Ireland 2022

Inis Mór's Dún Aonghasa, the Dun Aengus fort on Inishmore. Credit: heritageireland.ie
Inis Mór’s Dún Aonghasa, the Dun Aengus fort on Inishmore. Credit: heritageireland.ie

From Hearth to Hearth: Ireland, September 29 – October 17, 2022

October is a great time for a writing retreat, as the veil between worlds – new and old, material and the spiritual, water and land, castle and cottage – thins. Nowhere were these juxtapositions more keenly felt than our Ireland 2022 Go and Write! retreat.

Our adventure took us from the fairytale luxury of Clontarf Castle to the homespun charm of Kilmurvey House on the fabled island of Inis Mór (Inishmore). For eighteen days and nights, we experienced the best of all worlds: a time out of time, a place outside of everyday space, with plenty of time to write and immerse ourselves in Ireland’s finest offerings.

This eighteen-day trip to Ireland was multiple writing retreats rolled into one, with a week at a castle in Dublin, three nights in culture-stuffed Galway, and we capped things off with another week on one of the magical Aran Islands off the Irish west coast. 

Dublin

Clontarf Castle
Clontarf Castle – the comforts of a 4-star luxury hotel, carrying traditions of excellence and hospitality dating back to 1172.

We began with a seven-night stay at the luxurious Clontarf Castle Hotel just minutes outside of Dublin, Ireland’s storied capital city. As Gerard said on our first Go and Write! adventure in 2017, “Yes, you can write anywhere, but you can also write in a castle in Ireland.” We held a writing workshop here, and Gerard had one-on-one meetings with each participant in the Clontarf Castle Dungeon – nowhere near the hardship one might imagine.

A true highlight of our time in Dublin was our private concert with the internationally-acclaimed Niamh Parsons, one of Ireland’s most beloved traditional folk singers, and Graham Dunne, her partner and musical genius.

Newgrange. Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/youngshanahan/
Newgrange. Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/youngshanahan/

We also had the pleasure of visiting Newgrange, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids of Giza. Newgrange, the jewel in the crown of Ireland’s Ancient East, is a mysterious, ancient passage tomb in County Meath across from the River Boyne. On the way, our guide shared the history of the region and brought us to visit the mythical Hill of Tara, the traditional seat of Ireland’s High Kings, as well as the ancient Knowth, a new addition to the Boyne Valley neolithic site tours.

Galway

On our eighth morning in Ireland, we were whisked away by private coach to Galway and, along the way, embarked on a quick tour of Parkes Castle and a soul-stirring cruise of Lough Gill, the body of water that held the heart of Ireland’s most famous poet, William Butler Yeats, where he wrote “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”.

Poulnabrone dolmen
Poulnabrone dolmen is a large portal tomb located in the Burren, County Clare, Ireland. Situated on one of the most desolate and highest points of the region, it comprises three standing portal stones supporting a heavy horizontal capstone, and dates to the Neolithic period, between 4200 BC and 2900 BC. Image credit: theplanetd.com.

On our second day in Galway, we journeyed to the majestic Cliffs of Moher, with a stop at the portal tomb of Poulnabrone, the otherworldly landscape of the Burren, and visited the Brigid’s Well outside of Galway, which, reportedly, was blessed by St. Brigid herself. Our last day in Galway was spent on our own, shopping and absorbing the charm of the city.

Inis Mór (Inishmore), the largest of the Aran Islands

Dún Aonghasa on Inis Mór
Dún Aonghasa on Inis Mór

After bidding adieu to Galway, we took the ferry to the enchanted island of Inis Mór, which felt like a dream within a dream. We spent seven nights with lots of room to spread out, roam around, relax, and hear our own heartbeats. After the grandeur and luxury of Clontarf Castle, the vibrancy of Dublin and Galway, Inis Mór was like coming home to tranquility – a glimpse of life as it was long ago, but in the here and now.

The emphasis for our week on Inis Mór was relaxation and inspiration for writing – a chance to recharge, focus on our writing, and find some peace in one of the most unspoiled Old World places we’ve ever been blessed to visit.

Teach Nan Phaidi, Inis Mór
Teach Nan Phaidi, the charming café across the road from our bed and breakfast.

The Journey Home

After seven nights on Inis Mór, we reluctantly bade goodbye and made our way back to Dublin. Along the way, we visited the gorgeous riverside village of Cong, most recognizable as the setting for the John Wayne movie The Quiet Man

Cong row houses
The pretty row houses of Cong.

At 18 days, Go and Write! Ireland 2022 was our longest and most intensive retreat yet, and we were blessed to have a great group of travellers and writers join us for this unforgettable experience.