Last updated on September 18, 2023
It might be the peat. It’s certainly the deep Irish brogue. But perhaps it’s also just the charming spirit of all who cross your path.
Ireland 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.
Finding that Something Special
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.
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 round the world 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.
What is Peat?
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.
Peat is an accumulation of partially decayed organic matter found in wetlands, bogs, and fens. Formed over thousands of years, it is composed of plant material that has accumulated in waterlogged conditions, where lack of oxygen slows the process of decomposition.
Rich in carbon and often harvested for use as a fuel source or soil conditioner, peat plays a complex role in environmental ecology.
The Story of Ireland and 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.
In the realms of Irish and Scottish culture, peat has traditionally been cut from bogs and dried to use in stoves and fireplaces, imbuing the air with its distinct, earthy aroma—a smell that many associate with the wild, untamed landscapes of these regions.
Eventually, I grew accustomed tot he smell and watched the peat begin to internally glow a warm orange, relaxed back into my conversation and sank into the evening.
And that’s when it hit me. It’s this warmth and relaxed joy that I so love about Ireland. At one of my last hostels, the Old Monastery Hostel—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 :-)