Tracing Your Irish Roots – Gearing Up for Irish Research

The last three hundred years has witnessed extensive Irish immigration to all corners of the globe. Close to 80 million people who claim Irish roots or affiliation are connected in a vibrant community of shared cultural identity and heritage. This network of Irish descendents is an important part of Ireland’s ongoing tale. No wonder so many people journey to Ireland to connect to their past and become a part of that country’s story. Searching for your Irish ancestors is fun, exciting, and gratifying. Experiencing your Irish heritage within the context of your ancestors is unmatched.

This is the third post in a blog series authored by Melanie Nelson, US-based professional genealogist and founder of MelNel Genealogy. Follow her here as she reveals the story of her Irish ancestors and provides helpful Irish research tips and tricks along the way. You can read her blog post Luck of the Irish describing her initial discovery of an Irish line in her family tree.

Gearing Up for Irish Research

My video gaming career began with Atari’s first best-seller Pong, a digital ping-pong game with a simple two-dimensional interface controlled by a dial rather than a stick. A few years later I became the family champion of Pac-Man and Space Invaders. That’s as far as I got. Until I challenged my nephew Zach to a game on his first Wii one Christmas. Of course he had already gone through the Game Boy and Nintendo phase, both of which I missed as I was taking life too seriously. His gaming experience far exceeded the rusty skills I had honed a generation before.

As our avatars ran through a medieval maze of bad guys in search of magical relics I became rather frustrated. Zach seemed to know rules that I didn’t. Not to be outdone by a ten year-old, I quizzed him in an exchange that went something like this:

Me: “How did you know to look behind that door for a key?”

Zach: “It’s really easy. It’s like that in my other games.”

Me: “Well, since I don’t play other games, maybe you can give me some clues?”

Zach (eyes rolling impatiently): “They ALWAYS put a weapon under a rock, food in a cabinet, and keys hanging behind a door.”

Me: “Do I want to collect all of those things?”

Zach: “You need to be fully geared up to slay the dragon.”

Tracing Irish ancestors is similar to Zach’s video game. As genealogists engage different riddles and challenges they are rewarded with critical bits of evidence that help them successfully navigate the labyrinth of Irish research.

Let’s Play: Assembling the U.S. Research Plan

After learning my great-great-grandparents were born in Ireland and immigrated to New York at some point in the late 1800s, I was biting at the bit to dive directly into Irish records. However, I knew Irish genealogy research is fraught with unique obstacles such as record loss, ambiguous land boundaries, and puzzling naming practices (discussed in Untangling the Trinity Knot in Ancestry Research). I needed a plan specifically designed to elicit the crucial information from U.S. records that enabled me to face the dragon of Ireland’s limited record sets. Just like Zach knew to check under stones, in cupboards, and behind doors for his survival equipment, my approach had to probe the right sources for essential evidence about my ancestors:

  • Birth dates and locations
  • Religion
  • Family, friends, associates and neighbors

I had only one initial clue at game launch: a U.S. marriage license for my great-grandparents Charles Rainer and Margaret Hanna who married in Avon, New York, in 1909 (Image 1). Margaret’s parents were briefly listed as Robert Hanna and Margaret Watson both born in Ireland. Since Margaret Hanna was born in New York, I suspected her parents had immigrated from Ireland, therefore placing some of their records in the U.S.

I made my first tactical decision to focus my effort on rounding out Robert’s identity. The research objective simply read: Determine the birth year, Irish county of origin, religious affiliation, and names of siblings and children for Robert Hanna.

Image 1 – Marriage License Affidavit for Charles Rainer and Margaret Hanna1

Power Up: Birth Date and Location

In his video game Zach sought the bright shiny object first – a sword bedazzled by jewels nested in the hilt. When I questioned his tactic, he explained that a swinging blade protected him from enemies while he searched for other objects.

Similarly, the most effective weapon in Irish research is evidence of an ancestor’s birth date and location. Although few Irish immigrants knew their actual birth dates, an approximate year would place an ancestor on a timeline. Perhaps more importantly, his Irish county of origin would single out the locality for investigation.

Unfortunately the birth county for many Irish was not collected in formal U.S. records. County-level information was unnecessary. Although U.S. census and vital record forms frequently documented birth places, immigrants were often merely designated by country. Instead, burial records, obituaries, and military draft cards serve as indispensable resources to review.

Working backward from more recent records, I hit the jackpot immediately. As I expected I found Robert buried a few plots over from his daughter in Temple Hill Cemetery, Geneseo, New York (Image 2). His burial record powered up my research. Robert B. Hanna was born in 1841 in County Antrim, Ireland.2 I picked up the bonus nugget, his middle initial “B,” further differentiating him from other Robert Hannas that I’d surely encounter along my odyssey.

Image 2 – Robert B. Hanna’s Gravestone, Temple Hill Cemetery, Geneseo, New York3

Booster Pack: Religion

Zach’s food parcel stowed in a concealed cupboard sustained his video character’s energy. Discovering an Irish ancestor’s religious affiliation in U.S. records likewise boosts the research process. Church of Ireland records were destroyed in the Dublin Public Records Office fire of 1922, but records from other denominations survive. While county of origin targets locality records in Ireland’s collections, religious preference suggests the specific church records to research in that locality.

Helpful U.S. sources to discover an ancestor’s affiliation include obituaries, marriage records, and children’s birth records. Additionally, church records from the ancestor’s U.S. locality may then corroborate his or her membership in the congregation or involvement in associated activities.

Robert’s obituary provided the pivotal clue. He was laid to rest on a cool Monday afternoon as upstate New York emerged from the damp winter of 1903.4 Reverend Dr. Josia E. Kittredge officiated the funeral and led a mile-long solemn procession to Temple Hill Cemetery.5 Robert was described as “a man of fine Christian qualities, a constant church-goer and a man of excellent domestic habits.”6 A simple Google search found Kittredge was a pastor at the Central Presbyterian Church in Geneseo (Image 3). Furthermore, Kittredge’s predecessor Reverend Dr. Ferdinand DeWilton Ward had married Robert and his wife Margaret Watson almost twenty years prior.7 Now with sufficient evidence indicating Robert was Presbyterian, a future research plan in Ireland could target Presbyterian church records.

Image 3 – Central Presbyterian Church, Geneseo, New York8

Level Complete: Family Members

Zach’s video game required the player to insert an enchanted key into a door lock to reveal the next level of play. Exploration of family members, particularly siblings and children, who have or are mentioned in U.S. records, can likewise move research to the next level.

The Irish carried the same names across and within generations. Oftentimes the only way to differentiate Roberts and Margarets is to reconstruct their family circle. For example, a brother’s gravestone etching may divulge an all-important birth county or a daughter’s baptism may suggest a Catholic affiliation. U.S. sources that may expose the powerful key are census and probate records.

Since Robert died in New York in 1903, I found him mentioned in the previous 1900 U.S. census.9 Robert and Margaret, already married fifteen years, lived with their family of six in Geneseo. Important details caught my eye. Margaret immigrated to the U.S. three years earlier than Robert suggesting they met in the U.S. She birthed five children, not the six noted out of sequence in the family. The last annotated child was the oldest daughter, 28-year-old Sarah who had been born in Ireland. At age 35 Margaret was clearly not Sarah’s mother.

Robert’s probate record shed additional light (Image 4). A long roster of people stood to benefit from his death. At least three brothers and ten children were named in the final settlement. Moreover, Robert’s obituary alluded to a first wife who died in Ireland. Investigation of these people would now be added to the research plan for exploring Robert’s life and ancestors in the homeland.

Image 4 – Final Judicial Settlement for Robert Hanna’s Probate10

Game Over: The Irish Passport

My experience observing Zach play his video game reinforced the idea that each successful quest begins with a proven methodology. No matter the country, the first steps to launch the genealogy research process are the same: define the objective, learn about the ancestor’s locality, and prioritize likely sources. Ireland’s unique context, however, requires a U.S. researcher to arrive with a county, a religion, and a lineup of family members.

With the information I located in U.S. records, I formulated my ancestor’s narrative. Robert Brittain Hanna was born in the Ballymena area of County Antrim, Ireland, in 1841 (Image 5).11 He and his first wife (unknown) had seven children (including Jane, Mary, James, Lizzy, Sarah) before she died in 1880.12 Like his four brothers (James, William, John, Samuel), Robert and several children immigrated to Livingston County, New York, in about 1885.13 He quickly met and married his second wife Margaret Watson in the same year.14 Together they raised Robert’s second family (Robert, Margaret, Anna, Lily, Agnes) on their farm and attended the local Presbyterian church in Geneseo.15 A modest farmer for the duration of his life, Robert died at his Geneseo home on 9 May 1903 after a series of strokes and rests in Temple Hill Cemetery.16 

Game over!

Image 5 – Robert Brittain Hanna circa 188517

Tips to Prepare for Irish Research

1. Start with what you know. Work backward in a deliberate process from death to birth.

2. Focus efforts on identifying your ancestor’s home county, religion, and family members.

3. Find as much as you can in U.S. records before researching Irish collections.

4. Make a timeline tracking your ancestor’s movements and activities in the U.S.

5. Explore the U.S. records for your ancestor’s family, friends, associates, and neighbors.

6. Cite your sources and the information found in them.

7. Develop hypotheses to investigate once you’re ready for Ireland.

In my next post, I’ll break down the steps I took to continue my Robert Brittain Hanna research in Ireland.

Your Journey into Your Past Starts Here

Whether you’re beginning your family history research or are ready to hop the pond, it’s your time to feel the myth and magic of the Emerald Isle. Contact MelNel Genealogy or Kerry Experience Tours to find out more about our joint offering Ireland Heritage Travel that weaves your ancestral search with a wonderful travel experience!

OTHER BLOGS IN THE SERIES “TRACING YOUR IRISH ROOTS”
Blog 1: Irish Immigration
Blog 2: Untangling the Trinity Knot in Ancestry Research

End Notes
1 Livingston County, New York, Affidavit for License to Marry for Charles W. Rainer and Margaret Hanna, 12 October 1909; digital image, “New York, U.S., County Marriage Records, 1847-1849, 1907-1936,” Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 16 September 2021).
2 “Interment Database,” Temple Hill Cemetery (http://www.templehillcemetery.com/index.asp / accessed 16 September 2021), entry for Robert B. Hanna (1841-1903). The information in this database is obtained from handwritten records kept at Temple Hill since 1807. The database may contain inaccuracies or incomplete information.
3 Ibid.
4 “Robert Hanna” obituary, Livingston Republican (Geneseo, New York), 14 May 1903, p. 3, col. 6; image copy, NYS Historic Newspapers (https://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/lccn/sn83031327/1903-05-14/ed-1/seq-3/ : viewed 16 September 2021).
5 Ibid.
6 Ibid.
7 “Married” Hanna-Watson announcement, Livingston Republican (Geneseo, New York), 4 December 1884, p. 3, col. unk; image copy, NYS Historic Newspapers (https://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/lccn/sn83031327/1903-05-14/ed-1/seq-3/ : viewed 16 September 2021).
8  Google StreetView (https://www.google.com/streetview), Central Presbyterian Church, 33 Center Street, Geneseo, New York, image capture September 2018.
9 1900 U.S. census, Livingston County, New York, population schedule, Geneseo, enumeration district (ED) 23, sheet 79A (stamped), dwelling 229, family 233, Robert B. Hanna family; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed 16 September 2021); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 1854.
10 Surrogate’s Court, Livingston County, New York, “Orders and Decrees Final Settlement Administrator, Vol. 47,” entry 168, estate of Robert B. Hanna, 29 February 1904; digital image, “New York, U.S., Wills and Probate Records, 1659-1999,” Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 16 September 2021).
11 “Interment Database,” Temple Hill Cemetery, entry for Robert B. Hanna (1841-1903). Also, Livingston County, New York, Marriage Records, register no. 1253, entry for George Herbert Orman and Lillian Mae Hanna, 20 February 1913; digital image, “New York, U.S., County Marriage Records, 1847-1849, 1907-1936,” Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 16 September 2021). Robert Hanna’s middle name is noted as Brittian.
12 “Robert Hanna” obituary, Livingston Republican (Geneseo, NY), 14 May 1903, p. 3, col. 6. Also, Surrogate’s Court, Livingston Co., NY, “Orders and Decrees Final Settlement Administrator, Vol. 47,” entry 168, estate of Robert B. Hanna, 29 Feb 1904.
13 Ibid. Also, 1900 U.S. census, Livingston Co., NY, pop. sch., Geneseo, ED 23, sheet 79A (stamped), dwell. 229, fam. 233, Robert B. Hanna family.
14 “Married” Hanna-Watson announcement, Livingston Republican (Geneseo, NY), 4 Dec 1884, p. 3, col. unk.
15 “Robert Hanna” obituary, Livingston Republican (Geneseo, NY), 14 May 1903, p. 3, col. 6. Also, 1900 U.S. census, Livingston Co., NY, pop. sch., Geneseo, ED 23, sheet 79A (stamped), dwell. 229, fam. 233, Robert B. Hanna family.
16 Ibid.
17 “Shilling Family Tree 2013,” owned by Margaret Burgess, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed 16 September 2012). Original image titled Robert B. Hanna. Cropped and edited by Melanie Nelson.

Wish I was in Ireland

The Kingdom of Kerry in the Southwest of Ireland offers the visitor an unforgettable experience. Here you will find breath-taking scenery, hidden gems off the beaten path, charming villages, traditional music & dancing, and some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet!

This is the first post in a blog series authored by Cathy Cunningham Fennel.  She will share her day-to-day experiences of her trip to County Kerry including the amazing places she visited, lodging, Irish food and drinks, and a bit about the folks she now calls friends. Her captivating stories will make you wish you were in Ireland!

Cathy turned to writing when she retired from her day job.  Thanks to her Grandpa Phalen, she is one-quarter Irish and proud of it!  Cathy lives and writes in South Texas and dreams of returning to Ireland.

Follow Cathy’s upcoming blog posts as she uncovers the myth & magic of the Kingdom of Kerry!

A DREAM, A BUCKET LIST, AND IRELAND AT LAST

I fell in love with Ireland at the age of 12 when I had to write a report on the country for school.  The more I read and researched the more I wanted to see this place for myself.  And so, I did … a mere 50 years later.  Oh, I wanted to make the trip much sooner and came close several times, but life has a way of creating obstacles as we reach for our dreams, and so it was with me.  Nevertheless, in 2018 I decided come hell or high water I was going to visit Ireland.  It was now an item on my bucket list.  If you’ve done the math, you know my age in 2018 and I felt it was now or never!

A friend and I began planning and, while I won’t bore you with the details, I will tell you we agreed on a couple of “must haves”.  First and foremost, for me was an opportunity to become acquainted with the locals.  I didn’t want to be stuck on a bus for seven or eight days with 40 other Americans.  I could do that without the pricey airfare for overseas flights.  Nor did I want to catch a glimpse of Ireland, but rather a chance to explore at a more leisurely pace.  Through internet searches, questioning those who had gone before me, and the grace of God, I found Kerry Experience Tours and it was a perfect fit!  Small group touring … check!  Customizable touring … check!  Affordability … check! 

Photo 1) Ireland at last! Photo 2: Cathy (pictured on the right) – author of the blog – and her friend Sharon

Ireland at last

HEAD OVER HEELS IN LOVE

My friend (Sharon) and I had decided early on we did not want to take a tour which required us to repack our bag each night and rise early to catch a bus each morning, or even every two mornings.  After reviewing the options available through Kerry Experience Tours, we chose the Best of Ireland’s Southwest tour.  That particular plan would allow us to stay in one location and to get to know one specific area of Ireland.  What I didn’t know at the time is that I would not only fall deeper in love with Ireland but that I would fall head over heels in love with the people of County Kerry as well.

Our experience began with our arrival in Cork and Ester was waiting for us with an identifying sign and a welcoming smile.  I don’t know if it was being sleep deprived or the thrill of finally setting foot on Irish soil, but I immediately went to Ester and gave her a really big hug.  I mean a really big hug.  I was so excited to finally meet this woman with whom I had been communicating about Ireland that I couldn’t help myself.  I already considered us friends, but I think Ester was a bit taken aback at my exuberant greeting.  She was, of course, quite gracious about it and by the end of our visit we truly were friends.  In her business she must encounter all types of people and I am most definitely a “type”!   

HOME AWAY FROM HOME

We were staying in Sneem and during our drive conversation flowed easily.  Ester pointed out sites of interest while Sharon and I gawked out the windows, hardly able to believe we had arrived.  I smiled nonstop as I spotted signs in both English and Irish, noted the architecture of the buildings in the towns and the glorious green pastures with ancient stone fences in the countryside.  Sharon and I each grew up on dairy farms and we grinned happily when we spotted the first herd of Holsteins.

At last, we arrived in Sneem, our home for the next eight days, and the word charming doesn’t begin to cover it!  Having grown up in a small town, I enjoyed seeing the similarities, but I happily noted the differences as well. 

We had been advised to stay awake throughout the day to avoid jet lag the next morning.  The adrenaline was still carrying us as we didn’t feel tired at all.  After settling into our B and B we took a walk around the village and its outskirts, eventually stopping at a pub for an early dinner before returning to our home away from home.  We had quite an enjoyable chat with our host and hostess, but our adrenaline began to fade, and we realized it was time to rest.  After all, the next day our Irish adventure would begin in earnest and we wanted to be ready for a week of exploring.

Exploring Sneem:

THE ADVENTURE BEGINS

We toured County Kerry with Ester and Gerrit and didn’t want to leave when our eight-day visit came to an end.  Each morning, after stuffing ourselves with an amazing breakfast (more on the food in future blogs!) we looked forward to Ester’s arrival and to what the day had in store for us.  She usually arrived as I was finishing my second or third cup of tea and, after jovial morning chats with our hosts, we set off.  One of the wonderful things about a private tour is the flexibility.  While we had an itinerary to work from, we were able to change it up depending on weather or our personal preferences.  We headed out each morning, full of anticipation and were never disappointed. 

The adventure begins! Day 1 – Undiscovered Ring of Kerry Tour:

Ring of Kerry Tour

CHOOSING SIDES

We frequently had questions and Ester, who was most often our guide, was not only happy to answer questions but always asked if we would like to stop to get a closer look.  The choice was ours and we were always presented with options.  Quite skillful at reading people, Ester often provided options she knew we would enjoy more than the planned itinerary.  The drive was consistently comfortable in terms of our vehicle as well as the company!  It should be pointed out, however, that nearly every day Ester or Gerrit or Sharon had to remind me I was not driving and to please enter the opposite side of the vehicle.  A true American, I am a creature of habit and it took me eight days to learn which side of the car was for passengers.  Like most everything else about our visit, it became a joking matter and added to the fun of the trip.

In future blogs I will share our day-to-day experiences including where we stayed, where and what we ate, places we visited in County Kerry and a bit about the folks we now call friends.

Cathy Cunningham Fennel

Curious about the 8 day private tour that made Cathy & Sharon fall head over heels in love with Ireland and the people of County Kerry? Find out more here:
Best of Ireland’s Southwest – 8 day private tour

About Kerry Experience Tours

For a truly local experience in one of the most charming and warm cultures in the world, Kerry Experience Tours will show visitors the most magical parts of Ireland. On offer are private day tours, multiday tours and bespoke tours of Ireland, tailored to suit your wishes. Enjoy the most scenic drives, spectacular land and seascapes, historic wonders, inspirational places, and hidden gems off the beaten path, completed with background information and stories. Enjoy the absolute best Ireland has to offer, creating memories that last a lifetime. Join Kerry Experience Tours and find the Ireland you’ve always imagined.

Tracing Your Irish Roots – Untangling the Trinity Knot in Ancestry Research

The last three hundred years has witnessed extensive Irish immigration to all corners of the globe. Close to 80 million people who claim Irish roots or affiliation are connected in a vibrant community of shared cultural identity and heritage. This network of Irish descendants is an important part of Ireland’s ongoing tale. No wonder so many people journey to Ireland to connect to their past and become a part of that country’s story. Searching for your Irish ancestors is fun, exciting, and gratifying. Experiencing your Irish heritage within the context of your ancestors is unmatched. 

This is the second post in a blog series authored by Melanie Nelson, US-based professional genealogist and founder of MelNel Genealogy. Follow her here as she reveals the story of her Irish ancestors and provides helpful Irish research tips and tricks along the way. 

Untangling the Trinity Knot in Ancestry Research

I’m fascinated by symbolism typically found in early Medieval Irish art. For me the designs embody the myth and magic of Ireland, conjuring visions of misted, rolling green hills and mischievous fairies lurking among moss-covered stone walls. The images of intricate loops and braids that seemingly go nowhere are found in almost any jewelry store. 

My favourite motif is the woven trinity knot, also known as a trefoil, comprising three curved and interlaced arcs which appear to have no beginning and no end (image 1). The ancient Celts believed anything of importance came in threes, like the natural elements of earth, air and water.1 Legend has it that St. Patrick, determined to convert the Celt pagans to Christianity, used a three-leafed shamrock to reproduce their familiar idea of three parts (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) to one God. The significance of three continues even today as Ireland’s flag features the tricolour of green, white, and orange.  

Image 1 – Irish Trinity Knot

For me, the trinity knot also serves as an apt metaphor for the predominant challenges that sometimes make Irish genealogy feel like an intractable problem with no solution. Once I learned I had Irish ancestry, I unknowingly dove in with high hopes that I’d soon find the Irish king to whom I was related. I quickly came to a hard stop, stuck in genealogy limbo. I had no idea where to look – or why. I faced three intertwined issues that created a knot of constraints relatively unique to research in the Emerald Isle.

Record Loss

The unfortunate elephant in the room for any Irish researcher is the massive loss of records in “the biggest explosion seen in Dublin before or since” in 1922.2 Munitions stored in the Dublin Public Records Office (PRO) exploded on the opening day of the Irish Civil War (Image 2).3 Seven hundred years of priceless records disappeared on the spot, obliterating generations of Irish identities, relationships, and activities. 

With the exception of a handful of charred fragments, the carefully documented 1821, 1831, 1841, and 1851 censuses were incinerated.4 Centuries of church registers, land deeds, and wills burned to ash. Bits of court, military, and transportation records drifted into the dense black smoke. Poof. Never to be seen again. 

You may wonder about the fate of census records from 1861, 1871, 1881, and 1891. The government authorized the destruction of the earlier two sets to protect the confidentiality of those documented in them.5 Additionally, the latter two were pulped due to paper shortage the country experienced during World War 1.6 

Ironically, this irreparable loss severely simplified research for this country. Four record types survived the destruction because they happened to be stored elsewhere at the time of the fire. The hopes of all genealogists reside primarily in the 1901 and 1911 censuses; civil birth, marriage, and death records; non-Church of Ireland records; and property records (especially Griffith’s Valuation). Resources such as newspapers, city directories, and gravestone inscriptions supplement first order references. And there’s better news. Out of a sense of obligation, or perhaps chagrin, most of these resources are freely provided online by the government. 

Destruction of Public Records Office Dublin
Image 2 – Destruction of the Public Records Office during the Battle of Dublin, 1922 7

Ambiguous Boundaries

Although Ireland is about the size of West Virginia, it has arguably the most administrative divisions you’ll encounter in practice. The townland, the oldest and smallest  geographic location (often measured in acres), was frequently named for a local land formation. For instance, my third great-grandparents lived in Drumadoon (drum = ridge) and Clough Mills (clogh = stone) in County Antrim. 

The English concept of a county arrived in the 12th century. Ireland was carved into 32 counties, becoming the geographic location with which most Irish were affiliated (Image 3).8 Over time, other jurisdictions influenced the constantly moving boundary lines. Baronies (331) were established in 17th century land surveys. The government installed Poor Law Unions (829) to allocate financial responsibility for the poor in the early 1800s.9 This type of jurisdiction centered on large towns and poor houses, irrespective of county boundaries. English civil parish (2,508) boundaries, which designated the local government, were closely aligned with the state-sponsored Church of Ireland parishes.10 The Roman Catholic church created parish boundaries completely independent of civil parishes, and sometimes crossed county boundaries.11 Each of these institutions created their own records. 

Most Irish were tied to the land through ownership, rent or family connections. Identifying your ancestor’s county of origin and religion simplifies the mishmash of places to research, thus allowing you to focus on the correct jurisdictional records for that locale. Oh, and you’ll need a really good map.12 

Image 3 – Counties of Ireland 13

Puzzling Name Practices

As I attempted to track ancestors in County Antrim, I began to notice a repetition of first names from one generation to the next. All of my Roberts, Jameses, Williams, Margarets, and Sarahs began crossing lines in my family tree. I even found two Thomases born to the same parents! The extensive use of nicknames led me to question whether I had the correct people. Could my ancestors be known in records as both Catherine and Kate, Margaret and Maggie, Bridgid and Bridie? Once I understood key naming practices in Ireland, my research became simpler.

The Irish honored senior family members by naming children after them in a predictable pattern through the 19th century (Table 1). Not only does this convention explain the frequent use of the same first names, the framework provides clues about names for unknown ancestors.  

Table 1 – Irish Naming Convention for Children 14

Honoured names were precious commodities within these large families. Therefore, parents sometimes reused a child’s name if he or she died.15 People also commonly used nicknames or shortened versions to differentiate same-named members of a family. Throw in a little Latin written in Roman Catholic church records, and we have to manage a veritable melting pot of spelling hybrids. 

Unfortunately, naming inconsistencies don’t stop with the first name. The evolution of surnames is equally hazy stemming from the development of language in ancient times. Ireland had its own language, sometimes referred to as Gaellic, but more accurately called Irish. As the English gained power in Ireland, they set the language standard as English, and all sorts of complications ensued. Irish was still the primary language spoken by residents in many counties even into the late 1800s (Image 4). Irish speakers reported names to English record keepers who butchered spellings or Anglicized names outright. They recorded names with mixed Irish and English spellings. Crucial prefixes (like “Mac” and “O”) that indicated Irish name patronymics (“son of”) were completely dropped, thus creating spelling variations meant to frustrate genealogists.16 For example, McCormick may have been transcribed as Cormick or O’Brien written as Brien. 

Moreover, illiterate Irish never saw their name in writing, didn’t know how to spell it, and didn’t much care about it otherwise. As a result, surname variants developed even within the same family group, making tracing more difficult. One family I investigated had six surnames appear in records across three generations: Cowen, Cowan, Cohen, Cohan, Coen, and Coan. 

Image 4 – Concentration of Irish Speakers, 1871 17

Cutting Through the Knot

Each of these three issues is substantial on their own. Together, the formidable web makes the problem feel colossal. Rather than untangling the knot, perhaps the trick is to simply slice through it. Irish research is challenging and yet extraordinarily straightforward. Once you understand the contextual rules, the principles feel the same: master the available record set, study the locales, and learn about the names. 

In my next post, I’ll share the steps I took to get started with my Irish genealogy research. With that, you can easily put together a plan for chasing down your own Irish ancestors. 

Your journey into your past starts here …

Whether you’re beginning your family history research or are ready to hop the pond, it’s your time to feel the myth and magic of the Emerald Isle. Contact MelNel Genealogy or Kerry Experience Tours to find out more about our joint offering Ireland Heritage Travel that weaves your ancestral search with a wonderful travel experience!

OTHER BLOGS IN THE SERIES “TRACING YOUR IRISH ROOTS”:
Blog 1: Irish Immigration
Blog 3: Gearing Up for Irish Research

End Notes

1Saint Patrick’s Guild, The Many Interpretations of the Trinity Knot (http://irishfireside.com/2012/12/03/trinity-knot : accessed 1 June 2021).
2Caitriona Crowe, Ruin of Public Record Office marked loss of great archive (https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/ruin-of-public-record-office-marked-loss-of-great-archive-1.1069843 : accessed 1 June 2021).
3Ibid.
4Ibid.
5Central Statistics Office, Access to Old Records (https://www.cso.ie/en/census/aboutcensus2011/accesstooldrecords : accessed 2 June 2021).
6Ibid.
7Wikimedia Commons, (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Four_Courts_Conflagration.jpg), “File:Four Courts Conflagration.jpg,” rev. 13:43, 27 October 2020. 
8Brian Mitchell, A New Genealogical Atlas of Ireland, (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 2002), 7-9.
9Ibid.
10Ibid.
11Ibid.
12Ordnance Survey Maps 1:50,000 area with townlands are generally available on Amazon and in Ireland bookstores. 
13Irish Genealogy Toolkit, County Map of Ireland (https://www.irish-genealogy-toolkit.com/County-map-of-Ireland.html : accessed 2 June 2021).
14Family Search, Ireland Personal Names (https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Ireland_Personal_Names : accessed 1 Jun 2021). Also, Ireland XO Reaching Out, IrelandXO Insight – Irish Naming and Baptism Traditions (https://irelandxo.com/ireland-xo/news/irelandxo-insight-irish-naming-and-baptism-traditions : accessed 1 Jun 2021).
15Ibid.
16Ibid.
17Wikimedia Commons, (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Irishin1871.jpg), “File:Irishin1871.jpg,” rev. 18:45, 3 February 2015.



Tracing Your Irish Roots – Irish Immigration

The last three hundred years has witnessed extensive Irish immigration to all corners of the globe. Close to 80 million people who claim Irish roots or affiliation are connected in a vibrant community of shared cultural identity and heritage. This network of Irish descendants is an important part of Ireland’s ongoing tale. No wonder so many people journey to Ireland to connect to their past and become a part of that country’s story. Searching for your Irish ancestors is fun, exciting, and gratifying. Experiencing your Irish heritage within the context of your ancestors is unmatched. 

This is the first post in a blog series authored by Melanie Nelson, US-based professional genealogist and founder of MelNel Genealogy. Follow her here as she reveals the story of her Irish ancestors and provides helpful Irish research tips and tricks along the way.

Irish Immigration

I grew up moving around the United States. Dad’s career with the United States Coast Guard afforded us the opportunity to transfer between duty stations every couple of years. I had lived in seven different states (twice in both Florida and Alaska) and at minimum passed through almost all 50 by the time I left for college. Geographic migration has been part of the human dynamic since people came into existence. For my family, a cross-country move was definitely an event, but no more overwhelming than an extended summer vacation. The moving van magically came to the house, packed our goods, shipped them in a truck, and, voila, appeared at the new place. I have since realized it wasn’t always that easy. 

Reasons People Migrate

The probing question for migrations is “Why?” It’s easy for me to explain my moves – for the job – but, is it always that simple? In no case can I find evidence (yet) that any of my people had family members already in America, so for the most part, they took major risk uprooting themselves, crossing a big ocean and re-establishing their livelihoods in a foreign country. This wasn’t simply ordering up the moving van. 

Fundamentally, people move for one of two reasons: push and pull. Push factors describe the unfavorable elements about an area in which one lives while pull factors consider the attractions that one area has over another. People whose current lot in life is miserable are pushed to move to a different location in search of safety and security. Whereas others may feel a pull for adventure, exploration or improving an aspect of their life.

Root causes of migration
Table 1 Root Causes of Migration1  

The Irish have created one of the globe’s widest diasporas, or distribution of people beyond their own country. Upwards of 70 million people worldwide claim Irish ancestry.2 Centuries of complex political, economic, religious, and social dynamics in Ireland created the perfect storm for three waves of immigration to the United States. 

The Pull: Freedom Immigration to Colonial America

Ireland served as an original melting pot of raiders and immigrants who arrived on the island from ancient times through the Middle Ages. Power landed in England’s King James’ hands in 1607 after the Nine Years War when many Irish lords fled the country.3 England’s dominance in Ireland established Protestants as the ruling class. In order to dilute the strength of the Irish Catholics, a plantation scheme colonized Ulster province in the north of Ireland with Scottish (primarily Presbyterian) and English (primarily Protestant) farmers. By the end of the seventeenth century, however, the Scottish Presbyterians found themselves excluded from the power base, becoming a middle class sandwiched between English Protestants and the Irish Catholics.4 

Full congregations of Ulster Scots (or Scots-Irish), led by their Presbyterian ministers, immigrated to colonial America in the eighteenth century.5 An estimated 250,000 people left Ulster for the promise of the New World.6 These established land owners were not poor and uneducated, for they adequately funded their passage often up to seven pounds sterling per person.7 They felt the pull of political independence and religious freedom that they had heard about in the American colonies. When they arrived in Massachusetts, however, they encountered more English Protestants who had arrived before them, continuing the discrimination. The new arrivals were forced to the edges of the wilderness. They found their way to other parts of New England settling communities named after their homeland towns like Londonderry, New Hampshire, and Belfast, Maine.8 Some continued their trek to the mid-Atlantic colonies becoming the original settlers of the Carolinas. 

The Scots-Irish were not alone. Irish Catholics from eastern and southern portions of Ireland followed using the established trade routes to America. Because they lacked the wealth of their Ulster counterparts, many of these Irish arrived as indentured servants.9 They provided labor in return for passage, lodging, and food for a period contract up to seven years. They then left service with starter land and resources so that they could strike out on their own.10 Their efforts created the foundational infrastructure for the New World. 

The collective hardy stock of the Scotch-Irish and Irish Catholics directly influenced the formation of the United States. Colonial records identify thousands of Irish who eventually produced eight signers of the Declaration of Independence (Image 1).11 The Irish comprised almost a third of General George Washington’s Continental Army, contributing 22 generals and 1,500 officers of Irish ancestry.12 After the revolution, British Lord Mountjoy explained to Parliament, “You have lost America by the Irish.”13 

The Irish Signers of the Declaration of Independence
Image 1 The Irish Signers of the Declaration of Independence (from upper left: Charles Carroll, John Dunlap, Thomas Lynch, Jr., George Read, Edward Rutledge, James Smith, George Taylor, Matthew Thornton)14

The Push: Famine Emigration from Ireland

The United States experienced a calm, but steady stream of Irish immigration through the next few decades until 1845 when Irish farmers noticed leaves on their potato plants had turned black. Potato blight caused by a destructive fungal strain that had arrived on the island from potato food supplies carried on ships from America.15 

The potato had long been the staple of working class Irish. It was easy to grow and contained the nutrition necessary to support their livelihood. Each acre of potato sustained ten people, thus allowing Irish Catholic families to support themselves even as their land portions were reduced from generation to generation.16 

Reduced food supply, unpaid rents, and government mismanagement sparked unparalleled famine across Ireland. As laboring families faced starvation, throngs of destitute Irish pushed for America out of pure survival. They had nothing, many leaving without shoes. They sought passage on “coffin ships” marked by crowded, disease-ridden steerage where 20,000 people died crossing the Atlantic.17 

Most of the 1.5 million famine emigrants who arrived in the United States were forced to remain in urban areas, scrambling for whatever food, housing and work they could find.18 They completely changed the demographic of Boston by 1855 when 25% of that city’s population was of Irish descent.19 

Irish Immigrants by Year 1820-1932
Table 2 Irish Immigrants by Year, 1820-193220

The Pull and Push: Post-Famine Opportunity Immigration to the United States

By the late 1800s, Irish Americans created a pattern of chain migration that funded additional immigration by other family members still living in Ireland. Ship travel had become safer, cheaper and more reliable, making planned passage feasible. Irish households purposely budgeted travel money so that family members could trickle to the United States.

At the same time post-famine regulations in Ireland limited land inheritance to one son, thus leaving remaining sons to find other options.21 Many searched for adventure and fortune in America. Likewise, young, single Irish women arrived as domestics ubiquitously employed by elite manors throughout New England.22 They sent earnings back home to enable the next person to join them. A typical passenger list like the one seen in the image below for the Cunard Line’s Cephalonia headed from Queenstown (now, Cobh) to Boston, shows countless Irish immigrants joining brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles and whose passage was paid for by someone else.

Partial Passenger List Irish Immigration Ship
Image 2 Partial Passenger List, Cephalonia, 1 Nov 189523

Back home twentieth century Ireland was in the throes of a nationalistic movement. Irish Americans funneled huge sums of money to support their countrymen. The United States became known as the “second Ireland.” Without question this aid influenced the political direction and eventual partition of the island into the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. 

Even as the United States’ Irish ancestry has been diluted by the enormous influx of immigrants from other countries, almost ten percent of America’s population claims Irish heritage (Table 3). 

United States Irish Ancestry
Table 3 United States Irish Ancestry24

Find Your Irish Ancestors

Our Irish immigrants were survivors, characterized by strength, resilience, optimism. They moved to distant countries to shape new lives. Tracing your Irish roots is fun, educational, and challenging. Embarking on this genealogy adventure allows you to understand more about the historical and social context of your family’s unique heritage. As you learn your ancestors’ incredible stories, you develop your sense of belonging to a culture and a people. Your exploration connects you with your homeland that helps fit you into the bigger picture. A journey into the past creates everlasting memories for your entire family.

Many people know All the President’s Men as a 1976 hit movie about Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein cracking the Watergate conspiracy. It’s probably the only blockbuster that builds intrigue and excitement from watching two guys make phone calls, organize paper notes, and meet an informant dubbed Deep Throat in a parking garage. At one point when they get stuck in the investigation, Deep Throat guides them to “follow the money”. 

Genealogy has a similar lesson: follow the people – backwards. Tracking your ancestors is much easier in today’s internet age, which has removed significant barriers that others before us have faced. But, the questions never stop. Like Woodward and Bernstein, I find myself making phone calls, reviewing documents, and engaging information sources as I build my Irish ancestors’ stories. 

Read about  the moment I discovered I had Irish ancestors in my post Luck of the Irish published with the Florida Genealogical Society – Tampa. In my next post, learn why Irish genealogy research is challenging – and yet extraordinarily simple. 

Your journey into your past starts here …

Whether you’re beginning your family history research or are ready to hop the pond, it’s your time to feel the myth and magic of the Emerald Isle. Contact MelNel Genealogy or Kerry Experience Tours to find out more about our joint offering Ireland Heritage Travel that weaves your ancestral search with a wonderful travel experience!

OTHER BLOGS IN THE SERIES “TRACING YOUR IRISH ROOTS”:
Blog 2: Untangling the Trinity Knot in Ancestry Research
Blog 3: Gearing Up for Irish Research

End Notes

1 Justice for Immigrants, Root Causes of Migration (https://justiceforimmigrants.org/what-we-are-working-on/immigration/root-causes-of-migration/ : accessed 13 April 2021).
2 Devon Haynie, 10 Countries With the Most Irish Emigrants (https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/2016-03-17/10-countries-with-the-most-irish-emigrants : accessed 13 April 2021).
3 William Roulston, The Plantation of Ulster, pamphlet (Newtownards, UK: Ulster Historical Foundation, n.d.), panels 2-.
4 Linde Lunney and William Roulston, The 1718 Migration (Belfast, UK: Ulster-Scots Agency, 2016), 6.
5 Ibid.
6 Billy Kennedy, Ulster-Scots in the Forefront of American Life and Culture (Belfast, UK: Ulster-Scots Agency, 2016), 3.
7 Catherine B. Shannon, Irish Immigration to America, 1630 to 1921 (https://www.nantucketatheneum.org/wp-content/uploads/Irish-Immigration-to-America.pdf : accessed 13 April 2021).
8 Alister McReynolds, The Ulster-Scots & New England (Belfast, UK: Ulster-Scots Community Network, 2010), 2-5.
9 Ancient Order of Hibernians Florida State Board, Irish Role in American Independence (http://www.aohflorida.org/irish-role-in-american-independence : accessed 13 April 2021). 
10 History Detectives, Indentured servants in the US (https://www.pbs.org/opb/historydetectives/feature/indentured-servants-in-the-us/ : accessed 13 April 2021).
11 Ancient Order of Hibernians Florida State Board, Irish Role in American Independence
12 Ibid.
13 Phillip Thomas Tucker, How the heroic Irish won the American Revolution remembered this Patriot’s Day (https://www.irishcentral.com/roots/history/irish-won-the-american-revolution : accessed 13 April 2021).
14 Jack Beresford, Meet the 8 Irishmen who signed the US Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 (https://www.irishpost.com/life-style/meet-8-irishmen-signed-us-declaration-independence-july-4-1776-156950 : accessed 13 April 2021), supplied individual photos used to create composite.
15 Joseph Stromberg, Scientists Finally Pinpoint the Pathogen That Caused the Irish Potato Famine (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/scientists-finally-pinpoint-the-pathogen-that-caused-the-irish-potato-famine-71084770/ : accessed 13 April 2021).
16 Potatoes USA, Fun Facts About Potatoes (https://www.potatogoodness.com/potato-fun-facts-history/ : accessed 13 April 2021).
17 Catherine B. Shannon, Irish Immigration to America, 1630 to 1921.
18 Ibid.
19 Ibid.
20 The Irish Potato Famine (https://elhambre.weebly.com/immigration-to-america.html : accessed 13 April 2021).
21 Catherine B. Shannon, Irish Immigration to America, 1630 to 1921.
22 Ibid.
23 “Massachusetts, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists, 1820-1963,” S.S. Cephalonia, Boston, Massachusetts, 1 November 1895; digital image 487, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 13 April 2021); citing NARA microfilm publication T843, roll 017.
24 United States Census Bureau, Where Irish Eyes Are Smiling (https://www.census.gov/library/visualizations/interactive/irish-eyes-2021.html : accessed 13 April 2021).

FUN Ways to celebrate St Patrick’s Day at home!

The final countdown to St Patrick’s Day has begun! Wherever you are in the world, bring Ireland into your home and your heart this St Patrick’s Day. Here’s 5 FUN ways to celebrate St Patrick’s Day at home!

1. Go Green – dress to impress!

When getting ready for the big day … think green! Dress green, decorate your home green, and get some real shamrock to complete the look. Ask your family and friends to do the same and share your pictures with each other. Fun and laughter guaranteed! Maybe you can even run a competition with a prize – and eternal fame –  for the best dressed person!

Irish folklore says that wearing green makes you invisible to leprechauns, so that they can’t pinch you!

Don’t forget to share your “green pics” on your social media and on the Kerry Experience Tours Facebook page!
#HappyStPatricksDay #GlobalGreening #StPatricksDayAtHome

2. Treat your taste buds to traditional Irish food and drinks

No St Patrick’s Day is complete without a selection of delicious authentic Irish food and drinks. These are some of our favorites:

Irish Stew

This traditional dish dates back to the early 1800s, when it was a common food for the poor people of Ireland. Nowadays Irish Stew is still popular as a comfort food, not just in Ireland but all around the world! Many Irish Bars abroad have their version of Irish Stew on the menu.

When browsing the internet you’ll find many different recipes for Irish Stew, with beef, lamb, and different vegetables. We absolutely love this Irish Stew Recipe recipe from celebrity chef Catherine Fulvio that uses another famous Irish ingredient: Guinness!

Traditional Irish Soda Bread

This tasty bread goes very well with Irish Stew. It  actually goes well with almost anything. Or with nothing…. just a bit of Kerry Gold Butter is all this delicious bread needs. Here an easy recipe for Traditional Irish Soda Bread.

When you’ve mixed the ingredients and shaped into a round, make a cross shape on top of the bread. It helps to rise and, more importantly, it helps ward off evil and let the fairies out!

Irish Coffee

All essential food groups – alcohol, caffeine, sugar and fat – are found in one glass of Irish Coffee! Find out how to make the perfect Irish coffee at home:

3. Irish movies that show off the Emerald Isle’s 40 shades of green

All dressed up and your traditional Irish food and drinks prepared? Next step: bring Ireland’s green landscapes to your home screen with a movie marathon!

Here’s some great Irish movies to add to your watch-list:

5 must-see romantic movies set in Ireland

4. Join a virtual St Patrick’s Day event

This St Patrick’s Day there are many virtual events you can join. On the days up to St Patrick’s Day over 100 events will be broadcasted by the online global TV channel SPF TV. Tune in now to the celebrations including Irish music, culture, food, storytelling, arts and much more: Stpatricksdayfestival.ie

Tourism Ireland LIVE – St Patrick’s Day At Home

Tourism Ireland has planned a range of virtual activities to bring Ireland and St Patrick’s Day into your home. Front seats for this year’s Virtual St Patrick’s Day event? Here’s your invitation to join the celebrations!

“St Patrick’s Day at Home with Tourism Ireland” will be livestreamed on Ireland.com and Social Media from Johnny Fox’s Pub (Dublin), the Duke of York (Belfast), and Dick Mack’s Pub (Dingle).

Broadcast times: Mainland Europe 19.00-21.30, North America 21.30-23.00.

Local St Patrick’s Day Initiatives

Have you any Irish roots? Family in Ireland? Find out if your hometown has planned an online event that you can join!

One of the local initiatives worth mentioning is the virtual St Patrick’s Day Event organised by the village of Sneem on the Ring of Kerry. This little village is big when it comes to St Patrick’s day. Every year on March 17th there is a Parade, Street Market, traditional music sessions, and lots of other activities.

Sneem village will host an online event in 2021 that is free to join. Log on to the Sneem Summer Festival Facebook page on 17th March at 2pm to join the Sneem Virtual St Patrick’s Day event! Enjoy footage of past parades, party pieces, messages from loved ones at home and abroad, and much more. A great way to enjoy St Patrick’s Day at home this year!

5. Play your favorite Irish music

Dance the night away at home to the sounds of your favorite Irish music! There are plenty of Irish songs to choose from to get the party started….  The Irish Rover, Whiskey in the Jar, Molly Malone, Danny Boy, the Fields of Athenry, just to name a few. Why not start a zoom session with your friends and have a good old sing-along!

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

We can’t wait to roll out the green carpet and welcome overseas visitors back to Ireland, as soon as the time is right!

About Kerry Experience Tours

For a truly local experience in one of the most charming and warm cultures in the world, Kerry Experience Tours will show visitors the most magical parts of Ireland. On offer are private day tours and multiday tours, tailored to suit your wishes. Enjoy the most scenic drives, spectacular land and seascapes, historic wonders, inspirational places, and hidden gems off the beaten path, completed with background information and stories.

The Emerald Isle is enjoyed best in the hands of experienced tour guides, who will personalize every trip to what guests want to see. Kerry Experience Tours is run by Gerrit & Ester, who made their dreams come true by moving to this beautiful, enchanting country. Since 2007 they run the touring company together, sharing their passion for Ireland with others. Their aim is for you to enjoy the absolute best Ireland has to offer, creating memories that last a lifetime.

Join Kerry Experience Tours and find the Ireland you’ve always imagined.

5 Must-see romantic movies set in Ireland

Fancy watching a romantic movie that is set in Ireland? These five movies will make you fall in love with Ireland, with the lush landscapes, the people, Irish music and the typical Irish sense of humor.

Whether it’s Valentine’s Day, Christmas, St Patrick’s Day or just “Saturday night movie night”, it’s always a good time to watch a feel good movie that shows off the stunning Irish scenery!

Here is the ultimate list of romantic movies that are set in Ireland. Read what the movie is about and on what locations in Ireland filming took place!

The Matchmaker

Starring: Janeane Garofalo, David O’Hara
Location: Roundstone and the Aran islands, county Galway

The Matchmaker – the story:

American Senator John McGlory wants to win the votes of Irish-Americans by finding his Irish roots. He sends his assistant Marcie to Ireland, in the hope she’ll find his long lost relatives and ancestors. Marcie arrives in a remote Irish town in the middle of the annual Matchmaking Festival.

She becomes the centre of attention for the local matchmakers and for the town’s bachelors, leading to hilarious situations. But it is local bartender Sean who steals her heart and helps her with her genealogy research. 

What follows is a story packed with humor, romance, quirky Irish characters and incredible scenery. An easy to watch, feel-good, romantic comedy!

The Matchmaking Festival is not just a made-up story. It’s a real event that takes place every September in the town of Lisdoonvarna on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. The annual Matchmaking Festival attracts people from all over the world who are looking for love, fun and a bit of craic.

“Love is waiting there for everyone, it’s there just waiting to be found. When it is, it’s a lovely feeling.” Matchmaker, Willie Daly

Leap Year

Starring: Amy Adams, Matthew Goode, Adam Scott
Location: Aran Islands, Connemara, Wicklow National Park, Dublin’s Temple Bar

Leap Year – the story:

It’s an old Irish tradition that a woman can only ask a man to marry her on Leap Day! Anna travels to Ireland to ask her boyfriend, who lives in Dublin, to marry her on Leap Day. But things don’t go as planned.

After an emergency plane landing Anna hires Irishman Declan to take her on a journey across Ireland to get her to Dublin in time. This funny love story shows off some of the most beautiful places in Ireland.

P.S. I Love You

Starring: Gerard Butler, Hillary Swank
Location: County Wicklow

P.S. I Love You – the story :

Holly loses the love of her life, Gerry, to a brain tumor. Gerry knew how hard Holly would take his death, so he planned ahead. After his death he leaves her a series of letters, all ending with P.S. I Love You. Together with 2 friends Holly takes a trip to Gerry’s homeland, Ireland.

The letters take her on a journey of rediscovery and help her to start up her life again. The last letter Holly receives tells her not to turn away from new love…. This movie will definitely bring a tear to the eye!

Brooklyn

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen
Location: Enniscorthy, Wexford, Dublin

Brooklyn – the story:

Eilis is a young Irish woman who moves to Brooklyn in the 1950s to find work. She falls in love with and marries Italian American Tony. When her sister suddenly dies, she returns home to Ireland. Here she temporally takes over her late sister’s bookkeeping job, and she meets bachelor Jim who falls in love with her.

Eilis has to choose between Ireland and her adopted home the US, and between the two different lives. Will true love prevail? A must-see modern classic love story!

Tristan & Isolde

Starring: James Franco, Sophia Myles
Location: Killary Harbour, Ballinahinch Castle, Connemara, Glassilaun Beach

Tristan & Isolde – the story:

The movie is based on an old legend that tells the story of the doomed love between English knight Tristan and Irish princess Isolde, shortly after the fall of the Roman empire.

Tristan gets wounded in battle and ends up in Ireland, where Isolde, daughter of an Irish king, finds him and helps him recover. They fall in love but Tristan, who does not know her true identity, has to travel back home. 

He also does not know that Isolde is destined to marry Tristan’s Lord, who is the future king of the two countries. Will Tristan & Isolde’s forbidden love threaten the peace? A must see romantic drama that is based on a medieval love story.

Explore Irish movie sites

Explore the world, but first see Ireland and visit some of the scenic movie sites around the Emerald Isle! Get in touch to find out more about a tailormade bespoke tour of Ireland.

Find more inspiring stories about Ireland in our Blog!

Slea Head coastal drive_Dingle_Ireland

7 Wonders of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way
Wild Atlantic Way
5 Tips to find the authentic Myth & Magic of Ireland
Beara Tour off the beaten track
5 Reasons to travel to Ireland

About Kerry Experience Tours

For a truly local experience in one of the most charming and warm cultures in the world, Kerry Experience Tours will show visitors the most magical parts of Ireland. On offer are private day tours and multiday tours, tailored to suit your wishes. Enjoy the most scenic drives, spectacular land and seascapes, historic wonders, inspirational places, and hidden gems off the beaten path, completed with background information and stories.

The Emerald Isle is enjoyed best in the hands of experienced tour guides, who will personalize every trip to what guests want to see. Kerry Experience Tours is run by Gerrit & Ester, who made their dreams come true by moving to this beautiful, enchanting country. Since 2007 they run the touring company together, sharing their passion for Ireland with others. Their aim is for you to enjoy the absolute best Ireland has to offer, creating memories that last a lifetime.

Join Kerry Experience Tours and find the Ireland you’ve always imagined.

Tour Company of the Year 2022

Kerry Experience Tours is a Travel & Hospitality Awards Winner for 2022
Feb 19, 2022 | Press Release

We are delighted to have been awarded by the Travel & Hospitality Awards in its 2022 European Travel Awards Programme:

Kerry Experience Tours
Tour Company of the Year 2022 for Ireland

THE TRAVEL & HOSPITALITY AWARDS is an annual celebration of excellence across all sectors of travel. The independent awards programme is an annual celebration of excellence for the best hotels, spas, restaurants and tour operators.

Official Press Release from the Travel & Hospitality Awards

Discover Ireland and the Wild Atlantic Way

For a truly local experience in one of the most charming and warm cultures in the world, Kerry Experience Tours will show visitors the most magical parts of Ireland. On offer are customized Bespoke Tours, Private Day Tours, and pre-defined Multiday Tours, tailored to suit your wishes. Enjoy the most scenic drives, spectacular land and seascapes, historic wonders, inspirational places, and hidden gems off the beaten path, completed with background information and stories. Set off on a true adventure and experience the authentic myth & magic of Ireland!

Join Kerry Experience Tours on an Irish journey of discovery that will bring moments of magic, moments to treasure and experiences you want to return to again and again!

7 Wonders of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way

Set off on a true adventure along 1,500 miles of coastal road on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. An unforgettable experience awaits along one of the wildest, most enchanting, and culturally rich routes in the world.

The Wild Atlantic Way is a sensational journey of tiny roads reaching out into the ocean, dramatic cliffs, spectacular lighthouses, secluded beaches, epic bays, sheep-spotted hills and buzzing villages & town. Make sure to stop often and take in the breath-taking views. Be ready to encounter some of the most rugged, spectacular coastlines you will ever see!

In this blog post we’ll share some of our personal favorites along this inspirational coastal drive. You may not be able to see the 7 wonders of the world in one trip, but you can see these 7 wonders of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way on your next trip to Ireland!

1. Mizen Head, Cork

Must see: Mizen Head cliffs, footbridge, signal station
Top tip: From the arched bridge look down and around you to spot wildflowers, gannets, seals, and dolphins
Nearby: 3 Castle Head, Crookhaven, Altar Wedge Tomb


A scenic road along a spectacular cliff coast takes you to the Mizen Head Signal Station. Built on cliffs that rise high above the Atlantic Ocean, the station was built to fight the high loss of life and shipping on the rocks. To reach the signal station you must climb down 99 steps, cross an arched footbridge high above the gorge, and walk along fenced cliff trails. Take some time to check out the former keepers’ quarters and the Marconi radio room.

From Mizen Head you can spot The Fastnet Rock Lighthouse on a tiny rock out in the ocean. This was the last spot seen by many emigrants on their way to America.

Amazing places to visit near Mizen Head


1) 3 Castle Head. 3 ruined medieval towers connected by a high stone wall on the edge of a cliff. A 15-minute walk along a small trail leads you across private farmland to the castle.  

2) Crookhaven. Lovely spot for lunch. This picturesque harbour village once was the last port of call for ships, stocking up before going to America.

3) Altar Wedge Tomb. An impressive formation from approx. 2500BC that can be found about halfway between Mizen Head and Schull along a spectacular coastal drive.

2. Valentia Island, Kerry

Must see: Geokaun Mountain, Valentia Island Lighthouse, Knightstown
Top tip: Walk up to Bray Head for fab views of the Skellig coast and the Skellig islands
Nearby: Portmagee, Skellig Experience Centre, Skellig Chocolates


Valentia Island is an amazing island at the far end of the Ring of Kerry. Its remoteness and dramatic coastal scenery make it a must-see destination along the Wild Atlantic Way. The island can be reached from Portmagee by bridge, or – highly recommended – by car ferry from Renard Point to Knightstown.

From Knightstown travel along the coast and take the road down to Valentia Island Lighthouse that is built on the remains of an old fort from Cromwellian times. Your camera will absolutely love this spot: the lighthouse, rocky coastline, and crashing waves.

Our next recommendation along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way is Geokaun Mountain. A rough and steep road takes you to the top of the mountain. This drive is not for the fainthearted, but the views from the top will make up for the sweaty hands. We’ll promise, this will be the highlight of your day! On you way back down take the short walk up to the stunning Fogher Cliffs.

On the other side of the island, near the bridge to Portmagee, you’ll find the monument that tells the story of the first transatlantic telegraph cable that was laid from Valentia Island. If you have time, take the walk to the top of Bray Head and enjoy some of the best views of the Skellig coast and the Skellig Islands.

Amazing places to visit near Valentia Island

1) Portmagee is a lovely little harbour village. Great spot for lunch, especially if you like fresh seafood. It is also the best spot for a boat trip to the Skellig Islands. StarWars brought the magnificent scenery of Skellig Michael to the big screen.

2) Skellig Experience Centre. Learn everything about the famous Skellig Islands and the story of the monks who inhabited this rock in the Atlantic for centuries.

3) Skellig Chocolates. Chocoholic or not, everyone will love this little chocolate factory on the Skellig Ring!

Tip: The roads on Valentia Island and the Skellig Ring are narrow and windy. If you are not comfortable navigating these roads, it is well worth taking a private tour of the Ring of Kerry, Valentia Island and the Skellig Ring for a relaxed, off the beaten path experience.

3. Slea Head, Dingle, Kerry

Must see: Beehive huts, Coumeenoole Beach, Dunquin pier
Top tip: From Coumeenoole Beach walk along the trail up to Dunmore Head. Fab views!
Nearby: Blasket Experience Centre, Dingle town, Conor Pass


The Dingle Peninsula has it all, stunning scenery, an abundance of historic sites, and the feel of the Gaelic culture wherever you roam. From the Gaelic language, to the best arts & crafts and traditional music sessions, the old ways are still very much alive.

One of the most scenic parts of the Wild Atlantic Way is Slea Head on the Dingle Peninsula. Breath-taking coastal scenery and magnificent views are guaranteed. Slea Head probably has the greatest concentration of ancient sites in Ireland. The area is dotted with stone-age ring forts, inscribed stones, old church sites, and – not to be missed – prehistoric beehive huts.

As you get closer to the ocean, the road narrows more and more. Stretch the legs and dip your toes into the Atlantic at Coumeenoole Beach, a gorgeous little sandy beach surrounded by high cliffs. From here you can walk up the hill to Dunmore Head for even better views.

Another must-see stop on this scenic trip is Dunquin Pier.  In the Summer months a ferry leaves from this Pier to Great Blasket Island. Up to 1953 people lived on this deserted island under harsh conditions: no shop, no doctor, and no pub! These days the island is a paradise for walkers.  

Amazing places to visit near Slea Head


1) The Blasket Centre. This heritage centre and museum tells the story of the Blasket islands and the Irish speaking people who lived there and left an important cultural footprint.

2) Dingle Town. The charming town is packed with traditional pubs and cute little shops and restaurants.

3) Conor Pass. A short drive from Dingle Town takes you to the top of the Conor Pass, Ireland’s highest mountain pass. Spectacular views of Dingle Harbour, Mt Brandon, and the blue lakes in the rocky valley.

4. Cliffs of Moher, Clare

Must see: no explanation needed, 5 miles (8km) of stunning cliffs to explore 😊
Top tip: Doolin Cliff Walk – cliff top walk from Doolin to Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre
Nearby: Doolin, Aran Islands, The Burren


The Cliffs of Moher are Ireland’s number 1 visitors’ attraction along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, and for good reason. These iconic cliffs are amongst the highest in Europe, soaring 700 feet (214m) above the Atlantic. The cliffs have been featured in many movies including Harry Potter and Leap Year.

Lonely Planet’s description of the cliffs says it all:
“One of Ireland’s most famous sights, the Cliffs of Moher are entirely vertical and the cliff edge is abrupt. On a clear day the views are tremendous, with the Aran Islands etched on the waters of Galway Bay. From the cliff edge you can just hear the booming far below as the waves crash and gnaw at the soft shale and sandstone.”

Plan enough time to go for a walk, to get away from the crowds. Nothing beats a windswept, thrilling hike across the clifftops!

Amazing places to visit near the Cliffs of Moher

1) Doolin is famous for Traditional Irish Music sessions in the pubs. The craic is mighty! The best Irish Stew in the country is served at McDermott’s in Doolin.

2) The Aran Islands can be reached by ferry from Doolin. These islands are a great representation of the traditional, mystical Ireland.

3) The Burren is a massive moonlike limestone plateau, with ancient burial chambers, medieval ruins, and an abundance of wildflowers.

5. Achill Island, Mayo

Must see: Kildavnet Castle, Achill Coastline, Keem Strand
Top tip: Picnic lunch on the beach
Nearby: Westport, Croagh Patrick, Ceide Fields


Achill’s Atlantic Drive boasts over 40km of breath-taking coastal scenery and rich history. On route is the 16th century tower house Kildavnet Castle, that was used by the legendary Irish Pirate Queen Grace O’Malley. More on this intriguing character in another blog post!

The impressive Deserted Village at Slievemore consists of almost 100 old stone cottages. The village was used as a “booley” settlement, only in use during the Summer to grow crops and to let cattle graze in the pastures. In the winter months people would live in a different location. From the 1840s the village was gradually abandoned because of tenants being evicted by the local landlord, the Great Famine and emigration to America.

The Achill coastal road leads all the way to the idyllic Keem Beach. It has been named one of the best beaches in the world for 2019 by global travel site Big 7 Travel. The almost tropical feel of this gorgeous sandy beach with crystal clear waters and surrounded by cliffs, is the stuff for postcards. An ideal spot for a picnic lunch!

Amazing places to visit near Achill Island


1) Croagh Patrick, Ireland’s holy mountain and a popular pilgrimage destination. St Patrick is said to have fasted for 40 days at the summit of the mountain.  

2) Westport. A charming little town with many shops, pubs, restaurants, and the historic Westport House.

3) Céide Fields. One of the most extensive Stone Age archaeological sites in the world, dating back almost 6,000 years. The site contains the oldest known stone-walled fields in the world, enclosures, and megalithic tombs.

6. Mullaghmore Head, Sligo


A stroll around Mullaghmore Head is a must-do on this stretch of the Wild Atlantic Way. Walk along the sandy beach and listen to the crashing waves. This is one of Ireland’s best surfing spots, famous for its big waves.

Enjoy stunning views of the picturesque Classiebawn Castle and the towering BenBulben mountain in the backdrop. The word stunning was created for scenes like this, it is the stuff of fairytales.

Ben Bulben is one of Ireland’s most iconic landmarks. Famous Irish poet WB Yeats found inspiration in county Sligo and in the impressive flat-topped mountain. He called Sligo “The Land of Heart’s Desire” and one of his famous poems is called “Under Ben Bulben”.  Yeats is buried in the shadow of this mountain in Drumcliff cemetery.

Ben Bulben was also the backdrop for the Irish legend of Diarmuid & Grainne, a fascinating but tragic love story.

Amazing places to visit near Mullaghmore Head

1) Take a boat trip on the Atlantic to Inishmurray Island and see the impressive ruins of an ancient monastic site.

2) Streedagh Beach. This place is all about walking 3km of sandy beach, searching for fossils, exploring an ancient wedge tomb, and soaking up history. Ships from the Spanish Armada ran aground here in a storm in 1588.

3) Parke’s castle is a lovely little castle on the shores of Lough Gill, a 30 minute drive from Mullaghmore, just across the Sligo-Leitrim border.

7. Slieve League, Donegal

Must see: Cliffs at Slieve League, Silver Strand (Malin Beg), St John’s Point lighthouse
Top tip: Book an overnight stay at the lightkeeper’s cottage at St John’s Point lighthouse
Nearby: Assaranca Waterfall, Donegal castle, Sliabh Liag Distillers


The stunning cliffs at Slieve League are the highest accessible sea cliffs in Europe. With over 600m (1970 feet) they are three times the height of the famous Cliffs of Moher. A narrow trail called One Man’s Pass leads to the highest point of Slieve League. It is a thrilling experience, standing on top of these soaring cliffs that rise high above the Atlantic Ocean. Feel the salty air in your face, watch the waves crash, and take in the breath-taking views here at the edge of the world.

When you’ve cleared your head at Slieve league, continue to follow the road until you reach Silver Strand. This beautiful beach near Malin Beg is surrounded by high horseshoe-shaped cliffs.

Another must-see spot along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way is St John’s Lighthouse. A thrilling drive along one of Ireland’s longest peninsulas takes you to this amazing spot. And the best of it all …. you can actually stay overnight at the St Johns Point Lightkeeper’s Cottages! Treat yourself a unique stay miles away from anywhere. Admire the fab views across the bay, walk along the beach, or go for a swim in some of the clearest waters you’ve ever seen. You’ll never want to leave this perfect place, so it is a good thing that there is minimum of 2 nights stay requirement 😉

Amazing places to visit near Slieve League

1) Assaranca Waterfall, a great spot to visit especially after a rainy night. Tip: take the Glengesh Pass from Slieve League to Assaranca, a windy mountain road with fabulous views.

2) Donegal castle. A restored Norman tower house from the 15th century in the heart of Donegal town.

3) Sliabh Liag Distillers. No better way to finish your trip along the Wild Atlantic Way! Enjoy a guided tour of this craft distillery, completed with a tasting of a premium Irish Maritime Gin.

Explore the world, but first see Ireland

Ireland is too beautiful to leave unexplored. Cross a destination off your bucket list with a trip to Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way!

Contact Kerry Experience Tours to find out more about a tailormade bespoke tour of Ireland. The Myth & Magic of Ireland starts here!

About Kerry Experience Tours

For a truly local experience in one of the most charming and warm cultures in the world, Kerry Experience Tours will show visitors the most magical parts of Ireland. On offer are private day tours and multiday tours, tailored to suit your wishes. Enjoy the most scenic drives, spectacular land and seascapes, historic wonders, inspirational places, and hidden gems off the beaten path, completed with background information and stories.

The Emerald Isle is enjoyed best in the hands of experienced tour guides, who will personalize every trip to what guests want to see. Kerry Experience Tours is run by Gerrit & Ester, who made their dreams come true by moving to this beautiful, enchanting country. Since 2007 they run the touring company together, sharing their passion for Ireland with others. Their aim is for you to enjoy the absolute best Ireland has to offer, creating memories that last a lifetime.

Join Kerry Experience Tours and find the Ireland you’ve always imagined.

5 Tips to find the authentic Myth & Magic of Ireland

There is this magical feeling to Ireland that all visitors should experience. The combination of Ireland’s beautiful scenery, powerful history and legends, and the intriguing culture and fascinating people, draws visitors from all over the world.

Picture yourself strolling along secret beaches, visiting ancient castles and forts, exploring tranquil villages and watching the wild Atlantic Ocean from spectacular cliffs. Enjoy the warm welcome of the Irish people, listen to their stories, soak up traditional music and enjoy a taste of quality food and drink. Sounds like the Ireland you’ve always imagined? Here are some tips to help you find the authentic myth & magic of Ireland.

Follow these 5 tips to plan an Irish journey of discovery that will bring moments of magic, moments to treasure and experiences you want to return to again and again!

1. Travel off the beaten path

Our first recommendation is to explore beyond the main routes, explore Ireland off the beaten path. Every color of green that possibly sits on an artist’s palette inspires Ireland’s other name – the Emerald isle. You’ll find yourself on winding lanes with grass growing in the middle, and too narrow for cars to pass. Colourful wildflowers growing along the roadsides, encourage photo stops. Wandering sheep in search of green clover create the only traffic jams.

The countryside is dotted with ring forts, standing stones and other mysterious remains from an ancient Ireland ruled by celts and kings. The lush, rolling hills are criss-crossed by old stone walls that harken back to centuries of country life. You might even see a farmer cutting turf from the bog.

Travel on along meandering coastal roads with hidden coves, rock cliffs and golden beaches. And when you stop for lunch in one of the picturesque villages, you will surely meet friendly locals looking for a chat. A great conversation starter: ask for directions!

2. Explore the Wild Atlantic Way

The Wild Atlantic Way coastal road stretches along Ireland’s western and south-western seaboard. This spectacular drive will take you along routes that ring great peninsulas and tiny tracks that reach out into the ocean.

You’ll want to stop often to watch the huge Atlantic waves crash, to walk along beautiful beaches, visit ancient sites or take in the views whilst standing high above the ocean on cliffs that are amongst some of the highest in Europe. The magnificent seascapes will take your breath away.

Explore small settlements and quaint towns along the route and experience the warmth of the local people. In the west coast’s remote regions you’re most likely to hear the Irish Gaelic language. “Fáilte romhat isteach” tells you that you’re most welcome here. It is in these Gaeltacht areas that traditional language, customs, crafts and folklore are very much alive today.

Read more about the best places to visit along the Wild Atlantic Way in this blog post: 7 Wonders of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.

3. Experience local

Although Ireland’s bigger cities like Cork, Galway and Dublin have a lot to offer, it can get quite busy and touristic. Our advice, stay in smaller towns and villages on at least a couple of nights during your Ireland trip. A local B&B or small boutique hotel and pub grub in the evening, are meaningful alternatives for chain hotels and expensive restaurants. It is the best way to experience the warm welcome of the Irish people.

After your daily travels, the next adventure awaits. Check in to a traditional pub, enjoy fresh seafood and authentic dishes, and a pint of Guinness. Discover that the Celtic heritage is still alive today by listening to the Irish language, songs and stories. You might even be treated to a traditional Irish music session that we like to refer to as “Trad”. A late afternoon conversation that starts with “Where are you from?” often ends late at night.

As Irish poet and wise man William Butler Yeats once said, “There are no strangers here, only friends you haven’t met yet”. William was right.

4. Take it easy

When you’re planning your trip to Ireland, you probably have a long bucket list. You’ve done your research, and there’s an overload of ideas from family and friends who have travelled here before. If you truly wish to experience the myth and magic of Ireland, then avoid packing everything into one trip.

Make sure to build in time to enjoy the unexpected, the hidden treasures that lie off the beaten track. Don’t rush, take a step back, and take your foot off the accelerator. Rush hour in Ireland simply means waiting for sheep or cattle to cross the road.  

Take time to see that rainbow, watch the border collie herd sheep, and hear the waves crashing onto the cliffs. Enjoy all the breath-taking moments that cross your path. It’s the unexpected moments that will make your Irish vacation unforgettable. You can always come back again!

5. Hire a private driver

Last but not least, hiring a private driver will ensure that you will experience the very best of Ireland. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the incredible scenery, history and culture Ireland has to offer. You’ll be treated to the most scenic drives, historic wonders, inspirational places (pubs and other 😉 )and hidden gems off the beaten track.

A private driver can navigate the backroads and knows the best places to go to avoid the tourists and the buses. You can customize your adventure and travel at your own pace rather than following the itinerary of a large group. It’s a fun way to find the Ireland you’ve always imagined!

Celts, Kings and Wise Men have left their marks, now it is your turn. Contact us now to find out more about a tailormade bespoke tour of Ireland. The Myth & Magic of Ireland starts here!

About Kerry Experience Tours

For a truly local experience in one of the most charming and warm cultures in the world, Kerry Experience Tours will show visitors the most magical parts of Ireland. On offer are private day tours and multiday tours, tailored to suit your wishes. Enjoy the most scenic drives, spectacular land and seascapes, historic wonders, inspirational places, and hidden gems off the beaten path, completed with background information and stories.

The Emerald Isle is enjoyed best in the hands of experienced tour guides, who will personalize every trip to what guests want to see. Kerry Experience Tours is run by Gerrit & Ester, who made their dreams come true by moving to this beautiful, enchanting country. Since 2007 they run the touring company together, sharing their passion for Ireland with others. Their aim is for you to enjoy the absolute best Ireland has to offer, creating memories that last a lifetime.

Join Kerry Experience Tours and find the Ireland you’ve always imagined.

5 Reasons to travel to Ireland

The Isle of Ireland, made up of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, is a popular tourist destination for many reasons. Visitors have flocked to Ireland for centuries to experience this enchanting, mythical and magical country.

Anyone who has been there will say that the famous Irish warm welcome is the real deal. They will tell you that the Emerald Isle is fantastic for scenic road trips. Captivating photos and vivid memories take you on a mesmerising journey of green hills, rugged coastlines, beautiful beaches, castles, lighthouses and charming villages.  Stories are shared about the fresh local seafood, music and dancing, and the friendly people in the local pubs. Surely, you will be told a couple of times that Guinness really does taste better in Ireland. Well, that is something you must find out for yourself!

Here’s a list of 5 reasons why you should make that trip to Ireland happen.

1. NATURAL BEAUTY

The 1st of 5 reasons to travel to Ireland …. natural beauty. Ireland’s scenery is beyond compare, beautiful and untouched. The majestic and dramatic land and seascapes will draw you in and inspire you to discover more. The Cliffs of Moher, Burren, Giant’s Causeway, Ring of Kerry, Dingle, Mizen Head, Connemara, the list of postcard-pretty places is endless. 

One of the most visited natural wonders are the iconic Cliffs of Moher, stretching for 5 miles and reaching 702 feet at their highest point. The cliffs have been featured in many movies including Harry Potter and Leap Year. The cliff walk trail from the village of Doolin to the Cliffs comes highly recommended and offers magnificent views out over the ocean. Nearby you can explore The Burren National Park, a wonderland of karstic limestone, one of Ireland’s most unusual geological landscapes. The Cliffs of Moher and The Burren form a UNESCO Global Geopark.

Some of the wildest, most beautiful places are found along Ireland’s windswept Wild Atlantic Way. This captivating drive stretches over 1,500 miles along Ireland’s west coast and is filled with unforgettable scenery, spectacular cliffs, beautiful beaches, hidden bays and picturesque towns. Check out this blog post for tips on the best places to visit along the Wild Atlantic Way: 7 Wonders of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.

Wherever the road takes you in Ireland, you will be surrounded by magnificent natural beauty. You will love it, and your camera will love it!

2. HISTORY & HERITAGE

Ireland is just packed with history. Celts, Kings and Wise Men left their marks in the landscape and culture. Fascinating historical and archaeology gems are found all over the island.

An important part of Irish history that continues to intrigue us is the mysterious world of the Celts. From about 700BC Celtic tribes started to mix, mingle and fight in Ireland. There were more than 300 clans in Ireland, each with their own King, ruled by a single High King at the famous Hill of Tara. Since Celtic times, the Irish countryside is dotted with ring forts, wedge tombs and standing stones.

When the Romans conquered much of Europe, they left Ireland untouched as it was too far and too cold. Ireland remained a land of Celts and Kings. As a result, the Celtic heritage is still alive today, from language and legends to music and dance. Christianity came to Ireland in 432AD when St. Patrick started to convert the sun-worshipping Celts. Monks flocked to Ireland to continue his work. In the late 900s there was a short Gaelic revival when the last High King of Ireland Brian Boru controlled the entire island. When his kingdom fell apart, the Vikings, Normans, and English dominated the area in subsequent centuries.

Travellers to Ireland are spoiled for choice when it comes to visiting ancient sites. It’s a journey through 5,000 years of history! One of the highlights is the passage tomb at Newgrange which dates back to 3200 BC and is older than the pyramids in Egypt. Every year on winter solstice a beam of sunlight travels up the passage illuminating the inner chamber. Another great example of Irish history is the iconic Rock of Cashel. High up on a limestone rock you’ll find an impressive group of medieval buildings and Celtic art. It is here that St. Patrick converted the King of Munster to Christianity – when he accidentally stabbed the king in the foot with his staff. Luckily for St. Patrick, the king thought that this was all part of the painful process of becoming a Christian.

Other must-see historical gems are the many prehistoric ringforts and stone circles you will find along the Wild Atlantic Way, the remote Skellig Michael monastic settlement (featured in StarWars), megalithic dolmens, medieval churches, and the many castles. With over 3,000 castles in Ireland you don’t have to look far to find one. Whether you’re seeking mystery, drama, storybook romance, or perhaps a good ghost story, Ireland offers something for everyone. Keep an eye on our upcoming blog posts if you wish to read more about the best Irish Castles!

3. THE CRAIC

The “craic,” a commonly used term in Ireland, tends to confuse visitors to the country. It basically refers to having great fun – Irish style! Many a conversation starts with “What’s the craic?” (meaning “How are you?” or “What’s happening?”). The Irish are known for their famous ability to find craic (good fun) in every situation.

The craic is mighty everywhere with the Irish pub culture topping the list.  Irish music is an inherent part of Irish culture that brings people together, and comes to life in Irish pubs’ live music sessions. For many, the craic is enjoying a pint, a lively conversation with friends old and new, and good music. There’s no better place for that than an Irish pub or festival!

Ireland hosts many festivals and events each year where good craic is guaranteed. The most famous are the St. Patrick’s Day festivals that take place all around the island. Other festivals focus on the arts, music, food, literature, storytelling and so on. We’ll share more about the best Irish festivals in our upcoming blogs.

The Irish people truly make Ireland special. No craic without the Irish! It is the friendliness and humour of the Irish, their love for music, dance, entertainment and witty conversations, and the pride of the Irish culture and heritage. Ireland is a small island with a big heart.

On your next trip to Ireland make sure to walk into a local pub during a traditional music session and ask the person beside you “What’s the craic”. You might be in for one of the best nights of your visit to Ireland! Come over and find out what the craic is all about!

4. FOOD & DRINK

If you are a fan of delicious food, locally brewed beers and fine whiskeys, you will be in for a treat.

Breweries and distilleries dot the island. The most renowned, without a doubt, is the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. Guinness is Ireland’s – and probably the world’s – most famous beer, and no trip to Ireland is complete without tasting a pint of the black stuff. Have we mentioned yet that Guinness really does taste better in Ireland?!  You will also want to visit a whiskey distillery, and we have plenty. Among the most popular are the Jameson Distillery in Middleton and the Bushmills Distillery in Northern Ireland. Over the last decade many smaller breweries and distilleries have opened their doors. Personal favourites are the award-winning Dingle Distillery in Dingle Town, and the newly opened Tom Crean Brewery in Kenmare.

During your time in Ireland you will be able to enjoy delicious local food. Start your day with a hearty traditional Full Irish breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, grilled tomato, black and white pudding and toast. This probably will keep you energized until dinner time. Whether you’re going to a restaurant or out for pub grub, choose a spot popular with locals. Dig your teeth into beef & Guinness stew, Irish soda bread, bacon & cabbage, and some of the freshest seafood in the world. Scallops, Wild Atlantic salmon, crab meat, lobster, grilled sole, oysters…need we say more?

Looking for a different dining experience filled with good food, drink and entertainment? Step back in time for medieval magic at Dunguaire Castle or Bunratty Castle. Banquets are filled with meade, great food, historic surroundings and a whole lot of music and stories.

Other ways to experience the great tastes of Ireland are by visiting a market or a food festival. Two famous markets are Cork’s English Market and St. George’s Market in Belfast. Both, set in beautiful 18th and 19th century surroundings, offer a fabulous range of Irish treats.  There’s hardly a week that goes by without a food festival being held somewhere on the island. Put the annual Dingle Food Festival held the first weekend of October on your list. Here, you will enjoy market stalls, wine tasting, cookery shows, and a food trail that offers over 70 different local taste experiences.

5. FIND YOUR IRISH ROOTS

The last – but not least – of our top 5 reasons to travel to Ireland is to find your Irish roots! The Irish have emigrated all over the globe. Around 80 million people worldwide claim to have Irish roots. If you are from the USA, Canada or Australia, chances are that at least one of your ancestors came from the Emerald Isle.  No wonder that so many people come to Ireland for an adventure into their past.

Tracing your Irish roots can be fun and exciting. The Irish were survivors, bound with strength and optimism. They moved to a distant country to build a new life. What made them leave? Where did their journey start? Tracing your family history can be time-consuming but rewarding. Connecting with the land of your ancestors can bring a deep sense of belonging. A journey into this past will create everlasting memories for your entire family.

The key to your search is identifying the town or village where your ancestors originated. Ultimately, you’ll want to make the journey to the homeland. Coming to Ireland will add a whole new dimension to your genealogy experience that will stay with you forever. Visit the very place where your ancestors lived in the early years of their lives. Explore the land they loved so much, but had to leave behind. Talk to the people who still live there and listen to their stories. You might even connect with members of your extended family.

Kerry Experience Tours have teamed with USA-based genealogist and avid traveller Melanie Nelson. She will author a guest blog about genealogy research in Ireland, sharing her own experiences tracing her Irish roots. Keep an eye on her posts that will include lots of useful information and tips!

Make that trip to Ireland happen!

These are only 5 reasons to travel to Ireland, but there are so many more! Ireland offers a unique adventure that will make lifetime memories for you and your family. In our upcoming blog posts we’ll highlight more reasons to visit this magical island – as if you would need any more excuses, right?

Discover the Myth and Magic of Ireland with Kerry Experience Tours. Get in touch now for more information or to get a quote!

Check out these 5 tips to find the authentic myth & magic of Ireland.

About Kerry Experience Tours

For a truly local experience in one of the most charming and warm cultures in the world, Kerry Experience Tours will show visitors the most magical parts of Ireland. On offer are private day tours and multiday tours, tailored to suit your wishes. Enjoy the most scenic drives, spectacular land and seascapes, historic wonders, inspirational places, and hidden gems off the beaten path, completed with background information and stories.

The Emerald Isle is enjoyed best in the hands of experienced tour guides, who will personalize every trip to what guests want to see. Kerry Experience Tours is run by Gerrit & Ester, who made their dreams come true by moving to this beautiful, enchanting country. Since 2007 they run the touring company together, sharing their passion for Ireland with others. Their aim is for you to enjoy the absolute best Ireland has to offer, creating memories that last a lifetime.

Join Kerry Experience Tours and find the Ireland you’ve always imagined.