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  • Writer's pictureCaroline Langley

Discover Ireland and Discover Yourself: A family reset in the Wild Atlantic Way

Discover Ireland and Discover Yourself: A family reset in the Wild Atlantic Way

In the 1970’s, at the height of her fame, the actress Angela Lansbury (1925-2022) famously moved her family from LA to the wilds of Ireland for a “family reset”. Her children were addicted to hard drugs and the unhealthy lifestyle of an “A” list family, so Angela hit ‘pause’ on her career and swept up her family to the Emerald Isle. She eschewed the myriad of Ireland castle rentals and luxury holiday homes Ireland, choosing instead a simple abode amongst the many cottages to rent in Ireland. Gardening, cooking and a simple lifestyle was the magic that loosened the grip of addiction in her children and reunited the family to such an extent that, even though they moved back to the United States, they built a house in Ireland as their rural retreat and returned there annually to rest, recover and rediscover.

Angela blazed the trail for the many who journey to Ireland to seek solace and answers. The energy here is defined, the light unique, the quiet and the calm all encompassing. Imagine yourself standing as a spec at the westernmost edge of Europe, perched on the Wild Atlantic Way, the costal road which sweeps 2600 km (1600 miles) along the breathtaking coast. Everything begins to fall into perspective, slowly, quietly.

Breathtaking scenery combined with the myriad of Celtic tales, myths, legends and folklore all coalesce into the magic that makes the west of Ireland so special. Our most famous local warrior is the magnificent Pirate Queen, Grace O’Malley, who we will revisit in detail in a later blog. These are the types of stories and experiences that intrepid travellers are invited to partake of and to let the magic infuse them with rest and relaxation and imbibe them with a rediscovery of the wonder of lives past and present.

I am privileged to be the guardian of Newbrook House. This magnificent granary was erected in 1670 - imagine that these hallowed eaves have provided shelter for pilgrims and travellers for the past 353 years! The West Wing of Newbrook House is now home to a constant stream of visitors from all over the world, blending cultures, traditions and languages together in a communal theme of experiencing County Mayo.

I watch quietly as my guests change over the course of their visit to Newbrook House. They arrive, brimming with excitement and long lists of “to do’s” and “to see’s”. Then slowly, as the jet lag recedes and the stillness of time intervenes, slowing down and becoming a part the rich tapestry that is Newbrook House comes naturally. Upon our first meeting I chat with my guests about their plans for their vacation in Ireland. Many come here because they have ancestors from the area and are keen to trace their lineage. Fortunately the Family Research Centre is just down the road in Ballinrobe. I always advise adding a bit of flexibility to their Ireland travel itinerary due to unpredictable weather and must-see spontaneous local events like fleadhs, cèilidhs, markets and parades. Pronouncing Irish names and places is notoriously difficult (I still get it wrong a lot of the time).

For example, ‘fleadh’ is pronounced ‘flaaa’ and is an Irish music festival whereas a cèilidh (pronounced ‘kay-lee”) is more of a sing song and dance, the likes of which Newbrook House has played host to on many an occasion. Events like this usually are not prominently advertised, as here in the west we rely more on old fashioned word of mouth for the passage of information. So I always do my best before my guests arrive to find out what is going on in and around Newbrook, keeping an ear to the ground and finding information from social platforms like Instagram. One of our local villages, Ballyglass, holds monthly fairs, including music food and local artisans and their information can be found on instagram: @ballyglasscommunitycouncil. There is also the annual Balla Vintage Car & Tractor Show and Rally every September which is an absolute hoot! Not forgetting of course the Ballinrobe Horse Races which run from April to August. Last year Castlebar hosted a 3 day international film festival, which, for a small venue attracted an impressive array of global talent. Local events tend not to be accessible using a general google search which is why I go the extra step to provide my guests with information about local events that can be enjoyed with a more flexible Ireland travel itinerary.

As I watch my guests unwind, as they always do, I often at what point did the cows, generously sprinkled about the field hither and yon and only an arms length from the windows of the West Wing, persuade them to turn their attention from gazing at electronic screens to gazing at bovines grazing? For those that have made this transition, their questions fall thick and fast: what type of cows are they? Are they friendly? What do they eat? Cows are extremely gentle and very very curious and will come right up to a bystander for a full head to toe inspection. They do jump - it’s all true, quite high in fact, although I have yet to see one jump over the moon. Similarly, the sheep are just as approachable and witnessing lambing season with newborns scattered as far as the eye can see are simply a joy to behold. A rural retreat holds so many hidden surprises and I look forward to delving into these hidden gems with you.

Do you imagine Ireland or dream Ireland in a special way? Or have a favourite story about your trip to discover Ireland? If so please share with our readers in our Facebook Group 'Into the Pot of Gold' by clicking here:

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