Ireland 2023

Christmastime in the Old Country: Ireland, December 3-16, 2023

Abbeyglen Christmas - Entry
Abbeyglen Castle – our home for our first week

There’s no place like Ireland for the holidays!

Christmas in Ireland is every bit as magical as you might think; it might even be Ireland at her best. We began with a week in a West Coast castle overlooking a cozy village on the bay, then spent three nights at a glorious old hotel in the heart of Galway, and another three nights at a charming hotel in the centre of Dublin when all the old country was decked out in its festive finest.

Participants enjoyed inspiring writing sessions, a chance to discuss their work with Dr. Gerard Collins, evening readings, and, most important of all, dedicated time focused on their own writing.

Abbeyglen Castle in Clifden, Connemara

On day one, our group gathered at the Dublin airport in the late morning and traveled along the Wild Atlantic Way by private coach to the gorgeous Abbeyglen Castle in Clifden, located on the famed Sky Road. 

Abbeyglen Castle decked out for the season

The comfort and warmth of Abbeyglen Castle  set the stage for writing. During our week at the castle, we enjoyed inspiring writing sessions and group discussions, shared magical evening readings, and got focused with stretches of dedicated, quiet writing time.

Gerard writing by the fire
Gerard writing by the peat fire in the Abbeyglen Castle Pub

Participants found themselves enjoying the cozy atmosphere of the Castle Pub with its live music each evening, or they found a quiet spot to write, either in their rooms or in the private lounge reserved for our group.

During our time in Clifden, we embarked on a tour of the 19th century Dan O’Hara Homestead and saw a turf-cutting demonstration—this traditional manner of heating one’s home continues to this day in the many pubs, inns, and abodes that keep to the old ways.

Dan O’Hara Cottage at the Connemara Heritage and History Centre

We also took a drive on the famous Sky Road and visited the impressive neo-gothic castle, Kylemore Abbey, with its long history of romance and ghost stories, including the tale of the white horse that rises from the mists of the lake once every seven years.

Kylemore Abbey

The historic Kylemore Abbey

Journey to Galway, via Cong

After our week in Clifden, we bade goodbye to the Abbeyglen Castle and made our way to Galway with a stop at the gorgeous riverside village of Cong.

The Hardiman Hotel on Eyre Square

In the late afternoon, after driving through what we thought were simply heavy winds, but later discovered was “Storm Fergus,” we landed at our home for the next three days, The Hardiman, the grand hotel located at Eyre Square in the heart of downtown Galway, a lively hub of Irish culture and home of the Galway Christmas Market.

A short walk from The Hardiman are scores of pubs and coffee shops great for writing and observation.

The Quays
The Quays pub decked out for the holidays

On our second day in Galway, we took a private coach to the majestic Cliffs of Moher, with a stop at the ancient portal tomb, Poulnabrone, the home of fairy trees and the otherworldly landscape of the Burren. We also visited the Brigid’s Well outside of Galway, which, reportedly, was blessed by St. Brigid herself.

Off to Dublin Town

On the eleventh day of our tour, we made our way to Dublin with a stop at Sean’s Bar in Athlone. Here, participants were treated to a libation while they listened to the history of the bar, which claims it’s not only the oldest pub in Ireland, but in the entire world.

After our stop, we climbed back aboard our coach and were on our way to the bustling heart of Dublin, where we stayed at Buswells Hotel right in the centre of everything.

Buswell's reception area
Buswells reception area.

There was no shortage of things to do in Dublin—in fact, on our first night there, we enjoyed a private concert with the internationally-acclaimed Niamh Parsons, one of Ireland’s most beloved traditional folk singers.

Day trip to Newgrange

Newgrange. Photo credit:

On our second day in Dublin, we traveled to Newgrange, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids of Giza. Our final day was on our own until we gathered for readings and a pint later that evening and bade a fond farewell to Dublin, Ireland, and each other—until we meet again.