There is not an Irish gene in my body but Ireland has always been part of me. You see, I’m a
St. Patrick’s Day baby! Yes, every year growing up Mom and I would try to think of some treat
to take to school that wasn’t so green the kids wouldn’t eat it. When my co-travel addict, my
husband, decided Ireland was the next place on the bucket list to visit, there was no argument
We started in Dublin and traveled clockwise around the whole island ending back in Dublin.
Along the way we feasted on Irish delicacies, visited ancient sites, roamed quaint streets,
watched the ocean crash into huge stone cliffs, heard tales of giants and leprechauns, drank in
the purpled fields of heather, and marveled at the numbers of sheep we met in the middle of the
road. A month on the road stopping for a night or two in places like Waterford, Cobh, Kinsale,
Killarney, Galway, Dingle, Potrush, Londonderry, and Belfast passed by quickly as we sampled
Irish hospitality all along the way. It all sounds so romantic. And looking back now, it was.
We came home with over 1500 digital pictures. But the things that I value most from the trip are
the impressions of people and places that will enrich my characters and settings in novels yet to
come. For example, we had heard that in order to preserve the original Gaelic language, there
were pockets in some communities where only Gaelic was spoken. In one little town where we
stopped for tea and scones, an elderly gentleman started past our outdoor table on his way in to
the bakery. The gentleman, weathered and bent from years of perhaps shepherding or farming,
tipped his hat to us and rattled off a greeting in Gaelic, none of which we understood. We smiled
and nodded and he continued to speak to us never halting to see if we would answer. I have no
idea what he said but it appeared to be friendly from the expression on his face. With a wink,
he disappeared through the door leaving us to wonder what we had missed with no translation.
Somewhere he will fit into a story, I’m sure.
Towns and cities were representative of their struggles of the past. The playfulness in the colors
of Kinsale’s homes and businesses reflected the release of restrictions from British laws that
required more “proper” decoration and were a stark contrast to the intense murals of Belfast that
mark the period called the Troubles. So much history shapes the country and the people of the
Emerald Island as it does all countries and peoples. Whether as a writer, one gets to travel the
world or only their own community, there is a wealth of material on which to build characters
and settings. The key is to observe, tuck the images in your mind, and look for what makes them
I also learned that the Irish are great storytellers. There is a story behind most everything you see
in Ireland. The Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland is a prime example. The natural wonder
was said to be made by two fighting giants, one from Scotland and one from Ireland. Through a
very clever trick of the Irish giant’s wife, he won the battle without even fighting.
Thinking back to all those great Irish storytellers we heard along the way—well, maybe I do
have a bit o’the Irish in me after all.
Karen Robbins is a writer, author and speaker. She and her husband have almost
circumnavigated the globe and have touched foot on all seven continents. Over 200 of her essays and articles have been published in regional and national publications. Her most recent novel is, Murder Among The Orchids, and in April, 2012, A Scrapbook of Motherhood Firsts, Stories to Celebrate and Wisdom to Bless Moms will be released. In addition to her Writer’s Wanderingsblog, Karen also writes a column for grandparents at Positively Feminine.org. For more details
on Karen’s Ireland trip and a peek at a few of those digital pictures, visit her blog.