Posted on Jun 7, 2018 in News
I always knew it was great to be a Jayhawk, but after spending a week with 13 fellow Jayhawks in Ireland I realized just how lucky I am be a part of such a great community. Together we rode on a charter bus across the west coast of Ireland, endured the spontaneous rain showers, enjoyed a cup of Irish coffee, laughed with Joe as he told his jokes and appreciated the rich Irish history we were lucky enough to experience. It was a Wild Atlantic journey that we will never forget.
Westport, a beautiful town in County Mayo, quickly became our temporary home away from home. It didn’t take long to see why Westport had been voted the “best place to live in Ireland.” It’s a picturesque town with streets lined with local shops, restaurants and pubs; stone bridges that cross over the Carrowbeg River; and a rich culture in the surrounding landscape and people. The town has something for everyone, and it provided the perfect setting for us to come home to after excursions throughout the day.
Wild Atlantic Way via charter bus
We spent a great deal of time together aboard our charter bus in the trusty hands of our driver, Joe. He was always prepared with a lesson for the day, witty jokes to help pass the time and an occasional song. It’s safe to say Joe was never short on information.
As we rode from place to place we enjoyed the beautiful green sceneries while learning about Irish history, culture, economy, folk tales and more.
This immense mountain is the first thing you see as you enter Westport, and it’s one of my favorite sights and stories from this whole journey. Croagh Patrick is a holy mountain, named in honor of Ireland’s patron saint, Saint Patrick. More than 100,000 people climb Croagh Patrick every year in pilgrimage. It’s a tradition that dates back at least 5,000 years.
At the top of the mountain sits a little white church that can be seen on a clear day. It’s a tiny white speck from the mainland, but its significance to County Mayo and Ireland certainly is not small. One of our very own Jayhawks was lucky enough to climb Croagh Patrick while we were there. She recounted the climb as a deeply moving experience and was honored to make the same pilgrimage of so many people before her.
Castles and churches and sheep, oh my!
Ireland definitely isn’t short of castles, estates, churches and sheep. These four things can sum up our week in Ireland almost perfectly. Sheep are found everywhere—probably because there are more sheep in Ireland than people. But, that just means more wool for sweaters (for us to purchase) at Foxford Woollen Mills.
This was one of my favorite places we visited, and not just because of the great shopping. The history behind the making of wool sweaters and blankets goes back to the 19th century, and the machines that make the fabric are large and require special attention. Before our shopping spree, we walked through the factory to watch the making of many different types of fabrics.
A couple of days later we got to see the other side of wool, live sheep, up close and personal! We went to see a sheep herding demonstration. The man who gave the demonstration had an interesting story of how he came into the business, but you would think he’d been doing this his whole life. His dogs Holly and Lizzie gave us quite a show. It almost made us forget that it was raining the entire time, but hey that’s Ireland!
In addition to the hundreds of sheep we encountered we saw our fair share of castles, estates and churches. From our first stop at the medieval Dunguaire Castle to the large estate at Kylemore Abbey and the Westport House, each stop offered beautiful sights of historic structures and green landscapes. We were fortunate to have expert guides at each of our stops to walk us through the history as we took in all the natural beauty around us. I could go on and on describing each place we went, but they’re all so beautifully different and had their own unique styles. So I just ranked my favorites by pictures so you’ll see what I mean.
1. Kylemore Abbey
2. Gothic Church at Kylemore Abbey
3. Westport House
All in all, it was a memorable week and I’m lucky I got to experience Ireland with a fantastic group of Jayhawks. Oh, and as if we couldn’t get any luckier, we saw a rainbow while in Ireland… how fitting! Slàinte!
The Flying Jayhawks trip “Wild Atlantic Way” took place May 8-16, 2018. The trip was hosted by Crysta Moon, coordinator of membership and business development. View more photos from the trip; pictures may be downloaded for personal use. Find more information about Flying Jayhawks trips, including a schedule, or sign up for travel emails.