Our Dream Trip to Ireland to Explore Our Irish Roots

It’s been a couple of months since I traveled to the beautiful country of Ireland but the memories of the trip stay fresh in my brain.  While going through a difficult personal time, this trip served as a cathartic journey; one that I was able to take with my mother (who the trip was intended for), as well as my father. Ireland was like something out of a storybook.  I went through moments where I felt as though I went back in time…experiencing what many of my Irish ancestors experienced.  Of all of my world travels thus far, I’d have to say that Ireland now tops the list.

This trip was a 70th birthday gift for my mother from all of her grown children (and grandchildren) and was focused on sightseeing and exploring her Irish roots.  We spent our days at AirBnB’s, rented a car to travel around the country (I magically kept us all alive!) and enjoyed having the freedom to explore on our own.  Between the lush green mountains, the historic old homes and the beautiful castles, the country continued to wow us as we drove through each county. I felt “at home” and connected here. During our 11-day trip, we visited a slew of places.

  • Dublin
  • Dungannon, County TyroneMother’s Paternal Side
    • Surname(s): Hagan
  • Crosserlough, County CavanMother’s Paternal Side
    • Surname(s): Galligan, Reilly / O’Reilly
  • Kinvarra, Galway / Cliffs of Moher
  • Knock Shrine, County Mayo
  • Bunratty Castle, County Clare
  • Cork – Mother’s Paternal Side
    • Surname(s): Sweeney / McSweeney
  • County Kilkenney / Dungarvan, County WaterfordMother’s Maternal Side
    • Surname(s):  Power / Powers
  • Copper Coast / Bunmahon / Tankardstown, County WaterfordMother’s Maternal Side
    • Surname(s):  Ronayne / Ronaine / Ronan, Morrissey, Dalton

Of all of these wonderful places, three places/experiences were among my favorite:

  1. County Cavan:  A distant cousin took us on an incredible historical/genealogical tour of this area.  While this area is probably not a destination for most tourists, this was an absolute highlight of our trip.  Through my research, I found a distant cousin earlier in 2016. We connected and kept in touch, as he shared more about the Galligan family. Most of them stayed in County Cavan through the famine and then emigrated to America. Some (including his family) stayed behind to tend to the large farms and communities they had built. While the day was rainy, our cousin David took us all around the county and showed us where our ancestors lived and where many of them were buried.  It was incredible to be able to visit the original home where my 4th great grandfather was born in the 1700’s.

Here’s a little video I put together:

2.  Cliffs of Moher:  This place had no ancestral value to me personally but the experience itself was jaw-dropping.  Many of my friends had mentioned that their efforts to visit these cliffs was unsuccessful, as rain or clouds took over the view and they were unable to experience it for what it is.  Since we made the trip our own in terms of planning, we were able to re-arrange our dates to get here on a gorgeous sunny day.  While it was a bit of a climb to see the full view, it was absolutely breathtaking.  For any Game of Thrones fans — I felt like I was in the middle of a GoT scene.  It’s a view and experience that I will never forget.

3.  Waterford / Copper Coast:  Within this beautifully-quaint collection of seaside villages in this scenic county, we explored the mining areas where my ancestors worked and the gorgeous beaches that neighbored them. They even had a visitor’s center at the Copper Coast Geopark which sold goods from local artisans and contained a small tour/museum available for those who wanted to learn more.

This was a trip of a lifetime.  Beyond the sights and sounds of this beautiful country, being able to track the origins of many of my Irish ancestors and to share that experience with my parents and mother in particular, was something I’ll never forget.  I highly recommend a trip to Ireland if you know even a little about your ancestors.  While I did not use this trip to actively research, there are plenty of places to do research there (as long as you plan ahead).  If you have any questions on Irish genealogy or any of the places I visited, feel free to contact me.

For more photos of the trip, check out my Storify story below:




  1. Kate, enjoyed your post. I was in Dungarvan last month for Hurricane Ophelia. Had a great time there and in Dublin. Since you are north of Boston you might be interested in TIARA (The Irish Ancestral Research Association) Meetings are free and open to the public. Next meeting Is Friday December 8 at Brandeis in Waltham 7 pm. Lots of Irish researchers and good speakers

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