This post is way overdue (as in over a year overdue), but I’ve been so excited to share it with you. Last summer, I had the chance to go to Ireland and head to my grandfather’s hometown to see where he was born. I always love traveling, but when you’re traveling to go somewhere you have a connection to it’s a very different feeling.
My grandfather was born in County Donegal, which is on the very northwestern tip of Ireland. Not to be biased, but this is the most beautiful area in Ireland I saw during my road trip. Driving there from Belfast, I wasn’t sure if the GPS in the car would be able to navigate there correctly. I was supposed to meet my relatives at a restaurant, but wasn’t even given a house number – I just knew it was on “Main Street.”
Driving through the rolling hills, I felt myself getting tense as the main road quickly turned into a one-lane dirt road. It was impossible to see over the hills, so I feared another car coming the opposite way. About 15 minutes into the drive, I was brought to a sudden stop by not a car, but a flock of sheep crossing the road! It was exactly how I had pictured the country in Ireland, so it made me laugh.
I finally made it to Main Street and saw my relatives standing on the corner. We went to their favorite restaurant in town to stuff ourselves with fish and chips, and of course several pints of Guinness. Afterwards they asked if I wanted to see my relatives’ graveyard, which was quite literally across the street. I loved seeing the beautiful tombstones.
We hopped back in the car and headed towards the home my grandfather lived in, which is now a vacation home in the family. I don’t know if I’d be able to find it if I wasn’t with someone, as again I didn’t see an address. It was more in the country than Main Street was, but had beautiful roses all around it.
Behind the current home was the home my grandfather was born in back in the early 1920s. In the picture below, you can see part of the base standing and a faint trail. That used to be the main road back in the day before more people moved to the town and they created the paved road that’s now in the front.
The next day, we headed out to the coast. The drive there was beautiful, and I loved seeing nothing but ocean for miles. The grass is SO green there too! I’m guessing it’s because of all the rain. Apparently the county is known for amazing surf spots due to the huge swells they get coming off the Atlantic. Next time I’ll try it!
The trip was way too short, but I loved hearing old stories about my grandfather from the relatives I had just met. Everyone was so warm and friendly in the town, including all the wait staff. People were so excited to hear I was from America trying to see where my family was from. It had such a small town feel, with the waitress knowing everyone’s children’s names and where their next vacation was.
I’d love to go back with my parents in the future, who have never been to Ireland. Donegal is the perfect place to relax and unwind, and I’m proud to be from there.
Have you been back to the country you’re from to retrace your roots?
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