Pilgrimage to Ireland


Spirit and a sense of place can exist anywhere because the sacred exists everywhere and it is usually just a matter of tapping into it. However, at some point you may feel called to travel to a place that is special. It could be the motherland of your ancestors or a particular holy site (or several). Making such a journey can forever change you.

I looked at going on pilgrimage as a personal myth unfolding. While on such a journey one must reach into one’s soul and history to weave the past and present together in order to understand the circumstances of this lifetime.

Two days before flying to Ireland I went to the oak grove at the edge of my beloved woods. The energy is so strong there that my heart, mind and soul opens quickly and fully. I made a water offering at one of my favorite spots. Since I am taking a few things from these woods to Ireland, I shall bring some things from the ancient land to this place upon my return.


We walk with spirits

All photos, except those indicated, are by the author and subject to copyright.

As the plane was landing I could see the hawthorn, broom and gorse in bloom, and lots of lambs in the meadows. When I arrived and early the following morning I felt strong waves of tingling energy. I also felt as though I was visited by a group of the Gentry.


The Burren

Poulnabrone Dolmen rises in stark simplicity in a weathered limestone landscape of the Burren. I walked around it and then just stood entranced. Even though the wind was somewhat strong, it seemed to carry a delicate tune interwoven with whispers.

Tears came to my eyes as I felt the land’s energy increase and enfold me. I placed an offering under the large stone at the south end of the dolmen and felt called to walk through the opening.


Once I entered, I had the sensation of being pulled through a doorway into another world. I felt as though I would change and never be the same.

Poulnabrone is believed to have been erected circa 3800 BCE and used for approximately 600 years.

Dolmens symbolized entrances into the Otherworld.

  Connecting with ancestors

The Connemara

Enroute to Galway I traveled through the Connemara, a windswept area of peat bogs, grass and gorse. There are a few small areas of forest tucked between hills. I was drawn to one small grove of moss-covered, gnarly willows. I sat down by the spring and was lulled by a duet of water and wind.

The fair folk and willows

Aran Islands

On a bright and sunny day I traveled out to Aran . As the boat was about a mile out approaching Inishmore, I felt a strong pull. It was as if the umbilical cord were still attached and I was coming back to mother. The port was busy, but once our pony cart got out among the hills overlooking the sea, the magic of place enchanted me. The coast road offers wonderful views of the rugged landscape hemmed by dry stone walls in one direction and Galway Bay in the other. There were seals near shore, a great blue heron, and two nesting swans in a small marshy area.


The hill fort of Dun Aonghusa (built between 900 BCE - 500 CE) consists of three concentric stone enclosures on the edge of a 300-foot cliff. Facing out to the North Atlantic, it is windswept and barren but despite its natural wildness, there is a pervading sense of tranquillity.

I sat on a raised platform of rock near the cliff edge and looked out to sea. It is from here that Hy-Breasal, “the Isle of the Blest”, is said to be occasionally visible. Hy-Breasal was believed to exist at the edge of the known world. For a long time I watched waves form and dissipate. Beyond the misty horizon the ninth wave calls.

"... the visible is only one little edge of things. The visible is only the shoreline of the magnificent ocean of the invisible."
John O'Donohue, Eternal Echoes.

According to the Book of Invasions (Lebhar Gabhála), the stone forts on Aran were built by the Fir Bolg. Dun Aonghusa was named for one of their chiefs, Angus.

Dun Aonghusa is best viewed from the air to get a sense of its size.


Beltane ritual

Photo copyright Real Ireland Design Ltd., Bray, Ireland.

Those who have gone before

Seven Churches (Na Seacht dTeampaill) is an eighth century monastic settlement where there is an ancient pillar stone, now collapsed on the ground in several pieces.

It had marked a place of pilgrimage, possibly the grave of St. Brecan who founded the settlement. The pillar stone is just outside the cemetery and protected by two concentric dry stone walls that have been erected around it.


Back on the Mainland

Scavenger that I am, I had to gather shells on the beach. One limpet shell with a hole has become part of my favorite necklace.

The evening sky over Galway Bay was a soft melding of rose and blue with the moon blooming into fullness a mere point of light high above. The Aran Islands seemed to float in the mists just beyond the bay, beckoning me to return.

Galway Bay
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