Being Irish has always been a very important part of my upbringing. My aunts still talk about “Great Grandpa Timothy O’Keefe, the stowaway from Ireland, sailing on a ship to New York, to make his fortune.” Great Grandpa started an entire line of little O’Keefe’s that made their way across the US and to the area most reminiscent of Ireland, the Pacific Northwest. The family was dedicated to their Irish heritage and spent time telling stories of their Celtic roots. St. Patrick’s Day felt more like a religion than a holiday, with green shirts, face-painting, green foods and of course watching the classics, The Quiet Man, Far and Away, and Darby O’Gill and the Little People. Even if they were lacking in accuracy, the stories still created a dream-like feel over the idea of visiting Ireland, particularly the castles that seem to be scattered across the emerald landscape.
As a little girl, Ireland became an ideal or pivotal point of dreaming, somewhere country and romantic, without the feel of an urban world, as though untouched by the gleaming stresses of the world. As I learned more about history and the famines, prejudices and death that was embedded in Irish history, it added so much to my understanding of my own heritage and a pride for my family and what our ancestors had to work for.
Being a short girl with freckles and having an obvious Irish name wasn’t something I was always grateful for, but after reading about the potato famine, the IRA attacks in Belfast and the North, and the removal of Gaelic from most of Ireland made me have a different attitude for the characteristics that I have gained from my family. The short, Irish people, with their famous red hair and fiery attitudes has been a blessing in disguise. Instead of backing down, I have found myself standing up for my beliefs and culture, proud of my family and everything they have gone through to stay in Ireland, as well as for the branch that came to America.
Ireland still holds a magical fairy-like feel, and visiting there, walking among the castles that still remain, exploring the quiet places and seeing fairy circles face to face would be one of the most amazing opportunities as an adult, bringing an understanding of my family and to life. The idea of visiting castles that they may have seen when they lived there, walking along cobble-stoned villages that they visited, or even accidentally walking into one of their favorite pubs potentially meeting distant family members and hearing stories that I would never would have the chance to hear anywhere else, would be incredible. I know that everyone has amazing expectations on vacation, many of which would be realistically impossible to meet, but even the chance to walk silently along a lake or village or stay the night in a castle, looking at objects made centuries before, I can’t help but know I would be able to soak in some amazing taste of Ireland and a bit of that folk magic to bring back with me to the States.
Many people dream of visiting the wonders of Ireland – Especially the castles and manors reminiscent of fairy-tale lands – but few jump at the opportunity, don’t let it pass you up! Authentic Ireland offers fully customizable tours to Ireland, Scotland, and the UK! Be sure to keep an eye out for our monthly specials!