Father and son take road trip through the British Isles

Frank and Aiden Gosiak spend three weeks seeing the sights 

By Tina SnellStaff Writer

Frank Gosiak and his son, Aiden, 17, both of Little Falls, took the trip of a lifetime this past summer. The two began by touring the Ireland by following the coast clockwise starting in Dublin. They hopped a ferry to Scotland and also saw parts of England, traveling from July 7 – 30.

It was Aiden’s choice to see Ireland.

“Years ago, I was looking at what I thought were images of Ireland in a National Geographic magazine,” he said.

For five years, he researched the country in anticipation of the trip.

“Before we left, I found the magazine I read years ago and learned the article was about Iceland,” he said.

“Dublin is a humongous city; an insane city,” said Aiden. “So much traffic. The inner city was very confusing.”

Frank and Aiden Gosiak, Little Falls, spent three weeks touring the British Isles, in particular, Ireland. Aiden is pictured on the left in front of pillars at Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. Frank, on the right, is pictured with the Northern Ireland coastline in the background.
Frank and Aiden Gosiak, Little Falls, spent three weeks touring the British Isles, in particular, Ireland. Aiden is pictured above in front of pillars at Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. Frank, below, is pictured with the Northern Ireland coastline in the background.

Frank remembers the car they rented, supposedly a mid-sized vehicle, turned out to be a tiny Suzuki.

“People drive on the left side and the roads are very narrow,” he said. “The signs are difficult to understand. We wouldn’t have survived without GPS.”

People seemed to be driving 70 miles per hour, said Frank, and when they would meet another vehicle on the road, one would have to pull over, to the left.

“It’s impossible to pass another car,” Frank said.

The two stayed in Dublin for two days. They visited the Kilmainham Gaol, built in 1796 to house prisoners of all ages. Men, mainly political prisoners, women and children were kept sometimes five to a cell. It was decommissioned in 1924 and opened to the public in 1971.

Frank-Gosiak-bwThe Gosiaks also visited several cathedrals while in Dublin.

“They are huge, old and awesome,” said Aiden. Both father and son were impressed with the maintenance of the older buildings in Ireland, some around 1,000 years old.

“The churches used a lot of marble in their construction. They were very ornate and traditional,” said Frank.

Frank and Aiden then drove south from Dublin, located on the east coast of Ireland, to Dunganstown, where the Kennedy’s ancestral home is located. They also toured their first castle.

One night was spent in a small town where the two attended a concert.

“We listened to a musician who plays with Celtic Women,” said Frank. “The concert was just Irish and Celtic music and cloggers. Surprisingly, the theater was almost empty.”

Frank and Aiden discovered that most pubs in Ireland have Irish and Celtic singers and dancers, so a concert with Celtic music is not a big thing to the Irish.

From there, the two followed the southern coast to the west, to the town of Cobh, near Cork.

Ireland-bw“It was very hilly, rocky and very old,” said Aiden. “There were huge clipper ships in port.”

The two had planned on doing a lot of camping throughout Ireland, but discovered there weren’t many campgrounds available.

“No one camps there, I guess,” said Frank.

They also found out it usually rains a lot in the summer, but not when they were visiting.

“There was no rain during the 22 days we were traveling,” Frank said. He also commented on how hot it was.

While in the southwest portion of the island, the Gosiaks toured the Ring of Kerry. The circular drive of about 120 miles, took them through mountains, the Emerald Hills, by lakes and wonderful coastal views.

A portion of the Ring of Kerry took the travelers to  the city of Killarney where they were able to visit Ross Castle built in the 15th century. On site was an old mission building allegedly destroyed by Henry VIII during his reign in the first half of the 1500s.

“There we saw a sacred yew by the ruins which was planted by monks more than 600 years ago,” said Frank.

Near Killarney, they visited Muckross House where Queen Victoria stayed one night. According to history, the owners undertook improvements to the house in anticipation of the one-night visit, which ultimately contributed to their financial difficulties. The house had to be sold.

A bit farther north along the western coast, the travelers wanted to camp on the Dingle Peninsula.

“We saw a sign that pointed to ‘Camp,’ so we took the road. We traveled on sheep trails, through mountains and saw no buildings for the longest time,” said Aiden. “After three hours of driving, we came to a town named ‘Camp.’”

There were no campgrounds, but the owner of a pub said that if the two bought dinner, they could sleep in the pasture, with the sheep. They did.

Also on the Dingle Peninsula, Frank and Aiden stayed at a hostel where they were able to camp in the yard. There they met other travelers from around the world.

“I really connected with them,” said Aiden. “That was a highlight of the trip for me.”

While traveling in the southern part of Ireland, the two had very little trouble understanding the English accents of the Irish. But when they began to head north on the west coast, more and more people spoke Gaelic, which was harder to understand.

Both the Gosiaks loved the food in Ireland.

“There is less fat than we find in the United States,” said Frank. “They use different spices like curry. Their diets are good.”

Their favorite restaurant was in Dublin: Tony’s Fish and Chips.

“Dad had to return to Tony’s when we got back to Dublin, but we couldn’t find the restaurant. We drove all over,” said Aiden. “When we stopped to ask someone, we were told it was right around the corner. If the man hadn’t known where it was, we were giving up.”

Off the tip of the Dingle Peninsula is a group of islands named the Blaskets. While there, Frank and Aiden learned about the people who once inhabited the main island from possibly the late 1500s to 1954. So isolated, they spoke their own language.

During the boat ride, they were able to see dolphins. At another time, further north, they were able to see puffins.

“As a birder, I had to see them,” said Frank.

The two learned the Irish are very concerned about what they have, what their country is all about. They are protective of their natural resources since the British took a lot away from them, said Frank.

“So much has vanished, the Irish want to preserve what they have left,” he said.

Continuing north along the west coast of the Emerald Isle, they saw the cities of Galway, Derry and Castle Rock.

“We saw so many castles and cathedrals up to this point, we were not excited about seeing more,” said Aiden.

Derry, on the border of Ireland and Northern Ireland and is a walled city with inner and outer portions. Frank said that the centuries of fighting was brought up in most conversations.

“There are two sectors of the city,” said Frank. “The Catholics and the Protestants. There are still problems between the two.”

The Gosiaks stayed out of troubled areas of the city.

“Belfast has issues. There are fences around most of the homes,” said Frank. “But it’s a beautiful city.”

On the northern coast of Northern Ireland, Frank and Aiden stopped at Giant’s Causeway, a geological phenomenon created by an ancient volcanic eruption. The area, overlooking the North Channel between the Irish Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, is covered with spires of basalt. Those spires are mostly six-sided, but many are four, five, seven or eight sides. They are close together and the flat tops create steps. The tallest ones are nearly 40 feet high.

In Irish lore, the causeway was created by the Irish giant Fionn who was to fight the Scottish giant Benandonner. He built a much larger causeway to connect the two countries, but most was destroyed when Benandonner fled.

After Frank and Aiden visited the alleged haunted Dark Forest of Ireland, they took a ferry to Scotland. There they visited friends of Frank’s who he knew when teaching in England in 1991.

The Gosiaks then traveled to York, England, and toured York Minster, the second largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe. While several churches were on the same site since about 627, the current building was started in about 1230 and was completed in 1472. Over the centuries, it has been added on to when fire destroyed various areas. Restoration is ongoing.

Frank and Aiden also visited Alnwick Castle where the Harry Potter movies were filmed. There they saw an incredible 42-acre garden, one of the most amazing stops of the trip.

“There were mazes, arched plants, huge tree houses and bridges between trees,” said Aiden of the garden which first opened in 2001.

Their next stop was Edinburgh, Scotland, which dates back to the seventh century. Then they went to the central part of Scotland and the seaport of Glasgow on the River Clyde which flows into Firth of Clyde and the Irish Sea.

To Aiden, the best part of the trip was the hostel where he and his father met the travelers from around the world. He also loved the gardens at Alnwick Castle.

Frank said his most cherished memory was spending three weeks traveling with Aiden.

“I learned so much more about Aiden and what his interests are,” he said. “It was a great trip.”