While I know that it is conventional to read guide books (or this blog) to choose what to see and do in Ireland, I have always found that going at things a bit slant has proven more enriching. Besides, you have a lot of dreaming to do in anticipation of your trip. Guide books will help you with logistics but they don’t necessarily nourish the trip dreamer in any of us.
For this reason I have chosen seven (non-fiction) books that will whet your interest and help build anticipation for a tour of Ireland. These are the books that I have chosen to help interpret what you are going to be seeing on your tour of Ireland. There is a genre of books that recount other’s tours around Ireland. They are very entertaining and I’ve enjoyed several of them. By all means read them when you have a bad case of itchy feet. But while these might help you be patient as you wait for you take off date, they won’t help enrich your tour around Ireland. For that reason, although there are a number of fun and well-written books they haven’t made the final cut on this list.
- The Red-Haired Girl from the Bog: The Landscape of Celtic Myth and Spirit – Patricia Monaghan’s book is part scholarship and part memoir with an artful juxtaposition of ancient and modern Irish themes, places and spiritual sensibility. The reader will get well acquainted with how myth plays out in Ireland’s geography.
- Over Nine Waves: A Book of Irish Legends – Marie Heaney (Nobel Laureate Seamus’ Mrs) gives a succinct retelling of Ireland’s legends and myths. While Monaghan will give you a sense of place, Heaney outlines the story in full, which will greatly enhance your sight seeing.
- Modern Irish Poetry: An Anthology - Poetry is intrinsic to Irish culture, but with so many really good poets you could assemble quite a library. An anthology is the answer, exposing the reader to a wealth of Irish poets, including excerpts from Kavanagh’s The Great Hunger. I particularly like this anthology because it includes Irish language poets in translation. The translations are done by the top flight of Irish poets – Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon, John Montague and Michael Hartnett.
- Ever Ancient Ever New: Celtic Spirituality in the Twenty-First Century – Even if you are not particularly interested in Celtic spirituality, Whelan’s book is a great explanation of the Irish Celtic sensibility and how it has developed from megalithic times to the advent of St. Patrick. If you are traveling to a country like Ireland steeped in both spirituality and religion, even if you are an agnostic, your tour of Ireland will be greatly enhanced by grasping the principles that have guided life on this island for millenia.
- Complete Irish Wildlife (Collins Complete Photo Guides) – Ireland is mostly rural and you are likely to encounter unfamiliar birds, flowers, insects, etc. in your travels. This handy guide has a a complete flora and fauna with colour photographs to help you identify. If you don’t have this in your rucksack when you tour Ireland you are sure to regret all those unanswered questions! In the absence of a naturalist tour guide this book will be invaluable.
- To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings – The late John O’Donohue did much to explain and reflect on the preoccupations of Celtic consciousness with his best selling Anam Cara. This book will help prepare you for your trip to Ireland with a blessing. It will also acquaint the reader to all manner of practice Irish blessings for the conventional occasions as well as offering of way of seeing the blessedness of less welcome circumstances.
- Meeting the Other Crowd – The great Eddie Lenihan was a famed storyteller from County Clare. In this book, co-authored with Carolyn Eve Green, you will get initiated into the fairy culture of Ireland. Lenihan is steeped in the oral storytelling tradition and Green has rendered it to capture that oral telling of the faeryfolk. Well worth reading if you plan of doing some fairy hunting on your tour of Ireland.
All of these books will make good armchair travel experience. But while you are preparing for your trip to Ireland you can spend many happy hours getting acquainted with the culture that has been shaped by the land and the stories they have told to explain it all.
Bee Smith created Irish Blessings Tours to serve travelers to Ireland who want the unique and inspirational packaged for their group’s desires and needs. Bee seeks the source to manifest your dream Irish vacation according to your budget and time scale. She has a special interest in Fairy folklore, Celtic Spirituality and the Natural Heritage of western Ireland and Northern Ireland. In 2011 Bee became one of the first trained tour guides that act at ambassadors for the UNESCO designated Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark. Send her your dreams for your Ireland vacation package to email@example.com.