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Three Songs That Evoke the Best of Ireland

Country Walkers Guide Pól O’Colmain didn’t really set out to be an artist and musician, but when you live among the windswept moors, historic villages, ruined castles, and remote islands of western Ireland, it’s hard to avoid expressing their beauty in some way. “I can’t not do it,” he says. “They perfectly complement my love and fascination with nature, my homeland, my language, and culture. It’s all connected…inextricable one from the other.”

Travelers hiking along the dramatic coastal Cliffs of Moher or stopping for lunch at an age-old pub in Letterfrack will see for themselves: there’s something about Ireland that inspires creativity. “Both the Burren and Connemara are so magnificent,” Pól says. “The light is wonderful, the scenery stunning and beautiful. To walk in these places—filled with resonances of the past, quiet, empty, yet filled with life—is a gift.”

It’s a gift he’s been sharing with guests on the trail for some time…over 25 years. “I started out when I was living with my family on the Great Blasket Island off the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry. Many visitors would come over on our ferry, asking questions about the place and so on, as it is culturally very important. So, I began taking people around the old, ruined village and the island, talking about the history, the literature, the flora and fauna and it grew from there.”

It’s still growing. Pól took some time to talk with us about a few of his favorite Irish songs, each embodying an aspect of the unforgettable experiences to be had there.

The Waterboys – “The Stolen Child”

Pól says: “I love introducing the cultural aspects of Ireland to people, particularly the poetry. I think there is a general, basic understanding of it with most guests, but to flesh it out, show how incredibly deep it is, and see their wonder grow is marvellous! This song actually takes its lyrics from a poem by WB Yeats, a poet with deep ties to County Sligo. It’s read perfectly, with great backing instrumentation, and evokes not just the culture and legends of Ireland, but also the beauty of the landscape, the story-telling tradition, the music, the dreaming spirit.”

Róisin Elsafty – “Coinnleach”

Pól says: “Here, Connemara Singer Róisin Elsafty perfectly evokes the timeless tradition of Connemara-style singing. She sings mainly in Gaelic, being from that tradition. This song captures the inherent poignancy of the language, the race, and the culture of that region.”

Pól O’Colmain – “Ciorcail”

Pól says: “Most people are surprised at how beautiful Ireland actually is, how green and unspoilt its landscapes are. How could I help singing about it myself? This song is one of my own. Called ‘Ciorcail’ (which means ‘circles’), it’s about the healing, calming effect of the west of Ireland—what a balm for the soul it is. This is me performing it at a pub in Ballydehob with my friends Liam Kenneally on the fiddle and Tim Abbott on guitar.”

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