I feature many of my favorite places in Ireland in my novel THROUGH THE VEIL, but my favorite by far is Glencolmcille. Nestled in a tiny valley by the sea, it lies on the far western shore just west of Donegal. It’s a Gealtacht area, which means it’s one of the few places in Ireland where Irish is still the primary language. It has two pubs, a tiny convenience store, a thin strip of beach, and a school for Irish language and music. If you blink, you might miss it.
I stumbled upon Glencolmcille accidentally after hitching a ride with some Australian girls, but as soon as I stepped out of the car, the magic of the place was palpable. Big puffy white clouds swept out to the sea, the sound of the ocean gentle and melodic as it crashed against the sand. The wind whipped through my hair, and I stood on the cliffs, feeling very small against the great dome of the sky. Glencolmcille settles into the heart, making a space there for possibilities. To me, it’s one of the thin places of the world, where the real meets the divine. Intricately carved standing stones dot the rolling green hills, testifying to the sacred nature of the place, and crumbling churches from the earliest years of Christianity serve as reminders to its existence as holy ground.
My Irish language professor came from this part of Ireland, and she talks about Glencolmcille (or “the Glen” as the locals call it affectionately) as one of those enchanted places that not everyone can reach. When I told her of my experience of traveling to the town and the feeling that came over me when I tumbled out of the car, she nodded vigorously. “If you’re not meant to go to the Glen, it will push you back.” She threw her hands out, emphasizing the force of the town’s magical properties. I knew exactly what she meant because the sensation I felt at arriving at the Glen was like being fully enveloped, like a hug from a friend you haven’t seen in a long time.
Years later when I traveled there again with my boyfriend at the time, I was worried that somehow the Glen would push him back. I know that sounds ridiculous, but the journey to get there was arduous. We had to hitchhike for hours in the rain, and my professor’s words echoed in my mind as car after car swooshed past us. A kind farmer finally took pity on us and picked us up, waving cheerfully after he dropped us off in front of our hostel.
We arrived in the Glen cold, wet, hungry, and cranky. No warm hugs this time! My boyfriend zipped up his rain jacket and braved the storm to trek to the convenience store to find us something to eat. I lay on the bed in our tiny room staring at the ceiling, wondering if I had imagined that tingly, Faerie magic feeling so many years ago. Maybe the Glen was just another quaint Irish town, nothing more.
A half hour later my boyfriend burst into the room, bags in hand, his cheeks bright red, his eyes wide and sparkling. “You won’t believe it!” he said.
I sat up. “What?”
He smiled and took my hands. “The rain stopped and the sun came out, and there was a rainbow! The most beautiful rainbow I’ve ever seen!” A man of few words and always pragmatic, he went on endlessly about the vivid colors, the way it arced across the sky, the fine mist swirling around it.
I grinned and pulled him in for a fierce hug. “Oh, thank goodness!” I breathed.
Call me crazy, illogical, a mystic, a new-age hippie. I don’t care. To me, the rainbow was a sign, a way of letting my boyfriend know the Glen saw him and welcomed him into its fold. And it was a sign for me, too. Both of us shared an incredible, intuitive experience, and both of us somehow found a way to transcend the mundane and see the beauty and wonder in the world.
That man is now my husband, and both of us remember the Glen as the place we fell in love. A lot of magical things happen in Glencolmcille in THROUGH THE VEIL, but all of them stem from that singular experience of traveling together to the western shore and letting its beauty welcome us inside.
About Colleen Halverson
As a child, Colleen Halverson used to play in the woods imagining worlds and telling stories to herself. Growing up on military bases, she found solace in her local library and later decided to make a living sharing the wonders of literature to poor, unsuspecting college freshmen. After backpacking through Ireland and singing in a traditional Irish music band, she earned a PhD in English with a specialization in Irish literature. When she’s not making up stories or teaching, she can be found hiking the rolling hills of the Driftless area of Wisconsin with her husband and two children.
About THROUGH THE VEIL
Where the fairy tale ends, destiny begins.
Elizabeth Tanner is no Tinkerbell, and her life is no fairy tale. Broke and drowning in student loans, the one thing she wants more than anything is a scholarship from the Trinity Foundation. But after the ancient Irish text she’s studying turns out to be more than just a book, she becomes their prisoner instead. And when Trinity reveals Elizabeth is half-Fae, she finds herself at the center of a plot to save the magical races of Ireland from a brutal civil war.
As Commander of Trinity’s elite warriors, Finn O’Connell isn’t used to having his authority challenged. He doesn’t know whether to punish or protect the infuriating young woman in his custody. When he discovers the Dark Fae want to use Elizabeth’s abilities to control the source of all power in the universe, he’ll risk everything to help her.
At the mercy of Trinity and enslaved to the Dark Fae, Elizabeth finds herself alone on the wrong side of an Irish myth thousands of years in the making. Refusing to be a pawn in their game, Elizabeth has to fight her way back to the man she loves, but to do so, she must wage her own war against the magic that binds her.