The winner of our "What Fills my Heart with Ireland" sweepstake in partnership with Tourism Ireland has been picked!
A huge thank you to all our readers who took the time to take part in our giveaway and shared their personal stories with us. This is our second year in a row running this fantastic competition and once again we have been blown away by the response with nearly 7,000 entries being submitted!
From the kindness of the people, and the delicious food, to feeling the rich culture and heritage come alive all around you, there are many reasons why the island of Ireland can fill a heart.
The winner of the #IrelandStory sweepstake was chosen at random and we are delighted to announce that Brad Harzman was chosen and claimed the incredible prize of a trip for two to Ireland that covers flights, car rental, six nights' accommodation plus a one-night stay in a medieval Irish castle. Sharing what fills his heart with Ireland, he said: "A beautiful smile and a field of green grass and trees, a pint shared with a friend."
Here are some of the other incredible stories and pictures we received:
"The green, quiet countryside makes me feel so peaceful and happy inside."
- Uhura Mitchell
"An Irish breakfast! When I see an Irish breakfast, I think of our hostess at the B&B we stayed at in Adare, Co Limerick, who took us in when our original reservations elsewhere fell through. We spent a wonderful few days exploring the town of our ancestors, speaking Irish, and enjoying her breakfasts. On our last morning in Ireland, we finished the breakfast pictured below and headed out to go to Shannon Airport. The car battery was dead. While I panicked, our calm and patient hostess called her nephew, who was over in a flash to get us jump-started and on our way. To me, she epitomized our visit to Ireland - welcoming, calming, and generous, with good food included!"
- Margaret Drye
"The poetry of Seamus Heaney, sitting in a pub at closing time and swaying to the Parting Glass, listening to music in Doolin then taking a ferry to the Aran Islands and having a slice of warm brown bread with butter before hiking in the Hazelwood Forest in Co Sligo."
- Kevin White
"My love for Ireland began when I was little. Our next door neighbors were a family who were all born in Ireland but moved to California. They became family to us, and still are. I grew up listening to U2 and going to mass (for the donuts - I was a child). I loved Ireland even though I had never been because of our Irish neighbors. Ireland is on my bucket list because it became a part of my soul at such a young age."
- Alyssa Machado
"Northern Ireland has always had a special place in my heart, even though I've only had the opportunity to visit once. As someone with Irish ancestry, the people and landscapes felt familiar and comforting. The traditional music, warm hospitality, and delicious cuisine were all highlights of my trip. But it was the warmth and kindness of the people that truly made me feel at home. From the locals I met in the small towns to the strangers who helped me navigate my way around, everyone went out of their way to make me feel welcome. I left Northern Ireland with a full heart and a promise to return one day."
- Melissa Vincent
"I am first-generation Irish and it will always hold a special place in my heart. Back in 2010, I met someone who I really liked. We had just started dating and I had a trip to Ireland that was already planned with my family. So 6 weeks into our new relationship he came with me to Ireland. We stayed in a beautiful B&B on a 200-year-old farm.
This two week trip totally changed our relationship. We exchanged Claddagh rings on the Cliffs of Moher. We read a poem to each other and I cried. You see this was my second boyfriend ever and I was falling in love with him. We will be married 10 years this May 18th and our love is so special. Our wedding rings are those same rings we exchanged on the Cliffs of Moher."
- Patricia Vosburgh
"Going to Ireland with my wife holds a special place in my heart for so many reasons. One of my most cherished memories is our honeymoon trip, where we stayed in Waterford Castle. It was a fairy tale experience, immersing ourselves in the rich history and culture of Ireland. The castle was a perfect blend of old-world charm and modern comfort (incredible modern Irish food and cocktails alongside the old castle!). We spent our days exploring the beautiful landscapes, indulging in traditional Irish cuisine, and speaking with the locals. It was a truly magical experience and the beginning of our lifelong love for Ireland.
Now, as a family, we continue to visit Ireland and bring our daughter along on our trips. It's heartwarming to see her enjoy the same things that we love about Ireland. From running through the fields dotted with sheep in County Kerry to listening to live traditional music in a cozy pub in Cork, she is captivated by the beauty and warmth of Ireland. We revisit the towns where we stayed during our honeymoon, creating new memories with our daughter and passing down the love for Ireland to the next generation. It has become a cherished family tradition that we look forward to whenever we can afford it, creating special bonds and lasting memories that will be treasured for a lifetime."
- Robert McDermott
Thank you again to everyone who took the time to enter our #LoveIreland giveaway. If you're thinking of Filling your Heart with Ireland this year, we hope that these stories have inspired you!
This article is presented proudly in partnership with Tourism Ireland. To learn more about Tourism Ireland and get inspired for your next visit to Ireland, check out their website.
Note: some of these stories have been modified for the purpose of the article.