Travel Sparkles ✨

Irish Road Trip – The Next Steps

Photo by Tatiana on Pexels.com

So, following on from part one, part two of my Irish road trip was full of time spent with wonderful people, the open roads, country music, good food and travelling through towns and villages I last visited with my parents. It was nostalgic, happy, sad and just wonderful to be there again. I feel it was meant to be that I made this trip alone to experience the different emotions and process them. To have my quiet reflective times, to watch the world go by and to jump right in and participate when I was ready.

Night one of my stay was spent in Ashbourne in Co Meath. One of the most lovely friendships forged online during lockdown was via Instagram with my friend Sinead and so I took the opportunity of being over in Ireland to be in her neck of the woods. We had a wonderful girls night having dinner in a gorgeous restaurant named Fifty-Fifty in Ashbourne and then back to our hotel where we sat up half the night talking.

After breakfast the next morning and after saying goodbye to Sinead, the next stop was the trip to Knock for which I have a separate blog post https://atouchofirishsparkle.com/2022/01/10/an-irish-road-trip-knock/ Whilst I was staying in Knock I had the opportunity to visit some family and enjoy some wonderful family time with cousins I hadn’t seen in too long a time. Such beautiful days. Also I must mention the fabulous Drum House B & B which is where I stayed in Knock. I can’t recommend it enough, definitely a 5* The house was decorated for Christmas and it was stunning. Absolutely outstanding breakfast, take you through the day. John and Donogh cannot do enough for you to ensure that your stay is comfortable and that you have all you need. I highly recommend a stay here.

After my few days in Knock I travelled to Athlone in the Midlands of Ireland. In my younger years I spent a lot of time in Athlone as my Dad was working in the area. There were also family living in the area on the banks of the River Shannon who are no longer with us so this was also a nostalgic trip in a way and also a town of discovery. Some areas remain the same and some are brand new like the various shopping malls all sparkling with the Christmas decorations. At times it can be a little lonely travelling alone and at times it felt quite healing for me. I felt strong, independent and sometimes, yes, a little vulnerable.

Whilst in Athlone I met up with another beautiful lady who has become a friend and we also met on Instagram. Corrina has a gorgeous boutique in the town and had to work extremely hard during the lockdowns to stay afloat and stay afloat she did with her enthusiasm, risk taking and feeling the fear and doing it anyway approach. I visited the boutique and had a good mooch around, the clothes and accessories are just fabulous. Corrina and I had a lovely evening out to dinner and as with Sinead, we could still be there talking. You hear such negative things about social media and yet here I was with two wonderful women as friends from Instagram.

The final leg of the trip was down to Abbeyleix in Co Laois where I met up with two more cousins. My cousin Marji had booked us in for a girls night at the Abbeyleix Manor Hotel and yes, there was prosecco involved. Her brother joined us for dinner and we had a great night talking about old times and my many holidays with them in Bansha, Co Tipperary. Marji and I would be put the other end of the house from everyone else at night as we really would be up all night talking, singing, dancing and giggling and do you know what, we haven’t changed a bit. Every time we meet it’s like we were together a week ago.

As you can see I made good use of my week in Ireland and I’m so proud of myself for making the trip, navigating around, visiting friends and family and having that feeling of independence and empowerment. Every now and again I get an insight to the gifts my parents gave me and wonder why I never realised before that they had raised a strong, independent woman who could stand on her own two feet even whilst experiencing the waves of grief and sadness that can totally overwhelm you. We may have one life yet it’s only now I am realising that within this one life we can live so many different roles, take different paths, make difference decisions and we change and transition and yet stay the same in many ways. Deep, I know!

With love and sparkles xxx

Travel Sparkles ✨

An Irish Road Trip – Knock

November 2021 I was lucky enough to visit Ireland for a week. I was supposed to go for Easter 2020 but with the lockdowns there wasn’t any travel at all. Since then I have been checking various rules and restrictions both in the UK and Ireland and I was able to plan my trip just before additional restrictions were imposed due to the Omicron mutation of Covid. This was the first time I had ever undertaken a road trip and the first time I had done anything like this alone. I was excited and scared. My mantra was ‘You’re a strong, independent woman, you can do this’. After all, it was Ireland I was going to, it’s almost like home plus, I am blessed with cousins the length and breath of Ireland should I get into any dramas, I would have someone to call on.

Up and Away

My first night was spent in Ashbourne, County Meath and the following day I made the journey across Ireland to a tiny and internationally known village named Knock, in County Mayo.

Knock is famous due to the appearance of Our Lady in 1879, you can read all about this story and the shrine here https://www.knockshrine.ie/ Growing up, the Summer holidays were always taken in Ireland so that my parents could visit their parents and families. Mom’s family were located in the West of Ireland, around County Galway, County Mayo and County Roscommon and therefore whilst we were there, there was always a day out at Knock. As a child I always found this boring because of course I wanted to be out playing or running around on the beach or the farm. I remember returning to school in September and we would all be saying to each other ‘Did you have to go to Knock’?

Knock became very special to my parents when their health declined and they couldn’t go out to Mass. They would watch Mass daily at 3pm online and I would join them for Mass on Sunday. I often thought to myself when watching the Mass online what I wouldn’t give to be in Knock right at that moment with them and how much they would love to have been there. After they passed away I knew in my heart that I needed to go to Knock and therefore as soon as I could get to Ireland, the visit to Knock was my main agenda.

I felt many emotions being in Knock. I was so happy to be there at last, emotional at the memories of past visits with my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Sad that I didn’t have my parents with me yet at peace that I was there. There is something about Knock Shrine, the stillness, the quietness, the air of peace and tranquillity that makes an impact on you. I needed to experience this healing and I needed to experience it alone, to have the freedom to spend hours looking around, to having a cappuccino to just doing things in my time without having to worry about anyone else.

Chapel of Reconciliation

Knock Shrine has changed a lot since I used to visit with my parents. As you will see from the website, Knock has a lot to offer from youth centres to counselling, retreats to concerts, walks in the grounds and a visit to the museum. Although I was there for three days I didn’t actually get to the museum, that’s for next time. I did however visit the newly created Chapel of Reconciliation. Absolutely beautiful in there, calming, serene and still. Whilst I was there I decided to go to confession and ended up having over an hour in conversation with a lovely, elderly priest. I told him my story of looking after Mom and Dad and how I was now starting on another phase of life. He asked me if I had ever thought of writing a book, he felt my experiences of working, becoming a full time carer, the feelings when the caregiver journey ended and rebuilding life, could be invaluable to others in a similar position. I told him that I have this blog and also about my music, perhaps I could reach people via these mediums? Maybe the motivational posts on my social media could help? All I know is that I came out of that conversation feeling like a weight had been lifted from my soul. I felt a sparkle of excitement for the future and also a knowing that you can’t wait to do things. We don’t know how long we have here so we have to make the most of everyday. That conversation made me feel inspired, gave me confidence to be me and just go out there and do what I feel I need to do. To be me, to believe in myself and what I can give, or share with others.

Photo by Italo Melo on Pexels.com

I do have more to tell about my trip to Ireland but I felt that my visit to Knock Shrine needed a post of it’s own. The visit meant so much to me and did so much for me, I couldn’t have covered it within a few sentences within a travel blog. I hope I’ve given you a sense of the beauty of Knock and whether you are of faith or not, I think everyone who visits this place leaves with a sense of peace and tranquillity.

With love and sparkles xxx