On the Ferry to Rathlin Island.

With Spring, Hope Springs Anew in Ireland

And so 2022. The year when Ireland can be sensed anew, the year when Ireland can be anticipated anew. The year when Ireland can be reached and embraced anew.

It’s fair to say that with regard to visiting the island of Ireland, the last two years have been deeply frustrating for the Irish in America, for Irish Americans, and for Americans in general who are just fans of Ireland.

Well, Spring is here and hope springs anew that those frustrations will lift and blow away, as if caught in the thrall of a fresh breeze on an Irish hillside.

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Everyone has a different sense of Ireland, a different expectation.

When I think of a visit back to my starting point in life I focus on what I like to call “the inhale and the exhale.”

The craic is indeed mighty in Ennis, County Clare.

The craic is indeed mighty in Ennis, County Clare.

The first part is breathing deep that fresh Irish air, a unique mix that is the product of ocean air and the warm waters of the Gulf Stream.

It is air that is constantly being pushed along. There is absolutely nothing recirculated about it. Day one of a visit, then, involves a lot of deep breathing.

After a few days comes the exhale bit. This involves letting go, a psychological deep exhaling; the realization that one is back in a truly unique place, familiar yet changed, sophisticated yet somehow uncomplicated.

Nothing or nowhere stands still. But Ireland, somehow, hangs on to certain habits, sensibilities, and a workaday common sense that seems so obvious the entire world should embrace it.

And then there’s the “craic.”

The term is a uniquely Irish one. It means fun and enjoyment and good times had by all.

After two long years, the “craic” is truly back in Ireland. Word is drifting across the Atlantic that there is a buzz in towns and cities again, laughter in the streets, and music in the air.

Poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote that “Nothing is so beautiful as Spring – When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush.”

Those words ring true and then some in an Irish springtime. It is a time when the island emerges and opens its doors to a new chapter, a new beginning, and an opportunity to welcome old friends once again to its shores, new friends for the first time.

In the midst of every Spring Ireland steals a march on the world, literally, well almost literally, by virtue of St. Patrick’s Day.

After two years, and with all Covid restrictions lifted, Ireland’s St Patrick’s Festival is back. It’s a week-long celebration of music, dance and outdoor shows culminating in a glorious St. Patrick’s Day parade through the historic streets of Dublin on March 17th.  

On the trail of the fifth century saint a visitor can also explore the beautiful town of Downpatrick in County Down, Northern Ireland, where St. Patrick is buried. Here the visitor can venture into the St. Patrick’s Center, the world’s only permanent exhibit to Ireland’s patron saint.

The St. Patrick’s Festival is the highlight of the early vacation season for 2022. Additional offerings for the visitor this year include the new Game of Thrones Studio Tour at Linen Mill Studios in Banbridge, just a short drive from Belfast, itself the newly designated UNESCO City of Music.

A sunny day under decorative umbrellas in Dublin.

A sunny day under decorative umbrellas in Dublin.

Keeping with the artistic theme, Dublin will be thronging with literature lovers this year as the city celebrates the centenary of James Joyce’s revered masterpiece “Ulysses.”

 A host of literary events, exhibitions and artistic commissions are set to mark the 100th anniversary of the publication of one of the most iconic works of literature – indeed, what some would argue is the most iconic.

Ireland is a land of anniversaries. Take your pick. It’s also an ancient place and there are days when you can imagine yourself standing on ground at a moment long before the arrival of St. Patrick.

There have been people on the island of Ireland for roughly ten thousand years. The more obvious evidence of human presence stretches back to about 5,000 years.

You can decide to wander through those 5,000 years of history in Ireland’s Ancient East, or discover Ireland’s breathtaking West Coast along the Wild Atlantic Way. You can embrace a giant spirit in Northern Ireland while stepping along the Giant’s Causeway. Or indeed you can enjoy the unspoiled majesty of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands, setting for some of the most peaceful places on the island. A particular favorite of mine is the monastic settlement of Clonmacnoise on the River Shannon. Sunset over the Shannon is for the bottling, a special corner of personal memory.

Wherever you go, you can explore in the knowledge that you will receive a welcome warmer than ever before, and the guarantee of the experience of a lifetime.

And, yes, there’s the craic which, in 2022, promises to be made mightier by the forced absence of two long years.

For more information on visiting Ireland in 2022 see www.ireland.com