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A Little Cozy…Peat Fireplaces, Rugged Ireland, and Something Special

It’s the peat. Ireland just has this certain something that makes the country feel incredibly unique; a something that I couldn’t quite identify for the first three weeks I spent in the country.

I’ve concluded that if Leprechauns, fairies and the such exist, then surely they all congregate in Ireland’s “Wild West.” From Galway City I drove through hours of brown-speckled hills weakly lit with the few and tiny bits of sunshine able to wrestle from behind gray rain clouds and drove into the heart Connemara.

Twinkling Breakfast Nook

The twinkling breakfast nook at the Old Monastery Hostel in Connemara

And just for the record, what I just described, that’s everything that I actually kind of hate. I’m a Florida girl, the Sunshine state people! My entire RTW trip was structured to chase warm weather around the world…which means I run screaming from any signs of gloomy weather and the cold makes me cry just a little inside.

And yet. Here’s Ireland. The polar opposite “bright and sunshiny.” A rainy, overcast, cold and wet country with thousands of pubs and a charming yet occasionally incomprehensible (to me) brogue. The country inspires me and makes me just want to smile inside.

So back to the peat, a central part of my love-affair with Ireland. A quick tangent, in case you’re baffled right now, please, take a moment to educate yourself on peat – in short, it’s simply decayed vegetation matter then compressed and used in fires because it burns incredibly slow. But really, it’s a lot more than that. The smell of the peat stung the inside of my nose the first time I inhaled a big whiff of a freshly lit peat fire. The foreign smell made my eyes instantly water and I sat pondering the sanity of the Irish for even using peat.  But then I mellowed back out, watched the peat begin to internally glow a warm orange, relaxed back into my conversation and sank into the evening.

Peat Fireplace

A warm peat fireplace in the cozy communal living room

And that’s when it hit me. It’s this warmth and relaxed enjoyablity that I so love about Ireland. At one of my last hostels (and I stayed there for a week I enjoyed it so much) all the travelers enjoyed the warm peat fire, the varied accents, and dynamic conversations….all set off with that unique smell of a warm, peaty fire.

So when I’m asked the baffling question of why I love Ireland so much and keep going back there when there’s so much of the world to see…you know, perhaps it’s the peat.

Photo credit and big warm hugs to Eva, a friend  from the hostel who took these amazing photos and has the cutest baby ever  :-)

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65 Responses to A Little Cozy…Peat Fireplaces, Rugged Ireland, and Something Special

  1. Dave and Deb February 7, 2010 at 6:24 am #

    That is a beautiful photo Shannon! And the post is written so beautifully that I want to go to Ireland! For some reason I thought that you were a California girl, my parents spend 6 months a year in Florida…Next time I go to visit them, I am stopping by to see you. (that is if you aren't in Central America or something!)

  2. ShannonOD February 7, 2010 at 11:13 am #

    Although it's not budget-friendly at all you really should get to Ireland
    someday – I just love it. As for Florida – that's where I was born and
    raised but I moved to Cali (and feel it fits my lifestyle better) for two
    years :-) So you'll def have to let me know when you make there to visit
    your parents..it's my homebase between travels! :-)

  3. Dave and Deb February 7, 2010 at 1:24 pm #

    That is a beautiful photo Shannon! And the post is written so beautifully that I want to go to Ireland! For some reason I thought that you were a California girl, my parents spend 6 months a year in Florida…Next time I go to visit them, I am stopping by to see you. (that is if you aren't in Central America or something!)

    • ShannonOD February 7, 2010 at 6:13 pm #

      Although it's not budget-friendly at all you really should get to Ireland
      someday – I just love it. As for Florida – that's where I was born and
      raised but I moved to Cali (and feel it fits my lifestyle better) for two
      years :-) So you'll def have to let me know when you make there to visit
      your parents..it's my homebase between travels! :-)

  4. Gourmantic February 8, 2010 at 3:47 am #

    This post speaks from the heart and glows its own warm orange :)

  5. marta@atravelaroundtheworld February 8, 2010 at 6:00 am #

    i think anyone reading this post would feel the magical charm of Ireland. we have been once to ireland too, in dublin, and although it was very cold it's was really beautiful and dublin was so cozy and charming too.

  6. Beth Oppenheim February 8, 2010 at 7:31 am #

    This is a great description :) I find myself instantly connecting to the idea of warmth, good conversation, and appreciating the little things. I had a similar experience when I lived in the UK for awhile… I think that there is something for me about the familiar atmosphere (English, certain cultural norms that are the same) but people that take it much slower than Americans and appreciated things more. I loved it. Great post!

  7. Candice February 8, 2010 at 7:20 am #

    Everytime you write about Ireland I'm overcome with the need to go back, seriously. This is exactly how I'd do it all over. My province reflects the country so much it's insane.

  8. Gourmantic February 8, 2010 at 10:47 am #

    This post speaks from the heart and glows its own warm orange :)

    • ShannonOD February 9, 2010 at 4:10 am #

      Aw, thanks, very kind words :-)

  9. foggodyssey February 8, 2010 at 11:48 am #

    I agree, your photos are really good and captured the room nicely. Gave it that warm glow to it that you see everywhere in Ireland. Good post and wish I could go back soon.

  10. IrishJaunt February 8, 2010 at 12:23 pm #

    The smell of peat is something unique to Ireland and one that always makes me feel cozy. I would also love to know where you took the beautiful photos!

  11. marta@atravelaroundtheworld February 8, 2010 at 1:00 pm #

    i think anyone reading this post would feel the magical charm of Ireland. we have been once to ireland too, in dublin, and although it was very cold it's was really beautiful and dublin was so cozy and charming too.

    • ShannonOD February 9, 2010 at 4:13 am #

      You are so right, although I just love the countryside and smaller towns of
      Ireland, Dublin definitely has its own charm – head out into the country if
      you ever make it back though! :-)

  12. Beth Oppenheim February 8, 2010 at 2:31 pm #

    This is a great description :) I find myself instantly connecting to the idea of warmth, good conversation, and appreciating the little things. I had a similar experience when I lived in the UK for awhile… I think that there is something for me about the familiar atmosphere (English, certain cultural norms that are the same) but people that take it much slower than Americans and appreciated things more. I loved it. Great post!

    • ShannonOD February 9, 2010 at 4:20 am #

      Thanks so much Beth! I think you really hit it right on with the fact that
      it's familiar enough to be comforting and allow me (us) to sink into the
      experiences and enjoy something that's just outside of the American norm
      :-) I definitely felt some of the cozy conversation feel while I traveled
      through the UK too :-)

  13. Candice February 8, 2010 at 2:20 pm #

    Everytime you write about Ireland I'm overcome with the need to go back, seriously. This is exactly how I'd do it all over. My province reflects the country so much it's insane.

    • ShannonOD February 9, 2010 at 4:15 am #

      I feel that way when you talk about Newfoundland – I would really like to
      get there one day, especially if it's reminiscent of Ireland! :-)

  14. foggodyssey February 8, 2010 at 6:48 pm #

    I agree, your photos are really good and captured the room nicely. Gave it that warm glow to it that you see everywhere in Ireland. Good post and wish I could go back soon.

    • ShannonOD February 9, 2010 at 4:25 am #

      I know the feeling – I get all nostalgic when I write these posts too and
      want to hop a plane to Ireland, drop the bags at a hotel and be drinking a
      Guinness at a pub with cozy conversation minutes later :-)

  15. Arlene February 8, 2010 at 6:50 pm #

    I am a Floridian too and crave the sun and its warmth. But what you descibe evokes a different kind of warmth. The obvious – peat fires, but that other inner warmth from a place like your Ireland evokes. Great post and gorgeous warm photos.

  16. IrishJaunt February 8, 2010 at 7:23 pm #

    The smell of peat is something unique to Ireland and one that always makes me feel cozy. I would also love to know where you took the beautiful photos!

    • ShannonOD February 9, 2010 at 4:27 am #

      Thanks for your kind words! I stayed at the Old Monastery Hostel in
      Letterfrack, Connemara and a fellow traveler took these shots in the common
      room and breakfast nook – she really, really did a great job capturing the
      essence of the place :-)

  17. ShannonOD February 8, 2010 at 9:10 pm #

    Aw, thanks, very kind words :-)

  18. ShannonOD February 8, 2010 at 9:13 pm #

    You are so right, although I just love the countryside and smaller towns of
    Ireland, Dublin definitely has its own charm – head out into the country if
    you ever make it back though! :-)

  19. ShannonOD February 8, 2010 at 9:15 pm #

    I feel that way when you talk about Newfoundland – I would really like to
    get there one day, especially if it's reminiscent of Ireland! :-)

  20. ShannonOD February 8, 2010 at 9:20 pm #

    Thanks so much Beth! I think you really hit it right on with the fact that
    it's familiar enough to be comforting and allow me (us) to sink into the
    experiences and enjoy something that's just outside of the American norm
    :-) I definitely felt some of the cozy conversation feel while I traveled
    through the UK too :-)

  21. ShannonOD February 8, 2010 at 9:25 pm #

    I know the feeling – I get all nostalgic when I write these posts too and
    want to hop a plane to Ireland, drop the bags at a hotel and be drinking a
    Guinness at a pub with cozy conversation minutes later :-)

  22. ShannonOD February 8, 2010 at 9:27 pm #

    Thanks for your kind words! I stayed at the Old Monastery Hostel in
    Letterfrack, Connemara and a fellow traveler took these shots in the common
    room and breakfast nook – she really, really did a great job capturing the
    essence of the place :-)

  23. ShannonOD February 8, 2010 at 9:28 pm #

    Thanks Arlene! You are perfectly right on both counts and said it nicely;
    it's just precisely why I can't get enough of Ireland, the intense warmth
    and cozy feeling I get when I'm there :-)

  24. Arlene February 9, 2010 at 1:50 am #

    I am a Floridian too and crave the sun and its warmth. But what you descibe evokes a different kind of warmth. The obvious – peat fires, but that other inner warmth from a place like your Ireland evokes. Great post and gorgeous warm photos.

    • ShannonOD February 9, 2010 at 4:28 am #

      Thanks Arlene! You are perfectly right on both counts and said it nicely;
      it's just precisely why I can't get enough of Ireland, the intense warmth
      and cozy feeling I get when I'm there :-)

  25. nomadicchick February 9, 2010 at 8:24 am #

    I'm pulled towards Ireland as well, yet can't fathom why yet. Your article is starting to clue me in. An air of history and old world charm, mingled with gooey warmth… I wonder, is it a place to juggle the imagination and truly be ourselves? Anyway, lovely piece again Shannon.

  26. Sofia February 9, 2010 at 10:41 am #

    Haha only the accent alone would make anyone want to go there, right?!
    But don't you feel sometimes that you need a break from all the sun? After having spent 8 months travelling around warm and sunny countries I was looking forward so much for a cloudy day!

  27. Anil February 9, 2010 at 9:57 am #

    I loved it too. Sometimes it's hard to find warmth in European cities (both literally and figuratively) but Dublin for me had that feel. I really bonded with it in a short time.

  28. nomadicchick February 9, 2010 at 3:24 pm #

    I'm pulled towards Ireland as well, yet can't fathom why yet. Your article is starting to clue me in. An air of history and old world charm, mingled with gooey warmth… I wonder, is it a place to juggle the imagination and truly be ourselves? Anyway, lovely piece again Shannon.

    • ShannonOD February 11, 2010 at 4:26 pm #

      Thanks :-) You nailed it though about why you want to visit Ireland even
      though you're not sure why – everyone's a little bit Irish when they visit
      and you really can't help but sink into the country and the warmth when
      you're there :-)

  29. Abbey Hesser February 9, 2010 at 5:09 pm #

    What a great photo! I'm spending time myself in western Ireland right now and I've noticed this “peat” you speak of. It's absolutely essential for keeping warm around these parts at all and i've really grown to love it. I'm similar to you as well in terms of warm weather addict… Can't imagine living anywhere other than a warm beach… except Ireland. Something about this little Ireland really has a hold of my heart!

  30. Sofia February 9, 2010 at 5:41 pm #

    Haha only the accent alone would make anyone want to go there, right?!
    But don't you feel sometimes that you need a break from all the sun? After having spent 8 months travelling around warm and sunny countries I was looking forward so much for a cloudy day!

    • ShannonOD February 11, 2010 at 4:34 pm #

      I completely agree Sofia! The accent sells me on Ireland every time ;-) And
      though I for some strange reason enjoy Ireland's cloudy, rainy weather, I
      really never feel like I need a break from warmth. Cloudy yes, I like that
      cold – aaaack! Makes me cry a little inside when it gets too cold :-)
      Looking forward to catching up more on your journey – 8 months in the sun
      sounds spectacular.

      • Sofia - As We Travel February 17, 2010 at 8:43 am #

        Haha I can relate to that, crying inside when it's too cold.
        Well, my 8 months of sun are over. I was longing for some cold weather, so I went to this tiny village in the middle of nowhere completely surrounded of snow and mountains. I've spent 4 months here now, and now I'm getting tired of that too.. I guess the best is a little of everything.

        I found the cheapest flight ever to Dublin (Ryan Air ofcourse ;P), it's very tempting to buy it but we'll see what happens, this post is very convincing though :)

        • ShannonOD February 18, 2010 at 2:36 pm #

          Oh man, you know I am going to be all for buying the flight to Dublin if you
          can swing it!! :-) It's still going to be cold though – though maybe not
          snowy mountainy cold – I say pack up the bags and go :-)

  31. Anil February 9, 2010 at 4:57 pm #

    I loved it too. Sometimes it's hard to find warmth in European cities (both literally and figuratively) but Dublin for me had that feel. I really bonded with it in a short time.

    • ShannonOD February 11, 2010 at 4:29 pm #

      I am loving your latest posts on it – I feel the same way about some
      European cities, so it just tickles me so much to read about Ireland and
      that others also discovered that there's something a bit different about the
      city :-)

  32. Abbey Hesser February 10, 2010 at 12:09 am #

    What a great photo! I'm spending time myself in western Ireland right now and I've noticed this “peat” you speak of. It's absolutely essential for keeping warm around these parts at all and i've really grown to love it. I'm similar to you as well in terms of warm weather addict… Can't imagine living anywhere other than a warm beach… except Ireland. Something about this little Ireland really has a hold of my heart!

    • ShannonOD February 11, 2010 at 4:37 pm #

      I am so jealous that you're still over there :-) The country just has this
      strange pull that I feel like you're stuck with once you see Ireland for the
      first time, the people, the country, it's all just so cozy and warm –
      looking forward to reading through some of your own travels!

  33. ShannonOD February 11, 2010 at 9:26 am #

    Thanks :-) You nailed it though about why you want to visit Ireland even
    though you're not sure why – everyone's a little bit Irish when they visit
    and you really can't help but sink into the country and the warmth when
    you're there :-)

  34. ShannonOD February 11, 2010 at 9:29 am #

    I am loving your latest posts on it – I feel the same way about some
    European cities, so it just tickles me so much to read about Ireland and
    that others also discovered that there's something a bit different about the
    city :-)

  35. ShannonOD February 11, 2010 at 9:34 am #

    I completely agree Sofia! The accent sells me on Ireland every time ;-) And
    though I for some strange reason enjoy Ireland's cloudy, rainy weather, I
    really never feel like I need a break from warmth. Cloudy yes, I like that
    cold – aaaack! Makes me cry a little inside when it gets too cold :-)
    Looking forward to catching up more on your journey – 8 months in the sun
    sounds spectacular.

  36. ShannonOD February 11, 2010 at 9:37 am #

    I am so jealous that you're still over there :-) The country just has this
    strange pull that I feel like you're stuck with once you see Ireland for the
    first time, the people, the country, it's all just so cozy and warm –
    looking forward to reading through some of your own travels!

  37. Abby February 13, 2010 at 6:34 am #

    Oh, this made my day! Spent all week melting in the tropics, and this couldn't have been cozier. I want to jump right into that picture! I also grew up in Florida and have a close friend who just moved to Dublin. We were talking yesterday about how she misses sunshine. But now I know she'll have plenty of warmth!

  38. Andy February 13, 2010 at 10:38 am #

    The insides of pubs here in Scotland as well as Ireland have to be cosy – it's always awful outside. Well, not always, but you know what I mean. :-)

  39. Abby February 13, 2010 at 1:34 pm #

    Oh, this made my day! Spent all week melting in the tropics, and this couldn't have been cozier. I want to jump right into that picture! I also grew up in Florida and have a close friend who just moved to Dublin. We were talking yesterday about how she misses sunshine. But now I know she'll have plenty of warmth!

    • ShannonOD February 15, 2010 at 4:47 pm #

      Thanks Abby – as much as I do just love sunshine, you've just gotta love the
      alternative too :-) Cheers to another Floridian!

  40. Andy February 13, 2010 at 5:38 pm #

    The insides of pubs here in Scotland as well as Ireland have to be cosy – it's always awful outside. Well, not always, but you know what I mean. :-)

    • ShannonOD February 15, 2010 at 4:49 pm #

      I know what you mean – and while I love the coziness…blech to the reason
      for it…warmth…good. Enjoy Cali next week ;-)

  41. ShannonOD February 15, 2010 at 9:47 am #

    Thanks Abby – as much as I do just love sunshine, you've just gotta love the
    alternative too :-) Cheers to another Floridian!

  42. ShannonOD February 15, 2010 at 9:49 am #

    I know what you mean – and while I love the coziness…blech to the reason
    for it…warmth…good. Enjoy Cali next week ;-)

  43. Sofia - As We Travel February 17, 2010 at 1:43 am #

    Haha I can relate to that, crying inside when it's too cold.
    Well, my 8 months of sun are over. I was longing for some cold weather, so I went to this tiny village in the middle of nowhere completely surrounded of snow and mountains. I've spent 4 months here now, and now I'm getting tired of that too.. I guess the best is a little of everything.

    I found the cheapest flight ever to Dublin (Ryan Air ofcourse ;P), it's very tempting to buy it but we'll see what happens, this post is very convincing though :)

  44. ShannonOD February 18, 2010 at 7:36 am #

    Oh man, you know I am going to be all for buying the flight to Dublin if you
    can swing it!! :-) It's still going to be cold though – though maybe not
    snowy mountainy cold – I say pack up the bags and go :-)

  45. B. February 20, 2010 at 1:17 pm #

    I love the pictures you used! I really want to visit Ireland one day and this post just makes me want to visit even more! Safe travels!

  46. ShannonOD February 20, 2010 at 1:44 pm #

    Thanks so much B :-) I definitely think the country is well worth a visit –
    I want to move their myself one day!

  47. B. February 20, 2010 at 8:17 pm #

    I love the pictures you used! I really want to visit Ireland one day and this post just makes me want to visit even more! Safe travels!

    • ShannonOD February 20, 2010 at 8:44 pm #

      Thanks so much B :-) I definitely think the country is well worth a visit –
      I want to move their myself one day!

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