As I was growing up, my mother, like many mothers, told me bedtime stories. Some of these she read from books, such as Water Babies, or The Hobbit. Others she made up as she went along. Those she made up, for some reason, always had a Celtic element of some sort – a fairy, or a hidden world under the hill, perhaps a goddess disguised as a helpless maiden.
I don’t know if it was due to these tales, or the fact that she had some albums that I listened to when I was young (The Unicorn by the Irish Rovers, for instance), but I’d always had a special love of all things Celtic. Celtic myths, Celtic music, Celtic art, Celtic history; it all sung to my soul.
When I first started planning my own vacations, the first place I went was Ireland. England, Scotland and Wales were next, but always the Celtic nations. As soon as I arrived on the Emerald Isle, I felt grounded, at home, as if I had found the place I belonged. It was mo anam bhaile, my soul’s home.
Since that first memorable trip, when the land sung to me, I’ve returned as often as I could, every couple of years – often when I could ill afford it. The place draws me back, inexplicably, and I must heed the call. Could it be a racial memory? I do have some ancestry from the isles, but most of mine is actually German. Could it be a soul memory? I was conceived in Britain, it’s possible my soul came from the Celtic pool. Perhaps it’s just a strong affinity, one that cannot be ignored.
I know many people share my affinity, so I decided to write a book to help them. I started with some myth and history, so the reader can get a sense of what has gone on before, and what people believed. Then I give some practical tips about planning your own trip, including what to do about car insurance, how to get Euros ahead of time, discount website for airfare, that sort of thing.
Then I have some lovely stories of the kindness of strangers, to help you feel at home. I finish with a large section of hidden places. The mystical hidden holy well off to the side of the road, the Neolithic stone circles you have to walk through a dense forest to find, the sea caves you have to walk through the sand dunes to get to. These are all wonderful places filled with mystery and magic, part of the draw of the isle.
I also have many of my own photographs in the book, to help your imagination take flight. And perhaps, someday, you can take your own flight and visit the magical land that is Ireland, and see what the love is all about.