Posted by: marymarthatours | February 9, 2011

Researching Ireland – by Mary

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It’s winter in Minnesota, and very, very white outside. But inside it’s all green, as I’m surrounded by Ireland on all sides. Well, not Ireland exactly, but lots and lots of Ireland-related books, maps, and websites. I’m thoroughly immersed in my research for our upcoming Ireland tour, and loving every minute of it.

One of the things that Martha and I enjoy most about travel is learning all about the places we plan to visit. Not just the “when is it open” information, but the history, culture, stories, and trivia that make the places come alive and increase our anticipation of the trip.

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Because this tour will highlight Ireland’s gardens, that’s the subject I started with. I began my research on-line with some general websites about Irish gardens like GardenVisit.com and Georgina Campbell’s “Ireland is for Garden Lovers”

Then I consulted my own collection of Garden Books to see which Irish gardens are listed in “1001 Gardens You Must See Before You Die” and “The garden lover’s guide to Ireland”.

After learning that I will never get to all the Irish gardens that I want to see, I moved on to research other sites to visit while we’re there. Heritage Ireland gives wonderful information about a variety of locations worth a stop. Guidebooks by my three favorite guidebook publishers, Eyewitness Travel (great pictures), Lonely Planet (wonderful text), and Rick Steves (practical advice) have provided plenty of information and background. A really good map, like the “Michelin Great Britain & Ireland Tourist and Motoring Atlas” or a website like Michelin’s Route Finder is also a big help.

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Now I’m on to stage two of the research fun — the history, culture, and literature of Ireland. The history of Ireland can make you laugh, cry, and get angry, but understanding the long story of the Irish people makes me look forward even more to meeting folks there. I started my historical research on Wikipedia and have moved on to books from the library. An especially good overview can be found in “The Everything Irish History & Heritage Book”, by Amy Hackney Blackwell and Ryan Hackney.

I’m also enjoying reading the ancient myths and legends of Celtic Ireland (although the correct pronunciation of the Irish names often leaves me baffled). My local library even had a children’s video featuring the legendary Finn McCool to add to my stack. And I’m simultaneously reading some more recent fiction with Irish settings.

  • The Sister Fidelma series by Peter Tremayne, mysteries featuring a 7th century member of the community of St. Brigit of Kildare.
  • The Mara O’Davoren series by Cora Harrison, about a female Brehon or law judge, living in the Burren area in the 16th century.
  • “Ireland”, by Frank Delaney, an absolutely painless way to learn Irish history through stories told to a young man searching for his Irish heritage and himself.

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When I’m through with all that, I’ll tackle the really big challenges. First I’ll try to learn enough Irish to not embarrass myself with Irish names for people and places. And then, maybe – just maybe – I’ll take another try at James Joyce’s “Ulysses”.

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