around. Like Dublin, we only had one full day and two half days.
1st location: Sky Road
The Sky Road is adequately named. A beautiful road beside the sea with a few stopping points to take photographs. We certainly did, as well as taking in the stunning landscape. Honestly, if you ever go to Ireland for anything, go for the gorgeous scenery. When the sun shines, there’s nothing else like it.
2nd location: Connemara Visitor Centre
We only visited so mum could see this mini art exhibit. Don’t get me wrong, some of the paintings were great. But to go out of our way to see an art exhibit? That says a lot about my mum and her love of art.
3rd location: Kylemore Abbey
What a place! My word was it beautiful. From the Victorian walled garden to the neo-gothic church to the spectacular scenery, it truly is a place to go. I took more photos that day than on the entire holiday, that’s how beautiful the place is. I couldn’t seem to stop. I’ve been to plenty of gardens and houses before and a great one leaves me speechless and in awe every time.
Fun fact: the actual abbey used to be a school that my mum’s friend attended. It used to be a boarding school but they had day boarders too (for the locals).
4th location: Lough Corrib
My mum’s friend’s husband has this house that used to belong to his father. We visited the run down 70s esque house and he told us how he was going to do up the place before we visited the lake. Honestly, having that view outside your window is the dream. The house was up a steep hill so flooding isn’t a problem. Plus, with no building allowed in the area, anyone would kill to have that place to live in. My mum’s friend’s husband has no intention on selling it, but they might rent it out for the summer when it’s done up.
This wasn’t a location per say but we went to the local beach and ended up chasing a sunset. I haven’t seen a sunset across the sea in a while so this was totally worthwhile. Plus, it was nice to be on a mini beach again. I adore watching the waves move back and forth.
Dublin – Part II
Exactly like the first time, we only had one full day and two half days.
On the only full day we had, we met up with my family and celebrated my granny’s birthday, had she survived. Not wanting to dwell on it too much, we visited Killruddery where both my cousins and their children tagged along. I ended up chasing round and playing with the two toddlers and it was a blast. They’re both so adorable and curious about everything. I needed a break though afterwards.
It has been one of the best holidays I’ve ever been on. I learnt more about my heritage, both personally and historically, I saw my family and I witnessed some stunning scenery. It was nice to return to a place that reminded me so much of my granny and my former days and to bid farewell to it all.
I’ll always love Ireland for everything and while I don’t know when I’ll return, I do know that my heart won’t let it go forever. I will return, for definite, just not as regularly as I used to. Tragically.