Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel
Ballintoy Harbour in Northern Ireland was used as a site used during the filming of season two of Game of Thrones

Click on title to view photo in large format: Ballintoy Harbour sits at the foot of a narrow, steep road that descends to the sea from the Coastal Causeway in Northern Ireland. For years a sleepy little fishing wharf with a pocket beach, Ballintoy Harbour was lately made famous when it was used as a site during the filming of season two of Game of Thrones. Fans of the HBO series will recognize it as the location where Theon Greyjoy lands back in the Iron Islands after years of servitude to the Stark family. It is also where he first reunites with his sister, and where Read More

Of all the Irish cities I visited this spring, it was Galway that most captured my heart. It’s small enough to be walkable, has a quirky Latin Quarter, plenty of history, lovely parks, and a fantastic waterfront. But what most impressed me was the music in Galway. It poured from every pub, and street musicians seemed to be performing on every other corner.

Music in Galway is everywhere and many, like the Galway Street Band, seem to play for the pure joy of performing

Music in Galway is everywhere and many, like the Galway Street Band, seem to play for the pure joy of performing

Early in the day my friend, Val, and I stopped into Tigh Fox Trad House Pub. Luckily, we arrived during a demonstration of Irish Step Dancing, performed by one of their servers. Still following the sound of music, we walked through the Spanish Arch. On a small plaza on the shores of the River Carrib, people were practicing the Tango. In the Latin Quarter, we stumbled upon the fantastic Galway Street Band, a motley collection of musicians who obviously played for the joy of it. The group included musicians young and old, male and female, and instruments ranging from Read More

Basalt columns on the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland

On the northeast tip of the island of Ireland lies a geologic formation so unique, so astonishing, that legends were created to explain its existence. The Giant’s Causeway, as it is known, was formed when a volcanic eruption was covered with newer layers of lava, placing the underlying material under extreme pressure. The trapped Basaltic rock, forced to cool slowly over eons, formed naturally into crystalline columns. Though most are hexagonal (having six faces or facets), some have five, seven, or even eight sides.

Today we understand the geologic process that formed these Basaltic columns, but those who first laid eyes on the site in the late 17th century had no understanding of crystalline structures or volcanism. To them, the columns marching into the sea looked like fragments of an ancient roadway, built by a mythical giant named Finn MacCool. Finn was said to be Read More

Whiterocks Coastal Park on the Coastal Causeway in Northern Ireland

Click on title to view photo in large format: Over the centuries, strong surf has eaten into the cliffs at Whiterocks Coastal Park, carving myriad caves and arches into the jagged white limestone. Where land has prevailed over ocean, stunning headlands like Shelagh’s Head, the Wishing Arch, Elephant Rock, and the Lion’s Paw, thrust out into the ocean. The exposed white cliffs are home to seabirds, who nest in its myriad nooks and crannies, and to hawks who use it as a hunting ground. Read More

Mussenden Temple at Downhill Demesne, on the Coastal Causeway in Northern Ireland

Click on title to view photo in large format: Mussenden Temple at Downhill Palace in Northern Ireland was built by Fredrick Hervey, who was both the 4th Earl of Bristol and the Bishop of Derry. Hervey was extremely close to his young niece, Frideswide Bruce, leading people to suspect that the relationship was inappropriate. When these rumors reached the young woman’s father, he quickly married her off to Daniel Mussenden, an elderly London banker. Hervey constructed the temple as a wedding present for his niece, intending that it be used as a library and a place for her to stay when she visited. Read More

The stunning scenery along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way is so forcefully etched on my memory that I can close my eyes and see it still. Unshorn sheep, fat like giant cotton balls, meander across green-carpeted bluffs. Waves smash at the feet of precipitous cliffs, while thousands of seabirds whirl and screech above. I can almost smell fresh salt air wafting up from remote coves where turquoise seas lap on alabaster beaches. History adds another dimension. Ancient religious buildings, burial mounds, beehive huts built of unmortared stone, and cottages that tell heart-wrenching tales of the potato famine combine with the natural beauty to make the Wild Atlantic Way Ireland’s most remarkable self-guiding tour.

Wildflowers decorate Mullaghmore peninsula in County Sligo, Ireland

Wildflowers decorate Mullaghmore peninsula in County Sligo, Ireland

Stretching more than 1,500 miles along the west coast of Ireland, this longest defined coastal route in the world has been inspiration for more than the likes of me. John Lennon was so inspired by it that he bought the island of Dorninish, located just 15 minutes off the coast. Nobel laureate William Butler Yeats drew inspiration for his lyrical poems from the landscapes of Western Ireland. Read More