[caption id="attachment_16855" align="alignleft" width="400"]<img src="https:\/\/pocahontastimes.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/25\/2017\/07\/IMG_0819.jpg" alt="" width="400" height="533" class="size-full wp-image-16855" \/> The author enjoying the scenery at the Giant\u2019s Causeway in Ireland.[\/caption]\r\n\r\nSuzanne Stewart\r\nStaff Writer\r\n\u00a0\r\nOn June 11, I set off on the adventure of a lifetime \u2013\u00a0two weeks in Scotland and Ireland.\r\n\r\nThe journey to get there was an adventure in itself \u2013\u00a0delayed flight after delayed flight, followed by my luggage staying behind in New Jersey \u2013\u00a0but I wasn\u2019t going to let that spoil my fun. I had a hearty, ugly cry in the Edinburgh airport, then moved on.\r\n\r\nWhen I got to the hotel, the fun immediately began. I finally met up with my cousin Stephanie and aunt Sallie, whom I hadn\u2019t seen in years.\r\nAlong with the rest of our group \u2013\u00a033 in total \u2013\u00a0we set out on our adventure.\r\n\r\nOf course, when you are in Edinburgh, the capitol of Scotland, there is a lot to see. What struck me most as our bus weaved around the city was how the old and new blended together so well. The centuries old sandstone buildings didn\u2019t seem out of place next to the modern shops.\r\n\r\nIt all just worked.\r\n\r\nA trip to Edinburgh is not complete without a visit to Edinburgh Castle, which was at one time home to Mary Queen of Scots \u2013\u00a0a Stewart.\r\n\r\nOn display at the Castle are the crown jewels \u2013 no photographs are allowed, but we did get to see them. I can\u2019t describe the feeling of seeing the crown and jewelry of Mary Queen of Scots, knowing that I am possibly one of her descendants.\r\n\r\nIn my genealogy research, I have yet to trace my family to the Royal Stewarts, but hey, a Stewart is a Stewart, right? I was thrilled to be walking the cobblestones of my ancestors and experiencing the history first-hand.\u00a0\r\n\r\nOne of my main goals for this trip was to have an authentic Stewart tartan made in Scotland. In the shadow of Edinburgh Castle, we were able to shop at the Tartan Weaving Mill, where tartans for kilts, scarves and other accessories are woven.\r\n\r\nMy biggest dilemma was choosing a tartan. The Stewart Clan has dozens of them, but is most known for the bright red Royal tartan.\u00a0\r\n\r\nI almost got the Royal tartan until I saw the dress tartan. It is a subtle cream color with red, blue, green and yellow woven together. It seemed more my style. Instead of a kilt, which would weigh a ton, I went with a cashmere scarf that I can\u2019t wait to wear this winter.\r\n\r\nI was so excited to complete a goal on my second day.\r\n\r\n[caption id="attachment_16896" align="alignleft" width="400"]<img src="https:\/\/pocahontastimes.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/25\/2017\/07\/IMG_0387.jpg" alt="" width="400" height="559" class="size-full wp-image-16896" \/> LEAVING\u2008THE Edinburgh Castle, we could hear the unmistakable sound of bagpipes. Down the block, a piper, dressed in what I\u2008think was a Royal Stewart tartan, played traditional tunes and posed for photographs with visitors.[\/caption]\r\n\r\nAfter one more day of exploring in Edinburgh, we packed up and headed for Glasgow. On the way we stopped in Stirling to visit the Stirling Castle, where six-day-old Mary Stewart was crowned Queen and raised by her mother.\r\n\r\nStirling is home to the infamous statue of William Wallace, which turned out to look like Mel Gibson who portrayed the Scot in the blockbuster film \u201cBraveheart.\u201d\u00a0\r\n\r\nWhile we didn\u2019t see the statue, we did tour the castle and sat in the throne.\r\n\r\n[caption id="attachment_16897" align="alignleft" width="400"]<img src="https:\/\/pocahontastimes.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/25\/2017\/07\/IMG_0442.jpg" alt="" width="400" height="473" class="size-full wp-image-16897" \/> I tried to strike my most "Queenly" pose in the throne at Stirling Castle.[\/caption]\r\n\r\nThe art and d\u00e9cor was so colorful and vibrant, a modern addition to the castle. The highlight, to me was seeing replicas of the Unicorn Tapestries. I studied the seven tapestries \u2013\u00a0also known as The Hunt of the Unicorn \u2013\u00a0in art school, so it was so great to see them in person.\u00a0\r\n\r\nFrom there, we went on to Glasgow, visiting the Kelvingrove Art Gallery \u2013\u00a0where I got to see a Van Gogh \u2013\u00a0and the Glasgow Cathedral.\u00a0\r\n\r\nThe first of many cathedrals we toured, the Glasgow Cathedral has beautiful architecture with vibrant stained glass windows.\r\n\r\nWhile most of the windows were traditional and centuries old, one stood out from the rest. To celebrate the new millennium, the Cathedral selected Glasgow School of Art student John K. Clark to create The Millennium Window. The window is modern and unique \u2013 made with brilliant blue glass accented with painted symbols.\r\n\r\nWe spent one night in Glasgow before moving on to Northern Ireland. I couldn\u2019t believe how quickly our time passed in Scotland. After just five days, I was saying goodbye to the place I had longed to visit for ages.\r\n\r\nThe journey must go on though, and it did \u2013\u00a0in style.\r\n\r\nI was a little concerned because we were taking a ferry to Northern Ireland and I can count on one hand how many times I\u2019ve been on a boat. The last time I rode a ferry was to Blennerhassett Island in Wood County when I was a teenager.\u00a0\r\n\r\nWhen we pulled up to the port, however, I knew something got lost in translation. What they call a ferry, I would call a cruise liner. It was five stories, with elevators, restaurants, an arcade and spa.\u00a0\r\n\r\nThis was going to be a treat. I had a blast! I didn\u2019t get woozy and even went out on the deck to experience the spray of the ocean. It was exhilarating.\r\n\r\nOnce we docked, we headed to Belfast \u2013 the capitol of Northern Ireland.\u00a0\r\n\r\nWe checked into a swank, modern hotel and I swear I would live in the room I had - if I could. It was the fanciest place I\u2019ve ever stayed in my life. My bed was decked out in velvet. There was a huge clawfoot bathtub and funky art on the walls. I didn\u2019t want to leave the room, but when you are in such a historically significant city, you can\u2019t miss out on anything.\r\n\r\nAfter making a quick stop at the Queen\u2019s University, we went to the Titanic Museum.\r\n\r\nBelfast was the birthplace of the ill-fated ship and the museum is located where the ship was built at the Harland and Wolff Shipyard. Two shipbuilding gantry cranes known as Sampson and Goliath are near the museum and where the Titanic was built.\u00a0\r\n\r\nWhile most of us think we know the story of the Titanic, the museum personalizes the experience in many ways. There were replicas of the rooms showing how each class \u201clived\u201d on the ship. Among the beds and other furniture were television screens with films of actors interacting in the space.\r\n\r\nIt gave you the sense that you were on the ship with these people. It left a lasting impression.\r\n\r\nAlong with the museum, Belfast honored the memory of all the lives that were lost with a statue and memorial at City Hall. I found a Stewart listed on the memorial, so I\u2019m going to remember him in my genealogy research.\r\n\r\nAfter the museum, we headed out to the countryside to see what easily became my favorite part of the trip \u2013 the Giant\u2019s Causeway. The causeway is a collection of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns which are mostly hexagonal.\r\n\r\nDepending on who you ask, the Causeway was either formed by ancient volcanic eruptions or by the Irish giant Finn MacCool who was challenged by Scottish giant Benandonner to a fight. MacCool built the Causeway so the two could meet in battle. No matter what the story may be, the Causeway is amazing.\r\n\r\nThe combination of the rocks, the lush countryside and the ocean\u2019s crashing waves create such a wonderful environment for relaxation.\r\nI decided I could live there, as well.\r\n\r\nAfter one more night in Belfast, I had to leave my plush room and move on to Galway with a stop in Kilbeggan to tour the distillery.\r\n\r\nI can\u2019t tell you much about Kilbeggan traditional Irish whisky other than it burns on the way down. I don\u2019t drink alcohol, so I can\u2019t really describe it further than that.\r\n\r\nOf course, the best palette cleanser from there was to stop at the Galway Cathedral. Again, the stained glass was spectacular.\r\n\r\n[caption id="attachment_16898" align="aligncenter" width="600"]<img src="https:\/\/pocahontastimes.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/25\/2017\/07\/IMG_0894.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="258" class="size-full wp-image-16898" \/> One of the most unique stained glass windows at the Galway Cathedral.[\/caption]\r\n\r\nIn Galway, I was able to meet my second goal \u2013 buy a Claddagh ring in Ireland where they originated.\r\n\r\nThe Claddagh, which originated in Galway, is a traditional Irish ring which has a heart with a crown on top and is held by two hands. The hands represent friends, the heart represents love and the crown represents loyalty. The point of the heart shows the wearers relationship status \u2013\u00a0if the point is away from the wearers heart, they are single and if the point is toward the wearers heart, they are taken.\r\n\r\nWhile there were tons of styles of Claddagh\u2019s to choose from, I went with a simple sterling silver ring from a local artisan instead of a flashy one from a jewelry store. It\u2019s the perfect fit for me.\r\n\r\nThe next day, our first full day in Co. Galway, we went to the Connemara Marble Factory where we learned about the five kinds of marble mined in Connemara. After a little shopping, we headed to Kylemore Abbey and Castle.\r\n\r\n[caption id="attachment_16899" align="aligncenter" width="600"]<img src="https:\/\/pocahontastimes.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/25\/2017\/07\/IMG_1039.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="450" class="size-full wp-image-16899" \/> Kylemore Castle in County Galway. The building, like many we saw in Scotland and Ireland had scaffolding on it where renovations were taking place. The Castle is located on a gorgeous lake and shares its acreage with an Abbey and a Victorian Walled Garden.[\/caption]\r\n\r\nWe only saw part of the castle, but were treated to a choir rehearsal in the Abbey. The small worship space had columns of Connemara marble and the acoustics were out of this world.\r\n\r\nThe next day we ventured out to the Cliffs of Moher where the land meets the sea and lucky visitors (excluding us) get to see puffins in their natural habitat.\r\n\r\nFrom the cliffs we went inland to Bunratty Castle which includes a historical village with actors in period costume.\r\n\r\nThe following morning, we left Co. Galway for Co. Kerry, heading into the lush fields and farms of Ireland. We saw a lot of sheep and even more fog. We also saw several Famine Walls \u2013 stone walls built by starving and impoverished men during the Potato Famine. The Irish people refused handouts and instead chose to build the walls to earn their food when the famine made food scarce.\r\n\r\nEvery time we left the cities and entered the countryside, I couldn\u2019t help but think how much it looked like home. I\u2019m sure everyone on the bus was tired of me saying with excitement, \u201cit looks just like West Virginia,\u201d but it just solidified for me why Irish and Scottish settlers chose West Virginia as their home.\r\n\r\nStephanie even joined in, saying \u201cit smells like West Virginia,\u201d every time we saw Rhododendron.\r\n\r\nIn our travel on the Dingle Peninsula, we stopped at the Gallarus Oratory, an ancient stone building which was used as a place of worship. We also made a quick stop at Killarney National Park and saw the exterior of the Ross Castle.\r\n\r\nNow deep into our second week of the trip, we were ready for some hair-raising adventures and that came, courtesy of our next stop \u2013 the Blarney Castle. Stephanie was a little scared due to the height, but with the help of my goofy antics, I managed to distract her all the way up to the top.\r\n\r\nWe took our turns kissing the Blarney Stone and celebrated overcoming fears. It helped that we had our own cheering section and the man who held us had such a great personality.\r\n\r\nFrom Blarney, we went to Waterford and toured the Waterford Crystal Factory.\r\n\r\n[caption id="attachment_16900" align="aligncenter" width="600"]<img src="https:\/\/pocahontastimes.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/25\/2017\/07\/IMG_1342.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="384" class="size-full wp-image-16900" \/> A glass artist at Waterford Crystal concentrates on etching designs into a vase. [\/caption]\r\n\r\nThe glass was gorgeous and it was fun to see the process \u2013\u00a0from blown glass all the way to the etching process. It kind of reminded me of the Fenton Factory in Williamstown.\r\n\r\nOur last two nights were spent in Dublin, the capitol of the Republic of Ireland. We started in a large city and it only seemed fitting to end in one.\r\n\r\nIn Dublin, we saw St. Patrick\u2019s Cathedral, Trinity College and the famed \u201cDublin doors\u201d \u2013apartment and business doors which are painted bright colors.\r\n\r\nAt St. Patrick\u2019s Cathedral, there was a war memorial in the shape of a barren tree. Near it were podiums with paper leaves for visitors to write messages for loved ones lost during wartime. It was humbling to see the floor around the tree littered with leaves.\r\n\r\n[caption id="attachment_16901" align="alignleft" width="400"]<img src="https:\/\/pocahontastimes.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/25\/2017\/07\/IMG_1399.jpg" alt="" width="400" height="533" class="size-full wp-image-16901" \/> At St. Patrick\u2019s Cathedral in Dublin, a sculpture of a barren tree was in one of the naves. On podiums near the sculpture were paper leaves and instructions to leave a note in remembrance of a loved one who was lost during wartime. Above, leaves are seen scattered around the base of the sculpture.[\/caption]\r\n\r\nFor our last free night, I, along with Stephanie and a few of the other ladies, had ourselves a pub crawl with an added bonus \u2013\u00a0our youngest tour member pretended she was engaged, and we had a Hen Party. Europe\u2019s answer to the bachelorette party. We just wanted to have a little fun and enjoy the nightlife.\r\n\r\nWe went to The Temple Bar and saw the Irish band Ladlane perform. They were incredible. Along with Irish tunes, they threw in a few covers including \u201cLittle Lion Man\u201d by Mumford and Sons.\r\n\r\nAt our last stop of the night, a man was performing covers on stage and he broke out into \u201cCountry Roads\u201d by John Denver. I, of course, was dumbfounded. We all joined in singing and were shocked so many Irish patrons knew the words, too.\r\n\r\nOn our last day, a few of us broke out on our own and toured the Guinness Brewery. It was interesting to see the process, but again, I don\u2019t drink alcohol. I was impressed by one floor of the brewery which was more like an art gallery. Installation art designed for Guinness including videos and sculptures drew me in and added to the tour.\r\n\r\n[caption id="attachment_16902" align="alignleft" width="400"]<img src="https:\/\/pocahontastimes.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/25\/2017\/07\/IMG_1519.jpg" alt="" width="400" height="533" class="size-full wp-image-16902" \/> Although\u2008I\u2019m not a beer fan, I did learn the proper way to pour a Guinness at the brewery. Of course, when deep in concentration, it is important to stick out your tongue.[\/caption]\r\n\r\nWe all got samples of Guinness, which, I\u2019m sorry, I thoroughly did not enjoy, although the rest of my group said it was the best Guinness they\u2019d ever had. Not to be the odd man out, I even learned how to properly pour a Guinness. I\u2019m just glad one of the other ladies took one for the team and drank mine for me.\r\n\r\nThe highlight of the Guinness visit came as we were leaving. Four men, dressed in black vests and kilts performed cadences on field drums in front of the brewery. The beat was nice and the view wasn\u2019t bad either.\r\n\r\nAfter we dragged ourselves away from the drummers, a few of us went to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells and The Long Room of the Old Library.\r\n\r\nI was looking forward to the Book of Kells \u2013 an ancient illuminated manuscript Gospel book. The illustrations are stunning and each page is a work of art. Unfortunately, photographs are not allowed, but it was enough to see it in person. The Celtic symbols and words are breathtaking, considering the book is roughly 12 inches by 10 inches, and each page has intricate writing and drawings.\r\n\r\nOn the top floor of the Old Library is The Long Room, a bibliophiles dreamland. The Long Rooms is home to 200,000 of the library\u2019s oldest books and a collection of busts of famous authors.\r\n\r\nThat evening, the entire group gathered together for our final dinner of the trip. It was bittersweet. We were all together for one last time before we had to say goodbye and go back to our \u201cnormal\u201d lives.\r\n\r\nWhen I went on this trip, I knew I was going to have a blast \u2013\u00a0seeing Scotland and Ireland, and spending time with Stephanie and Sallie \u2013\u00a0but I had no idea how attached I would get to the other people with us. They were part of a life-changing experience and that makes them my family.\r\n\r\nThankfully, social media gives us an opportunity to stay in touch and we do. I miss them all and maybe one day, we\u2019ll have a \u201creunion.\u201d\r\n\r\nI never thought I would get to take a trip like this \u2013 not even thinking about the money, I was more concerned about taking off two weeks in a row from work. It is a part of my life I will never forget and I am so grateful I was able to do it.\r\n\r\nNow that I have experienced the land of some of my ancestors, I feel more connected, not only to my family, but to West Virginia, because they chose to be here and in a way, chose West Virginia for me.\r\n\r\nBeing connected to the Stewart side of the family has inspired me even more to explore the Hevener side, so my next trip will be Germany.\r\nStay tuned.