The Emerald Isle – September 2014


We landed in a Foreign Land; the Emerald Island and arrived in Dublin City.

Being in Dublin felt surreal to me the first couple of days and then I just jumped into the experience with both feet and had a BLAST OF AN EXPERIENCE!

We used Emerald Custom Tours. Our Tour Coordinator, Valerie, and Our Driver, Ciaran, helped in making our trip to Ireland an AMAZING LIFETIME EXPERIENCE! Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

The people are friendly and take such pride in sharing their country with us! Thank you!

The accommodations were just what we wanted and beyond our expectations. Paul and Brian Hughes at Abbeyglen Castle offer guests the BEST experience ever!

The Top Highlights

  • Kilmainham Gaol
  • Guinness Storehouse
  • Blarney Castle
  • The Atlantic Ocean
  • Cliffs of Moher
  • Locating the town of Pluckerstown in County Kildare to find the ancestral roots.
  • Heading to Crossmolina to find the other side of the ancestral roots.

A truly wonderful experience and hope to do it again in the near future!


Ireland is an island in the North Atlantic to the west of Great Britain. It is separated by the North Channel, the Irish Sea and St. Georges Channel. It is the 3rd largest island in Europe. Ireland is divided between the Republic of Ireland (population 4.6 million) and Northern Ireland (a part of the United Kingdom – population about 1.8 million).

Four Provinces:

  • Connacht (west)
  • Leinster (east)
  • Munster (south)
  • Ulster (north) or Northern Ireland

There are twenty-six counties in the Republic of Ireland and six counties in Northern Ireland. Dublin is the largest city in the Republic of Ireland and Belfast is the largest city in Northern Ireland. Achill Island lies off the coast of County Mayo and is Ireland’s largest island. The River Shannon is the island’s longest river at 240 miles long.

The Flag of Ireland

Referred to as the Irish Tricolor; green, white and orange.

The Irish government describes the symbolism behind each color.

  • Green representing the Gaelic tradition of Ireland.
  • Orange representing the followers of William of Orange in Ireland.
  • White representing the aspiration for peace between them.


Gaelic Ireland emerged by the 1st century and lasted until the early 17th century. Following the Norman invasion in the 12th century, England claimed sovereignty over Ireland. English rule did not extend over the whole island until the 16th-17th century Tudor conquest. This led to the colonization of Ireland by settlers from Britain. In 1801, Ireland became a part of the United Kingdom. In the early 20th century a war of independence was followed by the division of the island.


The population of Ireland changed dramatically during the second half of the 19th century. A population of over 8 million in 1841 was reduced to slightly more than 4 million by 1921. The Great Famine of 1845 to 1852 took about 1 million lives. Another cause of the population decline was the economic state of the country that led to a culture of emigration until the 21st century. Emigration from Ireland in the 19th century increased the populations of England, the United States, Canada, and Australia.

Interesting Fact:  As of 2013, a total of 34.5 million Americans claim Irish ancestry.


Irish culture has had influence on other cultures pertaining to literature, science and education. The Irish culture exists amongst the Western culture through Gaelic games, Irish music, the Irish language, the English language, and sports like rugby, football and golf.

Interesting Fact:  Less than 10% of the population of the Republic of Ireland today speak Irish regularly outside of the education system.

Ireland’s culture comprises elements of Gaelic, Celtic, Anglicization, Americanization, and European cultures and influences. For instance, the Celtic knotwork in jewelry, art, music, and dance. Religion has played a significant role in the cultural life of the island too.

The Arts

  • James Joyce – Ulysses
  • Jonathan Swift – Gulliver’s Travels
  • Oscar Wilde
  • In the 20th century, Ireland produced four winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature: George Bernard Shaw, William Butler Yeats, Samuel Beckett, and Seamus Heaney.
  • Riverdance – a theatrical performance of Irish traditional dancing.
  • Irish traditional music groups – The Dubliners and The Chieftains.

Oscar Wilde

Food and Drink

  • The arrival of the potato in the 16th century. A typical family (man, women and four children) would eat 18 stone (110 kg) of potatoes a week.
  • Herding of cattle – the number of cattle equated to social standing.
  • Cows for dairy.
  • Pork and white meat were more common than beef.
  • Black pudding – a breakfast staple.
  • National dishes like Irish stew, bacon and cabbage, boxty (a type of potato pancake), or colcannon (dish of mashed potatoes and cabbage).
  • “New Irish Cuisine” in the last quarter of the 20th century emerges due to international influences. Fresh vegetables, fish, seafood, traditional soda breads, and handmade cheeses.

A Fact You May Already Know About:  The Irish remain the highest per capita consumers of potatoes in Europe.

  • Ireland once dominated the world’s market for whiskey, producing 90% of the world’s whiskey at the start of the 20th century. Then there was prohibition and bootlegging in the United States. Sales of Irish whiskey worldwide fell to a mere 2% by the mid-20th century.
  • Then there is Stout, particularly Guinness.
  • Lager and Cider are becoming more popular now as well as Craft Beers and Craft Ciders.

Jameson Cocktail

(Photos by RSheridan)


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